Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Plastering and windows

We’ve been working hard lately, trying to get the first two rooms and the cafe habitable before the end of the year. Long days and six-day weeks are taking their toll. And now I sit here trying to think of good ways to describe what we’ve done but I’m conscious that I have to get up at 7am and do it all again, and anyway my brain is crammed only with window frame dimensions and sand vs. lime ratios. So it’s really tempting to just let the photos speak for themselves…

Tiles went on

Tiles went on OK.

Tiling the roof in summer heat was a tough job. Koray had the worst of it; he was placing the tiles while the rest of us only carried them up onto the roof. The results are great though.

Summer visitors enjoying the pool.

Summer visitors enjoying the pool.

Some old friends from Spain came to see us (from left to right, that’s Mar, Julia, Diego, and Manuel). It was great to see them and to take a few days off to socialize. But I fear we’re not the best hosts at the moment.  We are always thinking about the project!

As you’ll see further down, plaster is going on the walls now and so the visible-straw-bale stage is almost entirely behind us. I will miss it though: for a while the interior looked like a warm and inviting barn.

The straw bale stage

The straw bale stage comes to a close.

Mesh attached to the walls, gaps stuffed with fabric.

Plaster preparation: mesh attached to the walls, electrical cables installed, gaps in the straw stuffed with fabric.

Preparing for old-school lathe and plaster in the cafe.

Taking the old-school lathe-and-plaster approach in the cafe.

Plastering was a learning experience, like everything else. The air-powered plaster sprayer we imported from the US worked well at first, but tended to get blocked within about 30 minutes of use. You had to pull it apart to clean it, so it wasn’t a time-efficient approach. In the end we did the first coat of plaster the traditional way: by flicking it on with a trowel.

Early stage plastering: first coat is flicked on with a trowel.

Early stage lime plastering: first coat is flicked on with a trowel. (Note the privacy barrier separating the verandahs for rooms one and two.)

Interior plastering: working up to the desired thickness.

Interior plastering: working up to the desired thickness.

Roughly speaking, the plaster is about three parts sand to one part hydrated lime. Although Berrin has been doing most of the mixing, and she’s not following an exact recipe but instead judges the plaster consistency by eye. The ear is helpful too: you get used to the sound a good mix makes as it sloshes around the mixer.

The second coat is about filling up gaps and bringing the surface out to approximately where you want it. The final coat is made with finer sand and more lime, and gives a beautifully smooth finish. As the final coat dries, there’s much more of a sense of what the completed building will look like.

Smooth final coat of plaster on the south side.

Smooth final coat of plaster on the south side.

Berrin mixing five barrow loads of plaster for Koray.

Berrin mixing five barrow loads of lime plaster for Koray.

Late-stage interior plastering: one more coat to come.

Late-stage interior plastering.

We got some professional carpenters in to give us quotes on doing all the doors and windows. Unfortunately some of the quoted numbers were a bit eye-watering, so we’ve decided to do it ourselves. It will take longer, but we’ll save a lot of money and we know we’ll get the look we want. Right now the workload is split, with Koray and Berrin on plastering while Sirem, her sister Çisem, and I do windows and doors.

Time to build some windows and frames.

Time to build some windows and frames (glass comes later).

My office.

Back in the office.

Çisem after a day of sanding windows and doors.

Çisem after a day of sanding windows and doors.

Window frames going in, with bags of lime in the foreground.

Windows going in, with bags of lime in the foreground.

Another view of the windows; you can see what the finished product will look like now.

Another view of the windows; you can see what the finished product will look like now.

Lathe and plaster success!

Lathe and plaster success!

So that’s where we are now. There are still a lot of jobs left to do: floor tiles, bathrooms, kitchen fitting, etc. But the end is in sight. We hope to be finished and open for our first guests early in 2017. (At which point we can start on the second building, of course.)

Zeliş gazing wistfully into the distance.

Zeliş gazing wistfully into the distance.

Weather still good but turning colder: the autumn sunsets begin.

Weather still good but turning colder: autumn sunsets begin.




  1. Wow. You really have made a ton of progress. The timber frames look beautiful (I feel I must have missed a post or three). Yes, I see there’s a lot still to do but it must be really heartening to see it really coming together now. Well done you guys.

    • Jason

      31 October, 2016 at 1:52 am


      It’s probably us that have missed a post or three. Too much else to do apart from blogging.

  2. Wow theres a lot of bags of lime there! Its looking amazing!

    • Jason

      31 October, 2016 at 7:51 am

      I think it’s been 800 bags of lime delivered so far. Unlike normal plaster you have plenty of time before it sets. It’s an absolute pleasure to work with until you get it in your eye.

      And thanks. Lots of changes since you were here!

  3. Hi it’s really looking impressive – love seeing the plastering coming together and the roof looks great!

    • Jason

      31 October, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Thank you. We’re really happy with how it’s looking. Couldn’t ask for a more Mediterranean roof, and the plaster finish is looking much more smooth and professional than I thought we could achieve.

  4. Wow, it has gone from “construction site” to “building with some work going on”. Looks great. You are probably too close to really see the progress but for those of us who are living it vicariously through the blog, it looks like loads has happened recently.

    • Jason

      31 October, 2016 at 11:10 am

      Cheers, Hywel. That’s good to hear. Partly the effect is due to us only making a blog post every two months, I am sure. ;)

  5. It looks very pretty with the plaster and the contrasting painted wooden door and window frames. You have made so much progress since the summer!

  6. Hi Jason and Sirem
    The development is looking great, with a great deal of progress in a relatively short period. You look to be working really hard, but be careful not to drive yourselves into the ground.
    From the photos we can see the real character of the buildings which you are creating, and we are sure that you will end up with a unique development which your many future guests (paying that is) will find a very attractive place to stay.
    Kind regards
    John and Marg

    • Jason

      31 October, 2016 at 11:38 am

      Much appreciated!

      Good advice about not overdoing it. We have a bit of a self-imposed deadline coming up in mid-November and after that we’re definitely going to take a few days off.

  7. Wow. Incredible your first book should be the story of this place :)

    • Jason

      31 October, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      Ha! Cheers, Tim. I don’t know, the escape-to-the-Med genre is a crowded field… :)

  8. That is looking spectacular, you must be so proud. Ah the memories of piles of plastic bags of limekiln

  9. Wow! I feel tired in my bones just seeing the photos of your amazing progress – but what rewards you must be reaping! I hope you have time to occasionally allow yourselves a quiet moment of pride.

    • Jason

      1 November, 2016 at 7:39 am

      Thanks. I do the occasional quiet moment of pride but someone always shouts at me to get back to work.

  10. Stuart "Siphonophore" R

    1 November, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    Just echoing others’ comments that it’s a real pleasure to see things developing from nothing over the months via a decent turn of phrase and some acceptable photography :-) You inspired me to put two whiteboards up on the walls over the weekend *and* buy a corded drill. THE POWER, OH THE POWER.

    From all this experience on house #1, are there things you’re intending on doing differently for houses 2+? Got a marketing strategy yet? (I suspect that your extensive social networks may make that unnecessary, at least in the single-guest-house stage.)

    PRO QUESTION: Why would my air compressor instructions say that I shouldn’t use it with an extension cable? I have no idea why (and no-one in B&Q did either; there’s no such issue for the JCB ones they sell). Reading electrical-engineer academics are welcome to weigh in here too.

    • Jason

      1 November, 2016 at 10:33 pm

      Glad you are enjoying your drill.

      And at the risk of self-parody: “good question!” Yes, there are a few small things we would do differently on buildings 2 and 3. One example: making sure that the horizontal parts of the frame (known as “nogging”, “nogs”, “blocking”, or “dwang”, I kid you not) are positioned at integer-multiples of the height of a straw bale. This would greatly reduce time spent carving spaces out of the back of a bale to make it fit around the frame.

      No clever marketing strategies yet. We will probably start with AirBnB, pester all of you nice people to come and stay and/or send your friends, and after that try a few different things and see what works. And yes, you’re right: at first we will only have two rooms to fill, then later four. So it may be that we don’t need the same marketing strategies that a bigger place would.

      What’s this? B&Q in lack-of-knowledge-about-stuff-they-sell scandal? Quelle surprise.

      They’re advising you not to use an extension cord because the power consumption of a compressor can be pretty significant, especially the surge in power as the pump kicks on. So the risks are a) the cord could get too hot and melt itself or cause a fire, and b) a long, light-duty cord will drop a lot of voltage over its length and may under-supply the needs of the compressor. You’re probably fine to ignore the warning but if you want to do it safely get a nice heavy-gauge extension cord.

      • Stuart "Siphonophore" R

        3 November, 2016 at 12:34 am

        > What’s this? B&Q in lack-of-knowledge-about-stuff-they-sell scandal?
        > Quelle surprise

        Your world-weary sarcasm is unbecoming amidst the mellifluous prose of the rest of your reply. :-) [That was not a very well-crafted sentence.]

        (Can’t help remembering the Simpsons episode when the geek technocrats run Springfield and bicker:
        [Scientist A makes sarcasm detector]
        Scientist B [dripping with sarcasm]: a sarcasm detector! What a great idea!
        [Sarcasm detector overheats and explodes]

        Now you’re going to be telling me the Simpsons is shit, aren’t you? :-)

        • Jason

          3 November, 2016 at 7:55 am

          Not at all. The Simpsons was a great show. Shame it got cancelled after season 10.

          Also, it seems to me to have enormous value as a sketchbook of personality archetypes. I found myself uncomfortably located somewhere between Otto and Comic Book Guy.

  11. This looks really amazing, good job!

    • Jason

      3 November, 2016 at 7:44 am

      Thanks. I knew we would get there eventually but I didn’t think it would look as nice as this.

  12. Fantastic work all of you! I have to agree though, I liked the naked straw bale look too :-)
    Shame you’ve already tiled the roof. Was going to suggest this ;-)

    Hope you get to take some time off soon
    Lots of love from Mandi, James, Leo & Alex xxxx

    • Jason

      3 November, 2016 at 7:48 am

      Naked straw very pleasing to the eye, not so much to the nose and sinuses for some people. Plus it doesn’t deal well with water. We have adopted one compromise that you see in lots of straw bale buildings: there will be a little window where you can see the straw behind the plaster. Apparently people often don’t believe it’s straw unless you do this! (I used to think this was a cheesy idea but it makes more sense now.)

      Yes, those solar tiles look amazing. I wonder if they sell them in imitation terra cotta? :) Oh well: maybe the next building. We’re definitely going with solar hot water, although hiding it a bit at the back of the building for aesthetic reasons. Will do solar electricity in some form within a few years: it always seems like waiting one more year is a good idea in terms of price.

  13. It’s coming together really well! I’m particularly enjoying the straw -> rough plaster -> smooth plaster progression.

    More straw bale questions: Is the plaster the entirety of weather proofing for the straw itself? I presume keeping water out is the primary concern for the longer term?

    • Jason

      9 December, 2016 at 11:29 am

      Apologies for the slow reply, Johannes: this one got caught in the spam folder and I have been lazy about checking.

      Thanks for the compliment. And to answer your question, yes, the lime plaster is the entirety of the weather proofing. In other words, it goes straw, then mesh, then plaster, then open air. You’re right that lime plaster wouldn’t last forever if exposed to torrential rain, but it would last a lot better than clay plaster. And one of the main architectural features of the building are the wide eaves, designed to keep the rain off the walls and away from the windows. (Eaves are about 85cm deep minimum, more if you count the overhang of the tiles, and the metal gutters.) So the general idea is that the walls won’t get a lot of water exposure. Other people’s experience suggests this is adequate to keep serious water out of the bales. And we have the benefit of long, hot, dry Turkish summers to dry things out anyway.

  14. Great job, Jason & Sirem!

    The place is looking better and better. It was already fantastic during our visit this summer, now it is fantastic and almost inhabitable. As usual, it was wonderful to spend time with you, and Julia and Diego still think that the center of the universe is one hour south of Izmir. Keep up the good work.

    • Jason

      9 December, 2016 at 11:31 am

      Thanks, Manolo. Almost inhabitable indeed. :) Sirem wants to be in there as soon as possible. I went up there early this morning and despite the cold weather it was really warm inside. And that’s just solar warmth coming through the windows. The heating system is not connected yet. So it is looking very promising in terms of insulation.

      We miss all of you and it is very nice to hear that the kids have good memories of here. Bring them back as soon as possible and they can enjoy a (more) finished product!

  15. Looking fantastic, its been a while since I last checked in, you’ve both worked so hard. Well done :)

    • Jason

      9 December, 2016 at 11:32 am

      Cheers, Paul. Yes, it’s been a bit of work but feels very much worth it as it all starts to come together.

      Hope you’re doing well. Say hi to the girls from us.

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