Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: plastering

Moon shot

The last hours of July are ebbing away and I have a few photos to share but to tell the truth it’s been a bit of an incremental month — no huge surprises to report. Lots of small forms of progress though.

One big thing that happened: we had a tourist coach full of people come to the cafe for a Sunday morning breakfast. We learned the day before that they would arrive at 8am and we had to have them fed and out the door by 9 so they could travel on to Bodrum. It was about fifty people in total and we don’t even have that many chairs so we were frantically borrowing from the neighbours the evening before.

Borrowing every chair we could get.

We also had couples staying in both rooms that night but thankfully they were super-agreeable guests who were OK with having their breakfast a bit later. Anyway, it was a very stressful morning but turned out fine in the end. Nobody went away hungry and we got lots of nice comments about the cafe and the food and even the clean bathrooms. So that was good.

Breakfast is ready. Bring on the crowds.

Cafe has never been so full!

I know that one day a bus load of people might feel normal, and obviously there are loads of busy cafes where it would just be another morning. But for us it was a trial by fire that was hopefully worth it because now fifty more people know we exist.

What else? Last Friday was the lunar eclipse. We were really lucky to have clear skies and good viewing conditions; peak darkness of the moon was at around 11:30pm local time. Seemed only right to try to take a few photos. Wasn’t sure how well they would turn out as I don’t really have a long-enough lens for astronomical stuff. Happy with the results though.

Moon with earth’s shadow encroaching.

Blood moon! #nofilter #onlykiddingloadsoffilters

The moon and Mars.

And then it was after midnight and I still had all the gear out so I figured why not take more photos? I really like night-time landscape shots but I don’t take them often enough due to being terribly lazy. Here’s two of the better ones.

Driveway and gardens, looking west to Mount Mycale, late at night.

Pool in a reflective mood.

As usual we continue to build stuff. Finally got around to putting together our prototype sun-lounge. With wheels! It’s proving popular with both humans and cats so now it’s time to make five more.

Sun-lounge prototype. Cushions on order.

Building two is coming along. We’re again at the stage of building windows and door frames which feels like deja vu but it also feels good because it means we’re that much closer to habitability.

Window frames again.

We did some more concreting work up in our house, so now there’s a complete flight of stairs up to the mezzanine floor, a fireplace area for a solid fuel stove, and a big bricked-in box of about 1500kg of clay soil that’s meant to act as our thermal-mass heat storage. All of that is the brick structure on the centre right of the photo.

Fireplace and thermal-mass-box developments. Billowing sunshade for that post-apocalyptic settlement feel.

And that’s where we are right now. In one sense the place is still a construction site, but in another sense it’s not. Guests in the cafe or in the first two rooms can relax and enjoy themselves on the veranda or by the pool and the stuff we’re working on is no longer out there in the open but increasingly hidden away at the other end of the block. Which feels like progress.

Tropical outlook from room one’s veranda.

Gratuitous pool shot.

Couldn’t forget some animal representation, of course. The cats have been lazy in the heat this month and haven’t done anything supremely photogenic. But the dogs are always around and always being themselves.

Zeliş and Zeytin summing up their respective personalities in one photo.

See you next month.

 

 

Days of wine and plaster

Summer is here, guests are slowly starting to find us, and we keep working on construction as usual. That’s the short version.

The long version? OK. My mum and dad were here for a few weeks recently. It was great to see them and they were a huge help. And, as often happens, visitors gave us a reason to take a few days off to enjoy the local area. First stop was the village of Kapıkırı, by Lake Bafa — we mentioned it on the blog a couple of months ago. It’s such a tranquil and beautiful spot that we thought my parents needed to see it too.

Restaurant and ruined castle on the lake.

Lakeside houses dwarfed by the rocky mountainside.

We went back to the same restaurant, where the menu is fantastically simple: it’s basically either fish or köfte (meatballs). This time we were up on the terrace instead of down on the beach though.

Shady table at the restaurant.

We had a small team of professional restaurant cats lurking under the table hoping to get some scraps. (Yes, of course we gave them some scraps.) Here’s a shot of the smallest and cutest one. We didn’t actually take this little guy home, but we made sure he got the most fish. If you look at his face you can hopefully see why we have trouble with adopting too many cats in Turkey.

Kitten under the table.

Our second tourist stop was a hidden gem we’d learned about from one of our guests: Ayda Vineyards & Winery. They’re about 20km west of Izmir airport, way up in the hills. Their wine is really impressive, but we were also blown away by how good their restaurant was. And they have a few hotel rooms in case you drink a little too much for the drive home. Overall a fabulous place, and I’m sure we’ll be recommending it to future guests.

Selection of wines.

I should add that they took wine-tasting really seriously, too. Everyone gets eight glasses and a water glass!

The tasting room.

So many glasses!

I didn’t get a perfect photo of the setting so this shot of their lawn terrace will have to do. But it’s a glorious spot with views in all directions.

Terrace with a view.

Meanwhile back at our place, it was great to have the pool and the gardens so much further along since my mum and dad’s previous visit. The poolside area really feels like a comfortable place to spend time now.

Morning sun on the pool.

Lucy relaxing.

Rainy day by the pool.

Not sure if it’s clear from the photo above, but it was raining that day. It has been a strange wet summer so far, with afternoon thunderstorms a lot more common than usual. Good for the garden though.

And yes, that is a piece of wood floating in the pool. Don’t ask. (Well, since you asked: it’s the best way to straighten them out when they warp from uneven drying in the sun.)

Now for your regularly scheduled dog, cat, and flower photos.

Sleeping dogs.

Leyla at full speed.

Leyla looks concerned. She is probably thinking about biscuits.

Roses and figs.

I think that’s a daffodil? No? Maybe?

On to the serious stuff: with my dad on mixing duty and Koray on plastering duty, lots of progress has been made on the second building. The outside plastering is pretty much done. Currently the interior of room four still looks a bit rough, but room three is getting close to complete. Almost ready for guests — we just need to do the tiling, the bathroom, and the mini-kitchen area. Oh, and I have to make all the windows. Details, details.

Room four is the sanding workstation right now.

Room three is getting there!

Lathe and plaster, rear view.

In parallel with all the plastering work, we’ve made some progress on our new house. The floor joists for the second, mezzanine floor are now in, and I’ve tossed up some temporary floor boards so we can walk around up there. I sort of wish I’d planned for more upstairs windows as the views from the top floor are going to be great.

Our new house: view from the lounge/kitchen looking through to the bedroom. Upstairs floor joists now installed.

Home-made joist hangers, as seen in Sketchup!

Interior shot. This will be our bedroom one day.

Temporary floor boards so we can work upstairs.

View from upstairs looking south.

Next step is to get the big beams and columns in that will make up the spine of the house. Then to finally get a roof on it!

When too much breakfast is barely enough

A quick one this time.

Last time around I thought that problematic levels of food photography were still far in our future, but it turns out that the future arrives sooner than you think. With the cafe being open on Sundays now, we thought we should take a few more shots of our breakfast offerings. Mostly so we could include them on the cover of the menu or in printed flyers or something like that. So please enjoy the selection. And if any of the photos succeed in making you hungry, we are most certainly sorry-not-sorry.

Breakfast I.

Breakfast II.

Breakfast: overhead view.

Olives.

Breakfast in the shade, morning sun warming the landscape.

What can I say about the dogs that has not been said already? They continue to be loyal, selfless, deeply lazy animals. The most recent arrival is still looking for a definite name, by the way. Suggestions welcome.

Fluffy (AKA Fluffer, AKA Honey, AKA Honeybunny, AKA Lucky, AKA Lion) in  the garden. Note the  look that says “Am I allowed to be lying here? Is he going to yell at me?”

Zeliş being beautiful. “This is my pile of sand, how dare you make plaster out of it?”

In between breakfast photos we have actually done some work. Plaster is going onto the walls of rooms three and four, inside and out. Most importantly, the west wall of room three, the one facing the pool, has had its final coat of plaster so the pool area is looking much less like a construction site.

Plaster progress.

Pool pavilion tiled.

Pool area progress.

The gardens are looking great, and as usual there’s almost nothing to do except to add water sometimes.

Sunflower.

Garden gone wilder.

And we’ve had a few more guests. Thanks, people — you know who you are. Guests are doubly welcome as they provide an excuse for us to do something other than the usual construction work. So here’s one photo of further explorations at Magnesia (not sure what this building is, possibly warehouses down by the ancient harbour). Plus a gratuitous kitchen photo showing that sometimes we branch out beyond Turkish food.

Cloudy Magnesia afternoon.

Making pasta.

Ciao!

The furniture update

Quick disclaimer: we are not as close to being finished as some of these photos make it look. But we are getting closer!

Shortly we’ll have to decide which online booking sites we’re going to use. And we’ll need to make our listings look as good as possible. We could take bookings right now for, say, April 2017, but one problem is all our photos (for obvious reasons) make the place look like a building site. With this in mind, some friends had a great idea: why not borrow some furniture and take a few photos that show how things are going to look in a few months time when we’re actually ready for guests?

 

Sun lounges by the pool

Sun lounges by the pool

So we did. The furniture came from a few different places. We concentrated mostly on getting the pool area and the interior of room two to look good. Big thanks to Sirem’s mum Nadire, her sister Çisem, and her cousin Mevlüde for all the work on the beautiful quilt for the bed.

Interior with bed

Interior with bed. (That’s the bathroom door on the left, but sadly the bathroom was in no state to be photographed yet.)

Interior with door

Interior with column and front door.

Interior with sofa

Interior with sofa.

You’ve probably spotted the lack of floor tiles by now but hopefully we got away with it. The raw concrete slab doesn’t look great but I’d like to think it doesn’t take anything away from the rest of the decor.

Breakfast on the verandah perhaps?

Breakfast on the verandah perhaps?

It was good to put some real tables and chairs into the cafe: very reassuring to see that seating sixteen or twenty people in the dining area is completely realistic. Although we expect most people will want to sit outside on the terrace in the summer, it’s good to have seating space for cold or rainy days.

Cafe dining area

Cafe dining area

Originally it was just going to be a door and a sort-of serving hatch connecting the kitchen with the cafe, but that looked like a missed opportunity to have a proper bar. Years of visiting British pubs must have unconsciously left a mark as we seem to have reproduced one.

We have accidentally built a pub.

We have accidentally built a pub.

That thing just to the right of the bar, on the wall near the light switches, is our straw bale “truth window”. The idea is to leave a window opening in the interior plaster so people can see that there really are straw bales inside the wall. I didn’t quite get this convention at first, but now that we have seen the bales disappear from view, I understand why everyone does it.

Straw bale "truth window".

Straw bale “truth window”.

Garden doing OK.

Garden doing OK.

We were happy with the furnished photos but of course the furniture all had to be given back to the people we borrowed it from and building work had to go on. One big job recently has been putting insulation into the ceiling, between rafters, and then concealing it with interlocking wooden planks. I had been a bit worried that an all-timber ceiling might make the room look a bit like the inside of a sauna, but I’m happy with the result. See what you think.

Insulation and timber paneling going on the ceiling.

Looking straight up at insulation and timber paneling going between the rafters.

Night-time shot of the new ceiling.

A shot of the new ceiling.

No point having windows unless you eventually put some glass in them, and thus we contacted a local glass factory with good prices on double glazing. The only downside was they don’t deliver, so we had to lay all that glass in the back of the truck, wrapped in blankets and bubble wrap, and drive home very carefully. Nothing broke — yay!

Glass for windows and mirrors has arrived.

Glass for windows and mirrors has arrived.

Build your own windows for fun and profit.

Build your own windows for fun and profit.

Right, and in conclusion: I would write more but the truth is I need to sleep so I can get up in the morning and build more things. Here’s your animal photo as required by popular demand (something a bit different today).

Sorry, no cat or dog photos. Will you accept a tortoise?

Sorry, no cat or dog photos. Will you accept a tortoise?

And I am going to keep posting photos of that mountain until I feel I have got the definitive one. Quite happy with this shot though as it makes it look like we live a few kilometres from Mount Doom.

Sunset panorama from the highest point on our block.

Sunset panorama from the highest point on our block. (Zoomable full-size version here.)

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.

 

 

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