Bathroom irritations and light solutions

Week seventeen of our restoration project in Istria

At last, I feel we’re entering the end-game at Kovaci. Bathroom fittings arrive (and bring some niggles…). I get a second go at deciding paint colours – will I get my way this time? Then, with everything else racing forward, I turn my attention to lighting and pray choosing light fittings proves easier than selecting tiles.



Bath in barn bathroom, Kovaci, IstriaThings are really coming together and my constant fear is something will get forgotten – it all seems to be going just too smoothly! This morning, my panic wake-up thought is ‘bathroom ventilation’, so I hurry off to Kovaci to see if it has been remembered in the family bathroom. Relief, the hole is there, let into the old chimney.

My other panic is whether they have remembered the irrigation for the planters in the terrace around the pool. “Of course,” says Toni. “Here’s the start of the pipe. We’ll install the rest after we’ve laid the reinforcing mesh.”

I guess they really do have everything under control.

Oak wood surround for the double sinks in the family bathroom, Kovaci, IstriaDespite pouring rain yesterday and this morning, it’s all go on-site. With the downstairs loo finished, Vlado’s now installing the outside shower-room fittings. In the barn, Amir’s finished re-pointing upstairs and is now working downstairs. The carpenter and painter have taken over upstairs, installing doors and painting walls: the bathroom’s almost completely tiled and the bath’s in place. Outside, the stonemason’s building a garden wall, Toni’s carrying bags of cement around – while Miro stares at a widget. As I said, it’s all go (well apart from Miro, perhaps).

The wood surrounds for the sinks have been made and they look gorgeous – really worth the effort. I stand and admire them for a while.


Light work

Putting up lights is a huge job and with two houses, we’re going to have an awful lot of fittings. It’s something P can do – with much swearing – but it will take days, so he’s wisely suggested I ask Miro if he’ll do it instead. With things coming together fast, it’s time to get this organised and find out how many fittings we’ll need. Counting them in my head, I’d come to nineteen; in reality I find out it’s actually twenty-five.

Stonemason working in garden, Kovaci, IstriaAs the ground floor of the house will now be a kitchen-diner, I want to put a chandelier over the dining table – unfortunately, as this wasn’t the initial plan, there’s no cable for it – yet. “Can we add another light?” I ask hopefully. Toni and Miro look sceptical [I need to be punished a little for not thinking ahead] and shake their heads in mild disbelief. I make a suggestion which produces a counter proposal and after a short debate, we find a solution requiring only a minimal alteration. Big relief.

All that’s left now is to actually buy the fittings. It’s a major job which I expect will take a long time and visits to multiple shops. With memories of tile-buying all too fresh in my mind I know I must get it started soon … but not today.


Red-letter day

Tuesday’s a red-letter day. Toni has finished with his JCB and the stonemason is finishing the entrance, which looks magnificent.

Gateway to Kovaci, Istria - nearly finishedAnd much of the furniture has turned up on-site, although this isn’t as exciting as it sounds. I’ve been taking advantage of some good deals to buy furniture ahead of time. With nowhere in Kovaci to store it, I’ve been using the Little House as a warehouse – until now. This week I’ve Family staying, so last Friday Miro and Toni collected it all and today it turned up in the house. Luckily, this job wasn’t as huge as it might sound. Most of it’s flat-pack, so it fitted easily in Miro’s truck and stacks neatly in the dining area. I just wonder how long it will stay here before its assembled – or needs moving again?


Colour time again

After heavy rain overnight, Wednesday is glorious and I arrive to find Toni in the pool – adding some fixture (not sure what). While there wasn’t enough rain for swimming, there’s enough to soak his boots. Taking a break, he asks, “What colour do you want the barn’s woodwork and doors?”

Toni in unfinished pool, Kovaci, IstriaIt’s a question I’ve been dreading and just hope this time, I can make a better decision. As a colour, I really don’t like the brown we’ve used in the house. If you don’t look directly at it, it’s fine. You don’t notice it and it fits with the rustic feel of the house, but it really is a turgid colour and I’m sure we can do better in the barn.

Last time, feeling unwell, I let Miro win the day. This time, I decide I won’t be brow-beaten by builders. This will be my choice. Determined to get it right, I take the painter’s colour swatch and start flicking through. ‘Maybe a blue or an orange,’ I muse. Nothing really catches my eye.

I decide I need a second opinion. “What do you suggest?” I ask Toni. “How about staining the stairs and door downstairs so they look old and rustic and painting the upstairs’ woodwork white?” he says.

‘No way the doors will be bland white,’ I think, as Toni leaves to get back in the pool.

Swatch in hand I march upstairs, determined to make a decision. Ten minutes later I join Toni by the pool, “OK, make the doors white,” I say, “and stain the downstairs woodwork as you suggest.” Sometimes it’s best to know when to admit defeat.


Bathroom upsets

Workmen in family bathroom, Kovaci, IstriaToday’s focus is bathrooms, and starts with a panic over the family bathroom sink and surround (the surround I’d stood admiring on Monday). I’d really wanted to put double sinks in the family bathroom and on paper it all fitted. Unfortunately, as Miro’s keen to show me, it isn’t working on the ground.

Miro and Vlado hold the surround in place for me to see and one look is enough: it is far too big. It’s an easy, if disappointing, decision to make. “The second sink must go,” I say. I’d fought long and hard for my double sinks with their oak wood surround (and made to measure, the surround didn’t come cheap) so it’s demoralising to see it being cut down to size. Once again, I convince myself it’s best to know when to quit.

Next comes the master bedroom’s ensuite bathroom and yet more problems. The fittings are now in and as I walk up the stairs, I find I’m looking up straight into the bathroom, at the underside of the sink and all its plumbing. It’s not something you’d normally notice, but because of the angle (viewing it from below), it really catches your attention. ‘We’ll need to find a way to screen that,’ I think.

Misplaced toilet with concertinaed pipe, Kovaci, IstriaThen, as I walk in, I find the space surprisingly tight. The toilet’s been installed far too far out from the wall – I’m not impressed. I’m even less impressed with the pipe linking it to the downpipe: it’s a concertina-like affair, which looks strange and will be very difficult to clean. ‘What was Vlado thinking using such an ugly system?’ I muse. ‘Perhaps it’s just lacking a cover?’ But no, this is the finished appearance. And, worse still, it’s now too late to change the pipe. My only consolation is Toni says he’ll see what can be done to cover it.

However he and Miro immediately agree the toilet’s out of position and they can move it back. At least something goes my way, but all-in-all its been a rather demoralising session.


Light panic

Friday brings yet another panic: ‘Must buy those lights!’ The thought wakes me at 4:00 am and I vow to get the process started today. Deciding to start locally, I shoot off first thing to LIV, our lighting shop in Porec.

Example of chosen wall light fitting for Kovaci, istriaIt all turns into something of an anticlimax – which I’m only too happy about. LIV has exactly the light fittings I want, at a very reasonable price, so it’s an easy decision. I know I can probably get them a little cheaper in the big DIY stores in Pula, but LIV is local, in case anything goes wrong (there are twenty-five fittings after all, any one of which might be faulty) and petrol isn’t cheap. More importantly, all the guys are friendly and extremely helpful – so yes, I happily support my local shop! 

After looking through their catalogues, I chose simple spot lights – the same style everywhere. I also pick out a dramatic chandelier for over the kitchen table – I just hope it looks good. Another good reason to buy locally is that, before I made my order, the nice man at LIV let me borrow a wall light to go check what it looks like. Toni and I positioned it against both plaster and stone walls and ‘yes,’ it looked great. LIV had an order and what I expected to be a major headache turns out a breeze – wish everything else was as simple!

The week ends with a final look around. In the barn, the painter has been busy – upstairs now has its first coat and he’s also painted the downstairs ceiling. It’s beginning to look like a room.

Miro gets the hole ready for the sink, Kovaci, IstriaIn the house, the sink in its surround is now up in the family bathroom and looking very smart – and it really is too small for double sinks (pity). Going upstairs, the oak surround is also in place in the ensuite and I find Miro lining up the sink to go in its hole.

Outside, the entrances to the šupa and shower room are complete and look as good as Toni promised. And, next to the house, are stacked all the useable flagstones we could salvage. Perhaps that means they’ll be finishing the ground floor soon? As far as I can tell, it’s the last thing to be done in the house. I guess I’ll find out next week.


Also see

Restoration diary:


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