Much of this story will be hard to believe. For starters, our sanity has been repeatedly questioned by many for even buying a house (check that, we have two places in Mexico now) during the worst narco wars in our lifetime. Then we bought a really old house with no view, no pool, and located in a “mixed” neighborhood (read a neighborhood of Mexicans and Gringos). “What’s wrong with a view and a pool?” many of you were thinking. Unfortunately, KR asked the same question after we bought the place without either.
And now we’ve embarked on a bit of remodeling of the aforementioned house, in a country not known for quality nor timeliness. In the spirit of “It’s no fun if you can’t share the pain,” we invite you along for a different kind of ride than our normal.
The Before: Casa Rana
We bought what was then called Casa Rana in the summer of 2010. Although about a 100 years old, it’d been recently remodeled to a wonderful combination of the old with new. Rana was about 2100 sq. ft. with two bedrooms, two baths, an office, a bodega and a small courtyard in the center. While modern inside, it was missing things like air conditioning, noise-proof windows, and said pool with view.
Located in the heart of the El Cerro Colonia of PV, Casa Rana is about four blocks from the beach, up in the hills. El Cerro is a wonderful neighborhood, with just the right mix of Mexican families, having lived there for generations, mixed in with Gringos, Canadians, and the occasional European. It feels like a neighborhood, not a tourist destination; people go to work in the morning, children play int he street, and old women sit together on the sidewalk just around the corner from the old men hanging together. KR has gotten to know all of our neighbors, even though most don’t speak English and she doesn’t speak Spanish. KR’s friends with several “year rounders” as well, and despite not having Her Man around all the time, seems to have lots of people to keep her busy.
Living in Casa Rana has its challenges, as KR soon found out. Because the street is RIGHT THERE, next to the living room and bedroom , there was no way to dampen the noise from passing cars/horses/party’rs/gas trucks/ice cream trucks/garbage trucks, etc. The street is so close and narrow that it’s impossible to keep Rana’s walls and roof from being damaged. Living there year round presented a whole new set of challenges as it gets incredibly hot in the summer (remember no air conditioning) and pours rain every afternoon/night (can’t get to the office without getting drenched).
Being an X-advertising guy, I’ve been focused on branding and the Identity Package. I hated the name — who wants to live in the Frog House anyway — so we started to refer to it as “Corona” or “Casa Corona” or “La Corona” since it’s located at the corner or Corona and Miramar.
The Goal: Transforming Casa Rana into La Corona
First step in remodeling Casa Rana was finding an architect/designer, in Mexico no less. This, as it turned out, was a pretty easy decision as the person we bought the house from was also its designer. We loved the feel and design of Casa Rana, KR just wanted MORE. So Jim was brought on board to serve as designer. Since Jim isn’t an architect, we hired an engineer to serve as General Contractor and Engineer, Isidro Javier Torres Gomez. Isidro previously served as PV’s City Engineer, at least guaranteeing that he knew how to get the permits (and what financial incentives were required.)
The remodel goals changed as we (read KR) thought more about what we (read KR) wanted. We started out with a simple “let’s add a pool and get a view” thought. This lasted all of 10 minutes before KR realized that even if we put a pool on the second floor, it wouldn’t be high enough to see over the neighbor’s three story Gringo Condo. “Well, let’s add a living room, kitchen, dining room, and master suite to the second floor and put the pool on top of that!” suggested Jim. If I had been in town, I would have hit him.
Clearly, two stories weren’t enough, so we started thinking three. And how about an “observation deck” for the fourth floor! And let’s add another kitchen up top. And if we put the pool on the third floor we can….. just hit me in the face and get it over with. Please! Four months and a half dozen design changes later, we are doing the following:
- Building a two-car garage on the first floor where the dining room/kitchen use to be
- Adding another small kitchen so the two guest rooms on the first floor can get some munchies at night
- The second floor now includes: kitchen, bodega, dining room, living room
- The third floor now includes: master suite, swimming pool, patio
- The fourth floor now includes: observation deck with dining room, outdoor kitchen, bar, etc.
- Total square feet: who the h___ knows. Certainly more than double
- No of kitchens: three
- No of bathrooms: five
The (Progress) Plan
Karen has rented a room across the street from La Corona in order to supervise construction. Isidro assures us it will be “done” by mid-May and judging by his progress during the first couple of weeks it looks doable. I will fly down every month or so and check on progress and… write the checks.
The deconstruction of Casa Rana shortly followed (hopefully) by the construction of La Corona is turning out to be quite the neighborhood event. Next door neighbor Eduardo (see last post) and one of his sons are already employed at the site. Every passerby has an opinion on whether tearing down a local landmark is a capital crime or normal progress. It’s not unusual to see folks sitting on the sidewalk across the street watching the hustle of 15-20 workers in constant motion. One of our neighbors is so impressed with how hard everyone is working, that he brings Cokes to the team every day. Isidro’s reputation is growing exponentially as people can’t believe the speed at which things are happening. He’s already gotten two new referrals from just the first couple of weeks…