Stone House Misconceptions

One phrase I hear a lot when taking clients around to view properties is, “I’d love a house built with local stone.’’ Rarely are people saying this because of its appearance and natural beauty, it’s largely down to their concept of temperature. Many times I hear them say, “Stone houses are cooler in the summer,” or “Stone buildings are warmer in the winter.” This is one of the popular misconceptions people have, so I’ll set the record straight here in a short blog entry cataloguing my experience of living in a house made of stone.

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Stone built houses are not cooler in summer, in fact they can be oppressively hot. During the day the stones are warmed by the sun and at night release that heat like Satan’s storage heaters. The only way to keep an Italian stone house cooler in summer is to have smaller windows and the shutters or blinds closed during the day and one of the best things we ever invested in was an air-conditioning unit. Tiled floors rather than carpet are good for giving your bare feet respite from the heat. IMG_4402

The opposite happens in the winter, the stones have cooled and are now cold. the frigidity seeps through the plaster making the walls cold. This is where the next best investment kicks in, the wood burner. Granted, once the room and walls are warmed by the fire the thickness of the stone helps to insulate the property and keep the temperature up. However over night when the fire has gone out the chill sets in once again.

And those cold tiled floors are not friends to bare feet in winter.

Renovation Road

It’s been seven months since we started the renovation of our house, the final two windows have now been fitted by Nino and Graham has made a fantastic job of the rendering. I think we’ve achieved so much in a short space of time. We started with a shell of a building and now apart from completing the outside space, which is coming along nicely under Seppe’s instruction, all we need to do is fit interior doors and start painting walls.

The seven months of work has had its ups and downs. We’ve had good moments, like when we discovered that the crack in the wall you could put your hand into was not a potential, structural nightmare, but a redundant fireplace. We also had a few bad times, like when the old fossa turned out to be blocked and so we had to install a septic tank, and we also had a real dark moment, when we discovered our builder was a liar and a thief. We’ve gone from spending a night in the car, to squeezing everything into one room and then onto the luxury of two-roomed living. We went from washing in the outside sink to finally having a fully functioning bathroom and also went from using the outside steps to go to bed to eventually having interior stairs.

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I never realised that house renovation was organic and changes to our fixed plans happened. The bathroom was re-sited and bigger than originally planned, the en-suite idea was dropped and the third floor was removed to give us a airier brighter kitchen. Some plans didn’t occur, the original mezzanine idea for the kitchen had to be abandoned when the architect told us the walls wouldn’t take the weight without ugly metal RSJ’s being fitted, and the upstairs door onto a balcony idea also bit the dust, and we downsized from three bedrooms to two. Overall, it’s been an enjoyable seven-months but I’m not sure I’d want to go through it all again, especially living on site as the work takes place.

But we can now sit back and as the end of this year approached we are secure in the knowledge that the roof no longer leaks, rain doesn’t come under the front door anymore and insects can’t squeeze under the gaps in the kitchen windows. This said, we’re no where near finished though. We still have boxes that remain unpacked, we have clutter everywhere that needs sorting and putting in its final resting places and my office needs to be set up properly.

So as the iPod shuffles and Lily Allen sings, He Wasn’t There, I decide to make a start on sorting out the box on my office floor labelled, stationery and office stuff. It’s nice to be finally getting to the end of the renovation road.

Cucina Rustica

We are finally getting to the end of our house restoration, I can hardly believe that only five months ago our place was literally just a shell. There’s still a lot of small jobs to get finished, like the window fitted where the second front door used to be and the kitchen. Of all the rooms in the house the kitchen has undergone the greatest transformation, the room above has been taken away, the roof has been replaced and it now has a new floor. During these changes our cooking facilities have changed many times. When we first moved in everything was on boxes, with all the electrics being endless extension cables.

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Then as the roof and room above came down, the kitchen was installed in the corner of the living room with the fridge freezer standing beside the fireplace. Now the floor is in, we’ve reinstalled our rustic kitchen. No more microwaves balanced on boxes, or electric rings on top of old floorboards. It’s still a work in progress, but it means we can have a few days with space in the living room before we move it all out again to finish it off.

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Learning to live without a working kitchen has been trying at times, especially when it comes to cooking. I coped with washing dishes in the outside sink, but wanting to bake bread when you have no oven came test your patience. At some point this week we’ll plaster where the electrics have been installed and hopefully next week the laminate flooring will have been laid and we can begin assembling the cupboards and get the new cooker delivered from Casoli.

Once finished, will I yearn for my cucina rustica again?

I doubt it.