I will always associate March 8 with a lovely event, as this was the day I bought my dream home in Portugal.
My husband and I bought it and signed all the documents that day, five years ago.
The previous owner provided the legal thumbprint, and we became the new owners of a cottage in a small town near Lagos.
A friend recommended us a worker – a one-man construction company. Creative, full of initiative and … stubborn! But it was a good way to start realising my artistic visions.
First of all, the house had to be demolished, or at least partially demolished in order to optically enlarge the space and to make it functional. We gave up two entrances to the house in favour of a larger kitchen.
A small space then transformed itself into a living room with a kitchen. Acoustically, it sounds like a huge hall but, in fact, it’s only 33sqm downstairs, plus a small bathroom!
The marble stairs were polished and finished with gold-coloured slats, which added elegance and even received favourable comments from visitors. In the bedroom upstairs, we kept the original floor tiles from the 50s.
When I first entered this house, I immediately felt that it was our future nest.
The view from the window was the deciding factor in buying a house near the centre of the town. From here, you can see the cliff, beautifully lit by the setting sun.
Despite its central location, we are not overlooked by our neighbours. But due to the thin walls, a next-door neighbour’s child could sometimes be heard crying, as its mother was out partying until 3am. Unfortunately, it was not possible to predict this problem when buying the house. Generally, neighbours are so nice when you first arrive!
Renovation works lasted almost a year. I must admit that sometimes my new role as a building project manager was quite a challenge. Especially when it turned out that the work was going too slowly or not according to plan.
Sometimes, it was necessary to factor in minor mishaps, such as a drill bit broken on a rock because the walls were not always filled with bricks. Most of the old houses were made with stones. This can be the cause of rising damp and condensation – the bane of old construction in Portugal.
We have installed air conditioning, and, over the years, the moisture has been gradually decreasing. It is also necessary to have good ventilation and even use a dehumidifier at times.
Before we bought the house, it had not been heated for years. The previous owner had advanced rheumatism, so it made me think … Now, all the rooms have heaters, and the bathrooms also have fans. When we got to decorating and ordering furniture, we had to be careful as none of the corners are even close to 90 degrees!
In the same year that we finished the interior, a new IKEA opened in the Algarve, and it was possible to order larger wardrobes with mirrors to size, which optically enlarged the space. The rest of the furniture was found at nearby flea markets or online markets.
I still remember this time as very creative and satisfying, creating a pleasant interior style on a very modest budget. Some of my own paintings have added that final personal touch.
Algarve-based artist Kasia Wrona graduated with honors from the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, Poland, in 1991. Kasia paints, draws, designs, creates installations and video films. In 2011, she co-founded the Marina de Lagos Art Academy. www.kasiawrona.com