The new team steps in and then steps up

Smooth sailing. Things have been moving along rapidly with the new team in place. PV is undergoing a comprehensive remodel simultaneously to La Corona’s transformation.   Both projects are coming along very well.

Who would have thought one word would change everything?  Raphael and I are sitting in LAX, awaiting our flight to PV.  You may remember that Raphael Bertolus is a general contractor/creative guru to very, very, very high end residences in Los Angeles and he’s volunteered to lend some creative insight to our project.  I’m incredibly grateful for his offer of help, but as we sit awaiting our plane, I don’t want to put too much pressure on him as the design ship has clearly left the dock (Isidro is building La Corona faster than anyone could imagine, so how much help can Raphael lend at this late stage?). 

“I’ve been giving this some thought,” says he in that ohh-soo-smooth French accent. Good, I’m thinking.  Hear him out.  We’ve got some time to spare.  I like his initiative, but really what can we change at this stage?   “I don’t like two things.  First, there’s no way to get to the  second floor without getting wet.  It doesn’t work.  And I don’t like the fact that you have a bathroom next to the kitchen.” Ya, I agree, but  a couple of bright minds have been thinking about this and no one’s come up with a better way.

“You need an elevator.” A what!  All circuits are blinking red now.  Geez, I’ll be pulling on the Oars of Commerce until I’m 80 to pay for this… Quicker than you can say, “What the F are you talking about!?  Raphael pulls out Jaime’s (our new Mexican architect) design plans, which he has comprehensively redrawn (in the one day he’s had them), and lays out a new design to the back end of the house that does in fact solve the problems.    To loosen up the frontal lobes, he starts with…”I think the Man Cave should be bigger.  Make the downstairs kitchen smaller…”  Well now, maybe there’s something to this new design?

An hour later when we board the plane, I know this is going to be a very expensive trip.  While there are still some big hurdles to get over (like getting La Jefa to say yes), Raphael’s design is simply brilliant.  Elegant, functional and very, very creative.

That night and the following day, Raphael works through every detail of the new design with KR, Jaime and Isidro.  I’ve worked with creative folks my entire life and know when I’m in the presence of genius; he’s brilliant and a master at”selling” the concept to all parties concerned.  By the time we get on the plane back to LA a day and a half later, we have a cohesive creative design that everyone’s bought into.  Including me, provided I only have to work until 70 to pay for Raphael’s Vision.  Key elements of the current design:

  • Everything’s still based on Chuck’s original Ahh-Haa idea of putting a garage/man cave on the ground floor and our bedroom and pool on the third floor.  The design drawn on a cocktail napkin at Little Big Sur still holds up.
  • We will have an elevator where the old bodega was.  It will go up three floors.
  • We’ve torn down my old office and expanded the living room instead.  Next to the elevator is the new bathroom
  • On top of the expanded living room will be Karen’s new studio (third floor) and secret garden (fourth floor).  Both are accessed via a bridge from the main part of the house
  • I will get an office in my Man Cave.
  • Ground floor will now have two guest bedrooms, two guest bathrooms, a guest living room and kitchen.  The washer and dryer will still be on that floor for those guests who want to help out.  Primary feature is my Man Cave with separate office.
  • Second floor will have an enlarged living room, dining room, kitchen, the world’s largest pantry, and the pool room (under the pool).  And the guest bathroom next to the elevator.
  • Third floor will have the master suite, patios,pool, pool bathroom and KR’s studio across the  bridge.
  • Fourth floor will have the observation deck, outdoor kitchen and access to the “secret garden”.
  • The creative concept for the entire house will evolve as you go up.  The ground floor will keep all of the original 100 year old adobe’s design feel and surfaces.  As you go up, it becomes a mixture of old/new.  By the time you’re on the observation deck, its very modern.

The net of all of this is that the new team is going fast forward on a terrific design.  Isidro is pounding the calculator hard figuring out how long I have to pull on the Oars of Commerce to pay for this.  Jaime and Karen are working on the interior details.

After the initial design session, KR and Lilly flew to Los Angeles for a couple of weeks.  We then flew back to PV to check on how its progressing.  The going forward plan is for KR to stay down in PV until La Corona is finished and for me to fly down as often as I can to help out (i.e., write the checks).

Back on the factory floor

For those of you wondering how things are going on the build-LA-into-a-cleantech-center-of-the-world front, here’s the link to the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator’s blog:

I’ve got to get back to the Oars.

"We need an elevator, Fred. You're getting old and can't make it up the steps much longer. It's good that your arms are strong, though, so you can still pull strongly on the Oars of Commerce." Raphael and Karen give me the what are you waiting for? look.


La Corona mid-March. Second floor is in and the pool is just starting to be laid.


La Corona April 1st. Third floor walls are in, pool is laid, balconies are mostly oin


Raphael takes Jaime (architect) and Isidro (general contractor) through Raphael's Vision, which includes Fred's Folly (the elevator) in the kitchen of La Corona.


KR to Jaime: " I want lots of windows and open space!" Jaime is thinking, how much more open space does this gringa woman want? Mario in blue shirt is carrying my computer which has Google Translator on the browser for more detailed discussions.

Geez, just tell me how much its going to cost...

KR in our "master suite."

One of Jaime's best ideas was to put a long window in the stairs. This is going from the kitchen/dining room/living room floor up to the master suite/pool/terraces.

The door to nowhere, for now. Eventually, there will be a bridge across from the bedroom to KR's studio.


Standing on my tip toes in the pool. I insisted that I had to be able to walk across the pool carrying a beverage.

Looking from the living room toward the pool and the midget waterfall. We're going to have water come over the pool and cascade down the inside wall. The catch basin will be lowered about 8-10 feet.


Guy on the right is smiling, guy on the left not so much.


The last of the Mohigans, in our case the last of the 100 year old adobe wall on the Corona street side. KR wants to leave some of it exposed. She took one look at this and said, "it looks fake!" Well, honey that's because it IS FAKE.

KR explains to Jaime and plasterer that she wants the edges to be very rough. Plaster is probably thinking, these crazy gringos. I spend two whole days making it look perfect and she wants it to look half-ass.


Apparently not getting her message across, KR grabs a hammer and chisel to demonstrate what she wants : )


La Corona from the new hotel down the street. Even the waiter was amazed as they watched the speed of construction. KR, "It looks like a prison!" I disagree, it looks more like a money pit to me.


Most of you will think I'm crazy when I tell you that I really like this view of our neighborhood, looking south on Miramar. Squint your eyes and you can see the bay off in the distance.


Christmas in March. KR demonstrates new toys she brought from US to our next door neighbor's kids.


Week leading up to Easter Sunday is Puerto Vallarta's busiest as its a BIG holiday for Mexicans. Here KR walks through a street fair just below our house.


Local families often swim in the River Quale, just up stream from the ocean.


La Jefa on the case, on the site. Even Lilly thinks the elevator is a good idea.

Always working. The night watchman has commandeered the old laundry room as living room.


7 replies
  1. jim Hyde says:

    Wow… that looks so cool… but what is Raphael doing so far from home?? Ha… I have to admit being a little envious… it looks fabulous… and I love the process of construction… and even more… I love the finished construction… really looks great. cheers, Jim

  2. Gregg & Tish says:

    Speed the plow – a wonderful life South of the border only awaits a proper castle, which is nigh.

  3. Debbie says:

    Hi Fred and KR,
    Looks like a million dollar Mexican Villa ! Wow, an elevator, Dennis will love it!!

  4. Monika says:

    Hi Fred and KR:
    Thanks for letting us experience your creation of La Corona vicariously. One question: What are you going to do when the elevator gets stuck, i.e. power outage? Are you going to build a bridge to your neighbor’s top floor or install a fire ladder???…….You need a way to get down in an emergency!
    Saludos, Monika

  5. Liz Dietz says:

    Wow, what an undertaking, but so exciting. And what a mansion you are building in that awesome town. Buena suerte and felicidades!

    Liz and Ed
    San Miguel de Allende

  6. Sindhu & Greg says:

    Your construction activity must be the talk of the town in PV. How are the locals handling it? It looks great!

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