Marble is relatively inexpensive in Spain, so we opted for a marble shower stall in our newly built house.
Shower-heads, however, are very expensive. The first one we saw was 850€; we settled on one costing 450€.
“¿Es oro?” asked our Spanish project manager when we told him the price.
A BLANK CANVAS AT LA OTRA CASA
With all the walls in place, we were able to make interior design decisions at the new house. To complement the rocks jutting through the wall of our en suite bathroom, we found sheets of marble that looked like a ‘Google Earth’ satellite photograph. The ‘forests’, ‘roads’ and ‘rivers’ on this relief map went perfectly with our ‘mountains’.
Jose-Maria (the skilled employee of project manager Cristobal) held his breath as he cut and fitted the pieces around the shower stall. We realised he would also have to cut the holes for the taps and shower assembly – so, a year in advance of our living in the house, we had to find a shower unit that would fit. My main concern was that the uppermost rock (which juts out at least 30 cm) would be in the way of the shower head; we wanted a ‘rain shower’ type, offering a tropical rainstorm rather than a drizzle. (Interestingly, the name of the marble we chose was ‘Rainforest’, so we were on the right track).
After being shocked at the price of the first shower-head we found (at Terroba in Ronda), priced at 850€, we were delighted to lay down 450€ for one that looked as good – if not better. It was only when we got it home that we converted its price to South African rands.
“We’ve just paid R4,500 for a shower-head!” I exclaimed. “That’s more than a month’s salary for the average domestic worker or security guard in Johannesburg.”
When we told Cristobal what we had paid, he asked if the shower-head was made of gold.
We also gave into temptation at the marble shop (Mármoles García) and bought a fireplace surround for a wood-burning stove. What had come over me? I had trashed the marble stairs at Casa Alta and put down ‘peasant flooring’ instead. Now I was filling the new house with marble … and couldn’t wait to invite the neighbours to come over to admire the shower walls and fireplace!
And what did we choose for the floor tiles in the living/dining room and kitchen? Well, yes, actually … marble. We selected ceramic tiles for the rest of the house, however, except the entrance hall, stairs and landing – we’ve got peasant flooring there, but inspired by the floors at the palace in Seville, and laid out in a geometric pattern with a small tile in the middle, plus matching stair risers. The banisters (I’ve decided on wooden ones, after my wrought-iron experience at Casa Alta) will be installed after the furniture has been moved in.
Burglar bars (or, as they’re called in Spain, réjas – sounds like ‘wreckers’) were custom-made for all of the window openings – so the local kids could no longer climb in and have a party on our roof terrace. (Unfortunately, these kids used the radiator pipes to climb back out, and a few of these were broken off … thanks, kids; I’ll track you down with the bill for replacing them).
One of the biggest, most expensive and “Oh, no, I won’t be there to make sure they’re right” decision has been the windows. We opted for double-glazed PVC, for a number of reasons: We wanted the double-glazing, as it really does get cold and miserable in the winter in the village; electricity is quite expensive, and we didn’t want to see our valuable heat escaping. And we opted for PVC because it’s maintenance-free; we’ve already realised we must re-stain and re-varnish the wooden windows at Casa Alta, as five years of sun, wind and rain have taken their toll. At our time in life (!) a gentle stroll to one of the local bars is all the exercise we want – not to be scraping, sanding, rubbing, staining and varnishing.
But my concern is: Has the window man remembered that the windows for the en suite, kitchen and landing should be sliding ones (not internally opening ones, like the rest of them), and made of aluminium, not PVC, because these are all sun-exposed windows (PVC apparently warps in too much sun)? Are the doors onto the balcony off our study/family room also made of aluminium, and hinged (as requested) to fold back against the small amount of wall on either side? The cost of correcting these possible errors will far outweigh what the local kids owe me for the radiator piping.
Three toilets and three washbasins, a bath and all the taps have also been purchased and installed. The Town of Montejaque had to dig up at least 20 metres of the street outside the house to install a new pipe, as the original dwelling shared the town pipe with the opposite neighbours … and this was directly in line with the only water and sewage that came out of its one toilet and sink. Our en suite bathroom was built ‘downstream’ of this pipe, and water and sewage cannot run ‘uphill’. So, there must have been even more noise created for our neighbours, who have watched the slow progression of La Otra Casa (knocked down in 2006, with construction starting in 2007 and scheduled moving-in date of May 2011) over the years.
I hope they think it was worth it, when they come to our party to admire the marble shower walls and the fireplace …