When you build or remodel a house there are always lessons to be learned and boy have we learned some hard lessons through this project. Of course the language barrier has been a huge obstacle, but it's also the little details that can really throw you for a loop.
We have printed out numerous photos of ideas that we have in order to show the workers how we want things to look. We have learned the hard way that the photos are taken so literally that we have actually gotten some pretty funny results.
For instance, I had printed out a picture of a beehive fireplace that I wanted for our bedroom. It was a pretty simple design and I thought that the picture was very accurate. What we failed to realize was that the photo had been shot at a bit of an angle and the fireplace base looked a bit larger on one side. Well the workers followed the photo so closely that they actually duplicated the perspective of the base looking larger on one side. Needless to say our lopsided fireplace had to have a bigger opening cut in order to make the sides even.
A similar thing happened with the bookcases I am having built for my office. Again I gave the carpenter a photo that I felt looked very straight forward. Two bookshelves on each end with a seat in between. (By the way Rod has the Mother of all stove hoods and I have rivaled him with the Mother of all bookshelves). Every thing was moving along beautifully, until the left side of the bookshelf was constructed. I noticed that the end piece was slanted in towards the shelves. When I inquired as to why this was being done Rod explained that the carpenter was trying to achieve a tight fit against the wall and since as everyone now knows none of our walls are plumb, the carpenter followed the angle of the wall exactly.
I now have the most beautiful bookshelves I could have imagined with one quirky row down the side that is bigger at the opening than at the back. Again I will be challenged to fool the eye. Fortunately this is all working out for Mom and Bob as we always seem to be the test subjects, so that by the time our project is complete everything that can go wrong pretty much has and they can avoid the same pitfalls.
We have all agreed that the house has a rustic feel to it and in keeping with that we are trying to add our own elements that were not necessarily original to the house. I am quite sure the workers are puzzled as to why we would choose to make some of our walls out of stone when we could have just as easily chosen to plaster and paint them and be done with it.
In fact Rod says that the workers are probably calling me all sorts of names due to the fact that they have had to redo our bedroom wall several times to achieve the look I am going for. Last time Rod was here and the stone walls were put up I knew from the photos that the one in our bedroom was not at all how I had imagined it. As soon as I saw the wall in person my fear was confirmed. It was much to busy looking for me and I had preferred a more subtle look.
It took me forever to get my point across, even with the aid of pictures, the workers didn't quite seem to understand the look I was trying to achieve. In all fairness I wasn't even sure how to go about getting the look I desired because the wrong kind of stone had been applied in the first place. Once again it was all about fooling the eye. I had envisioned a wall that looked as though it had been there two hundred years. A foundation wall that had withstood the elements and although looked weathered, it had a character all its own. Yes I know I use the word "character" a lot and Rod says that is what gets me into trouble.
So an experiment in changing the look of a stone wall began. First the workers trenched channels in several of the stones in order to turn large stones into smaller stones. They then filled the channels with plaster to give the illusion of much smaller stones. Much of the remaining wall was covered in plaster in order to make it look as though some of the plaster had deteriorated and had allowed some of the stones to show through. The problem with this technique is that you could still see some of the channels the workers had made and it definitely did not look natural.
Round two - trying to fix this problem, the workers decided to chip the plaster from the edges of the rocks. Well that was definitely the wrong thing to do. Unfortunately I didn't see it until they had gotten about half way around the wall. Now It looked like I had a bunch of round rocks with halos. Rod was so exasperated by this time (I think more with me than the workers) that he threatened to just plaster the whole wall and be done with it. I don't give up that easily!
Round three - After Rod calmed down and in trying to keep peace in the marriage, he came up with the idea to sand the wall so that the stones would peek through in places. That was the magic trick and now my wall looks like it's well on its way to looking the way I had envisioned. I had to laugh though the first time the workers used the electric sander on the wall. As soon as that sander hit the plaster, a cloud of dust shot out immediately filling the room with a cloud so thick you would have sworn you were in San Francisco bay when the fog rolls in. Rod wanted me to check out the wall, but I couldn't see six inches in front of me. As the workers continued to sand, the house began to fill with plaster dust. There was absolutely no place to hide, not even on my beloved terrace where I often hide out when the dust and noise are to much to bear.
Tomorrow we return to the States and what a scary thing it will be to leave our house at this stage of the project. The carpenters and masonry workers have actually started some of the finishing projects. The fireplaces are being built, cabinets and bookshelves are being constructed, bathrooms are getting tiled, countertops are in the works, and on and on.
These are the things that really give the house its character and even though Bob will be taking a turn at being our eyes and ears, we wonder if the look we are trying to achieve can actually be translated both literally and figuratively from afar?
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