Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: bathroom

Hello again

Well that was quite a gap between updates. Sorry! Not that it’s any excuse, but I was ill with a mystery bug and didn’t feel like making blog posts or doing anything much else for a while. Feeling better now though, cheers for asking.

We were also busy with guests, which is a good problem to have. Thanks especially to the growing group of people who’ve stayed with us more than once. It’s a fantastic vote of confidence when people want to come back.

Pool still looking inviting in November.

Or sit, have a drink, and watch the sun set.

Latest news on the construction front is that, by mutual agreement, Koray is no longer working with us. He was on the job for over two years, he did a huge amount of work, and we’ll always be grateful for his contribution. We wish him all the best in his new worm-compost business.

Of course there’s still a lot to do before rooms three and four are guest-ready and before we have a new house. And now it’s all on us (with some help from family and friends). Exciting but also a little scary. For example, lifting the big beams into place on previous buildings was always a job for Koray and me. With half of that team gone, it pushed us to think about how on earth we were going to get the beams and rafters into place on the new house.

So we went out and bought rope and pulleys in order to set up a block-and-tackle system. Probably should have done it years ago actually. Three pulley wheels at the top and three at the bottom makes for a six-times mechanical advantage, not counting friction on the rope. And they work really well. I know this is not exactly new technology but it does feel very cool to be able to lift a 180kg beam a couple of metres into the air with one hand.

Lifting one of our largest beams with the new block and tackle.

In fact it was Sirem and Çisem who did the actual lifting when it came time to put up the heaviest two beams in the whole project. I had the easy job of shepherding each end into place and getting some safety screws in to hold them there.

Here’s a shot of both beams in place. The one on the left is down the spine of the house and has the important job of holding up a column that will support the ridge beam for the roof. The one on the right is to make a pair of them so we can build a catwalk upstairs, heading out over the double-height space of the main room. All just so people can appreciate the view from the south window up there. Anyway, I’m sure the cats will enjoy it one day.

Support for the roof beams and a catwalk.

Catwalk completed!

The catwalk is not the safest place to be right now, particularly after it’s been raining, as there are no railings yet. The view is worth it though. And it provides some much-needed scaffolding for the roof work that’s coming soon. Currently we’ve put up the upstairs columns, so the next step is to get the ridge beam up. After that it’s the 48 rafters, then planks, membrane, tiles, and voilà, we’ll have a roof.

Upper-level columns going up with plenty of temporary diagonal bracing.

You can just about see what the roof line will be like.

We’re rushing to get the roof onto our house right now because it would be great to get the timber frame protected (parts of it have been up for about a year) and a covered space would be very handy for storing equipment and straw bales. Before that, though, we did get room three to a habitable condition: here’s the bathroom looking a lot more civilized than the last time you saw it.

Bathroom looking better now.

Room three front door. Changed the design a little.

Room three feels so habitable now that we are in fact inhabiting it. Such is life. It’s good to no longer be competing with our own guests for winter accommodation in rooms one and two. And getting back to work on room four (which is currently plastered but doesn’t have windows) is the next big part of the project once the house has a roof. We’ll get there.

We took time out from house-building the other day for a minor safety improvement to building one: we have this loft space above the kitchen (which will be even more useful once we put some better shelving in). It’s been dangerous to be up there as there was nothing to stop you from falling down the ladder back into the kitchen. So, some angle iron, a bit of welding, a bit of painting, and we have a safety railing. Backing down the ladder doesn’t feel nearly so weird now.

New safety railing for the kitchen loft; should stop us breaking our necks.

It hasn’t all been work. My old friend Richard came to visit, and to celebrate we all went to the beach in Dilek National Park. I’ve known Richard since 1995 and have missed a few important developments in his life since moving here, so it was great to be able to catch up.

Richard came to visit. Wow, I really need a haircut.

Candid shot of Sirem and me. (Thanks, Krista, for both of these photos.)

And the national park is always a relaxing place to be. Plenty of things to point a camera at certainly.

Still good beach weather in late September. Well, maybe not for actual swimming.

Finally got a good shot of the wild pigs that live in the park.

What else has happened?

Because we are such publicity hounds, we said “yes” last summer when CNN Türk asked if they could come and film the crazy straw-bale people. Their program aired a few weeks ago and they did a fantastic job with only a couple of hours of raw footage to work with. In particular they took some great drone shots that showed our work from an angle we’d never seen before. The program is available on YouTube if anyone is curious. Obviously you’ll get more out of it if you speak Turkish, but the drone shots go beyond language. 🙂

Also in the publicity department: a week ago I finally made a “hey, we built a straw-bale hotel!” post to reddit/diy. And then sat at the computer for 11 hours answering people’s questions and comments. It’s nice to get feedback though and the feedback was almost entirely nice.

And, déjà vu, the olive harvesting season has come around again, a little early this time as it was a dry summer. I admit I did absolutely no work on this important job, because I was building the catwalk. Or something. The hard-working olive pickers were Sirem, Çisem, their mum Nadire, and local farmer Mustafa who was our hired expert.

Gently shaking the olives from one of our trees onto a sheet.

Sirem and Çisem doing it old-school: picking up fallen olives from the hillside.

Shaking the trees and gathering the olives is the hard part. It gets a lot easier and more rewarding when you take your crop to the local factory to be pressed into olive oil.

Rainy day at the olive oil factory. Each pile of bags is from someone’s olive farm. Our pile was very small compared to these!

Our olives going into the system.

Leaves and branches blown away, only the olives remain.

Recently the factory has brought in fancy new pressing equipment from Italy to make cold-pressed olive oil possible. This gives nicer oil but a lower yield than the standard warm-pressed method. Decided to give it a try and we couldn’t be happier; the oil is really magnificent.

Where the (cold-pressed) magic happens.

You might remember from last time that we adopted a little white puppy called Nina. She has turned out to be all-labrador, or we’re pretty sure she is anyway. She is wonderful and beautiful and extremely naughty and likes to chew on things that she shouldn’t. And she grew so quickly! I should never have given her all those eggs and all that milk…

Nina a few months ago.

Nina now: huge!

And just for some dog-cat balance, here is a photo of Suzie. She’s been with us for ages but you don’t get to see pictures of her very often as sometimes she decides she is shy, and disappears for a week or two.

Suzie looking soulfully into the distance.

And finally a couple of photos to try to show you how nice the light gets around here as the days get shorter and the air hazier.

I know, I know, like the world needs another sunset photo. But look at those rays!

View of distant hills.

Will try not to go quiet for so long this time!

Sunshine and how to escape it

One day, not too far in the future, the feel of this blog is going to change. It will be great, one day, to make a post called “Hotel and house finally finished!”, or something similar. Then I guess we might switch the focus to food photos and landscapes and shots of undiscovered local oddities. But for now, we are still in the realm of incremental construction progress. So I hope you are all OK with another post that feels like a small step forward from the one before.

Overview of the project.

One bit of news is that the cafe is now open for business — at least it is on Sundays! And some local people have come by for long, leisurely Turkish breakfasts. We’d love to open more than just one day a week (and we do if someone books especially) but at the moment it’s hard to justify too much time away from the building work. Sadly we just can’t afford to have one or two of us sitting in the cafe all day waiting for potential customers.

Terrace looking welcoming, we hope, with a few more tables and the dog houses moved to a more suitable location at the other end of the property.

Terrace and cafe by night.

We’re still experimenting with exactly what goes into our breakfasts, but there are some staples that are always there: eggs in some form, fried vegetables, fruit, cheese, olives, lots of different jams, and of course bread.

Front to back: boiled eggs, tahini pekmez (sesame paste mixed with grape molasses), olives, butter & honey.

Front to back: apple, kiwi fruit & banana; peppers and aubergines in a tomato sauce; various jams; sigara börek (fried pastry rolls stuffed with cheese).

Spring seems to be rapidly turning into summer: today’s high will be 32 °C. And once again the warm weather has been great for the gardens. The wet winter has made it an especially good year for green things to launch themselves out of the ground.

Rose bush gone wild in the front right.

Gardens outside rooms one and two.

Garden with a view at the north end of the pool. Note the fast-growing mulberry tree just behind the trellis.

All this sunshine reminded us, though, that the pool was always going to need more shade before summer comes in earnest. The pavilion we built earlier is great, but it’s at its best in the morning. The late afternoon sun shines straight in and makes it much less hospitable. For a long time we considered going with big umbrellas (and you’ve probably seen the green umbrellas that the nice people at TwoFour Productions bought for us).  Still, the trouble with umbrellas is that a strong wind coming up the valley will often as not send them into the pool. So we sat down with Sketchup and designed a more permanent solution.

New sunshade.

One nice feature of the new sunshade is that from about 2pm in the afternoon it starts to shade one corner of the pool, making it possible for easily sunburned people (e.g., me) to get out of those UV rays.

Two layers of green shadecloth seems about right.

Middle of the day sees lots of shade around the pool now.

It’s not only the human population that have been enjoying the new and shadier pool environment. Cezmi and Sasha claimed two of the deck chairs for themselves. (Which reminds me, I need to build some nice wooden sun lounges as these chairs have seen better days.)

Cats enjoying the shade.

The cats, being cats, have been trying to claim territory all over the place. We had some guests who were far too nice and let Lucy sit on their laptop for a bit. I had a word with her afterwards though and she assures me it won’t happen again.

Cat enjoying laptop of tolerant guest. “Don’t look at gmail, look at me!”

The dogs are much more helpful and reliable, as ever. They’re not very keen on where we put their dog houses when we moved them up from the cafe terrace, so instead they have installed themselves as watchdogs in rooms three and four. They seem very happy there but I will have to break it to them eventually that rooms are for people.

Zeytin: straw dog.

And we have of course done some actual construction work. The second building has really taken shape now, with all the straw bales in. Just the fabric and mesh work to go before plastering begins.

Building two progress.

Interior progress, room four. Strips of wood define the bathroom walls, ready for old-fashioned lathe-and-plaster work.

The good weather has also given us more excuses to get out and about. Here are a couple of shots from Dilek National Park, 50 minutes south-west of us.

National park view. Greek island of Samos in the background.

Coastal drive with tree.

Finally, something we’ve never thought to include before. Opening the cafe meant we had to make sure the cafe bathrooms were finished and ready for business. You get to them by going outside, onto the veranda, and then around the corner. Thus nobody’s table is too close to the loo, which is good, but there’s a side effect of giving the bathrooms quite a nice northerly view. Here’s a photo of one of the bathrooms with an attempt to catch the view in the mirror.

Cafe bathroom.

 

Buildings two and three underway

A small confession: the photos in this post are about a week out of date, so of course it’s very tempting to run outside with the camera and show you the latest developments. But, knowing me, there’s a danger that if I do that I’ll get stuck in an infinite loop of “just one more shot, just a little bit more processing” and then nobody would get to see anything. So I’m going to run with these, and hope that you will forgive me.

Zeytin enjoying the warm stones of the driveway.

The big news is in the title: we have, at last, started work on the second and third buildings. That’s going to be rooms three and four, and our new house respectively. This time around we’ve decided there are advantages to working on the two structures in parallel. Right now it’s small sections of brickwork for some of the bathroom walls to make sure there won’t be any straw bales right next to wet areas like showers. Then it’s on to the timber framing and getting a roof on both buildings as soon as we can, so that straw and everything else can be stored under shelter while we work.

This probably looks familiar: another T-shaped wall defining the bathrooms for rooms three and four. The junk on top is to keep rain out of the hollow brickwork.

One day this will be our en-suite bathroom (window on the left there, above the toilet; shower behind the wheelbarrow).

Timber deliveries bring a sense of deja vu.

It’s good to be making progress on this stuff while the weather is still pleasant. At this rate we’re going to be doing the framing as winter comes on, so I guess we will find out whether it’s more fun to lay roof tiles in the freezing cold or in the hottest days of summer (like last time).

West wall of room three will be right up against the back of the pool pavilion.

I wish I could say everything in the first building was 100% complete, but that isn’t quite true. Several little jobs remain — some details in the kitchen, a cupboard interior and a mirror in room one, etc. But we are getting there. And they will be good jobs for rainy days in December I suppose.

One thing that did get finished was the stone wall running up the side of the driveway. (All Koray’s work, not ours, I should admit.) There’s now a nice welcoming feel as you come up from the street. All we need now is a sign!

Stone retaining wall on the driveway is done.

The kitchen is, we hope, looking more professional now. Very pleased with how the steel-and-timber shelves worked out. We had to suspend them from the ceiling joists because the one big disadvantage of straw-bale walls is that you can’t really sink load-bearing screws into them after the fact.

Kitchen approaches completion.

Suspended shelving.

Microwave gets a spot on the shelf, freeing up lots of worktop space, and new ventilation hood also gets a bit of steel to hold it in place.

I won’t bore you with all the little details, but we were proud of this one: the laptop and the printer have been perched at one end of the bar counter for a while now. But the printer (like the microwave) was a bit of a space hog. So we put together a miniature table to sit down under the counter and keep the printer tidied away.

Mini table for the printer.

And not to neglect the many normal-sized tables we’ve been making. Two for each guest room (one inside and one out) plus about eight for the cafe, picnic tables on the terrace, and some chunky low tables for drinks by the pool.

This must be table number 10 or 11. Or 12. I lose count!

The two big things still needed in the kitchen are the pantry cupboard and a staircase to the loft. The cupboard, at least, is well on the way. You might be able to spot that the shelves are set back a bit, so we can put little spice-rack-type shelves on the insides of the doors for easy access.

Big food cupboard for the kitchen.

The terrace is looking friendlier now, with the railings painted and some potted plants bringing a bit of colour. We’re getting used to the idea of just sticking with the white gravel as a low-maintenance surface rather than doing paving stones or bricks.

Plants on the terrace.

View of the village looking autumnal; our old house in the foreground.

And finally we wanted to say thank you to all the guests who’ve spent their holiday time with us. Especially those who weren’t worried about autumn weather and turned up long after we thought the tourist season was over. We hope you had fun and that you will come back one day!

Gratuitous shot of Lara pretending to be a panther.

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.

Çezmi

Cezmi takes a break from his building inspector role.

Coco

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

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

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.

Attic

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.

 

Renovations

(Warning: this is going to be a long one with lots of photos. )

We bought the farmhouse because we needed somewhere to live while we were building the hotel project. And in the long run I think we will always live down here: it will be nice to have a bit of physical separation from our paying guests, for their sake and ours.

The farmhouse is great, but it’s pretty rustic, and it looks like our first month is going to be spent renovating it. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, but we want to make it comfortable enough for friends and family to come and stay.

Let’s start with the kitchen. It was in good-enough condition, but the tiled concrete worktop was only about 70 cm high. Much lower than the usual 90 cm, so it tended to give you a bit of a backache. It had to go, sadly.

The original kitchen

The original kitchen

The original kitchen with some improvised cooking arrangements, Notice how low the bench is.

The original kitchen with some improvised cooking arrangements. Notice how low the bench is.

The current state of the kitchen: ready for floor-levelling, tiling, and building a worktop.

The current state of the kitchen: ready for floor-levelling, tiling, and building a new worktop.

The main bedroom is next door to the kitchen, and it was also in good condition. Not too much to do here, although we will probably repaint the walls and tile the floor.

Bedroom 1: in pretty good condition

Bedroom 1: in pretty good condition

Bedrooms 2 and 3 make up a second building set further back on the block. There’s not much to do in bed 2, but bed 3 needs a bit of work, as you can see from the picture.

Bedroom 2.  This room is OK except there seems to be a dog in it.

Bedroom 2. This room is OK except there seems to be a dog in it.

Bedroom 3.  Need to seal those cracks and tile the floor.

Bedroom 3. Need to seal those cracks and tile the floor.

The bathroom situation was the big challenge, and also quite urgent (especially for people who believe a toilet should be something you sit on that flushes). The original bathroom was, again, in OK condition, but the trouble is there was very little in it. Only a bath, really.

The bathroom was OK, but there was only a bath. No sink or toilet or shower.

The bathroom was OK, but there was only a bath. No sink or toilet or shower.

The toilet was a short walk away, up some stairs from the courtyard and around the corner adjoining the chicken shed. I thought it was a fine toilet but let’s just say it was reminiscent of a camping experience.

Back to basics: the original toilet.

Back to basics: the original toilet.

We knew that not all visitors would be game for this squat-style toilet, so we re-did the bathroom to include a “normal” toilet, basin, shower, etc. There was plenty of room. The only catch was that we didn’t know where the sewer connection was, so we decided to bring in the professionals and get them to dig a new connection to the mains sewer line. This meant breaking up a lot of concrete, unfortunately.

New trench dug under the concrete to lay water and sewer pipes for the new bathroom

Trench dug under the concrete to lay water and sewer pipes for the new bathroom

All this rubble came out of the new sewer trench

All this rubble came out of the new sewer trench

But the result was worth it. Here’s the new bathroom (please excuse the sand on the floor tiles; we’re still cleaning up).

The renovated bathroom: no more outside toilet!

The renovated bathroom: no more outside toilet!

And finally, here’s a gratuitous cat photo.

Meet Tarçın.

Meet Tarçın.

To confirm the suspicions of people who know us: yes, our menagerie is expanding already. Marlowe, Molly, and Maya were delivered safely and are now settling in, but Sirem’s mum and dad brought a dog and a cat from Istanbul (they’ll be going back eventually, I am assured). There’s also Zeytin (“Olive”), the very friendly stray dog who lives out the front of the house and is fed by us and the neighbours. There are a couple of cats who visit from time to time but we’re trying hard not to formally adopt them. And finally there’s little Tarçın (“Cinnamon”) who proved impossible not to adopt (it was Sirem’s dad’s fault, honest).

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