Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

So much to do

Winter has come. When we get a north wind in January, it gets colder here than you might imagine. (Certainly colder than I was imagining in 2014.) And again we had some snow this year.

Winter weather

A dusting of snow.

But this winter has been much easier than the last, as we have temporarily moved into room two. It’s been great. We’re pleased to report that straw bale walls insulate just as well as advertised. To give you an idea: in the evenings we use the reverse-cycle air conditioning to get the temperature up to about 21 degrees, then switch it off when we go to bed. Even on the coldest nights, the room is still at about 18 degrees in the morning.

I’m almost reluctant to share the next two shots, as the room doesn’t look as pretty as it did in the previous post. In fact it’s quite cluttered now, as we’ve crammed a lot of furniture in. There’s a bed, a kitchen table with chairs, two sofas, two computer tables, etc. We’re really happy that you can comfortably fit all that in, but of course we’re going to return it to the originally intended minimalist/rustic splendour before the paying guests arrive.

View from the door

Room 2 with all our domestic junk in it.

View from the bed

View when you wake up in the morning.

Also the floor is no longer bare concrete. We went with 30 x 30 cm tiles in a red clay colour with wide grout lines — blatantly stealing a look we’ve seen in old houses in Spain and Italy. Hopefully we’ll get away with it.

Panini with floor tiles

Panini welcoming us home: note the tiles!

The cats are very pleased with the new room, not least because of the aforementioned reverse-cycle air conditioning. Some of them spend the whole day lying on the bed or one of the sofas. I have tried to explain to them that this luxury is only temporary, and by April we will all be back down in the farmhouse, but I am not sure they are listening.


Cezmi takes a break from his building inspector role.


Coco pretends to be surprised by his own cuteness.

Life is harder for our loyal dogs, who spend their days warning us about approaching tractors or motorbikes on the road below.

Zeytin and Zeliş on duty.

Zeytin and Zeliş on duty.

The building is structurally complete now, so we’re moving on to interior fixtures and fittings. We’ve put the countertop and sink into room two’s little kitchen, but we still need to install a fridge and some cupboards under the counter, and to tile the backsplash.


Sink going in.

There will be furniture to make, too. After all the carpentry we’ve done on the building itself, making a bed or a coffee table feels very approachable. Here’s something we put together as a base for the bathroom sink.

Bathroom vanity

Chunky bathroom vanity unit.

Speaking of bathrooms, it has been life-changing to be back in a situation where you don’t have to go outside to get to the toilet. That’s not too bad in summer, but it gets old pretty quickly when the temperature is below zero. The en-suite bathroom in room two is not fancy, but it feels big and well-lit and most importantly it’s warm.

Bathroom working

Bathroom: still need to do a mirror, a shelf, some towel racks, etc.


Shower needs some finishing touches but is fully functional.

The ongoing saga of making all the windows and doors is reaching its conclusion. There is only one doorway left that still needs a frame, and about four or five more doors to do — in the cafe mostly — and then we’re finally done.

Kitchen window

Kitchen window showing the run straight through to the other side. Should lead to a nice breeze when cooking in summer.

Here’s one to file under “you can never have too much storage.” We completed the small attic above the kitchen the other day: the wooden floorboards also form the kitchen ceiling. Taller people may bump their heads on the occasional rafter, but there’s a huge amount of storage space up there. And two internal windows into the cafe area to let some natural light in.


New attic.

With the prospect of actually having two rentable rooms and a working cafe kitchen soon, it’s pushed us to get back to all the outside stuff: landscaping, drainage, paving the driveway, thinking about where to put cars, etc. We had a backhoe loader in last week and got the guy to smooth out some of our bigger piles of left-over dirt. And also to dig a long drainage trench all the way down from the top of the block to the driveway. Planning to hand-pour a lot of concrete and incorporate a few rocks to try to make the functional ditch into something a bit more attractive. Maybe even make a water feature out of it by pumping water back up to the top. Could be naff, could be wonderful. We will see.

House with drainage ditch

The so-nearly-completed building with a freshly dug drainage ditch in the foreground.

We’ve also started landscaping work at the back of the building, where there’s about four metres of space before the steep slope down to the road. The photo below is very messy, but there’s a few details that may be of interest. You can see our new fusebox on the left, and some short brick retaining walls that will define the garden (don’t worry, we’re going to render and limewash them). That’s our solar hot water system up on a steel tower which makes sure it gets lots of sun but is also hidden away on the north side of the structure. It’s a little ugly right now but when the leaves come back to the fig trees they’ll help hide it.

Landscaping at the back

Landscaping at the back

And finally: we had a couple of days of heavy rain a few weeks back, and all that water led to a little bit of shifting soil on the edge of the driveway. This made us nervous because the nightmare scenario has always been something like a cement truck going too close to the edge and ending up on its side in the farmhouse garden. So just to be safe, we ordered 180 tons of local stone dumped over the edge, to shore things up a bit like you would with a railway track. We lose a little bit of garden at the base, but it was a dark soggy area anyway. Personally I quite like the new look. (I also like ordering 180 tons of something — never gets old.)

Driveway reinforcement

Driveway reinforcement.



  1. Starts looking fantastic!

    I really liked the dog picture! I’m sure they are doing a top job defending the territory against lost tourists, mailpersons, and other dangerous intruders! 🙂

    “When we get a north wind in January, it gets colder here than you might imagine.” What is the temperature range?

    • Jason

      6 February, 2017 at 9:39 pm

      Thanks, JP. You have the right idea about the kinds of threats the dogs are constantly guarding against. 🙂 Sadly we will need to get them fenced in soon so they don’t scare potential guests.

      The winter temperature range is a lot wider than we were used to in the UK (i.e., colder nights but also warmer days). A typical January day would be a maximum of 13 or 14, overnight minimum of 2, something like that? The warmest max in January was 18, and the coldest overnight minimum was -3.

  2. Looks beautiful… love the natural wood

  3. What a beautiful achievement and lifestyle change for both of you. We’re getting excited about actually being there soon. Dick has started leaning some Turkish words.
    The cats look very contented with the living conditions, I hope the dogs are rewarded for their hard days work by comong in at night.
    Love Dot & Dick

    • Jason

      7 February, 2017 at 8:22 am

      Thanks, Dot. We’re looking forward to seeing you both. The cats are very contented. Unfortunately the poor dogs don’t get to come in, partly to keep the peace with the cats. But they do have insulated dog houses with little plastic-flap doors. And on really cold nights, they get hot-water bottles, so they are fine, I promise!

  4. I’ve been checking your web page on and off waiting for a new post, I read all your posts last year and loved following the building work. The whole project is wonderful and I wish you and your wife every success with it. I’m an artist myself retired now and living on the Bodrum peninsula. I plan to do a painting for your guest house soon, is there anything in particular you would like? still life, landscape, a local historical site or one of the cats? just let me know and I’ll be glad to do it.

    • Jason

      7 February, 2017 at 9:37 pm

      Thank you so much! That is really heartening to hear.

      About the painting: I wouldn’t like to say. Artist’s prerogative, I think!

  5. Yessss, a new Ionia guest house fix. Magical combination of cats, carpentry, and continuing self-actualisation on your part make for very enjoyable reading experience. My favourite bit this time is the new attic area.

    • Jason

      8 February, 2017 at 9:04 am

      Well, cheers. 🙂 Glad you like the attic. I have no idea what we’re going to put in there yet, but maybe dried figs, olives, olive oil, that sort of thing. It will be a nice dry spot, not too warm, not too cold.

      And self-actualisation, wow. You flatter me: most of the time I am working much lower on the Maslowian hierarchy.

  6. I think room 2 with all your junk in it actually helps to show just how big the room is. That’s a lot of stuff and a bed! The tiles look great; appropriately Mediterranean.

    Your January temperature range sounds very civilized. Here, I am thinking of maybe going outside again in March 🙂

    • Jason

      10 February, 2017 at 8:31 am

      Thanks. And I agree: the saving grace of filling the room with stuff is that people can see how much stuff fits in it.

      If you look really closely at the tiles, they’re not actually the classic old-fashioned terra cotta tiles they resemble. They’re ceramic tiles with a similar colour. But we’re happy with the overall look and feel, so I’m glad you like them.

      I know that objectively we shouldn’t complain about the cold. 🙂 I guess the problem was our first winter visit to the area, when we were house-hunting, was during particularly mild weather, and I made the mistake of thinking that was normal. But now that we are in the straw-bale building, no more complaints!

  7. Hi Jason and Sirem
    Thanks again for the update. Your development is coming along very nicely and we guess that you are looking very much to “getting over the finish line”.
    Hope this finds you both well.
    Marg and John

    • Jason

      12 February, 2017 at 7:40 pm

      Thanks, both of you.

      We’re getting there, slowly but surely. I think the ultimate finish line (finishing our house, all the landscaping, etc.) is still so far off we don’t like to think about it. But the partial finish line of having two finished rooms to rent is getting very close, for sure.

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