4 Dec, 2010 @ 09:15
4 mins read

What’s in a name?

carolyn living dining rooms

The electrical box was an eyesore in our newly renovated house. In a back street of Ronda, we found a painting on canvas that concealed it perfectly.

The name of the artist was ONA. We loved his style so much, we bought four more pictures.

Does that make us ONA-nists?


IN THE 12 homes (in three different countries) in which we’ve lived over the past 34 years, I’ve always put my own personal ‘stamp’ on them – with paint colours, wallpaper borders, curtains, cushions, pictures, bric-a-brac, etc. Our new home in Spain was going to be no exception. Once the structural cosmetic issues had been dealt with, it was time to turn my attention to its interior finishes … and to cans of paint and the sewing machine.

We had ‘inherited’ most of the furniture with the house; actually, we had bought it as part of the purchase price. In order for the vendor to avoid paying Vicious Added Tax on the full sales price, most Spanish house sales include the furniture, which is valued separately and is non-taxable. (I seem to recall that our house was valued at 52.000€ for tax purposes, and that the contents were valued at 28.000€ … ha, ha!)

For 28.000€ we had: two double beds with head- and foot-boards; two single beds (also with head- and foot-boards, detailed with the Yin and Yang symbol in pink and blue); three wardrobes … one plywood, one pine laminate, one white laminate with hot-pink detailing (with matching dresser, bedside table and mirror); a 3-piece wall unit; several laminated plywood chests of drawers/bedside tables; a huge dining table (which extended to seat 12); six dining chairs with no padding in the seats; and a shit-brown vinyl couch. Also, in the appliances department, we had a fridge in which the freezer did not work, a washing machine that thumped, knocked, banged and walked across the floor on the spin cycle, a microwave that exploded the first time we turned it on, and an electric oven with gas hobs (eh?)

Thank goodness for ‘Big Basura Day’ (basura is rubbish, refuse, garbage). In the village of Montejaque, on the first Wednesday of every month, you can put outside your front door all of the larger items of furniture, appliances, etc. that are broken, that you’ve replaced, or that you no longer want, and these get picked up by the dupé man. In 2005, big basura ended up in a dump behind the old cemetery … and you could go here and scavenge for other people’s cast-offs.

First to go outside our front door were the fridge, washing machine and vinyl couch. The neighbour stopped by and asked if the washing machine was in working condition; I guess we said it was, because, two years’ on, we could still hear it thumping, knocking, banging and walking across our neighbour’s floor on the spin cycle.

We also got rid of one double bed frame and mattress (because we’d converted a bedroom to a second bathroom/landing library), the plywood wardrobe and the microwave. The rest of it I had to ‘tart up’, as we had burned our budget on a new fridge/freezer, washing machine, couch and armchairs.

MONTEJAQUE: Our finished rental house

I also went hunting in the dumping ground, and acquired a few dining chairs, some antique handles and knobs, two framed mirrors, a marble-topped wrought iron table and chair, a horsehair-stuffed pouffe, a plastic table for the terrace, and a rustic ladder (which I ultimately re-finished to make a towel rail in the bathroom … 150€ in Habitat, ha ha!)

In interior design, I believe that bringing it all together starts with the accessories (e.g. paintings, bric-a-brac), and I use the colours in these as a jumping-off point for the rest of the area. The new electrical box was situated in the living room, and I wanted to hide it. In a framing shop in Ronda, we found an oil painting on canvas that fitted perfectly over the box. The picture depicted a matador and bull, in shades of red/burgundy, orange, mustard-yellow and black. These colours then formed the palette for the living room and adjoining dining areas of the house.

The dining table was magnificent (worth 10,000€ at least!), but the six chairs looked desperate. I sewed full covers for all of them, detailing them on the back with a large bow in a burgundy/cream check, and I bought orange, burgundy and yellow cushions to put on top of the seats, thereby compensating for the fact that they sagged.

The new couch was a burnt orange colour, and the two new armchairs had orange/yellow/red covers. I found the same fabric in a shop in Ronda, and made matching cushions for the couch and a pelmet to go over the (old) front door. The ferreteria in Benoàjan was an excellent source for curtain rails … and the owner’s son even cut them to size for me.

I then bought (in the ferreteria in Montejaque) the cans of paint: a mustard yellow for the arched wall into the dining room, and a burgundy for behind the wine rack and the stereo shelves. I got carried away, and stencilled a motto over the arch: ‘Mi casa es su casa’ … ’My house is your house’. (This lasted for about four years, but then I decided it looked tacky, so the wall is now magnolia again). On the burgundy-coloured, dining-room-side of the arch, I stencilled ‘in vino veritas’ (‘in wine, truth’) … and that has stayed. Dinner parties (with up to 12 people – who have been seated on chairs from the dump, as well as on the saggy-bottomed chairs) proved this motto beyond doubt!

In 2005, we sold our flat in Wales, and had the furniture from there shipped out to the house in Spain … so a whole new colour scheme had to be incorporated into the upstairs rooms. The master bedroom became ‘The Lavender Room’, primarily in mauve and white. I re-painted the hot-pink detailing on the white laminated wardrobe, dresser and bedside table, and changed the plastic knobs to porcelain ones. A designer headboard on a curtain rail, another white bedside table, and two Lloyds-loom wicker chests and a chair, re-covered in lavender-and-white printed fabric, completed the look.

Since buying the house in 2003, I have changed the interior design at least three times, and have got rid of quite a lot of stuff on ‘Big Basura Day’. And I have always used the paintings and accessories for my inspiration. If we sell the house, will we include these with the furniture? Certainly, if the price is right.

But are they worth 28.000€?

The (renovated) house is available to rent for holidays; check out the following websites:



Carolyn Emmett

Am an inveterate traveller. Born in the UK and spent teen years in Stratford-upon-Avon. Emigrated to Canada in 1976. Married 33 years, with three children and two grandchildren. Have lived in Jakarta, Indonesia (1997-2001), Botswana (2001-2003) and Johannesburg, South Africa (2003-2010). I'm a perfectionist, very organised, typical Aries; as Purple Ronnie would say: I would be good at being Queen of the World because: I love bossing everyone around and telling them what to do; I am great at making clever plans; I am great fun to be with 'cos I love action and adventure, and I always think up crazy ideas.

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