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Trying to find a builder

Last updated on June 8, 2019

I don’t think I would have bought Masia Lavanda if it had not been for the fact that I was recommended a builder “who was very reliable, spoke English and loved old construction”. When you live two thousand miles away and do not even speak the language, the prospect of undertaking any renovation is daunting, let alone of a place that  has no mains water or electricity, and defniitely never will.

So highly was this man praised, that I got in touch with him and Paco was indeed charm personified, that is until he got my initial deposit. After that our meetings were brief and hurried, as he was always rushing off somewhere else, to some other project. Admittedly he obtained a proper building license for me, but the plans did not reflect my clearly stated wishes, and the building project bill was huge.

The main problem was that Paco actually really did not understand old materials and proposed extending the house with rendered breeze blocks and modern bricks at the wall angles. We fought over this, and the use of materials and I tried to find a way to marry the new with the old. The other main problem was he just could not accept that I did not want any walls downstairs. The house was small, and would continue to be small even with an extension, and my theory was that everyone lives in the kitchen no matter what its size, so why not make the ground floor one big kitchen/living space with a massive terrace outside? After all, the weather permitted outdoor living for about 9 months of the year, if not more.

Despite all my stipulations, including in lengthy translated letters, every time I returned to Spain, there was the same small kitchen stuck in a corner like an afterthought, partition walls, and the same massive staircase taking up a disproportionate amount of the ground floor. It could not go elsewhere, he explained, and it could not be smaller. To me it seemed it could, on both counts, after all I had been in many old masias like this and seen the little space a staircase could take up.

Paco’s charm wore thin, his building estimates alarmed me, and his arrogance in regards to my wishes depressed me. With this triple three negative, I forcedly found myself looking around for another builder.

I thought I was wise and had a lot of experience under my belt, but truthfully I was a romantic fool and so it was that I ripened perfectly to be plucked by the next conman who came along, at this time more than ever.

“The old front door seen past a carob tree – this was to be expanded so that the masia could be made into an L-shape”

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