Plan A

Anyone who has ever moved will agree: moving sucks.  At 44 I kept thinking, I’m too old for this shit. And then I remembered my favorite aunt. She has moved something like seventeen times, probably more but who’s counting? – upgrading, downgrading, building up, tearing down, gutting, bingeing, purging…you name it; the woman has done it all and always on her own save for borrowed braun of friends.  She bid adieu to each house leaving it better than it had been handed to her and us scratching our heads as to why she would wittingly give up the sweat equity for the next diamond in the rough.  So with her on the forefront of my mind, I am slowly unpacking us into the current and hopefully last rental knowing that I still have one final move to make once the new build is finished.

After getting through our first bout of arguments related to design, husband and I reached what felt like a good compromise on the house plans.   We prioritized our ‘must IMG_20170704_201955540_HDRhaves’, drew out an initial set of plans on scratch paper, transferred them to Autodesk and then converted them into a CAD drawing to show our architect.

Our rendering is a 4br/3ba contemporary open-plan concept; its footprint resembling a U shape that opens to the backyard. We plan on using two 45’ high cube containers and five-40’ high cube containers which, combined with the open space afforded by the center portion of the U, will give us a little less than 3500ft of interior living space.

Here’s a peek at our initial sketch and its corresponding breakdown:


GROUND FLOOR (Left side of U)

Small office at front of house

Mudroom/Laundry w/entrance to side yard

Half bathroom -maybe 3/4 (still debating)


Open plan kitchen w/serving window to outdoor patio & grilling area

GROUND FLOOR (Center of U)

Great room

GROUND FLOOR (Right side of U)

Guest room w/bathroom at front of house

Master suite w/entrance to backyard

house plan labeled


SECOND FLOOR (Left side of U)

Girls’ bedroom

Jack-n-Jill bathroom

Boys’ bedroom

SECOND FLOOR (Bottom piece of U)

Breezeway with sitting/reading area

SECOND FLOOR (Right side of U)

Kids hang-out/game room loft area

house plan 2 labeled


The only two deal breakers for me involve the bedrooms.  First off, the master has got to be on the ground floor.  The kids are now old enough that I don’t feel the need to have them next door and with the current state of my knees due to all the marathon training, stairs will not be an option for me in the not so distant future.  Second, closets.  Did you know that Spanish homes don’t typically have closets? Who was the genius that thought up this obvious design flaw? Brilliant.  Just brilliant.  I’d like to have some serious words with this individual.

One of the more unique aspects of the design is our plan to use the longer 45’ containers up on the second story. We have done this purposefully in order to create a roof over the outdoor patio/grilling area.  Doing so gives us just shy of 200ft worth of coverage, not huge but enough to get the job done.

There is no second set of containers above the right side ground floor of the U.  So how can we get the kids loft space without any containers on that second story? The plan here is to use I-beams and pitch the roof.  By pitching the roof to span the great room and loft spaces we can maximize the benefit of solar panels.   As for the roofing over the left side of the U (kids bedrooms), we are tentatively planning on a green roof, using succulents native to Granada.

I was initially worried about the architect’s interpretation of the above information but he actually seemed to have a pretty good handle on it. He’s currently drafting a plan to show the interior dimensions of the project.  Upon finishing and getting our approval, he will then present the plan to the local government to get permitting in order.  I have no idea how long this process will take but just knowing that it took us almost a full year to purchase and close on our land, licensing on our car is still ‘in process’ eight months after the fact and we’re going on a month with still no internet hook-up, I sigh and mumble, ‘Typically Spanish’ which I’m thinking may have been a better name for this blog.




Had it not been for the internet and HGTV, I would have never even known that shipping containers were an option for homebuilding.  My husband, wrist deep in chopped tomatoes, laughed and then quickly took cover in the kitchen when I announced my discovery. “No, seriously, we could build a house out of shipping containers! It’s not like you don’t have the contacts…”

My continued pleas to ‘just take a look’ fell upon deaf ears until months later when we found ourselves at a birthday party in the sierra. The party was held at an outdoor adventure park.  As the kids ran through the obstacle courses and clipped in and out of the maze of ziplines, the adults sipped coffee inside the park’s cafe/restaurant.   It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for an outdoor party and staying true to form throughout the course of Spanish group banter, I did what I always do: I zoned out. Too many voices arguing to make the same point, clanging cutlery as competing background noise and the always present football/soccer game blaring from the back corner of every bar leads to a headache for me so I almost always tune out for a while, this time appreciating the amazing views (see actual photo below) of the Cordoban sierra from within the bar area.

blog 4

I remember thinking how cool it would be to live in a house with such big windows (minus the fingerprints) and amazing views. You don’t get this kind of build from tract housing in suburban Des Moines, I thought. I leaned back deeper into my chair and waited for a break in the conversation. Nice floor, hardwood.  Generous French doors, especially for a Spanish construction. Wonder how they decided on the L shape?  Seems tight for restaurant seating. And then, out of nowhere, it hit me.

“Dude, we’re in a container!” I slapped my husband on the forearm.


“A container.  This is a SHIPPING CONTAINER.”

“No we’re not. No it’s not. You’re losing it.”

“Yes we are. Look, there’s the seam where the two containers meet.”

Annoyed (it was Real Madrid playing afterall), my husband rose from his chair, walked over to the seam, then over to the far wall where he stopped dead in his tracks and just stared at the wall.  Eventually, he wandered out the door and I neither saw nor heard from him throughout the rest of the birthday party. We were indeed inside of a shipping container that had been finished into a restaurant. And unbeknownst to me, he was in awe.

It should have come to no surprise then when weeks later he announced the building plans for our adjoining lots in Granada. “Guys, I’m done with the plans for the house! It’s gonna be eight 40’s double stacked. Come check it out, you’re gonna love it!”

Huh? Eight what? What’s a 40? Someone, Google translate!

He announced it as if he himself were Edison, lightbulb in hand, “We’re going to use shipping containers, like the ones I showed you up at that restaurant in the sierra! Remember? Alejandro’s birthday party?”

Whatchu tawkin’ ’bout Willis?!Sales-Cargo-Worthy-Container-Ship

So much for me being crazy. He was onboard alright, though come to think of it perhaps a little too much because now I was on the edge of scared and terrified.  Shipping containers? Seriously? What have I gotten us into?  I’m way past forty yet the scrolling banner of, my parents are going to kill me just wouldn’t slow. Before I could offer up any type of rebuttal to his newly found stroke of genius, he was firing off his list of pros, available on any website near you. And that readers is my free advice for the century: no need to argue with your spouse, just get them to think that they thought of it first. But be careful what you’re going for because this strategy works every time.

That was roughly a year ago.  I’m over the shock and awe of the husband’s construction epiphany and ready to get my hands dirty. The kids are still young enough that there probably won’t be too much lingering emotional damage once all is said and done.  Then again, this being Spain, we very well may still be building the danged thing ten years from now.


07/03/2017 = Meet with the architect & view first draft of plans

07/05/2017 = Move the kids & dog to Granada

Wish me luck!