Well, we’ve done it! We have finally moved into our house in Spain. Since January of 2014, when we decided to take the plunge and move back to Spain, we have been painstakingly planning, designing, and eventually transforming our more than 50 year old flat into the house of our dreams! From the beginning, we’ve had the idea that we wanted to combine the things we love best about American houses and mix that up with the floor plan of our new house here in Spain. We tore down some walls, eliminated four doors (Spanish architects seem to LOVE doors), added a gigantic double-door refrigerator (which, we’ll just say, took a lot of convincing), and voilà, we’ve got our house!
Jorge’s sister, Virginia, his dad, Carlos, and our contractor, Josué (a true saint) were the first to see the house in its beginning, dilapidated condition. Josué actually commented once we were in Spain and got to take a look at it ourselves that all pictures that were sent to Phoenix were taken at very strategic angles as to not show us the real mess they were working in. He said that he was sure we wouldn’t have come back to Spain if we had see those first stages of how the house was after sitting for more than 25 years empty. To make a very long story a bit shorter, we’ll just say that every piece of this house was destroyed and put back together with steal beams above, new, leveled concrete floors, beautiful air-tight windows, and every other thing you can imagine that goes in a house, new and in perfect condition.
We absolutely LOVE the finished product and still look around the house most days in disbelief that we are finally living in the place that we worked so hard to design. It’s perfect for us. It’s exactly what we dreamed it would turn out to be.
As I describe the house, as I know so many of you have been demanding pictures, I’ll go room-by-room, picture-by-picture, in great detail to try and give you the best virtual tour possible. So…here we go!
We’re on the 3rd floor (4th if you want count the main level) because here in Spain the bottom floor is considered ‘0’ so it’s not counted, but I like to count it since I am walking up that extra level of stairs everyday! Haha! We are very lucky with the orientation of our house, north/south, not only because we don’t really get too much sun shining right at us, but also because on one side of the house we look out over a cute little park with a beautiful fountain, and from the north side we have a view overlooking many rooftops and the famous mountain ‘El león dormido’, The Sleepy Lion, in the distance. All through the winter it has snow on the peaks and it is absolutely beautiful! If you’ve ever seen the Hitchcock classic ‘Rear Window’, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it looks like outside of our north-facing windows, I mean, without the spying and binoculars of course. Well, at least I hope so! Everyone is always hanging out their windows putting their laundry out to dry.
As you walk in the front door there is a long hallway and on either side are the doors entering into the two bedrooms. Ours is on the right as you enter and the guest bedroom/dressing room is to the left. We call it the dressing room because it is where we keep our clothes, in two armoires, also known as wardrobes. These were a must-buy from Ikea as here in Spain closets are not something that come built-in to the house and our clothes spent the first 2 months in suitcases and on a small hanging rack.
Speaking of Ikea, they were a big help in getting many different pieces of furniture for the house. Luckily here Ikea works a bit differently. I’m guessing because of the average small size of car, as well as the many folks that don’t have cars here, Ikea offers a home delivery service and you can even have them put everything together once they get there! Not only did we think this was a great idea, as Jorge had to leave his fancy toolbox full of all sorts of handy tools back in Phoenix, but it was also a way of getting the Ikea guys to bring everything up 3 flights of stairs without an elevator instead of us!! Something we were very interested in!
And just to get an idea of Jorge’s ‘handiness’ level, here is a photo of him trying to put together one of our bedside tables. Yes, that’s a hand weight…and yes, he is using it as makeshift hammer. So, thank you very much IKEA for coming to the rescue!!
Moving on down the hall, to the left after passing the ‘dressing quarters’, is the bathroom. Yes, that’s right, we have one bathroom. Not your typical American house setup, but here it’s pretty common. And actually, we really haven’t had any problems with the one bathroom thing. The design of the bathrooms here are really nice because it’s very common to tile both the floor as well as the walls. This is such a great idea, as all of the humidity created from the shower has no effect on the walls. It also gives you one less thing to have to make a decision about…color for the walls! Trust me, if you’ve ever built or remodeled your own house you’ll know what I mean about making decisions. By the end of it all, your head is spinning and you just hope you picked something that you might like in the end. Ha!
Back to the bathroom. We love the setup. We designed a long sink area for lots of counter space and a type of sink that is integrated right into the countertop, custom made to fit our specific space. I would recommend this design to anyone because being that the sink is part of the countertop, you don’t have any seams where grime can get stuck and so it always looks perfectly clean! Definitely a plus!
When we started the renovation we had decided that we didn’t want the hot water heater taking up room in the kitchen (where it was originally) so we moved it to the bathroom. We weren’t sure that this was going to be the best idea because we didn’t want to cut down space in the bathroom either, but it worked out perfectly. We put a cupboard over the top that matches the other cabinets and you can’t even tell it’s there. My favorite part of the bathroom, and it must be said that it was Jorge’s idea, are the two sliding cabinets that hold the dirty clothes. This was the best idea ever because, thinking back on it now, I have NO idea where we would have put the dirty clothes and it looks perfectly cohesive with the rest of the bathroom. It was a lifesaving idea!
If you keep walking down the hall you will get to the end where we have the kitchen, living room, dining room and office all in a nice open space. Let’s just say when we first drew out this idea on paper, it was not very well received. Our designer could not figure out why we would want everything so open. We tried to explain to her that we wanted more of an ‘American-style setup’ when it came to the living room and kitchen area. I wanted to be able to be in the kitchen cooking while not feeling locked away in some dungeon. Let’s just say that in the end we got what we wanted and we love it! The kitchen has a beautiful gas range stove and a super fancy ventilation fan above it. (The gas-stove idea wasn’t easily accepted by our designer either, as nowadays in Spain everyone is putting in electric stoves. I told her, ‘Just wait 5 years and it will come back in style when people figure out that it is so much nicer to cook with gas’. It’s the same thing that happened in the States a few years ago, if I’m not mistaken.)
We also really wanted a white stone ‘farm-stlye’ sink with an old-fashioned faucet, that we eventually found ourselves in a beautiful French catalogue (oh yeah, another thing our designer wasn’t too happy about). Well, I guess sometimes you just have to really ‘battle it out’ for the things that you want. And I think it was definitely worth it! Don’t you? :)
We had to fit our washer also in the kitchen so it was quite the experience trying to figure out where to put everything, but I think we did a pretty good job! And, we still have a great amount of space for storage. If you look on the other wall you can see a built-in china cabinet where we keep both our everyday dishes as well as our fancy ones. (Thanks Mom for so carefully packing and bringing over all of my beloved glasses and fine china!) That space gives us lots of counter space for our juicer, toaster and coffee machine, as well as lots of space underneath for storage. I can’t leave out Jorge’s favorite part of the kitchen, the double-door, over-sized refrigerator with ice maker and water purifier. Ok, ok, I know you’re probably not that impressed, but for Spain, in these tight spaces and with the average fridge measuring about the size of one door wide it’s a big deal. It was a beast getting up the stairs but it fits perfectly and it’s always one of the first things that gets shown to our guests. Haha!
For now in the living room we’ve got a very comfy couch and our television. We’ve got our eyes out for a nice Victorian chair to put in the corner, but until we find something we can’t live without, our guests sit nice and cozy on our couch. We also love the windows, as you’ve probably seen them all throughout the pictures! They are all air tight (a really great plus for the cold weather) and they even have role down shades built-in to the outside of the windows. This is great now only to keep out the cold, but also give some shade from the afternoon sun, or if you just want to sleep in an extra hour on the weekend! :) I guess I should also talk about my favorite part of the house. It’s the crown molding all throughout the kitchen, living room, and dining room/office. You can see in some of the pictures how beautiful it looks! Josué did a terrific job on it, as it is his specialty, and I think it makes all the difference in the house. It’s a small touch that really makes it feel quite elegant!
Behind the couch, you can see the dining room/office. We decided that we would rather have a big table to work on as well as eat on. This way we can work during the day but also have a place to entertain guests and enjoy delicious meals. At IKEA we found some really nice books shelves and luckily enough this setup fit perfectly against the back wall. We each have our own side of the ‘office’ and we use the big computer in the middle for working on bigger projects.
It seems like everything has it’s own space and that every millimeter of our space is used to best capacity. We don’t feel cramped at all but we also don’t feel like we are missing anything. We’ve worked very hard to plan out our space and I can confidently say that I wouldn’t change anything about it. We are now working to turn this house into a home…but I think we’ve done well so far!