Had I known what we were getting into at the start of this project, I might not have gone for it…
Having restored a very old house years back in Granada, Nicaragua, I would have been quite happy this time around ~ ~ in Sri Lanka, to find a “ready to move in” rental house. Ben, however had other plans….
He was intent that it would be fun to build up what really was a storage shed, in my opinion. After all, it had no running water, no electricity, no plumbing, no kitchen, no toilet. Hmmm, what DID it have?
Location. Location. Location.
Next to the rice paddies, well away from the maddening traffic of the main road that runs along the Southern coast with crazy bus drivers hurtling by at lethal speed. The reliably temperate Indian ocean is but five minutes motorbike ride away and a beautiful yoga shala is but a five minute walk up a forested hill. .
So…. it has indeed been a long haul to turn this “storage shed” into a comfy nest. We both enjoy the creative process ~ taking a blank canvas, envisioning something aesthetically pleasing and making it happen.
We now finally have a functioning roof over our heads (this was not always the case as we discovered during the first monsoon season of rains), a functioning kitchen and a super cool outdoor bathroom with tons of hot water.
A lot has happened since our first post on this project…..
Our nest is on the right of this picture a bit beyond the trees. The rice paddies are always tranquil and are a constantly changing landscape. The rice has just been harvested and the rains have created small reflective pools which attract egrets, peacocks….. and us.
The grand entrance
BEFORE: The dirt road led right up to the front of the house. This means that tuk tuks or bikes would drive right in and get pretty close to the front door. We prefer a bit more privacy.
AFTER: Okay it is not exactly a huge security gate, but that is not what we wanted. Our goal was to create a conceptual gate which would prevent tuk tuks coming right to the front door and define the space as well as give privacy by keeping traffic at bay.
The gate is made from branches from the cinnamon tree. Cinnamon is a big export commodity from Sri Lanka. (Here Ben Is making his own piece of fencing.)
Front of house
BEFORE: What to do about this ugly, non functioning water well?
AFTER: We got half the concrete block wall of the well removed and created a thick circular wooden platform to permanently cover up the well. We created this platform to be for yoga, meditation, picnics, and monkey watching,
Now THAT’s a pretty cool spot for pic nics!
We used shredded coconut husks to spread everywhere around the house. This is to encourage the growth of ground cover and in the meantime, it is soft as a carpet to bare feet.
The hammock is positioned strategically at the edge of a little piece of forest, or jungle as they call it here. It is a great spot in the morning to listen to the birds heralding the new day and to be entertained by grey langur monkeys eating fruit in the tree tops above us.
BEFORE: Ben inspects the space on the left hand side of the house, and together we envision a greener garden of sorts for this side. Herbs? Veggies?
AFTER: step one was to have some green growing on the ground… then pots with herbs…two papaya trees and two avocado trees and a dog shelter for the 3 dogs that predate us on this land.
Our basil “bush” is yielding quite a crop of pesto. And soon the ginger and turmeric plants will be ready for some harvesting.
BEFORE: This is how the structure looked when we first saw it. Workers cutting wood outside the front, garbage and black mold on the side. “Um Ben, do you really think this project is a good idea? Looks like a shit load of work to me.”
AFTER: A definite improvement. Alas, no ground cover seems to have grown due to the shade in the front. Ongoing…
BEFORE: The right side of the house was being used as a cement block making workshop.
AFTER: French doors now lead out from the large master bedroom to what is now a greener garden facing the “jungle”. Okay it is not the salt water pool Peta says she envisioned here, but it is fun to open our bedroom doors in the morning and be able to look right into the forest. Green everywhere.
A grey faced langur hangs out on our bathroom wall…
A great sight to wake up to in the morning, Ir is always green, and often rich with bird life.
BEFORE: Ben “This area will be great as an spacious open living room.”
AFTER: He was right! It is spacious and definitely has an airy feel to it. The arch leads to the kitchen on left and straight through to the garden bathroom in the back. We are doing our best to not accumulate “stuff” and strive to keep the minimalist approach to this house.
AFTER: A clean lined contemporary couch makes a nice sitting area and goes well with the straw mat flooring. The coffee table we had made using 2 old wooden painted window shutters..
Peta’s painting on the wall provides a wink to a former living room (when our 4 sons were teenagers).
Much as we were not keen to go through the process and expense of a new roof, we really had no choice. The original roof made of ceramic tiles was not sufficiently hermetic,, i.e. there were many leaks during a rain storm. Now think monsoon season! So off it finally went, and for a day we were open to the treetops above.
As soon as the roof was completed, there was a very heavy rainstorm. We got it installed just in the knick of time. The rainy season began and we got to test out the new roof. Yay, no more leaks, no more buckets. Nothing like having a bad roof to make one grateful for “a good roof over ones heads.”
AFTER: The kitchen was an empty square cement room before we put in the painted concrete counter tops in an L shape, terracotta rust tiles on the floor and teak wooden shelves. End result: A small, but workable kitchen space.
BEFORE: This was the back of the house. A door that opened to nothing…. Since there was no bathroom space in the house we saw this as a perfect canvas to create a dreamy outdoor bathroom.
INTERIM: Walls were built in a curved organic shape enclosing the back area. A bathtub was made using a large industrial pipe. And we started to execute our vision for a lush garden bathroom (Rather bare at this point in time.)
AFTER: A lush garden a year later! Completely as envisioned and more….. We love it!
The shower is behind the large elephant leaf plant which creates a green shower curtain. An old door with layers of textures of paint was turned into a base for the washbasin. Nothing beats showering outdoors in the dappled sunlight accompanied by birds and/or monkeys overhead.
A few years ago we discovered the reflexology rock path in the Singapore Botanical Gardens. We loved walking on the pebbles and wanted to recreate that feeling on our feet in the shower. Free daily foot reflexology.
We imagined a canopy created by a passion fruit creeper at the entrance to the bathroom and here it is, just a year later, We looking forward to when it flowers and bears fruit.
The door into our “secret” garden gets a lilac shade of paint.
As we write this, it is pouring outside. It is monsoon season in Sri Lanka! So happy for the elephants! They need the water as the drought had severely limited their food supply. Rain is a good thing around here.