It’s done! (just kidding)


This is what you get when you go four floors up

I’m writing this post on the original completion date, May 12th 2012, for La Corona.  That was before the architect quit three weeks in, before we were four floors tall, before Raphael’s Folly, aka the West Tower was added, and too many other changes to remember.  No member of our team volunteers a new completion date, as we all know its not going to be any day soon.

Our most immediate deadline is the impending start of the five month long rainy season in June.  Somehow we have to have La Corona buttoned up so that work can continue on the inside as it pours on the outside.  For those fortunate enough not to experience a PV rainy season, we’re talking major down pours every day for hours and hours with thunder so loud that Lilly hides in the bathroom.  Isidro assures me that we’ll be  ready, even though…

  • The outside needs to  be painted
  • All outside doors and windows need to be made and installed (they’re all being custom made, not bought off the shelf at Home Depot)
  • The swimming pool needs to be finished (including the water fall)
  • Four floors need to be tiled
  • Both decks need pergolas
  • All the cement work for Raphael’s Folly needs to completed

In just two weeks?  I don’t think so.

We’re settling into a construction routine, much like any other routine.   I fly down to PV every 3-4 weeks and spend two intense days making decisions and driving around looking at various samples.   In between visits, KR and I talk 2-3 times a day on what’s going on.  Isidro sends me pictures at the end of every week.  Jaime’s assistant, Eric, sends me CAD renderings of the latest design.   And, of course, before leaving I write Isidro a check.

For example, on this trip we decided/reviewed…

  • The design of both pergolas
  • The design of the pool tiles
  • All floorings (3+ types of tile)
  • The second pass on the kitchen design including basic colors
  • The design of all doors and windows
  • The basic color of the outside of the house
  • Despite the cost, we’re building Raphael’s Folly, sans elevator for now
  • The design of the railings around all the terraces
  • The  concept for the downstairs kitchen
  • A new design for the garage doors
  • The third revision of the entrance/front door
  • The first design of the master suite
  • A revised design for the garage door

All of these decisions make for a fair amount of schizophrenia.   Wow, that _____ will look great!  we both agree.   A day – or sometimes even just an hour later– and we’re thinking, That ______ sucks so much, the whole project is ruined!  Repeat  the cycle for each major decision.  The process is made both more fun and more stressful because we’re essentially rolling our own with no consistent lead creative director.   It’s become a true collaboration between Karen, Jaime, Isidro, Raphael, Chuck and me.  We’ve developed a very good, open working relationship in which any one of us can say “That sucks!” and not take offense.  But, it makes Cocktail Hour come earlier and earlier.

From looking like a prison to the neighborhood museum?  For the first few months of construction, La Corona looked more like a prison than house.  Three stories of cement blocks and pillars will give that impression.   Neighbors passing would shake their head, wondering what kind of monstrosity these crazy gringos were building.  The prison effect steadily lessened as the house was covered in plaster.

Then last night, over drinks, our architect Jaime said that people in the neighborhood were happy we were building a museum.  “A what?”  I’m wondering.  Well yes, Jaime explained that they were very happy that we’re preserving the original house’s adobe both outside and inside.  “It will have the effect of a museum,” Jaime explained, “and it will be very good for the neighborhood.”

Go figure: )

La Corona May 12 2012

Street view showing the outdoor museum effect

High tech creative process. Jaime sends me 3D renderings, which I then paste into PowerPoint, annotate with English translated to Spanish via Google Translate, then screen cap and send back to Jaime, who then makes changes and the process is repeated.


Jaime's assistant, Eric, has created a 3D rendering of La Corona on his PC. We can take a virtual tour of how the space will look while standing in the real space. Here we're standing in the kitchen, looking at color swatches, with the 3D rende.ring of the kitchen on screen

We test the look of living room doors with potential outside color. KR checks her files for more ideas and....colors.

Manuel provides supervision for new sidewalk.


Chuck, aka Carlos, checks on the door sample with Isidro.


While Eric looks on and Isidro explains the new pergola design, KR walks off the size.

A typical design session. KR digs out ideas from her room-by-room folders and we then try to imagine what they would look like.

Pool view from 4th floor


Pool deck

View into the master suite area from the pool deck. Stairs to the observation deck on the left.


I pride myself in creating the right atmosphere to stimulate creative thinking. Here Carlos and I get very creative at the Landmark Hotel, just down the street from La Corona.


Cocktail party in Alta Vista neighborhood of PV.



We reward ourselves for a hard day on the construction site with dinner at Bruce's Teatro Limon, the best restaurant in PV. From left, Carlos, Yvonne, Bruce, KR and FW.


Bruce tries to sell KR his hi-tech oven, which he demonstrates.

The team: Eric, Isidro, KR and Jaime on the observation deck.


Work on Raphael's Folly begins with digging up the old foundation. This separate part of the house will have four floors as well and, eventually, the elevator.

Last but least, work continues on my Man Cave, which consists of the garage and my office.


This will be the bar and wine cellar some day.


Happy faces. Jaime assures us that the slate for the kitchen counter top will look marvelous. Decisions can be painful: )


Never one to let an "opportunity" pass her by, KR has already bought the first "new" piece of furniture for La Corona. It temporarily rests in the downstairs sitting room.

Exposed original adobe wall in what was the old master bedroom, which we intend to keep exposed.

KR standing in front of the 4th floor BBQ, thinking now that we have three kitchens, he's always going to want to eat...


I'm hungry already. Philly, the night watch man, makes his own beef jerky in the sun on the top deck.


8 replies
  1. Jack & Janet says:

    We re-did our house here in Phoenix, it took a year and was painful. I don’t envy you. It will be great when it’s done but you’ll get a few grey hairs, if you don’t have them now. Press on!!!

  2. Debbie and Dennis says:

    La Corona is shaping up and looking awesome! Keep the sanity…love to you and KR

  3. Monika says:

    Hi Guys:
    I still think you need a fire ladder or a bridge to the neighbors in case of a power outage.
    Looking forward to seeing La Corona some day.

  4. Liz Dietz says:

    LOL, I am laughing my ass off from my home office in San Miguel de Allende as I am reading this.

    Now that Ed and I have been here 4 years, we decided we were staying and needed a bigger house. That is how it always starts. So we bought a bigger house with a view of the city and hills and decided it needed to be fixed up a bit before we moved in. You see where this is going…

    We are now knee deep in a similar project that now includes a complete gutting, expansion for the new kitchen, new floors, doors, windows and bathrooms, garage and new fixtures (lights, faucets, toilets, knobs) throughout. Oh yes. several new boveda ceilings as well.

    I am sure there is more, the money is flying out the door and as you said, happy hour is coming earlier and earlier. One day it will be a palace, in the meantime I have to get back to work to pay for all this!

    Un abrazo,
    Liz and Ed

  5. Gregg & Tish says:

    I had to google “pergola”, which now that I know what it is seems a great idea. The elevation is beautiful and complements the breathtaking views. Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead!

  6. gwen stevens says:

    As usual, Fred, you are keeping your sense of humor against all odds. Especially like the beef jerky photo which brings me to Raphael’s Folly. Would the tower not make a great pizza oven and tourist attraction … the leaning tower of Pizza? -Gwen

  7. jim hyde says:

    whoa Fred…. I loved the sentiment about downsizing and simplifying…. BUT?? whatcha doin’g here?

    Love it man… Jim

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