Saturday, May 29, 2010

Not going higher - but maybe some more windows

After much back and forth we have decided not to raise the height of the first floor.

The amount we were gaining - 30 cm or about a foot - was relatively small given the impact it was creating.

There was the need to adjust the staircases, reposition the windows and re-examine the composition of the house.  The comment was that the additional height - little as it was - made the tower look like it was on high heels.

After all the effort we put in over the past 2 years, now was not the time to start tinkering - and going back to the drawing board at this point is just not on.

The ground floor will have a flat ceiling in the living area with a height of 10 ft.  That is the height of our living area in our house here in Toronto and it doesn't feel closed in.

So, another decision made - forward we go.

Through this discussion - which has largely been about opening the space and providing air flow - the fact the the only window in the living area is in the kitchen, and that if the large patio doors are not open, there is no option for air flow.

We were concerned about someplace for a television, so kept the wall in the corner of the living room for that.  Now we are thinking windows are needed there.  It is ok if the TV is in front of them.

Also need to resize the bedroom windows - can't fit the bed in between them!  Missed that one!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Raising the Roof ...

... Well, at least raising the first floor ceiling.

When Lisle was in Ojochal, the possibility of increasing the height of the first floor ceiling from 3m to 3.3m was raised.  Robert said it could be done at no cost, and some minor changes to the staircases.

The stair changes are not great, but acceptable, but the implications to the whole of the house seem to grow moment by moment.

You see, that extra foot needs to go somewhere.  Extra wall around the terrace, extra space below the bedroom windows, extra height to the tower.  Do the size and placement of the windows change or stay the same?

And at the end of the day, does it delay things at all?

No answers yet.  Hopefully in a few days.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Back to San Jose

The trip back to San Jose was relatively uneventful except that it happened to be Presidential Inauguration Day and every bridge, ramp and hotel were posted with police with assault rifles!

Lisle managed to return to the Adventure Inn and took a taxi to the tile place.  Good thing as there are no signs, and like everywhere in Costa Rica, no street address.  The taxi dropped him in front of what looked like an old house, and the driver gave him his cell number so he could call for the return trip.

The place was indeed an old house that was set up as a showroom and office.  The owner's son Waldo Jr. was expecting Lisle as Noela from Ventana had called ahead.  Waldo Jr. was like his personal shopper, leading him around the space, pulling samples, arranging them on the floor, taking note of every tile that was acceptable - we have a page in his book!  Hopefully we will be able to find the page come time to make the final decisions and buy the tile.  Lisle left with samples - free of charge of course - now he just needs to make sure he isn't over his baggage weight limit!

I think this was a great trip all in all - much accomplished - drawings signed off - adjustments to the house completed - rainy season experienced - relationships developed.

Lisle commented on the many people he met and how in getting to know each of them there is very much a feeling of family - a very small and close community.  Keith and Karen have custody of Lisle's mud boots - they encouraged him to leave them as the need for them in Toronto was probably very small - goo thing too as if they are still covered in mud he would never have got them back through customs!!

He'll be back tonight - and he remembered to stop in Quepos for Cafe Milagro coffee - mmmmmmm!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Last Chance

Friday is the day to finalize everything.

The changes made during the week need to be signed off, as does the contract amendment and the invoice for the added costs.

But of course it can't be just that simple.  Conversations with our friends and neighbours over the past days has raised the issue of increasing the height of the ground floor - more air, more light, better view from the bedroom terrace.  So we agree Lisle will talk to Robert about this before we finalize things. 

All in all might be possible to increase the height by a foot without impacting the design, the timelines or the cost - a good solution - Robert will be back to us in the next few days - I am sure he will be glad to have this signed off for good - - talk about scope creep!!!!

Lisle spent Friday evening at the monthly potluck - about 30 people mostly from Toronto and the surrounding area are hosted by on of the neighbours with a large house on a large lot.  Food, fun, gossip - a great way to begin those relationships.

As I am writing this, I received his Saturday morning call - all packed and just waiting for Keith to come and get the keys.  He is going to try to find a large tile place on his way back to San Jose.  I just don't want him to forget the coffee!!

Window Shopping

So, not in the literal sense, nor in the usual sense. Lisle spent Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday at an interiors store, with the property managers scoping out other houses for interior look and feel and meeting with people who 'fit out' the house for a living.

Lisle met with Sheila. He interviewed her, and she made it very clear the she was interviewing him. She is not an interior designer, not a personal shopper. She will not pick your colours. She won't buy your artwork.

She is a procurement facilitator and logistics coordinator. She starts 12 weeks in advance of occupancy and will ensure everything you want and need is in place.

She has relationships with suppliers and fabricators. You tell her the specifics of what you want and either her suppliers have it, or her fabricators can custom make it. The instructions are to compile a workbook of photos for each room - one or maybe two photos of each item we want - by September.

In addition, she has standard checklists - are you a routine cook, or are only renting the house v. a gourmet cook - the difference, a basic kitchen gadget package or everything a cook could dream of.

It will make for an interesting summer - shopping on the internet and magazines!

Lessons learned?

Too many people are trying to recreate a North American home in this tropical paradise. If you want the look, feel and convenience of a Toronto condo - maybe that is where you should have stayed. Let the culture, environment and climate in!!

Things are different in Costa Rica for a reason. For example, they don't use bed frames - the legs are bolted to the box spring, and the headboard is bolted to the wall - reason - - the rails, gaps and other dark spaces created by a traditional bed frame are great places for unwanted critters to live and breed.

You can get anything you want for a price - both now and when it needs service. Again, this isn't downtown Toronto. If you want European appliances, they are definitely available and about 50% more expensive than here. And the one guy in the country trained to fix them lives in San Jose - the clock starts when he leaves home and stops when he returns, so that starts the job with 9 hours labour on the bill.

Remember the local conditions. It rains - a lot - and there are termites (which is why the houses are made of concrete). So, you might want to rethink your love of pine furniture. Teak, rattan, and the local hardwoods are a must, and are not as expensive as you might think.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hello ... Hello ... Helllllloooo

This will be easy.  You'll go to Ojochal and do stuff.  If there are any questions we can talk and email and sort things out.  All very easy - after all it is 2010 and we have more computers and cell phones and Iphones and email accounts than we know what to do with.

Oh the best laid plans.  Satellite wireless internet at the house, no cell service.

Well Monday night - Day 3
Lisle calls using Skype - little bits of words float by - nothing intelligible and then suddenly a dial tone.  I put the phone back on the hook.  A minute later it rings again - same scenario - perhaps a few more words than last time - gone again.  3 ... 4 ... 5 ... 6 ...  again and again.  Frustrating!!!

I finally get that he is giving up and driving to a pay phone.  2+ hours later the phone rings - seems finding a payphone is not as simple as it might sound.

Day 4 not much better, except that Keith and Karen offered the  use of their service for much of the day.  That allowed for photos to be posted and emails to be sent - but so much for the evening telephone call.

Wednesday - shockingly, the wireless internet has an ethernet connection as well - we can actually have a conversation.

Need a better plan or clear understanding of the resources next time.

Day 2 and Day 3

Day 2 was largely travelling - the drive to Ojochal.  Lunch in Quepos.  Torrential rain for an hour - fortunately the road is paved now!  Settled into Casa Jensen and then to dinner with Keith and Karen and Sonya and Jan - I am sure there was too much wine and too much gossip!


In levelling the lot for building, they added some fill to make the flat plantele deeper.  This created quite the space.  Once it was staked, it was very clear that there was a large amount of space behind the house.  So, following some discussion and an assessment of the extra costs (due to the fill the foundations need to go deeper) we decided to shift the house back 2 metres.  This gives us about 20 feet from the front of the house to the edge of the slope to the road.  All in the sun - all great for plants and fruit!

Next the pool - in the right spot, but now appears small - add a metre.

Then the pool room - it did fit into the contour of the lot and tuck under the pool deck - now to do that would cut into good usable flat land - shift it to the far north end of the lot.

All great decisions and super improvements to the plan - but an expensive day!

Day 1 in CR

I have been too busy with work and family issues to get this down real time, so let's catch up!

Day one was arrival in San Jose on Saturday.  As this trip is not really a vacation, we looked to ways to keep the cost down, and looked for places that might be a good continuing option as we transit in and out of the country.  After some research on accommodations, Lisle picked The Adventure Inn.  5 minutes from the Airport, $60 a night, free airport transfer, restaurant on site, can arrange quality inexpensive car rental.  How bad could it be?

Actually it wasn't bad, just odd.  A cross between and office building, an Aztec ruins, a jungle resort and a party palace.  The restaurant has a Gilligan's Island feel.  Check out the party hot tub below - something out of the Playboy Mansion - " the Grotto"!!

But it was spotless.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Prepare for Take-off

So, Lisle is waiting to board the plane - headed to Costa Rica.

The blueprints arrived and have minimal changes - mostly to do with the placement of light fixtures and a couple of issues with windows - they understood and made all the changes we identified the first time around - hopefully this is now FINAL and we are into permits and building - guess we will know on Monday when Lisle goes over them with Robert.

Task 2 while he is there is to stake the house on the lot - he has instructions to take lots of photos from various points on the lot.  Apparently it is raining a lot and the site is likely to be muddy - so he had to buy rubber boots last night - It really made him feel like a local since rubber boots are the Costa Rican National Footwear!

Task 3 is to meet with Sheila and get a handle on the interior fit out process.

Let's see how it all goes.

Here are some photos of the plan revisions.