Making Some On-Site Decisions about the Layout and Structure Just Some Fine-Tuning

Once we had discussed the slope in front of the house and the slope behind and developed at least some next steps to take toward a solution, we moved to the house itself, for discussion with Kevin, Jimmy, and Francisc.

Laundry/Utility Room

We had altered the original plan for the laundry/utility room in the fall to take advantage of the adjacent space under the stairs. Now we find out we have a chance to use the space even more efficiently.

In addition to the washer and dryer, this room needs to include the boiler, used for both hot water and underfloor heating, an expansion tank related to the boiler, and some equipment that is part of the solar and photovoltaic systems. By stacking some of the items, including the washer and dryer, we’re left with plenty of counter space, room for some kitchen storage, and an area under the stairs for a bit of additional storage.

An Update

After we returned home, Kevin said that we could improve the situation even further. Some of this equipment can be moved outside the utility room wall, toward the kitchen, where it will be housed in a little stone-walled, tile-roofed shed with a louvered door, similar to the wood store on the other side of the house. Cost: none.

I like the idea and the cost.

laundry and utility room layout
Revised Laundry/Utility and Bathroom
Click image to enlarge
Ground Floor Bathroom

Kevin and the team recommended a reworking of the ground floor bathroom. It had been adapted in the fall to have the shower in a little alcove just inside the door. When the alcove was built, it became clear it wasn’t really wide enough to use comfortably. So they recommended that we change the design back to the original, with the shower in the far end, where it can be a comfortable 80cm (32in) wide, and the sink in the alcove.

We also are using a pocket door to provide some more space on entering.

Stone Wall and Fireplace

Our plans called for an interior stone wall across the back of the house. (We wanted to use some of the stone from the ruin and bring it inside the new house.) That introduced a design problem we hadn’t considered in the fall.

The fireplace was planned for a corner where the stone wall would join a plastered wall, while the fireplace and wall above would be a combination of stone and plaster. This seemed like it would make a visually jumbled corner.

Kevin also pointed out that the interior stone wall would take 8-10cm (4in) from the width of the room, and that, in fact, since this back wall is mostly French doors, there wouldn’t be that much stone visible.

One option Kevin proposed was to do the stone on the opposite wall of the main room, between the entry and the laundry room, where it can sit between the columns and not protrude into the room. That makes the fireplace corner a junction of two plaster walls, so we can do a stone fireplace. He also proposed the idea of a niche in the stone wall as an accent.

Another option was to move the fireplace to this opposite wall. This had the disadvantage of disrupting the flow from the front door, along with requiring a change in the stairway wall above. The other placement option, on the side wall, is a no go because the chimney would be in the middle of a bedroom.

In the end, we decided to keep the fireplace in the corner and move the stone wall across the room and do it without a niche.

Top Floor Ceiling
pianella color example
Selected Pianella Color

Currently, the top floor beams and cross-beams (braccialetti) are in place and anchored to the reinforced concrete structure. The next step will be to place the pianella terracotta tiles that will form the ceiling of the top floor. We needed to decide on the color of these tiles. Francisc showed us some color options. We chose a traditional, somewhat lighter, shade of red.

The Bidet Question

When designing the house, we had left out bidets entirely. We’ve been in dozens of European hotel rooms and have never had the slightest interest in using a bidet. Then Anne hears from a colleague that without bidets it will be hard to rent or sell the house.

Kevin didn’t feel that the lack of bidets would be a real roadblock to selling or renting, but he said there were three ways we could do them without taking up bathroom space now.

  • Rough in the plumbing, but don’t install bidets
  • Use a combo toilet/bidet
  • Add a wall-mounted spray head, like those in a shower, next to the toilets. (They call this the “telephone option.”)

We decided to go with the telephones.

Wall Adjustments
Kevin at Top of Stairs
Kevin and Stairway Wall
Click image to enlarge
Discussing Roof Slope with Jimmy and Kevin
Discussing Roof Slope with Jimmy and Kevin
Click image to enlarge

When we looked the SW bedroom, “Emma’s room”, we decided that we needed more clearance between where the end of the bed will be and the wall. We decided to move the wall between the two bedrooms by 40cm, which will give the two rooms equal spaces around the beds. It will mean taking down and rebuilding a small section of interior wall.

We also decide to make the wall of the stairway a half-wall. This will open up both the upstairs hallway and the stairway to light.

Upstairs Terrazza

We made no changes here, but Jimmy showed where the roof sections will join and how high they will be. This set my mind at ease about a question I had a couple of months ago about how the roof lines and terrazza walls look from the front and back of the house. Jimmy also indicated where the “false” roof will be above the kitchen. (The kitchen ceiling is flat, but the roof above is peaked.)

External Features

As I described in a previous post, we have a few exterior elements we added for functionality and/or appearance. We clarified locations and sizes.

  • There will be three copper faucets mounted inside some type of decorative stone plate on the SE, SW and NE corners.
  • Our fountain trough in back will sit outside the portico and can be up to about 110cm x 50cm.
  • The dovecotes will be on the back of the house between one pair of French doors.
  • The wood store on the south wall will have inside dimensions of 1m wide and deep and 1.6m high. It will “share” the left wall with the exterior of the house.
  • We will continue to “hold” on the tettoia above the front door to assess the light situation.

Exterior Walls

Francisc showed up how the exterior walls will be finished. They start with four layers of hemp insulation on outside of Poroton, so everywhere but where the structural columns are. That will be covered with the exterior stone layer.

Example Stone and Brick Wall
Example Stone and Brick Wall
Click image to enlarge
Large Stones Bricks and Shards
Large Stones, Bricks, and Shards
Click image to enlarge

He also explained that, while it’s mostly a stone wall, a traditional Marche wall incorporates brick, as well. Brick is used to frame the windows and doors and as an occasional layer between the stones. The stones are various sizes and both the stones and bricks are set with no clear pattern. Further, gaps between stones are filled with small stones and shards of brick.

Our decision here was to choose the color of the grout that goes between the stone and bricks. Kevin and Francisc showed us the options and we all agreed on a color that goes with both stone and brick. To be sure were pleased with the result, Francisc will do a small section of wall and then send us pictures for final approval.

Wrapping Up

I had brought some T-shirts with a Chicago logo to give to the team as a gift. I had made the mistake of getting size large, which is too big for most of the guys. Oh, well, I guess it’s the thought that counts.

Finally, Francisc and Jimmy told us that someone who can see the construction from across the valley had called the comune to see if everything we were doing, in particular the pool, was on the up-and-up. It may be the couple across the valley at Le Foglie Ridenti, which I located a few months ago from our pictures and Google maps.

We’ll send then an introductory note a try to establish friendly communications.

Here are a few more pictures.

All images: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure

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