Read From the Beginning How Our Story Unfolded

Since the website shows the most recent posts first, it has our story in the reverse order. The list below shows the posts in the order they were written. Once you open one post, you can use the Next button to get to the following post.

If you’d like a quick overview of the project, look at the Avventura Timeline.

July 2016
italian village street How Our Big Italian Adventure Began Deciding to Buy a House in Italy - “Wow, the Euro’s really weak. If ever there was a good time to buy a house in Italy, now would be it,” said my husband, Ed, completely out of the blue one morning as he was reading the news on his iPad. And so began our Big Italian Adventure. Within a month, Ed was on a plane to Italy in search of a house. Over a two week period he saw a total of 39 ...
marche provinces map Target Region: Le Marche - During the spring of 2015, when we got geared up on our house search, we identified a list of 91 potential houses. These were selected from hundreds online, based on our initial "wish list" of must-have/nice-to-have features. From this list, on my exploratory trip in May 2015, I saw 39 houses. These were in four regions -- Marche, Abruzzo, Umbria, Tuscany -- and involved 9 real estate agents Based on the trip, I formed two ...
map of italy with marche highlighted Le Marche? The Part of Italy You've Never Heard Of - Blank stares. That's what we get when we tell people the area we're looking at in Italy. Essentially, no one has heard of Le Marche or really knows where it is. Even my online Italian teachers were hard-pressed to tell me anything about it. So, let me fill you in. The first three questions everyone has are, "Where is it?", "Why does it have a strange name?" -- in English, it's often translated as The ...
Italian farmhouse with pool House Hunting in Le Marche – Day 1 - There's a good reason the region of Le Marche is not overrun by tourists and expats (at least not to the extent that Tuscany and Umbria are): it's not near anything and there are no major cities here. The biggest city is the region's capital, Ancona, and that's not on anyone's bucket list of places to go in Italy. There's an airport in Ancona which you can fly into if you are coming from elsewhere ...
Ruin on an acre in Le Marche Italy House Hunting in Le Marche – Day 2 - We had only five properties to see on Day 2, but one of them was about an hour away from the others, so it was still going to be a full day of house hunting. Casa Duetto First we saw the close in houses, starting with Casa Duetto, a small compound of two buildings and a pool on 9.3 acres, with awesome views of snow-capped mountains. The smaller building, a 70 sq. meter cottage, was ...
restored farmhouse in Le Marche, Italy House Hunting in Le Marche – Day 3 - There were a couple of houses we were interested in that were listed by another agent, Richard, so on Day 3 we went to see them. La Perla Segreta (The Secret Pearl) One of the nice features of this house was that it was walking distance to the town of Mogliani, while still being very private. It was a good-sized house, with five bedrooms and five baths and a pool. It also had 80 olive ...
arm wrestling: a negotation An Italian “Negotiation” - After we had seen the Casa Ideale property a second time, we felt that it was our top choice, though in our talks with Kevin and in our heads we were still considering the house near Pergola (Casa Col di Luce). We loved that house and property. Our concern there was purely location: could we get integrated at all in the local life from that location? We asked the seller's agent to "sell" us on ...
Exchange dollars for euro Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Converting Dollars to Euros - OK, we chose a property and have a preliminary deal. Now, soon, we need to have enough euros to pay for it. That's making all of this more real. And a bit scary. We need to liquidate some assets and convert the dollars to euros. The Good News As Anne has mentioned, one of the major factors driving us to act now on the Italy adventure now was the USD/EUR exchange rate. From the high ...
Needle in a haystack: difficulty of finding property Let’s Play Hide and Go Seek, Italian Style How Buying Real Estate in Italy is Different From the US - It's not as easy to identify potential houses in Italy as it is here in the US. We have a "multiple listing service" or MLS, where essentially all properties for sale are in one big database. It doesn't matter who the selling agent is. If it's on the market, it in the MLS. And from that, on Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com, etc. This makes it easy for a buyer. You just access this data and see ...
Example architect's drawing Designing the House: A First Pass - One of the things we were looking for in a house was an open floor plan on the ground floor. It's not that easy to find. On my first exploratory trip in 2015, I looked at 39 houses, and thought 5 had some potential overall. Only one of these had an open plan. I think there are three reasons it's hard to find this feature. First, in virtually all of the older, restored farmhouses, which ...
Drawing of architect's tools Progress on Our House Plans - Earlier this week we received two proposed designs for a 190 square meter (about 2000 square foot) two story house. (All these numbers are as quoted in Italy: gross size including the exterior walls.). There were elements of both designs that we liked. Note: in all of this, we were constrained by the 190 square meter limit. The amount of space we could build is based on the size of the original building, now a ...
Design for a house in Le Marche Our House Plans Are Ready for an “Opinion” - This has been a busy week working on the floor plans, and we've made a lot of progress toward having a design we like and that can be submitted to the local government for approval. Monday morning we received two options for designs at our desired size of 190m2. These were based on the original concept plan at 160m2 and our general design direction. We wanted some room sizes and placements adjusted. Wednesday morning the ...
Two paths diverging to show process of purchase The Legalities of Buying A House in Italy - To move the whole process along, so we can get to construction as soon as possible, we've started on two paths that will converge with a preliminary written purchase agreement. Path 1 is the design process. It got off to a quick start and we've developed a plan we like within about a week from the end of our trip. Path 2 is the writing of the agreement and all the background research that needs ...
August 2016
Italian legal process flowchart The Legal Formalities of Buying a House: Part 2 - Once we had a verbal agreement to buy the property, I started to read about the purchase process. I found articles online written by fellow foreigners who had been through the process, real estate and advisory firms, and lawyers. Not surprisingly, they all say to use a lawyer to manage the process. What's surprising is that they'd even need to say it, but apparently, since a lawyer isn't required by law, some people try to ...
Us and Italy flags To Be or Not To Be: The Residency Conundrum - When you look at the taxes on a property purchase, you immediately notice that a big variable is your residency status. If you are an Italian resident (and it's your "first home", apparently meaning you have no others nearby), you are taxed at significantly reduced rates on purchase and construction costs. (I estimated we might be talking about €30,000 in our case.) (I don't have an official source on this, but for these purposes it ...
permesso di costruire - permission to build Good News: We Receive a Variance on Our Construction - We awoke this morning to an email from Kevin, titled, In his typical, get-the-news-across style, "POSITIVE Opinion Colmurano Technical Office, Proceed with VARIANCE." The email confirmed that the geometra, Jimmy Stefoni, had met with Verdicchio Saverio, il tecnico comunale di Colmurano. Jimmy had received the good news that our design could be considered a variance on the previously-approved plan, not a whole new plan. This should speed up the approval process dramatically; in fact, the ...
Codice Fiscale We Get Our Official Italian Tax Code Numbers - To be able to buy the property, both Anne and I need to have an Italian tax code number (codice fiscale). The approval process seems suspiciously simple. Surprisingly, there is no official form that needs to be submitted in triplicate, personally hand-carried to be stamped by officials in four different offices, each of which is open just a few mornings a week, and accompanied by a video of your oldest child's high school graduation. In ...
Italian property purchase agreement draft The Preliminary Purchase Contract - We have been working on two paths towards signing a preliminary purchase agreement. The first, working toward getting legal approval to build, has been moving steady since we started about a month ago. The second, getting a draft agreement, has been moving a bit more slowly, as the lawyer has been busy, but we received a draft of the contract today. Status of the Design Approval About two weeks ago, we received the good news ...
Frassasi cave An Experiment: Frasassi - To fill in between posts about the house, I thought I'd try an exercise. Write about places to see in Le Marche, with rules being I can only do research using Italian-language articles, and I'm going to look up as few words as possible. Le Grotte di Frasassi Le Grotte di Frasassi, or the Caves of Frasassi, seem to be a good place to start. In north-central Marche, about 66km (40 miles) northwest of Colmurano ...
map of earthquake risk in italy Amatrice The Earthquake Risk in Italy - After the destructive earthquake that leveled Amatrice and the surrounding area this week, we've been asked many times if the quake was near our property. Well, it depends on what you'd call "near." Amatrice (indicated by the pin) is about 100 km south and a little west of Colmurano (indicated by the star), but the quake was felt throughout Marche. Kevin said his house, near San Ginesio, "rocked several times during that night," but sustained ...
September 2016
medieval soldiers La Medievalia a San Ginesio - I may have found a way to get our son Jack to visit us in Italy. The hilltop town of San Ginesio, about 25 minutes from our property, holds a 10-day festival, La Medievalia, in early August. It commemorates the 1377 victory of the Sanginesine over the attacking forces from the town of Fermo. The festival is built around a competition, il palio, between the four parts of town. They challenge each other in medieval ...
Application for permission to build in Italy Project Update: Timing, Residency, and Taxes - We've spent most of the last 6-7 weeks waiting for the formal permission to build. We had to wait out August because most of Italy, including the planning "department" of Colmurano, which is really just one guy, is off work. Then the earthquake naturally delayed routine building projects, as many structures needed to be inspected for damage. Our formal application was submitted on September 9. It is a surprisingly short document, only 8 pages with ...
October 2016
permesso di costruire - permission to build Permesso di Costruire We Get Approval to Build Our House! - We have received our formal Permesso (approval for demolition and rebuilding of a larger building). It's been three months since we agreed to buy the property and about a month since the complete request for the Permesso was submitted to the comune planning office. Now, with approval in hand, I will wire the deposit to the seller. The plan is then for me to go to Italy in two weeks for the atto (closing). We ...
October Budget Update - Following on a discussion about the budget where Kevin's numbers were higher than I expected and he seemed to be confused about what he told us originally, he sent me a "line-item" budget with the revised numbers.For the whole project, including land but not taxes. The new figure is 12% higher than the high end of the original range. The biggest changes came in three places: The largest unfavorable variance is in professional fees. I ...
Illinois apostille Apostille - Since Anne is not going with me to sign the purchase agreement for the property, I need to have a power of attorney, or procura speciale. Giovanna sent me the proper documents, in both Italian and English. She said to have Anne sign them and get them notarized. Then she said I also need to get an apostille for each document. A what? I thought at first this must be an Italian term and that ...
Have a good trip image Contract Signing Trip - Kevin and I had a Skype call this morning to iron out a few details of my upcoming trip. The main purpose of the trip is to sign the final documents and to get the property transferred into our names. He also wanted to just recap the project budget. We started with a basic schedule. I plan to depart Chicago on the evening of Sunday, October 23. Rather than flying to Rome and driving 3 ...
House made of euros A Final — I Think — Post About Residency - It looks like the residency question has sorted itself out, just a few days before a decision had to be made. Remember, the big reason to consider becoming a formal Italian resident is financial: we can save 7-9% of the purchase price when a resident, or 30,000-40,000€. But it makes us liable for Italian taxes on both income and assets. Financially, it's probably more or less a wash on income tax. The rates in the ...
Bank symbol crossed out Why You Don’t Use Your Bank for Foreign Exchange - To prepare for my trip, I just exchanged some dollars for euros at my local bank. While we own euros in one of our investment accounts, I needed cash and there was no easy way to actually get cash out of that account. I figured I'd get a bad deal, but it was worse than I expected. On a day where the mid-market rate for euros was in the 1.105 range, I had to pay ...
November 2016
Map of October 2016 Italy earthquakes Shaken, Not Stirred - I have a lot of things to write about my week in Italy, but I think I'll start with the earthquakes. Earthquake Activity This Week I arrived Monday afternoon and went to Urbisaglia where I stayed in a small, older hotel in the village center until Friday morning. It's located about where the blue circle is on the map of the quakes that's on the right of this page. Wednesday evening about 7:10 pm I ...
Ancona airport On My Way to Buy the Ruin - For this trip, I decided to trying flying into Ancona. It requires a connection somewhere, this time Munich, so instead of arriving in Rome in the morning, arrival is late afternoon in Ancona. Good call. I avoided Rome Fiumicino airport and its confusing set-up. Ancona airport reminds me of Nantucket or Asheville, but more modern and nicer. You go down the stairs off the small plane, walk about 100 feet, pick up your bags, and ...
Google earth view of property in Le Marche Positioning the House - We don't formally own the land yet, but I start my first day on the property, aiming to position the house and the other features on the property. Kevin and I met the geometra, the builder, and the current land owner. Right now, there is only a farm track that leads down the hill to the land and the ruin, so we were in Kevin's four-wheel-drive car. (Even after our access road is built, I ...
Ceiling beams with tiles Seeing Some Other Houses and Meeting a Great Resource - Kevin wanted me to see a couple of houses where he'd managed the building and reconstruction . The primary goal was to focus on the windows, doors, ceiling beams, and flooring, since those are some of the items we will need to choose early in the process. The first house offered a lot of stimulation to know what we don't want. It was very contemporary inside, which makes it in keeping with modern Italian, but ...
Italian neighbors signing contract on hood of car The Millionaire Neighbors - One other thing we did on the first day was to complete a critical task that I'd been told was handled a month or two before. According to Italian law, if you want to buy land in an agricultural area -- and our property is surrounded by it -- you need to give the neighboring land owners the opportunity to buy the land first. So before we can close, we need signatures from the two ...
Architect's drafting table Planning Meeting with Kevin - Wednesday morning I sat down with Kevin in his office in San Ginesio to discuss a range of issues related to construction. Our key topic was going through the budget he sent last week. It feels more bare-boned than I'd like. I'm not sure how we'd know if something we wanted to do was in the budget or not. How can we do a "change order?" Kevin wants to get a construction contract signed, but ...
Handshake to conclude a transaction Closing Day? - The closing was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, 4pm. Because of some delays caused both by some tardy information from our attorney relating to the final payment due and the last minute work we had to do on the budgets, the wire transfers weren't put in until Monday morning. Our financial guy Doug checked with the bank who was handling our euro account and said we should be all set. The money should be in the ...
Window in Italy showing opening method Windows and Doors - A big decision we need to make fairly soon is our choice of windows and doors. Anne and I had discussed the general look we wanted, which is, as you'd expect, Italian farmhouse. But how about the specifics? And the prices? (Windows and doors is the largest item in the budget, beyond basic construction.) Kevin and I went to see the millwork supplier. Here's what I learned. I'll try to explain with pictures and words. ...
Banca Marche logo Opening a Bank Account and Writing Checks - With Giovanna's (essential) help, I opened an account at the Banca Marche, in the San Ginesio branch. (Which branch turns out to have an interesting implication.) I gave them my passport and my Codice Fiscale. After signing a stack of documents and having the banker stamp them all with a rubber stamp, I had an an account, an ATM card, and access to Internet banking. One thing I learned here is that Italians don't seem ...
zona traffico limitato sign Getting Close to the Closing - On Thursday morning, I found out that the bank transfers had come through. In fact, as I looked at the paperwork, I figured they had in fact happened the day before, before the closing. So we should have been able to finish yesterday evening. No matter. Giovanna was able to get the notaio, the translator, and the seller for a 6pm Friday meeting at his office in Macerata. The only difficulty was in getting to ...
Signing Italian property purchase contract Closing: Short and Sweet - Friday, a little after 6. Everyone present who needs to be. We had done the oral reading of the documents on Wednesday, so we were here just to pass around money and sign the contracts. The contracts are in both English and Italian. My translator and my attorney agree that they are the same. The seller, the translator, and I have to sign each page of three copies of the contacts and of the statement ...
Italian happy hour photo Happy Hour - That's what it's called, in Italian. But it's its own version of our happy hour, a better one, I think. Sit down at a bar in the pre-dinner hours, say 6-8. Order a drink and they also bring a plate of rather fancy hors d'oeurves, some potato chips, and some peanuts. Order another drink and they give you a refill on the food, too. You almost don't need dinner. And it's affordable. My mixed drink ...
Chestnut festival poster Prepare for Departure - The day before my return home was spent in Falconara Marittima, the town on the beach just north of Ancona, where the airport is. I'd planned to go to a sagra and to visit some furniture and home goods stores, but the big earthquake that morning changed my plans. I didn't do much besides watch earthquake news on TV and have lunch and dinner. I ended up having both at the same restaurant, Il Paradiso, ...
pompa di benzina The Trip Home - At dinner last night, still trying to avoid a refueling charge from Hertz, I get my 20 changed for smaller bills. Then on the way to the airport, I'll have another go at the pump. Flight is at 6. Airport only about 15 minutes away, plus gas up time. Even though I know the airport is small, I figure I should arrive by 4:30 or so. Lufthansa makes you check any bag over 8kg, so ...
Access road via Google earth Getting on the Road - Today's email from Kevin was a request for approval to get started on building the access road. The property sits about a kilometer off Strada Provinciale 129, the road between Colmurano and Urbisaglia. Right now, a rough road that turns into a gravel path as it approaches our property is the connection to the SP129. It's too steep and rough to get equipment and materials to our site. So step one in construction is to ...
Sample computo metrico page Advice about the Construction Contract - Giovanna and I had a Skype call this morning to discuss the construction contract. I had sent her Kevin's draft and all the relevant materials I had: the floor plan, the site plan, and the budget. In Kevin's draft, it referred to a Directory of Works, but I wasn't sure just what that means in Italy, Was there more than what we had received? Whatever the practice is in Italy, I was going to require ...
Progress on the Road - We just gave approval to start improving the road a couple of days ago, but they've already made good progress. Kevin sent some pictures of the road after some rough grading. I think they give a good feel for the terrain and "country" feel to the access to the property and the property itself. The backgrounds give an idea of the views of hills in the foreground and mountains in the distance. The first five ...
Plan for laundry and utility room Lavanderia e Locale Tecnico - In the original rough floor plan, we had a laundry and utility room adjoining the stairway on the ground floor. This left a nice-sized closet underneath the stairs. Kevin asked the geometra to do a more precise layout of the laundry/utility to include the needed utilities and mechanicals. Besides the water heater, these include some of the elements related to the underfloor heating and the renewable energy system. The first layout he drew included all ...
Excavation Begins - The earthmoving equipment is doing its job. Let's get an update and look at some pictures. Kevin reports: "The road is MUCH improved in terms of grade, width, and overall ease of transit. Various vehicles have had no problem getting to the site." Now that there is easier access to the site, work has begun excavating for the base of the foundation. A lot of earth needs to be moved, since the plot is on ...
Permesso di costruire An Important Detail - We still don't have the final permission to construct the house, as the approval process has been lengthened by the October earthquakes. But we've still been able to work on the road and start excavation. I'll let Kevin explain where we stand: The only 'issue' at the moment is that the town offices continue to delay release of the permission to construct which was due in our hands [two weeks ago]. This is due to ...
December 2016
Pool Excavation Don’t Dive Too Deep - At first, Kevin had thought that the pool design and execution would be done in a late phase, when we're working on landscaping. As he and I talked about it and the contractor weighed in, it became clear that it makes a lot more sense to deal with the pool in the first stage of construction. We'll have the excavating equipment on site, the house won't be there to make access difficult, and the concrete ...
over the air network diagram Getting On the Air - One important "must have" is a good, fast internet connection. A cable connection or even a DSL connection over a phone line isn't possible, since the wires don't seem to be accessible from our property. So we'll need to rely on some over-the-air service, either satellite or ground-based. From what I hear, Marche has pretty good coverage provided by a group of companies, one company per province. The company that handles our area, Macerata, is ...
home network diagram Wiring for Wireless - Once we have the house connected to the Internet, we need to get a good wireless signal throughout the house. My plan is to use a router connected to the modem by a cable. The router will be in the office and have wireless capability so we can connect laptops, phones, iPads, etc. My concern is that because of the thick concrete construction, the wireless signal from this router won't cover the whole house. So ...
stairway CAD diagram A Little Light on the Subject - In the design, only two spaces didn't have a window: the laundry/utility/pantry and the stairway. No problem with the first one; we wouldn't want to give up the wall space in include a window. We can use it more efficiently. The stairway is different. We didn't want that to be dark in a house that otherwise should be full of light. Beyond the lack of a window, I thought the design was for the stairway ...
Looking Up from the Bottom - We just settled on the depth of the pool a few days ago, and now they are digging. We got some great pictures today showing the excavation, with our geometra, Jimmy, at the bottom indicating the different strata in the soil.
underfloor heating layout Heating and Cooling - I'm writing this post now mostly so can show this cool diagram -- which I don't completely understand. It shows the plan for the underfloor heating. The different groups of pipes are shown by the colors. They come together in a ground floor zone and a top floor zone which can be controlled separately. Cooling the house will be done by a progression: Open the windows. Use the ceiling fans in the bedrooms. Use the ...
The Hole Truth - So far, the work on the foundation has been moving along at a rapid clip. They started foundation digging less than a week ago, and today we received pictures of the start of drilling for the foundation pilings. Notice in particular the photo showing the size of the piling holes relative to the man in the picture. Kevin says that a man could get in the hole with elbows extended. My apologies for many of ...
light bulb abd italian plug Lighting It Up - When I was in Marche a few weeks ago, I asked Kevin about the electrical plan. I had assumed the architect or geometra would handle this and we'd comment. (The architect and geometra have overlapping roles. The architect has more formal training and certification, and seems to handle the big picture elements of the design. The geometra handles the details, plus acts as a surveyor and project manager.) He told me that I ought to ...
Piling On - Coming quickly on the heels of the digging of the holes for the pilings, today we received pictures of the pilings being poured and the rebar set. The pilings are between 5.5m and 6.5m deep (18 ft to 21 ft). You can click on the photos to enlarge. Image sourceCopyright © Our Big Italian Adventure
Structural plan for house in Le Marche Strong as Bull Technical Drawings for the Reinforced Concrete Structure - Kevin sent along the technical drawings for the pilings, foundation, and framework of the house. Some of it is Greek to me, but it's reassuring about the strength of the construction. I can see that the construction is solid. The supporting columns seem to be 30cm x 30cm (12 in x 12 in). There are sixteen of these, even for this 205mt2 (2200 ft2 house. Plus, the beams supporting the floors are 55cm x 30cm ...
Preparing the Pool Bottom - Today's photos continue with the placement of the steel framework for the pool. You can click to enlarge.
Adventure Casa Avventura - We've been using "Casa Ideale" as the working name for our house. It's the name Kevin used when he was marketing the property and the house concept. We hope the house will turn out to be "Ideal", but we know getting it built and moving in will be an adventure, so I'm going to use "Casa Avventura" as our working name from now on.
Progress on the Pool and Foundation - The weather continues to hold in Le Marche. They are making good progress on both the pool and the house foundation. The house foundation is using an IGLU system to reduce moisture infiltration. Here are all the photos from today's work.
Building Our Igloo Protecting the House from Moisture Infliltration - When houses with stone or concrete walls are built on a slab, you can have problems with moisture from the earth being sucked up into the walls. This can cause mold and peeling paint. Fortunately, there is a fairly simple solution to this. Modeled after a system used by the Romans, you provide an air space under the slab and vents in the walls to let the moisture escape. There are a number of companies ...
More concrete and more smoothing at new house construction in Le Marche Finishing the Foundation - It looks like another beautiful day in Le Marche. Today's photos show the concrete being poured on top of the IGLU system and the steel and then the concrete being smoothed and the foundation finished. Here's one shot showing the beautiful weather, the crane that distributes the concrete and one section of the foundation — the master bedroom — being smoothed.   All of the pictures are below. Images Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure
Marciapiede around house Marciapiede Surrounding the House - When we were thinking about the exterior of the house, Anne noted that many houses we have seen look stark, because there are no plantings along the foundation. She said she wanted to have some plants near the base of the walls, including some rosemary and lavender. I asked Kevin about this. He said that traditional construction in Marche has a marciapiede, a sidewalk, surrounding the house. This is done primarily for practical reasons, as ...
Forming the Pool - Kevin sent along a picture of the workers at lunch: First lunch in the new dining room. (Notice the thickness of the finished slab. Those IGLUs are buried in there, with only the moisture outlet pipes visible.) The other photos today are of the starting of the concrete forms for the pool. The yellow panels are put inside the wood frame to keep the concrete from sticking to the form. Image sourceCopyright © Our Big ...
Pool work at night A Midnight Swim - We only got one photo today, but it's a good one. Our construction crew, working on the pool at night, to get the exterior of the pools forms in place. Image source Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure
Walls for the Pool - They finished building the forms for the pool. Today's small photo set shows them at work pouring the concrete into the forms to make the pool walls. Kevin also reported that the Water company was on the site, making preparations to get the water supply pipes in place. The work will go on until Monday, when the holiday break begins. It lasts until January 7, so about 18 days. Given all the work that's gone ...
Water trough fountain Putting the Fun in Functional - There are a few nice touches we'd like to add to the outside of the house, some functional, others just for fun. Wood Storage Since we're going to have a fireplace in the main room, we need a place to store firewood. Since I know from experience that if the wood isn't conveniently located, it doesn't get used, I want to have a wood storage area next to the house. The plan is to have ...
Stone wall with dovecotes Getting Stoned - Houses in Le Marche are, as far as I know, either made of stone or concrete. (In new construction, there is the need to meet the earthquake requirements. Only older houses would have actual stone construction.) Exterior Walls The exterior of these concrete houses is finished one of two ways: with stone or with what is called "rendering", which covers the exterior surface with a mixture of sand and cement. The rendering is often then ...
portone with arched window above Portone - In the original design, the front door, or portone, was planned to be a single solid door. We thought that this might make the entry hall too dark, so we decided to add an arch window over the door. (Having a solid arched door is expensive, so I'd guess an arched door with glass at the top would be very expensive.) As we looked for examples to help us design this window, nearly all the ...
example wall niche Finding Your Niche - A nice design element you find in older houses and buildings is the wall niches. Called nicchia (plural nicchie) in Italian, they are often used to display a statue or another interesting object. We had seen these in other houses and felt they would be a nice thing to include in our house, but to a more utilitarian purpose. Because of the reinforced concrete framework of the house, the exterior walls are 40cm (16 inches) ...
two panel door Porte - Even a smaller house has a lot of doors (porte, singular porta). I count 17 in Casa Avventura. (I visited a window supplier during my last trip, so these decisions are based on what I learned then.) Exterior Doors We have five exterior doors, plus the portone (front door): three sets of French doors, a kitchen door, and a door to the upstairs terrazza. Question one was to decide if we wanted full-length glass or ...
metal door handle Door Details - Beyond the major design decisions about the doors are a couple of details. Door Screens In general, it seems that Italians don't use screens. It's a nice, clean look without them, but it lets the bugs in. For the windows, we found an option to let us have the open, clean look and have screens. They will have built-in screens that roll down from the top frame when you want to use them. Otherwise, it's ...
January 2017
Alta ribalta window Finestre Window Details - While the house will have 17 doors, 5 exterior and 12 interior, there are only 11 windows (le finestre, singular la finestra). That's because the French doors are doing double duty as windows. (I saw some examples of windows during my last trip.) Window Design Of the 11 windows, 9 will be double windows that open in the middle. The other two are the kitchen window, which has three panels, and the stairway window, which ...
Bathroom design in Italy Redoing the Bathrooms Improving the Plans - Last week, Kevin took the proactive step to bring the bathroom designer, Angelo, into the process. The architect had done preliminary bathroom planimetrie (floorplans), but we need to finalize the layouts so the plumbing work can proceed. (The toilet placement is the issue that needs to be decided now,. The others can be tweaked later, though as you'll see I think we've got it solved now.) The preliminary layouts we had received before seemed to ...
December Budget Update Costs Just Inching Up - We have more complete estimates on some of the work. Plus we have made some additions to the plan that will add to the cost. The total increase over October is 3%, putting us at about 15% over the original target. Here is where we stand:
example wall niche Special Carpentry Prices for Doors and Niches - One thing that has been TBD in the budget so far and not included at all, even as an estimate, is the special carpentry for the hall closet doors and the nicchie. Now, we have an estimate for this work. My first reaction was that the costs seemed high, but Kevin reassured me that the carpenter was very good — the only one he works with these days after trying others — and that the ...
water supply Watering It Down Water, at a Reduced Price - They've been trucking water to the site so far, but we need to get a direct water connection to allow construction to continue, so Kevin has been working with the local utility company. Today, he gave us an update. It's pure Kevin: In mid-December we conducted an on-site assessment with the water company - TENNACOLA. Just before Christmas we received an estimate from them. The estimate, which I attach to give you a chuckle (it ...
Workplan for house construction in Le Marche Project Timing: Starting 2017 A Month-by-Month Work Plan - We feel like we've made excellent progress on the building project in the last six weeks of 2016. Kevin sent us a timing plan for the rest of the work, roughly showing activities by month. It stretches the project out until February 2018 — which was the completion date he proposed in October. Looking at the plan, it feels conservative. There are few concurrent activities, maybe because one contractor and his team are doing much ...
january 2017 snowstorm in le marche Enter Mother Nature La Neve - Soon after I published the previous post about project timing, Marche got hit hard, first by a major snowstorm and them by a series of fairly strong earthquakes. Snow fell over a number of days in mid-January, piling up as high as two meters (6.5 ft) in some villages. (Kevin said there was less in our area, but over 4 feet.) Then, on January 18, there was a series of four earthquakes in the magnitude ...
February 2017
Le Marche house plan Finalizing the Construction Contract The Computo Metrico is Signed - While we settled on a project budget in October and construction was started in mid-November, we haven't as yet finalized and signed the (primary) construction contract with the builder, a company owned by Brinza Ionut Bogdan who employs our contractor Francisc, or the contract with the geometra, Jimmy. A key reason for having delayed the signing is my desire to have a clear definition of just what we'll get for each budget item. Here in ...
muddy building site in Le Marche Mud Trapping a Big Truck - Finally, the snow at our building site has melted, due to warmer temperatures and some rain. But work on the site has yet to recommence in earnest. The problem now is mud. Take a building site, where the basic earthmoving has started, and add snowmelt and rain and you get one big mess. Apparently, the mud is worse than our contractor, Francisc, expected. He had a big truck come to the site to deliver some ...
Italian traffic violation notice Speeding? Meeting the Autovelox - Today, the mailman brought a registered letter from Italy. Against my better judgement — we've been burned in the past when Anne was served in a lawsuit this way — I signed for it. I figured it had something to do with the house. Wrong. It was a notice of a traffic violation. A quite tardy notice, since the date of the violation was last July 5, over 7 months ago. A side of the ...
Back to Work Ending a Long Delay - After 3 weeks of holiday break and over 4 weeks of weather conditions that prevented work at the site, Francisc and his team got back at it. They had some of the rebar columns they had built off-site delivered and they prepared to attach them to the existing rebar. Here are three photos. Notice the cloudy weather, a dramatic contrast from the beautiful sunny weather in December.
Movin’ On Up The Pace Quickens - The title and content of today's update come straight from Kevin. Some photos from this morning. You'll start seeing some real progress from this point on. Things will MOVE. And then later: More progress. Structural engineer onsite too, checking and directing. Ciao. Here are the photos.
Stonehenge in Italy Italian Stonehenge Columns Standing Tall - Finally a sunny day in Le Marche as work continues apace on the ground floor columns. Yesterday they started erecting the steel rebar frameworks of the columns and began building the forms around these frameworks for the concrete to be poured. Today saw this project nearing completion. We got some good pictures today, and one in particular caught my eye. It's a closeup of the base of the steel rebar framework of one of the ...
Pouring a Little Concrete Filling the Ground Floor Columns - We got just a few pictures today of them starting to pour the concrete inside the forms for the ground floor columns. It's great to see that the sunny weather continues after a long cloudy, snowy spell.
Geometra and Columns Revealing the Columns The Concrete Forms Come Off - On another gorgeous February day in Le Marche, they began removing the concrete forms from the columns. They had poured the concrete last week and let it set for three days. They also showed us some of the building materials they recovered from the ruin, which we hope to use in the new house. The views across the valley today are excellent, and you can meet our geometra Jimmy. Here are all the photos:
Outgoing currency wire form Transfer Problems A Small SWIFT Code Error - Last week, Kevin asked me to make payments to the geometra Jimmy and the contractor Francisc. They have both been doing a lot of work in advance of payment as we waited to get the final construction contracts signed. Kevin sent me the bank details for the transfers and it all seemed very straightforward. The only tricky piece is getting the correct SWIFT/BIC codes for the receiving bank and the IBAN code, which determines the ...
Chopping Some Wood Major League Fig and Cherry Pruning - Besides the dozen or so olive trees on the property, there are two fruit trees we want to save, one fig and a double-trunk cherry. All of the trees need pruning, but the fig and cherry need it badly. Pippo, who acted as the agent for the previous property owners, is also a landscaper. Kevin said he'd be the guy to do some tree pruning. We'd asked to get it done in December, while the ...
Window and door plan A Little Confusion About the Doors An Overlooked Detail About the Sizes - We made the major decisions about the windows and doors in December and received a cost estimate, but we hadn't yet received a detailed spec sheet and the contract. That came today. At first glance, all looked in order. Then I looked more closely at a drawing of the front of the house and noticed that the kitchen door was drawn as two panels, opening in the middle, rather than a single door hinged on ...
Europeam chestnut sample Beam Us Up Chestnut Beams Instead of Pine - We received a small bit of nice news today about a quality step-up in the ceiling beams with no additional cost. Here's Kevin: We had in the plan standard 16cm x 16cm pine beams. In getting ready to order the beams Alessandra and I got to discussing if a bigger beam might look better (though the 16s are perfectly nice and regularly used). We discussed this with Francisc and he came back to us with ...
Redoing the Road Post-Winter Repairs - We're still waiting for water at the site, but now the trench for the water line has been dug. I hope this means the line can be completed and connected soon, so Francisc doesn't have to continue to truck in water. After all the rain and snow in January and the work on the trench, it was time to regrade the road and the driveway. It's great to see the structure of the house at ...
Drawing of true divided light window Sorting Out the Windows and Doors True Divided Lights? - In response to yesterday's questions about the windows and doors, Kevin came back from the supplier with a much improved specifications package. It addresses nearly all the open issues and includes attachments that show clearly what the windows, doors, and hardware will look like. It also includes a dimensioned drawing of a sample door. On the cost front, they removed the interior door that had been added to the budget by mistake, which lowered the ...
Windows spec sheet Final Sorting on the Windows and Doors Muntins, Arch Window, and Upstairs Terrace Door - We had three questions after seeing yesterday's version of the windows and doors contract and spec sheet. They were about: Muntins and true divided lights Arched window above portone Upstairs terrazza door The easy one to solve was the terrazza door. The design is as expected: 3/4 glass, 1/4 wood. The muntins question raised some concern by Kevin, as I knew it would if the budget didn't already include true divided lights, rather just a ...
Le Foglie Ridenti in distance Some Easy (?) Detective Work Identifying the House Across the Valley - While looking at some earlier pictures, I noticed a house in the background that I'd noticed before but never really thought about. Here it is in a picture from my October trip. It's right in the center of the view from the back of our house, almost straight to the west. I went to Google Earth and it was easy to identify. In fact, it popped up with a place name: Le Foglie Ridenti. Update: ...
March 2017
Steel cage support structure for concrete Starting the Top Floor Working with Rebar and Chestnut Beams - Today's group of pictures shows the start of the construction of the top floor, what we call the "second" floor here in the US but is called the "first" floor in Italy. Step one was to erect the scaffolding around the perimeter of the house. In will support the concrete forms for the reinforced concrete beams and slabs that will be the floor base. The key element in this structure is what Kevin calls the ...
Geometra;s Work Report for February February Progress Report Work Completed, Days Lost to Bad Weather - Kevin asked the Director of Works, the geometra Jimmy, to make a report at the end of each month. Here's why this report is important: To make sure the director of works is frequently on site To ensure he is FORMALLY reporting back on a monthly basis that all works are proceeding as per contract and as per applicable building codes to ensure certification at end of project To make sure end-of-project certifications are a ...
A Beautiful Day to Set Some Beams in Place Acting Cagey Lots of Structural Steel is Added - They are continuing to build the support structure for the top floor. This involves building a framework of steel cages that will be encased in concrete. These cages are also linked to the interior chestnut beams, even though these beams are not integral to the structure. You want them linked so if the house moves because of an earthquake, the whole structure moves together. Plus, you don't want the beams falling, which might happen if ...
Adding cross beams to a new house structure in Le Marche More Ground Floor Beams All Ceiling Beams in Place - We only received one picture today, but it's a nice one, showing the addition of the smaller cross-beams on top of the main beams. Once the plaster is added during internal finishing, these will give the ground floor a traditional look.
Ceiling composite panels above beams Ground Floor Ceiling, Top Floor Base Tying Together the Two Levels - There has been a lot of progress during the past two days and we have the photos to prove it. The first step was to start adding the composite panels that form the underlay of the ceiling. They also provide thermal and acoustical insulation. The lower surface is a bit rough, giving some texture to the ceiling. (I thought the ceiling would be plastered, but apparently the paint goes right on this surface.) Here are ...
top floor slab ready for concrete pour Ready to Pour the Top Floor Slab Constructing an Impressive Anti-Seismic Framework - Earlier this week they started putting the pieces in place to create the reinforced concrete slab that acts essentially as the ceiling of the ground floor and the floor of the top floor. This slab, which is 25cm (10in) thick, is supported at the edges and around the stairway cavity by 40cm (16in) thick beams, giving us confidence that the house can survive the earthquakes which will inevitably happen. A key component in the construction ...
Concrete Crane and Truck at new house construction site in Le Marche Starting to Pour Top Floor Slab Concrete on the Steel and Poroton Blocks - Following on the work from last week where they prepared the top floor base, they began to pour the concrete. The concrete crane is here to distribute the concrete. It gets a supply of concrete from a truck that sits behind it and pipes it up to the top floor. Before the concrete trucks arrived, a first step was to lay a grid of rebar on top of the Poroton blocks that was tied into ...
magazine article about a small Italian house A Look Back How We Got Ourselves into This - While searching for something else, I came across the first email Kevin sent that proposed that we build new rather than buy an existing house and improve it. This email came as we were trying to firm up what houses we'd see on our June 2016 trip. He eased into it … Thinking about this completely differently. Then he proposed his alternative. He was right that we were expecting that we'd have to do some ...
Completed Ground Level Structure Starting to Shape the Land Major Earth Movement Begins - Now that the base slab for the top floor is complete and the concrete is curing, they are starting to shape the soil to turn the hill the house is on into a series of terraces. My favorite view of the work is the one below, that shows the finished top floor base slab and the view, with the digging equipment up the hill from the front of the house. Looking at the ground floor ...
Front and Slope Down from Parking Lots of Earth to Move and Add Continuing the Grading Near the House - Today they continued the work to move large amounts of soil from in front of the house to behind, to make some level terraces on the hill. Now they have the slope down from the parking area to the house softened and the area right in front of the house leveled. Here's a view taken from the kitchen (north) side of the house where I can see some olive trees and the level area in ...
Start of Level Behind the House Extending the Land Terraces Grading Behind the House and Near the Pool - A lot of progress has been made moving earth and reshaping the land around the house. Today that work continued, and some work was done further down the hill to level the ground around the pool. There is a start of a level area behind the house, where there will be a stone terrazza by the master bedroom (foreground in photo below) and a portico (toward the background) and a small yard/garden. (Anne was concerned ...
April 2017
Church interior Style Guides Direction for Designer: Kitchen, Bathrooms, Flooring - Kevin asked us to provide some guidance to the kitchen and bath designer, so he can prepare some plans and ideas for us to look at during our May trip. Here's how he described these "style guides": We are NOT looking for brands or model numbers or exact products. What we ARE looking for are images, with your voiceover, that give us a sense of the styles and looks you like and want to create ...
Unfinished Slope Behind House Working to Tame the Hillside Earth Movement, Terracing, and Back-Filling - Today, Kevin sent a long explanation of the "lay of the land" situation. Some of the major earth moving has been done, so he went to check out the status. After being on site, he decided we need to make some changes to the grading and terracing plans. Virtually all of what he says makes sense, so rather than rewrite it myself, I will more-or-less quote his email, but I'll add some comments and pictures. ...
Cherry Front and Center Progress on Two Fronts Earth Moving Continues as Column Construction Begins - Work continues on the major project of moving earth, trucking in earth, and resculpting the hillside into terraces, and making the transitions between them as smooth an gentle as possible. It's not an easy task on a hillside like we have. I don't think any of us, including the geometra Jimmy, the contractor Francisc, or Kevin realized the actual steepness and the need to move so much earth. The original budget for buying and moving ...
Grading around new house in Le Marche A House in a Hole? Preliminary Grading Finished, Marciapiede Work Started - The first pass at the land grading has been completed. There is likely more work to be done, but Kevin wants to hold off until we are on site in May. One picture from today gave me pause: it shows the south side of the house, that near the master bathroom and study and the grade that surrounds it. It makes that side of the house look like it's in a hole. I asked Kevin ...
Column and Sidewalk Concrete Work Concrete Above and Below Column and Marciapiede Work - Today, a lot of concrete got poured, first for the top floor columns and then for the marciapiede (sidewalk) surrounding the house. In today's photos, you can see the concrete forms for the sidewalk being completed and the pouring and smoothing of the concrete.
wine grapes Marche Wines: Your DOCs, DOCGs, and IGTs - Marche produces about 10.7 million cases of wine a year. That's over 120 million bottles and you've probably only had one type, but didn't realize it was from Marche: Verdicchio. Neither had I until I started exploring the region. Of that 10.7 million, about 60% has no special "classification." It is called vino da tavola, or table wine. Much of it is probably made for home consumption or local distribution, where a classification wouldn't really ...
DOP label Traditional Marche Foods: DOPs, IGPs, and STGs Explained - In another post about Marchigian wines, I discussed the various classifications: DOC, DOCG, and IGT. There's also a classification system for traditional foods. It uses a similar nomenclature, covering a geographic area and setting down rules that must be followed, and meets the European Union standards for a classification. One classification is DOP, Denominazione di Origine Protetta. This certifies that a product was made/produced and packaged in the designated region by farmers and artisans using ...
Project Overview of building project in Le Marche, Italy Starting the Walls Using Poroton Blocks to Form the Core of the Walls - Work has begun on the building of the exterior walls. The first step is to build a structural wall out of Poroton blocks, the same type of blocks as were used to provide structure, soundproofing, and insulation to the slab between the two floors. Later, the exterior will be finished with stone and the interior with plaster. In this overview photo, the house is coming along nicely. After reading about them and seeing the pictures ...
May 2017
close-up view of Poroton construction block Poroton Blocks A Common European Building Material - Or maybe that should be Poroton® blocks. It seems to be a brand, but it also seems to be supplied by many manufacturers. (There are also other brands of very similar blocks. "Poroton" tends to be used as a generic, so I'm not sure exactly what they are using to build our house.) The blocks are being used as part of the structure of the top floor base and the core of the walls. I'd ...
Monthly status report April Progress and Lost Days Report Lost Days Up to 18 - The report says the project is progressing well and that the work has been completed in accordance with standards. No surprise, as we've seen the pictures. The report does contain a picture, the upper right one, we haven't seen, of the construction of some interior walls on the ground floor. Bigger news is that 8 days were lost to bad weather. That brings the cumulative count to 18 days, which would be added to the ...
Casa Avventura Today being built in Le Marche Walls for the Top Floor More Poroton Blocks - We were a little surprised today to get pictures of work being done on the top floor walls. We had expected that the structure for the roof would be built first, as that was the sequence in the rough work plan. Maybe since they had been building the ground floor walls, it made more sense to just continue the wall work. Here's an overview picture of the house as of today. All the pictures below.
View from SW Bedroom More Top Floor Wall Work Plus Some Great Views - Google Photos stitched together this panorama without me even asking, so I thought I'd start this post of with it. Works continues steadily on building the exterior and interior walls of the top floor. It seems most of them are in place. Tomorrow, a visit from the structural engineer is scheduled so work can start on building the roof. We also got some great photos of the view to the west from the upstairs back ...
Prosciutto di Carpegna Learning More About Marche’s DOP Foods Three Traditional Foods Unique to Marche - In another post, I wrote about the 13 foods from Marche that have one of the special designations (DOP and IGP) and what the designations mean. Here I'm going to write a little more about the 3 DOP products that are unique to Marche. All three are from the province of Pesaro e Urbino, in the north of Marche. I'll write about the other products, and more, in subsequent posts. As of now, I'm going ...
Cutting Maccheroncini Two — Now Three — Special IGP Foods From Marche A Salami and a Pasta; Now Add an Olive Oil - In addition to the three DOP products unique to Marche, there are two IGP foods made only here. (There is a different version of ciauscolo made in Umbria.) (Read about the DOP classification system.) News flash: on April 20, 2017 a third IGP was added: Marche Olio EVO IGP. Il Salame Ciauscolo IGP A pork sausage that dates back to at least 1700, when it was devised by the poor farmers as a way to ...
door and window color choices More Design Input Wood and Paint Colors, plus Fireplace Design - In preparation for our visit to the property, which happens next week, Kevin has given us some homework. The trip will include meetings with a landscape designer, a kitchen and bathroom designer, and the architect, who is also an interior designer. We have already provided enough guidance for the kitchen and bathroom designer and the landscape work hasn't even been roughed out yet, so our assignment deals with internal elements. Colors The first part of ...
property plan for new construction in Le Marche Buying More Land? A Land Purchase Might Solve Two Problems - There are a couple of other issues, beside the design questions, that we need to address in person during our trip. A few weeks ago, Kevin recommended that we alter the original property grading plan. The property slopes downhill and he felt that we needed to do more grading, plus truck in some soil, to help soften the slope in front of the house and have more flat ground behind the house, on the downhill, ...
Airliner Setting Off to See the House A Trip to See the House First-Hand - Enough looking at pictures. It's finally time for us to see the house for ourselves. Last fall, we had penciled this first trip into March, but with some construction delays caused by bad weather in January and a chopped-up schedule on our end, we ended up with a trip in May. Kevin had set up three full days of meetings and visits to suppliers, so we knew we'd be busy. Plus, we needed to meet ...
Oh, My! The Slope is Steep in Front! Looking at Options to Make Coming and Going Easier - Our first morning here and our first chance to see Casa Avventura. Today, we'll have a chance to evaluate the progress and make some decisions that have been on hold for us to be here in person. We've got two big topics to discuss today. First, there is the land and terrain, specifically the slope, and second, a number of design decisions to make and potential chances to consider. Since the land and slope is ...
Back Up the Slope Oh, My! The Slope is Steep in Back! Adding Additional Terracing May Help - After discussing the slope situation in front of the house, we move to the back and the slope there. Our group includes Kevin, the geometra Jimmy, the general contractor Francisc, and a landscape designer Paula. The first thing we discuss is the size of the flat area behind house. It's rather small, with not much room before there is a steep drop off to the levels below. We had designed it this way to try ...
Brick Stone and Grout Options 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 ...
June 2017
Primo, Alessandra, Kevin, and Francisc Defining and Refining Some Design Decisions Dealing with Materials, Colors, and Placement - After a break of a couple of hours where Anne and I had enough time for lunch and a small rest, we set off to Kevin's office. I was sure I knew the way — until we had been driving farther than I expected past San Ginesio. Just as I figured I'd gone wrong, we came around the corner and there was his driveway. Our topics during the meeting included an overall project review, with ...
Stone Craftsmen Looking for a Portone and Some Stone A Really Interesting Visit to a Stone Craftsman - On our second morning, we had two tasks: meet with the door and window supplier to select the portone and go to a stone yard to find some stone pieces to use around the outside of the house. The first stop was a bust. They had a limited selection of options and the only one Anne liked I didn't I thought it was too much like the interior doors, but, of course, that's why she ...
Adding Poroton on Top Adding Pianelle to Top Floor Ceiling Getting Ready to Pour the Roof - Just yesterday, we chose the color of the pianella tiles that go between the beams and cross beams to for the ceiling of the top floor. Today, they are almost finished placing the tiles, filling the gaps with grout, addition Poroton blocks on top, and framing it all with rebar. The next step will be to add the concrete to form the frame and structure of the roof. Here are the pictures.
Overview of Proposed Electrical Connection Our Meeting with the Neighboring Farmers Looking for a Deal on Some Land - Late in the afternoon of the second day. we went off to meet with the farmers who own the land that surrounds our property. We needed to discuss two topics: get their permission to have an electrical connection pole put on their property, and explore the option of buying some additional land to address some of our land slope issues, particularly those on the front of the house. Kevin wanted to meet at the property ...
Master bathroom vanity concept Choosing Materials for the Flooring and Bathrooms A Marathon Meeting that Left Us Dazed - Now we're on the third day of our trip and it's planned to be a full day with the kitchen and bathroom designer Angelo. We meet Kevin near the SS77 superstrada for our 30 minute trip to Civitanova Marche, the town on the Adriatic where Angelo has his office. We're right on time at 9:30. During our marathon meeting which goes until 7:30, we look at options and make decisions about flooring and the bathrooms. ...
Bana Marche OTP Solving My Online Banking Problem Learning about One-Time Pin - Having finished three days of decision-making and planning, I had a loose end or two to tie up. First, we had a short meeting with Giovanna to resolve a couple of building contract questions. While we were there, I had her call Banca Marche in San Ginesio to see if there was someone there would could help me with a little issue. During my October trip, I opened a checking account to hold some euros ...
We Go Solo Visiting Our House to Explore and Take Pictures - After I had finished my little banking chore, we went to have a coffee, just like any good Italian would. It was about 11am and Anne wanted cappuccino but wondered if it was already too late. (In Italy, it's really just a beverage for breakfast.) I told her to go ahead. It was ok, since there was no doubt that we weren't originally from these parts. Our property is about 25 minutes from where we ...
inside a junk shop Starting to Scout for Furniture and Furnishings Everything but a Junkyard Dog - Now we turn our attention to how we might furnish the house. We had asked Kevin for some ideas of places to go, both to find some older pieces and some new things. He suggested a couple of options: Maison du Monde for new things and Smile for some older things we might salvage and reuse. I had visited Maison du Monde on my last trip. I remembered it as a store like HomeGoods in ...
Bidet Cleaning Up and Coming Home Using a Bidet - After our exploratory visit and lunch at IKEA, we headed for our hotel in Ancona. It was on the coast north of the town center, toward the airport. Called the EGO Hotel, it was quite stylish and modern. Being that it's primarily a business hotel and being a Saturday, we among the few guests so were given a very nice room on the sea side of the hotel. It had a very fancy bathroom with ...
Our Reinforced Concrete Structure is Complete Reinforced Concrete Structure Finished! The Heavy-Duty Concrete Work is Done - After pouring the concrete for the roof beams and the roof on top of the Poroton and steel rebar, the core structure is now complete. Now work will focus on the exterior stone walls.
First Stone in Place Starting the Stone Walls Our "Cornerstone" is Laid - Today, we got pictures of some very exciting work: the start of the building of the exterior stone walls. Once these are complete, Casa Avventura will really look like a house from the outside. Here's the first stone in place. The general sequence for adding the exterior walls is like this. The exterior walls are started with bricks being put on the outside of the corner columns to form a square corner. These will be ...
North Wall of Kitchen Bottom Section of Ground Floor Walls Complete Stone Circles the House - Two days ago, they started setting the stones to make the outside walls. Today, they have finished a section about 40-50cm (16-20in) high all around the house. Here you can see how the bricks and stone come together near the corners. The rest of the pictures.
Revised land drawing A Proposal to Address the Slope in Front Alessandra Offers an Idea - A couple of weeks ago, I wrote at length about our "problem slope" in front of the house. Today, our architect Alessandra has a proposal of how to deal with it. Put simply, our problems are that the house is sitting "in a hole", below the level of the land in front, and the driveway access is short and steep. We caused part of the problem by putting the house too far up the hill, ...
Halfway Up the Master Bathroom Wall Stone Halfway Up the Ground Floor Also: Pouring the Pool Surround - Stone work is continuing on the ground floor exterior walls. They are building up the walls equally around the house, rather than finishing one section and moving on. I wonder if this is to not put too much lateral pressure on the brick corners during construction. After seeing the pictures, Anne wondered if the walls were too "regular" in the stone laying pattern and not a caso, or done somewhat randomly. We sent a question ...
Front Near Study Random Stones Tweaking the Stone Laying - When we saw the walls about halfway complete, Anne felt that the stones were being laid in too regular a pattern and not the a caso, or more random style Kevin had shown us at his house. Kevin asked them to tweak the work a little, to make it look a bit more random in both the colors of the stones and the sizes used. Today's pictures show the subtle difference.
Update on the Stone Accent Pieces Some Selections and a New Idea - When we were in Marche on our last trip, we visited a stone yard to pick out some accent pieces for a few fun exterior functional items. Today, Kevin came back with an estimate for each item. We decided to do most of the items, particularly those that need to be built into the house, but held off on a couple to maybe add later. Here are the items we were considering: Item Cost Decision ...
Exterior Stone Walls Complete on Ground Floor Plus, the Dovecotes are Placed - Today's work was to complete the exterior stone up to the level of the top of the ground floor. Additionally, work was done to install the decorative dovecotes on the back wall. Here are the photos.
View from the Pool Terrace Pool Nearly Complete Concrete for Surround in Place - All the concrete work for the pool is done. Kevin says they could finish the whole thing in a week or so, but clearly there is no time pressure. I do have to say the view from the pool is quite nice.
Underfloor Heating Junction Electrical and Plumbing Rough-In And a Bonus from Francisc - Today we got pictures of some of the ground floor rough-in work. Kevin highlighted that Francisc had decided that we should have a drain the floor of the laundry/utility room and just installed it at his cost. He's really great to work with.
Panel Portone Example Choosing a Design for the Portone Slats or Panels? - We started talking about the design of the portone, or front door, last fall. For awhile, we thought we could do a double door with an arched window above, which is very traditional. Then we discovered that the door opening isn't really big enough for a double door, so we were left with a single door. It's less common to have an arch over a single door, for whatever reason, but that's what we decided ...
updated electrical plans Refining the Electrical and Network Plans Identifying Some Overlooked Items - They have roughed in the electrical on the ground floor, following the plans I prepared for light, switch, and outlet placement. Kevin and Alessandra, who we've asked to help with lighting, did a three-hour walk through with Francisc to ensure everything was in place. Kevin came back with a list of changes they had to make — very minor, all related to placement of elements where there is a column. He also had a few ...
July 2017
Stone arch over door Building the Arch for the Portone What About the Window? - Only two pictures today but they are nice. They show that the arch for the portone has been built. There will be a fixed window in the arch and a rectangular door below. I wasn't quite sure if we had picked the design for this window and if it was included in the latest budget. I wrote to Kevin and it started an interesting exchange: Ed: Have we settled on a design for the arch ...
Stone on the Back Work Outside and In Stone and Plaster Work - Outside stone work has reached the top floor and seems to be about a third complete. Work also continues on the inside, with plastering and laying pipes and cables. Here are all of today's photos.
Working on Plaster in Main Room Lots of Interior Work - Three big activities today: plastering, window frame installation, and more electrical and plumbing work. Here are some shots.
Stone Nearing Completion on Front Exterior Stonework Nearly Complete - On the morning of the departure for our visit to the property, Kevin sent along some nice pictures of the stonework and the plastering. Top floor exterior stonework is about to reach the roof and it looks like most of the walls on the ground floor have their first coat of plaster. Kevin commented that the rooms look bigger with the plaster on the walls. Here's a slideshow.
Land Slope Redux The Problem that Won't Go Away - It seems we keep circling back on this issue, looking for a really good solution that probably doesn't exist, given our constraints. During our trip in May, we had come face-to-face with the problems the slope of the land was causing, both in front and behind the house. While there, we outlined a solution for the problem in back and discussed various options in front. After that visit, Alessandra had proposed a solution for the ...
Farmhouse in Le Marche Meeting Our Neighbors Across the Valley - The last time we visited our house we noticed that there was one house almost directly across from ours on the other side of the valley, and we wondered whether they were bothered by the unsightly view of our construction. A few weeks later, while looking for potential places to stay on our next visit, Ed happened to stumble on a website for an eco-friendly bed and breakfast in the vicinity of our house. When ...
Selected kitchen design Cleaning Up the Bathrooms and Putting Together the Kitchen - During our last visit in May, we had made most of the decisions about the flooring and the bathroom designs and materials. This time, we had to clean up some details and then focus on settling on a kitchen. Bathrooms In May, Angelo had proposed modern-looking vanities for the master and upstairs bedroom. We had agreed, but after we returned home, Anne rethought the topic and decided she'd prefer more traditional cabinet-like vanities.Angelo had forwarded ...
possible light Picking Some Lights Sticker Shock - Over two days, we spent about 7.5 hours looking at lighting and making some decisions. We didn't quite get to everything, but when we finished the second meeting, on our last day of the trip, we felt we were in pretty good shape. To give us some guidance on our lighting choices, we had engaged Alessandra to help us. Off we went, joined by Kevin, to a lighting supply store. Oh, my! It was a ...
August 2017
cloud icon Arranging for the Internet Kevin at His Best - As I've written about a number of times before, having a good internet connection is really important. Since there aren't cables that can run to our house, we need to use the solution most houses in the country use: over-the-air internet. It's not satellite-delivered, but delivered from a tower with a line-of-sight to the antenna on the roof. Kevin has been trying to get this set up for us with the provider, Fidoka, and had ...
Brick Detail Below Roof Starting to Finish the Roof Stone Walls Complete! - Today's photos show an exciting milestone: the stone walls have been finished up to the roof. Plus, there is a nice decorative feature in Le Marche houses: a special, patterned line of bricks right below the base of the roof. When we were on site, they showed us what they intended. It is a "sawtooth" pattern, with the bricks laid at angles. Here, you can see a close-up of the pattern. This is used on ...
Front Side Roof Finished Roof Tiling Progress And Some Interior Work - Despite the temperatures that have regularly exceeded 40°C (104°F) and reached at least 43°C (109°F), they have been continuing to work on, of all things, the roof. You have to admire our crew's commitment and perseverance. They have completed the tiling of the main roof on the front side of the house. It's great how they used older tiles for the top layer, giving the house an older look. I think work now moves to ...
Fireplace design drawing Fireplace Settling On a Design - During our trip in May, we discussed the fireplace in the context of its position in the room, especially its position relative to the interior stone wall. We settled on a corner fireplace near the back of the house. Then, in July we settled on the general design. Today, we received a rendering of the design. The front of the fireplace is brick, with two stone "wings" that angle back into the wall. I had ...
Refining the Kitchen Flipping the Original Design - A few months ago, Kevin had asked us to develop "style guides", showing what we wanted certain parts of the house to look like or how we wanted them to function. To develop these guides, we started with a list of requirements: need to have/nice to have. We supported that with pictures we found online of what we liked. We'd paste the pictures into a Google Slides document, add some additional commentary, and send them ...
Tuckpointing Closeup Tuckpointing the Walls - While most of Italy has been off work for days, even a couple of weeks, our Romanian crew continues to work. (This week in particular sees a lot of people off work, as August 15 is Ferragosto, a favorite holiday.) Today's work is on the walls, adding the stucco between the stones and brick. I think it looks very nice and makes our new house look like it's older. Here are all the photos.
Looking Down the Pool Redoing the Pool New Base Structure, New Concrete for Shallow End - As I wrote about before, we made a mistake when we designed the pool and didn't realize it until well after the concrete had been poured (which was last December.) During our July visit, Anne walked down the steps into the pool and almost disappeared. We had made the shallow end not very shallow. Our only remedy was to rebuild the base of the pool, which as you can expect isn't cheap, adding about 10% ...
Cooktop Width and Position Problem Reflipping the Kitchen Avoiding Some Costly Reconstruction - The kitchen design that Angelo suggested in July had the cooktop to the left of the sink, which put it across the room from the refrigerator. After some thought, I decided it made more sense to put it right of the sink, next to the ovens and near the refrigerator. Angelo had redrawn it this way, and I thought we were all set. Today, Kevin told us that he and Angelo had been reviewing everything ...
Inserting Portico Support Steel A Little Here, A Little There Portico, Roof, and Stone Wall - Today's pictures show progress in a few places around the house. Portico Since the portico has supporting pylons and columns, we've been surprised that these weren't dug and built when the house foundation was being prepared. I'm guessing that maybe these elements would have been in the way of building and finishing the main part of the house. Now it is time for this work to commence. Roof Two small steps were taken toward finishing ...
September 2017
Interior Stone Wall Built Outside Stone, Inside Stone and Plaster - Recently, work has been progressing both inside and outside the house. Exterior Work Most of the major outside work has been finished, but a few key things still need to be done, including building the smaller roof sections that cover the ground floor areas not under the top floor structure, the rear portico, and the upstairs terrazza. Today's photos show progress on the roof segments and portico. The terrazza work has yet to commence. Interior ...
Finished Portico Columns Pool, Portico, Plaster, and Pavimento Plenty of Progress - Today's photos show a smorgasbord of progress on the exterior and interior. The application of the waterproof sealant for the pool has begun. The columns that will support the portico roof have been poured and faced with stone and brick. Plaster work progresses on the top floor walls. The base layer of the pavimento (flooring) is being put in place. It's a molded structure that will hold the underfloor heating pipes. Here's the assortment of ...
Machine grading land behind the house Starting Another Round of Earthmoving Plus Some Interior and Roof Work - I can't say earthmoving is my favorite topic, but I'd bet it's the one I've written most about, given that it's caused a lot of headaches and expenses. In the post Positioning the House from November 7, 2016, describing our decision on house placement within the property — in retrospect, the cause of all the rest. In Excavation Begins from November 29, 2016, with pictures of some initial earthmoving. In Lots of Earth to Move ...
Kitchen design image Finalizing the Kitchen — I Think Island Drawers and Appliances - After a lot of back and forth on the details, I think we have the final kitchen design set. We've resolved the cabinet height question by making those on the main wall taller. We resized the island drawers to be more suitable for the intended use, with shallower top drawers for silverware and tools. We agreed on the specific appliances. Here's the final spec package.
Underfloor Heating for Main Room Underfloor Heating Pipes A Snake of Pipes - On top of the base layer of the underfloor heating, they have started installing the heating pipes. Anne looked at the photo below and said it looks like a crime scene, with a chalk outline of a murdered boa constrictor. Here are more snakes.
Making the Hill Less Steep in Front Earth Being Moved, Portico and Terrazza Being Built - Work is continuing to try to address that bugaboo land slope issue. Kevin reports that the situation seems much improved. It's almost impossible to tell from pictures, as we can't assess the steepness of the slopes or the width of the land terraces very well. However, it looks better in front of the house, but I'm not yet sure if they are building land terraces with a descending path at one side or with a ...
Terra Armata Mesh Reinforcement Terracing, Terra Armata, and Terrazza And Some Interior Work - Earth moving continues to (re)shape and soften the land terraces in front of and behind the house. This major project started about two weeks ago and we saw some photos of progress earlier in the week. Now, not only is the earth being moved, it's being reinforced by a technique called terra armata, which I described and illustrated in an earlier post. Steel grids are inserted into the slope and on the face of the ...
landscape plan example Developing a Landscape Plan Lots of Moving Parts - Anne has described the landscaping we've seen at many houses as "haphazard." Both to avoid this look and to deal with the various elevations and shapes of our property, we feel we need a landscape designer to draw us a comprehensive plan. We won't be able to implement it all right way, but we want to know where we are going. We first asked Kevin about this in the spring. He asked around and got ...
October 2017
Working on Pool Liner Near Stairs Silenzio! The Pool Whisperer at Work Installing the Pool Liner - Kevin reports that work has begun to install the liner in the pool. He says that the leader of the installation team requires silence while he works. Interesting. An Update It must have been quiet these last few days, as the liner is partially complete. Another Update The liner is in and they have started to fill the pool as a test. Next will be work on the tiles that edge the pool. In the ...
Nearly All Roof Sections Complete A Lot of Exterior Work Roof Sections, Grading, and Terra Armata - Nearly all the smaller roof sections are complete. All that remains are those near the upstairs terrazza on the north side of the house. Also, the solar and photovoltaic panels are installed. Anne is happy that they won't really be visible, even from behind the house, given our slope. The slope in front is looking much better after more grading and soil movement. Behind the house, grading and terra armata installation work continues. One important ...
Kitchen Window Windows and Doors Installed Portico Finished - All of a sudden, the windows and door are installed. We saw pictures of them being delivered just a couple of days ago, and now it looks like they are all in place. With the roof sections done and the windows in, it really looks like a house. Also, the portico is finished and looks good. Now it's time to get some insurance on the house. Kevin is working to arrange it. The photo gallery:
Sinking Pilings to Support Retaining Wall Providing Support for Parking Area - The top land terrace in front of the house will be the parking area. While in other places we're using terra armata to reinforce the earth, Francisc and Kevin think we need to do an actual retaining wall in this place. At first, when Kevin explained the wall, I thought he was talking about a wall that would rise above the level of the parking area, to keep cars from driving or backing off the ...
terrazza railing example A Railing for the Terrazza A Handrail for the Stairs - Many months back, I had noticed that there was an awkward place where the roof sections came together near the terrazza. It leaves a gap in the profile of the front side of the house that I didn't like. Now that the terrazza is built and the roof sections are in place, I see that I was missing the actual problem. Yes, the look of the area is a bit off, but the real problem ...
Waste Water Pipes Behind House True Excitement! Waste Water Lines Going In - This is probably the most exciting picture set yet: the laying of the waste water lines. I would have thought this was done months ago, but here we are.
Underfloor heating pipes in a new house in Le Marche More Excitement! Underfloor Heating Pipes Upstairs - Not much to see today: just the installation of the underfloor heating pipes on the top floor.
Shock from electricity A (Major?) Wrinkle in Our Schedule Electrical Problems - It looks like electricity is going to shock us again. Our first problem getting electricity to our site was our need to put an access pole on our neighbor's land. After a €1500 payment (extortion), we finally got this approval. Now we hear that our electric connection is yet to be made, even though we started the process to get installation in November of last year. Kevin says the utility says it will happen in ...
November 2017
18 month challenge How I Plan to Become Fluent in Italian in 18 Months (While Living in the U.S.) - It's time to get serious about learning Italian. Eighteen months from now Emma will graduate from high school and leave home for college. At that point we are going to sell our house in Chicago and spend as much time in Italy as possible. I don't plan on being one of those Americans who relies on everyone else to speak my language. After all, a huge part of Our Big Italian Adventure is enjoying the ...
Light fixture example Finalizing Our Lighting Selections Fixtures and Placements - We spent part of two days during our July trip looking at lighting at SMAL, a lighting distributor. We walked away with two issues: we couldn't find suitable lights for some locations and the total price of what we selected was too high. After we returned home, we did a lot of searching online to find substitute lights that were more affordable. Having a selection in place was a plus; even if we weren't going ...
Tile Along the Back Tiling and a Whole Lot More With Some Great Photos of the View - It's been about 3 weeks since we received any photos. Anne asked Kevin if work was progressing, and he responded with a bundle of photos showing a lot of different projects underway. The front of the house is looking very nice. Work is continuing on the retaining wall up the hill. Tile is going in the kitchen area of the main room and on the marciapiede that surrounds the house. The terrazza tile is done, ...
survey tool An Update on the Landscape Plan Very Slow Progress - This is the longest. most painful process we've been through yet. Given the slope of the property, having a good landscape plan is very important. We need to have various levels and will need plantings to soften some of the slope. We first started in earnest on the plan during our visit in May, when we met on site with a landscape designer, Paula, and our geometra, Jimmy. We thought we were making progress on ...
Third Slab Option Master Bathroom Countertop Trying to Choose a Stone Slab - Earlier this week, Kevin sent us a photo of the marble slab Angelo had picked for the master bedroom countertop. Anne was concerned about the diagonal vein running up toward the left, and we wondered just where the sink would placed and whether it would serve to interrupt the seam enough that it wouldn't be too apparent. Kevin came back with an alternative slab picked by Angelo. In his comments, he noted that this slab ...
Portone in Progress Portone Being Built - Back in June, we decided on the general design of the portone. Now it is being manufactured, and Kevin sent us pictures of the work in progress for our approval. We like the look of the arch and details, so we gave the OK for work to continue. As of now, it's the only door or window that hasn't been installed.
Stairway Base from Top Floor Finally Some Stairs - Anne has been wondering for a long time when the stairs would go in. I surmised that since they are above the utility room, they were waiting until all the mechanicals were installed. That may not be the case, but we do now have a stairway underway. An Update A couple of days later we got shots of the concrete base of the stairs. Here are some other shots of work in progress.
Drainage Ditch Being Filled Drainage Avoiding a Flood - Given our hillside location, we're concerned that in a heavy rain water might pour down the slope until it ended up inside our house. A few weeks ago, I raised this issue with Kevin. He said Francisc had some drainage planned, but I asked them to beef it up. The trench digging and gravel and pipe work has been going on over the last few days. These trenches are designed to carry the water around ...
December 2017
Casa Avventura - The home base for Our Big Italian Adventure is Casa Avventura, the house we are building in the Le Marche region of Italy. At the left is a recent photo of the exterior, which is nearly finished. The whole house will be complete in early 2018. The posts below give the most recent construction news. For an overview of the whole project, look at Read from the Beginning. Please feel free to leave comments or ...
Considering Some Road Modifications Eliminating Some Difficult Turns - In my mind, I keep coming back to the issue of access to the property. Just like with the drainage issue, my concern is caused by the hillside the house is built on. Plus, we don't own the land that the access road — or even the driveway — is on. This further limits our options. To be precise, the problem isn't really getting to the house; it's leaving that is the problem. Here's an ...
Backfill Work Behind Wall at a new house in Le Marche Extending the Parking Level More Earth Being Moved - Since the property is shaped like a triangle, with the narrow angle being up the hill above the house, we're a little cramped on parking area, and just as important, in the turning area to get faced uphill. Francisc noted that as the earthmoving has developed, we were left with a bit of "dead space" adjacent to the parking area. He suggested that we use it to provide some breathing room. Using the area this ...
Gas and septic tank location Gas and Septic Tank Locations - Both of these tanks needed to be higher on the hill, thus a bit closer to the house than planned, to allow access via pipes and tubing from the driveway.
Compacted Red Gravel Driveway Example Choosing Driveway and Road Material - When our project was started in November 2016, the first activity was to improve the existing rough track into an access road and driveway. That was done by grading the soil and covering it with rough gravel. This made it possible for the heavy machinery to access the property. Now that most of the heavy work is complete, it’s time to consider resurfacing the access road and driveway. We don’t have to do this; many ...
Temporary Electrical Supply Line Temporary Electrical Supply Line Finally Arrives No Word on Permanent Connection - The last time I wrote about this, about six weeks ago, we were concerned that the lack of electrical supply might just bring the project to a grinding halt. We had repeatedly been promised “in 30 days” that we’d have the permanent power connection. As that hadn’t happened, Francisc arranged for a temporary contractor connection, which he though he could get in a few days. Wrong again. It’s taken the last six weeks just to ...
Heating System Component Interior Tiling And Some Work on the Heating System - Work is progressing in bits and pieces on many fronts inside the house these days. They are working to install the top floor tiling. It looks fine to me, but Anne was immediately concerned about the spaces and the dark lines between the tiles. She had asked that these tiles be laid very close together, with a minimal grout line. Kevin reassured us that the floor will look fine once it is all laid and ...
Upstairs Bath Tub and Shower Area Progress on the Interior Flooring, Bathrooms, Electrical, and More - Now that the work is focused on finishing the inside, lots of projects are underway at the same time. We got a large collection of photos today showing some of this work. Bathrooms Pieces of each bathroom are in place, including some tile and fixtures, but more work remains for after the winter holiday. Electrical and Stairs Many of the photos were of different electrical connections. They’re not very interesting to look at, but they’re ...
Exterior Faucet and Faceplate Adding Some of the Exterior Features - Way back in May, we selected some accent pieces from a stone yard that both had some recovered older pieces and made new ones, as well. Now some of those have been installed. With the holidays approaching, we're getting close to completing the house. We're hoping for no later than February.
Temporary Mailbox We Have a Mailbox! Not Fancy, but It Shows We’re Here - Kevin reports: You Can Now Officially Receive Bills and Junk Mail!!! The postina came down the road in her Fiat Panda and asked that we put up a mailbox … so, we did, temporarily placed on the oak tree as you turn down the road! A nice touch to wrap up the work for 2017.
January 2018
partially completed checklist Entering the Home Stretch Maybe Only 2-3 Weeks to Go - Right after the (long) holiday break ended, Kevin and the team got together to make a plan for finishing the house. Here’s his list of the remaining work to do: tile the pool surround tile the stairs install toilets, sinks, bidet units (i.e. bathroom finish work) install terrace railing and stair hand rails install kitchen finish outside fountain finish fireplace finish painting install lighting fixtures Johnny’s items - closet doors and nicchie finish work ENEL ...
Railing color option 2 An Issue with the Railings What Color? - Kevin made a site visit and came back with a good report, except for one detail. Inside, we covered a bunch of points. All positive, except one. I rejected the railing and handrail. I did not like the color and I felt the finish was a bit too glossy. It will be repainted. I will followup on this until it’s how I think it should be. The actual work is excellent and the style is ...
Smoothing the Base Layer The Base Layer for the Final Road and Driveway - We decided a few weeks ago to go with compacted gravel, rather than concrete, as the surface for our access road and driveway. Now that the need for heavy equipment to access the site has gone, they have been bringing in base layer of gravel and spreading it. This is big project that will take some days to complete.
Screen In-Place and Closed Window Screens in Place Zanzieri for the Zanzare - Over a year ago, we made the decision to have window and door screens, which are somewhat uncommon in Italy. Today the window screens were installed. They are on the outside of the windows, since the windows open inward. and they roll up and down. The Italian word for these screens is zanziere, very related to the word for mosquito, zanzara.
Scuffed Stair Risers Protecting the Stairs Hiding the Scuff Marks - Kevin identified a new issue today. He pointed out that while the stair treads are tile, the risers are just painted, and since the paint we are using is light, the risers will get scuffed and dirty very easily. He had faced this same issue in his own house, which he addressed by painting the risers in a color and with a method that reduces the visibility of the scuffs. The idea is to use ...
edison bulb A Couple of Tiny Design Issues Lighting Inside and Out - Now that lights have been installed, three tiny issues have been discovered: (A couple of the lights arrived with broken glass panels. Kevin suggested we just replace the glass, instead of trying to return them. That was taken care of.) Stair Lights Kevin noted that the placement of one of these lights caused it to create a beam at eye level when approaching the stairway. To eliminate this effect, we just had the light removed. ...
Septic Tank Delivered We Have a Septic Tank! Delivered and Installed - Oh, happy day! Our favorite pictures so far. Our tank was delivered and installed, on the side of the property, down the hill.
February 2018
Linen Closet Layout Options Closet Designs And Office Nicchia Shelves - To do some custom shelving and doors, Kevin has brought Johnny on to the project team. He’s from England, now living nearby. Primarily, we wanted him to execute the wooden shelves for the built-in wall niches in the office and in the bathrooms and to handle the two closets, downstairs coat closet and upstairs linen closet, by supplying doors and shelving. We had sent along some ideas for the niches a number of months ago, ...
Starting Work Installing the Kitchen Bathroom and Kitchen Installation Moving Along And Lots of Other Progress Inside - We have a bunch of pictures today showing progress inside the house. Bathrooms It looks like the bathrooms are nearly complete. Fixtures are installed and the windows complete. Kitchen Kitchen installation has begun, with a number of cabinets in place. I'm impressed with the installers' lab coats. Lighting and Fans Many of the lights have been put in place prior to final installation. Fireplace In the background of one picture showing work in the main ...
Down the Smoothed Slope Toward the Pool Major Earth Moving Done: Lots of Improvement Now We Need a Landscape Plan - The exterior of the house has been mostly complete for a few weeks. Just a small number of items are still unfinished, including the wood store which will be built outside the study (in the near corner as shown in the picture below.) We’ve also nearly reached the end of our long battle against the slope that the house sits on. Major improvements have been made. The parking area has been expanded and flattened and ...
Landscape Plan Overview Finally Some Progress on the Landscape Plan Stairs and Paths - This has been a long time coming. Last we heard, we had received the detailed survey that our landscape designer Paula required. That was in November. The delays on this have been driving Kevin and Francisc crazy, as they want to get the project wrapped up. We can't blame then, but given the difficulties presented by the sloping plot, we've been patiently waiting for this plan. At this stage, we're focusing only on the hardscape ...
Landscape Plan Detail in Front of House Reactions to the Landscape Plan Overall, Not Too Bad - We sent Paula’s long-awaited landscape plan off to Kevin for consultation with Francisc and for their comments. Overall, we got a not-unexpected “yes, but ...” reply. It starts like this: Overall, it looks nice. The key is that on this first pass you got something you can work with. Now, we need to get it to where it can be executed starting in a 3-4 weeks. Now on to the specifics: On the stairs directly ...
vintage walnut cabinet Ground Floor Bathroom Vanity We Decide to Go For Something a Little Unique - For the ground floor bathroom, Anne wants to use an old piece of furniture as the vanity, rather than having something built in. We had tried looking for such a piece on our July trip, but found that older furniture is not that easy to buy in Italy. There isn’t the number of antiques stores or markets that there is here. We could keep looking on future trips, or we might be able to have ...
Master Bath Vanity and Mirror Bathrooms Installed But a Big Issue in One of Them - The report was that the bathrooms were done. When we got the pictures, we decided that we weren’t quite there yet in the upstairs bathroom. Master Bathroom Here, I think we are all done. All fixtures, cabinetry, tiling, and lighting have been installed. Downstairs Bathroom With the exception of the decorative vanity that Johnny is working on, we’re done here, too. Upstairs Bathroom Anne took one look at the pictures below and said, “I don’t ...
Over-the-Air Internet Receiver Internet, Railings, and Stairs - Today, the internet components were installed, along with the railings for the stairs and the terrazza. Plus, the painting of the stair risers was done. Internet Connection Because of our location out in the country side, we're getting our internet over-the-air from towers across the valley. This system is in widespread use in Marche. Stair Railings Last we heard about railings was when Kevin told them "no" on the original color and we then picked ...
March 2018
Total Immersion: Learning Italian in Montepulciano - Back in November I posted about my goal to become fluent in Italian in the next year and a half. Once I put it out there, I began studying feverishly to make it happen, using all the tools and courses available on the internet.  I've found that you can make pretty good progress learning a language this way, if you are really committed. By early January I had a couple thousand words under my belt, ...
Building the Fireplace - We are getting close to the end of construction. One of the last things to do is build the fireplace. Although a pellet stove would have been a more effective source of heat, we thought an open fire would make the place feel cozier, so we opted for that. Given all the doors along the backside of the house, the only place that made sense to put a fireplace  was in the corner of the ...
April 2018
Our Kitchen Is Finished! - When we started designing our little house, the one thing we wanted was an open floor plan ... we wanted one big room with the kitchen at one end, the living room at the other and the dining table in the middle. And we wanted an American-style kitchen, with an island, a decent-sized refrigerator, plenty of storage and counter space and a wine fridge. Most of the kitchens we had seen in existing farmhouses (at ...