8 – Design and Build a Villa

Design and Build a Villa

So we bought 2000 m2 of land with indeterminate borders and wanted to build an 165 m2 villa on it plus a pool. The first step was determining what we wanted inside the villa and then to decided the layout. The first step was relatively simple; 3 bedrooms, one en-suite, a lounge, a dining room a kitchen, a guest bathroom, a utility room and a large undercover terrace. Out came the graph paper and as we were staying in a hotel with 30 cm square tiles on the floor we could see the size of the room by using these tiles to mark out its area.

We had been told that it would cost about �300 per m2 and our villa budget was �50,000 so changing the size of the villa was out of the question. We quickly discovered that we would have to sacrifice either one of the rooms or reduce their size if we were to stay in budget. Then we had a brilliant idea, a dual use room. We decided that the dining room was to have a sliding door and a put-you-up settee which would enable it to be converted into a 3rd bedroom. Later we decided to call this south facing room the winter lounge as it would be a warmer room to sit in during the colder months. The idea was great but was spoilt by us putting the fireplace in the adjoining lounge which became a combined lounge-kitchen-diner.

The lounge then stretched from the front to the back of the house so that the constant sea breeze could cool the house. Added to this, by positioning the pool between the sea and the house, the breeze would be additionally cooled as is the common practice for Moroccan houses. We had two small windows set into the side of the front door to help this process. It is also worth noting that our front door is at the back of the villa, and faces the mountains in the south.

At the back of the house facing the sea we placed an 8 meter by 2 meter covered terrace which ended up being the main place we sit during the summer. One of the problems we had was positioning the pool. Ideally we wanted the pool in front of the terrace but thought there might be difficulties fitting all this into the narrow strip of land our site had become. We barely managed it but by narrowing the villa it was possible.

We then set the builder to work digging out the foundations. It is magic watching a drawing turned into reality. Concrete was poured and the outline of the villa appeared. We walked around the rooms and they appeared so tiny I had to measure them to find out that they were exactly right. Very quickly the foundations turned into walls and a roof materialised from nowhere. We received a phone call one day while we were in the UK saying the ground where the pool was to be was solid rock and the pool would have to be raised two meters. It would cost �2500 extra but we would end up with a huge terrace. The builder said that we would see what he meant when we visited.

We arrived and saw what he meant. He had already built the pool and the shuttering was up ready to concrete the terrace. We had no choice in the matter! We admitted that we liked the idea of not having to walk down two meters of steps every time we wanted to swim. We also liked the reduced risk to our four grandchildren. Our total budget was �66,000 plus another �6000 as a contingency plan which we never revealed to the builder. The costs were �48,000 for the villa, �10,000 for bringing electricity and water a few kilometres down the hill and �8000 for the 8×4 meter overflow pool.

A �2500 overspend did not seem too much to pay but then we realised that one of the problems with raising the pool 2 meters is that now we needed railings around the terrace to prevent tipsy party guests dropping off. The drawback of having a 110 m2 terrace was the �2000 cost of 40 meters of railings, bringing us �4500 over budget.

Before long fittings and fixtures began to appear, and then electricity. We did not realise at the time how miraculous this was until we heard of the length of time other people had to wait. Not only did we have electricity but our�s was not the expensive temporary kind that some people became stuck with for many months. It was then we discovered that we had neglected to add air conditioning to the contract, but as this was only �250 extra. Then we decided to have black granite worktops, another �450 extra. This brought us �5200 over budget.

We moved into the villa April 2004, a year after the building started. We ordered four tankers of water, 48 tonnes, and filled the 40 tonne pool, the balance tank and the water depot. The pool temperature was initially that of the well the water was extracted from but soon it climbed to 190C and we swam in it because it was there. It was cold but after a few minutes swimming it was bearable.

We had a visit from one of our neighbours and discovered our hardstand and access were owned by them and realised that our contingency plan would probably be breached in order to gain official access, but our villa was ready and a dream had been achieved, even if the never reached perfection had not.

Water appeared in September and plans for the first garden were made for October so our piece of land and plans had turned into a home. We looked back 2� years to when we had rushed around our plot, scratching our legs, wondering whether we would ever be able to transform it into a home. We knew there would be ups and downs but not as extreme as the black periods we had experienced when we said we would sell our building site, buy a camper van and go wandering through Spain in search of a completed house.  Seated on our terrace overlooking the Mediterranean we now knew it was all worth it.