There was this movie growing up that I was head over heels in love with. It was called “Life as a House” and it was about this architect who finds out he doesn’t have much time left so he decides to fix his relationship with his angry teenage son Sam by inviting him to stay at his place during the summer and build a house together. It’s THE MOST heartwarming story and I’ve thought about it a lot during the past few months. Anyway, there’s this line that George (the architect) says that gets me every time. He says: “I always thought of myself as a house. I was always what I lived in. It didn’t need to be big. It didn’t even need to be beautiful. It just needed to be mine. I became what I was meant to be. I built myself a life. I built myself a house.” And that’s how I feel too.
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve taken the time to sit down and write about how things have been going with my house renovation in Florence. If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I share a lot of awkward and sporadic updates over there (it’s where the magic happens), but because of the state of the world and some personal stuff as well, I didn’t feel inspired to write about the house. I’ve been feeling kind of sad and anxious, and when I feel sad and anxious, I start feeling guilty because I think of how lucky I am and all of the things that I have and then I get overwhelmed and before I know it, I’m two glasses deep into a 3 euro bottle of Chianti and singing the Friends theme song to my dog. Also, starting today. Tuscany is officially in a red zone which means we’re back in lockdown and it also means I have a bit of extra time on my hands. So let’s get to it. Grab a cup of coffee and sit down in a cozy spot. This might be a long one.
I don’t even know where to begin. Since my last update, there has been drama with the neighbor, drama with the plumbing, drama with the doors, drama with the garden and just A LOT OF ITALIAN DRAMA. But you already expected that, right? Let’s just get straight to the good stuff.
Both bathrooms are fully renovated and functional!
I don’t know how to express how much I love this bathroom. I’m also kind of impressed with myself that I designed the whole thing. AM I LIKE KIND OF AN INTERIOR DESIGNER NOW? CAUSE I FEEL LIKE I DID A PRETTY GOOD JOB FOR A GIRL WITH A DEGREE IN GRAPHIC DESIGN. The second bathroom is beautiful too and has a gorgeous flowery tile, but I can’t find a picture of it on my phone so it’s just going to have to wait.
Let’s see the before (this was right before the builders told me there was a hidden and unused septic tank under the flooring that was full of water and that the flooring could collapse at any moment. LOVED THAT FOR ME):
The basement is finished
This basement… When I saw the final costs of all of the material and what it took to make this basement a beautiful space, I cried. More than once. More than twice. It was one of the most expensive rooms to fix, but it doesn’t feel scary anymore and it’s SO PERFECT AND BRIGHT. I also have a GORGEOUS HEAT PUMP that I am very passionate about and that also happens to work as a dehumidifier —HOW COOL IS THAT. Remember one year ago when I was writing about scooping up flood water with a headlamp and a bucket? We’ve come a long way, my friends. I’m even equipped with a WATER PUMP in case the basement ever floods again so it can SHOOT OUT ALL OF THE WATER INTO THE STREET AND I DON’T HAVE TO SCOOP IT OUT AT 10PM AS STRANGERS WALK BY AND ASK ME IF I’M OKAY BECAUSE I’M CRYING WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY WEARING A HEAD LAMP.
The bedroom is finished, has a bed, and it’s getting kind of cute!
I got this bed from someone’s Mom’s son’s friend who moved to London and didn’t need his bed in Florence anymore. This is exactly how Italy works and as I’ve said a million times before, knowing people in Italy is really helpful. The bed is orthopedic, it’s fluffy, it’s perfect and I love secondhand furniture. So here’s a little bedroom TASTE because it’s not finished and I’m not ready to share!
The before is VERY ITALIAN, GET READY:
I’m not going to update you on the living room and kitchen because nothing is ready. Yes, there is flooring and the walls are painted, but that’s pretty much it. I change my mind every single day. I don’t know what color kitchen I want. I’ve never been so undecided on anything in my life. It keeps me up at night. I dream about cabinets. I’m looking FOR A KITCHEN CABINET COLOR SIGN FROM THE UNIVERSE. Until then, I will live without a kitchen.
The veranda and backyard haven’t seen much change either. It’s still just a lot of dirt, but I painted the railing last week so it’s looking pretty and polished!
Before you go! If you’re not bored and have made it until here, THANK YOU. I wanted to share a few fights I’ve had with my Italian neighbors recently. I think this might be a culture thing, but I also think it’s kind of funny because I am so bad at fighting.
HOME RENOVATION: FIGHT LIKE AN ITALIAN
Last month, there was a very big argument with the neighbors who sold the house to me and live next door. It was about a ladder. Here’s what happened. The neighbors who sold the house left an old ladder hanging around the backyard pictured above. The ladder was broken. My builder said it was broken and even asked the neighbor if he could get rid of it because he couldn’t have a broken ladder on his building site. It’s dangerous and someone could get hurt. She said okay. Then, 3 months later, she asked about the ladder. He said she had told him that he could throw it away. She said her builder said the ladder wasn’t actually broken. Then her daughter’s (maybe he was 18?) boyfriend who happened to be there starting yelling at us and saying that we had to pay for the ladder. CAN YOU PICTURE THIS RIDICULOUS SCENE WITH ABOUT 8 DIFFERENT PEOPLE YELLING ABOUT A LADDER? My heart was beating OUTSIDE OF MY CHEST BECAUSE OF A LADDER. Anyway, everyone ended up cooling down, but DID YOU KNOW THAT THIS IS THE KIND OF HEATED ARGUMENT THAT CAN GO DOWN BECAUSE OF A BROKEN LADDER? BECAUSE I DIDN’T. I am not a fan of confrontation and this kind of confrontation happens all the time in Italy. And I might be the only one who considers what happened a HUGE FIGHT, but still. I’M CANADIAN, THIS IS CULTURE SHOCK.
But wait, I need to share ANOTHER neighbor fight that happened. My upstairs neighbor—who once called me at lunch to yell at me at the top of her lungs about dust in the stairway— accused my builders of breaking our shared front door by shutting it too hard. The front door is probably 30 years old and it wasn’t closing properly because the wood had expanded from the rain and was rubbing the floor. She yelled about it because I think she thinks that yelling at me and bullying me is the way to make me do things. I didn’t end up fixing it for a month because I didn’t think it was fair for me to pay for it. Then she rang my bell one Saturday and was like “UM, I WANT TO KNOW WHEN YOU’RE GOING TO FIX THE DOOR.” And a discussion followed. I ended up yelling at her for the first time and saying “LISTEN I’LL PAY FOR THE DOOR BUT YOU CAN’T DO THIS EVERY TIME THERE IS A PROBLEM.” And I hate that I did this because I always think of Michelle Obama and her “WHEN THEY GO LOW, WE GO HIGH” quote BUT MICHELLE HAS NEVER HAD NEIGHBORS LIKE THIS. I’M SORRY FOR DISAPPOINTING YOU, MICHELLE. But honestly, it helped. She shut up for a about 46 seconds and then came back down to complain about the roof on my veranda.
Anyway, as Francesca and I were trying to fix the shared front door with sand paper and sweat a few days later, something beautiful happened. An angel appeared. This guy, out of nowhere and in the rain, came up to us and said “I CAN’T WATCH YOU DO THAT. LET ME HELP YOU, I’M WORKING RIGHT NEXT DOOR, IT’LL TAKE ME 5 MINUTES.” So this angel Niccolò stopped was he was doing and fixed the door for us. He didn’t want any money for it. He just wanted to help two struggling women who were trying to fix a door without the proper tools. We left him a few coffees at the bar next door, but after all of the fighting and really unfriendly people I had been dealing with, he was the reminder I needed. There are still good people out there. And let this also be a reminder to you that we all need to be more like Niccolò—especially now.
I hope you have a wonderful day. I still have no idea what I’m doing. If you feel like you want to do something, but have no idea what you’re doing, I think you should do it anyway.
And remember to be a little more like Niccolò. xx
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram to keep up with my house updates!
17 thoughts on “My House in Florence | Home Renovation Update”
Nice job that you are doing…
So you haven’t used any designer/architect? Where did you find the workers (and how much$)?
We are about to move in our house in a couple of months and we have some ideas of improvement to be done, but I haven’t started to look how to handle the project.
Ciao Nicolas! I had an architect who followed the project because I took down walls so I had to have one!! But as far as the design, I did it all myself because I had a really clear idea of what I wanted. Worker costs vary so much depending on cities and towns, so it can be hard to estimate. But good luck on your future home renovation project!!
Following the process of the house acquisition to be finalised in 43 days (I can’t wait all this period to be over), we had a first quotation from the architect…. and as you wrote in one of your articles, it’s going to be over budget.
Actually, you might confirm some of my thoughts:
– your architect is also the geometria?
– Ours he is going to apply for the Scia (eur1600) and other safety stuff (eur1000). The project consists in pulling down 1 wall (eur1000 of genie civil), coordinating the works such as complete painting, simple interior design (that I decided myself) and other air conditioning for a 180 Sqm apartment (eur1500), he is asking a total of 6000eur. Does it make sense for you such amount?
Were you able to negotiate at this stage?
He could do the work in 1 month (no plumbing nor electrical works)… let’s see.
Then will come the actual work which is estimated at 25.000 so far… this will be an other discussion.
My geometra was only a geometra and then I had an architect who signed all the docs and confirmed I could knock down the walls! They can give you general estimates, but things always come up and the number can sometimes be higher… It’s hard to say, prices are different based on location and workers and the job… I trusted my workers and didn’t negotiate much to be honest!
Wow! Great job
Damn! That looks great! I mean it’s not Walter Conti-great but very very close!
Lolll I’ll never reach that kind of greatness, but THANK YOU!!
You are doing an amazing job! Keep up the good attitude. 🙂 ❤
Thank you!! 💗The attitude is up and down, but I try my best!!
I CAN’T believe it’s been a year since the flood! Wow! Time really does fly! I’m way beyond proud of you and all the challenges that you have met! It’s really inspiring and hearing about Niccoló on Instagram, actually brought me to tears.
Kindness bring kindness!
So excited to see the finished house…I can already see the finish line!
Thank you so so much, Sheryl! Niccolò was exactly what we needed. Felt like a little sign from the universe to keep going. Grazie!
I am in the middle to search of my very own property. At one hand you will have great stories to tell share with others and laugh about, but on the other hand so much nerves… this makes me double think what to do hahah
ahahha maybe if you find a house in the countryside, you can avoid a lot of my problems! Add a lawyer and you’ll be golden! 🌟
This was hilarious!! I’m Italian, 33 years old, and went through a renovation process just about two years ago… It was scary for me, a joung woman dealing with male workers, suppliers, plumbers ecc… I just can’t imagine for you not being Italian! I feel you!!
By the way, I live in Corona and no, Frances Mayes did not tell the truth about the joy of renovating in Italy! Thank you for sharing this, you are doing a great job!!
Lolll thank you so much, Serena!! Then you know what it’s REALLY like!! :)Take care xx