What Every Bathroom Needs (apart from the obvious)

Bored? Current state of global affairs got you down?  Tired of not making it out of Target for under fifty bucks?  Allow me to distract you with an invitation to witness my creative bipolarism with a revisit to the kids’ bathroom design. Oh, you missed my streak of genius and cunning economic wizardry? No problem, you can help yourself out by clicking here.

Okay, so what’s my current dilemma with said bathroom design?  Well, it appears that I overlooked a key element: THE LAUNDRY CHUTE.  How this happened I have no idea but thank you, 3AM Insomnia and white washed childhood memories for the not-so-gentle reminder. It was the early 80’s; I wanted to be Olivia Newton John in both Grease and Xanadu, leg warmers were what all the it girls had (except me) and we had just moved into our cool new yellow Colonial on Piping Rock Road.  In one change of address life had gone from pretty good to great. As proof of this, the house’s main selling feature: a laundry chute. To this day I’m convinced it was what pushed my mother over rom the edge of indecision.  It had to be. That, or the street name. Piping Rock. What is Piping Rock? And just what was the city planner who decided to throw that name into the pot smoking before the big street name meeting?  Alas, I digress… Anyway, it (the laundry chute) was a small, square, oak door built into the wall of my brother’s room, just above the baseboard trim.  That one little door was all the affirmation I needed to know that we had indeed ‘arrived’.  By my eight year old standards, we were rich.  Nobody I knew had such a thing.  My God, what a glorious invention.  Dirty clothes?  Goodbye!  Don’t feel like that PB&J that Mom packed for lunch? Sayonara Sucka’! And let me just go out on a limb and say that you may never comprehend the simultaneous shiver of uncertain fear peppered with absolute satisfaction that comes from hearing the muffled cries of your youngest brother who has become wedged somewhere between the first and second stories of the house.  For that alone, I pity you.

So the Pinterest diving began anew.  Proper planning (this is where form/function keeps me up for the next 3 months) pretty much assures the righting of my current'Aww how sweet, you've arranged your dirty underwear on the floor to spell out 'I love you'.' laundry ‘situation’.  However, knowing the forces (ages 12, 10, 8, 6 and 49) working against me towards this endeavor a likely scenario it is not but hey, can’t blame a girl for trying, right?

Almost straight out of the gate I found the coolest of the cool. Thank you, Pinterest! I’m not very discerning those first few thousand hours on the site. It’s akin to going grocery shopping while hungry.

Without kids.

On a payday.

After a really good run.

I’ll take that!  And that! And that! Oh yes, please, don’t mind if I do!

And hell yes, some of THAT too!

It isn’t pretty, people, is it?  But I own it.

My first score was this little gem. How hard can it be to find a spare porthole lying around?  This is Spain for crying out loud, port of departure for Christopher Columbus himself.  laundry chuteAnd what kid would not fight to the death to be the first one to open that hatch for bombs away? Ne’er a dirty sock nor inside-out pair of pants to be ‘forgotten’ again! I was sold for oh, about 35 seconds, time enough to save it to my board and then instantly bemoan the fact that my stroke of genius does not come without some obvious and potentially serious pitfalls including but not limited to:

  • pinched &/or broken appendages
  • finger/toe prints everywhere
  • the occasional dare for the boys to drop drawers, open hatch and well, you know…

So, yeah. While pretty cool this clearly was not going to work towards making my life easier. And before you comment, I do not consider children down the chute a pitfall necessarily, more maybe a rite of passage (see above circa 1982).  Besides, I know my monsters well.  A week tops before the novelty wears off and my porthole to cleaner living gets buried under three feet of dirty soccer uniforms. Never to be seen again.

I moved my sights up the wall.  Considerably further up. Thinking back to the family mansion on Piping Rock Road, I was left scratching my head as to why the previous owner had placed the chute in a bedroom as opposed to the bathroom until I realized that my brother’s bedroom was directly above the laundry room and placing the chute in the upstairs bathroom would have meant laundry deposit directly onto the kitchen laundry chute winnerisland (note to self: alignment). Additionally, I realized that I  would have to hunt for a design big enough to fit a wad of towels but small enough to NOT fit/force a human.  Oh, and placement would have to be ABOVE waist level because, well, boys.

This is the design that I’ve settled on.  I love it because it met the newly invented prerequisites and I can marry it to the coolest kids’ shower in the universe. There’s obvious tweaking to be done (slightly smaller door and at least 6-12 inches higher up) but for now, I think this is it.  And as a bonus, I get towel and toiletries storage though probably the inverse of this photo in hopes of the impossible: kidproofing.

Apologies for the trip down Memory Lane.  I’d like to hear your thoughts on this amendment to the plan.  And since dimentia appears near, what else have I forgotten?











Form or Function? A Tale of Bathroom Design.

cartoon messy houseI don’t know about you, but I have not yet realized the dream of living amongst people who bring their sweaty sports clothes down to the laundry room instead of shoving them behind the bedroom door or under their dressers, who know that making a bed involves fluffy pillows and nurse’s corners and not a pile of bed sheets twisted up into a ball at the foot of their mattress and who, when called out on the half eaten whatever wherever are man enough to own it as opposed to calling out the invisible fifth offspring known affectionately as “Not Me.”

And so as we prepare to meet up with the architect to go over the initial rendering, I have but one request, build the house around them: The Children.  I have adjusted my wants vs. needs list and concluded that not only do the needs far outweigh the wants but even better, they should come in at about half the estimated construction cost.


  • KITCHEN: open plan with walk-in pantry and XL island
  • MUDROOM: laundry area with locker storage & bench seating for 6
  • KIDS’ LOFT: open plan with mountain views


  • KITCHEN: open plan with serving window to outdoor bar/seating area for anyone under 21 years of age or with more than two legs. Walk in pantry will be fitted with wi-fi, a wine fridge and locking system from the inside as it will double as my personal safe room.
  • MUDROOM: interior garden hose hookup and floor drainage for optimal washing of the dog & the kids
  • KIDS’ LOFT: padded & sound proofed, windows optional

I’m big into function over form.  Is that wrong? I’m totally outnumbered here so I’ll admit that self-preservation is high up on my list – obviously. Take for example the bathroom that I’ve been obsessing about for the past three years.  It is the ONLY possible answer for a familia numerosa as they refer to us here.dream bath kids

What is not to love about this Machiavellian work of art? Do you not see that there is no shower door to clean? Look again! Behold, the doorway to Narnia.  The wall is recessed far enough back that you don’t need the fancy door begging soap scum removal every thirty-five seconds.  And what about that raised lip on the entry? Slow down, young buck.  Did you think you were going to RUN into or out of this one of a kind showering alcove?  Think again, and let the water drops fall where they may.  Floor drainage of course will be paramount and may God strike me dead if they ever think to plug the drain with a washcloth for that small lake effect.  This is my plan for the kids’ jack-n-jill bathroom.  And it all revolves around this shower to which we will add a second shower head at the opposite end.  Why shower 4 kids kids bathone at a time when you can throw the girls in together (phase 1) then the boys in together (phase 2) and be done in half the time? It’s the junior high PE concept of hygiene: group showers.  I reminded the husband of the timed shower spigot, which let’s face it, the savings that thing would net us from 4 kids pooping out on pumping that thing for hot water would mean that the bathroom would pay for itself within the first six months. Genius, I’m telling you, GENIUS! Why is this not standard in all houses with kids whose idea of bathing is standing under the shower head and draining the entire household of its hot water supply while never once thinking to grab the soap and lather up? To my surprise the husband thought my idea cruel and unusual (as in punishment) but given the fact that we haven’t yet broken ground, there’s still plenty of time for me to make my case.

So before I forget, does anyone have a source for timed shower spigots in southern Spain?








Resurrection. (3/3)

The last time I wrote anything construcion related was, well, never.  Why? Because we still haven’t broken ground.  A year of adjusting to our new digs in Granada and plans haven’t budged.  Not even an inch.  As proof of this, my family no longer asks how the build is coming along.  It’s now, “Any new developments with locking in an architect?”  To which I throw my head back, open my mouth wide and let out a maniacal cackle and a snarky, “Yeah, right!” to chase it.

Things in Spain, as if I haven’t reminded the world 10,000 times over, move slowly. And let me tell you what I mean by slowly; Have you ever stopped to watch a flower bloom?siesta

In the winter?

Under a foot of snow?

At night?

While you’re recovering from cataract surgery?

On both eyes?

Yeah, it’s THAT kind of slow.  Last month we committed to a local architect. We were to go in and sign off on the contract in blood, husband’s, not mine when the car decided we weren’t paying enough attention to it and broke down. So we rescheduled.

Then husband left the country to go sell 57 billion square meters of tile. So we rescheduled.

Then kid #1 fell of a mountain and landed in the hospital. So we rescheduled.

Then I left the country to go run a marathon through a Nor’easter. So we rescheduled.

Then our architect left town to go celebrate a Saturday that lasted until Tuesday because everybody knows that Saturdays are sneaky like that. So we rescheduled.

Then the husband left the country again to go sell another 57 billion square meters of tile. So we rescheduled.

And finally, FINALLY I drew my line in the sand: either get the project started or I sell the kids on eBay, give the dog to the gypsies down the road and run away with the panadero. Alas, sweet victory.  Contract signed.

Which leads me to the theme of this post – resurrection.  Not only has the building project begun anew, but so too has this blog. No sooner did I realize, hey, you can start writing again! than I began getting notifications that people were actually reading and (gasp!) following this train wreck in the making.  That sparked a quick panic attack, I mean this is serious business.  I have 7 fans who are waiting with bated breath for my next word as to which sized containers we’re going with, which ventilated facade we’re going to use and how many, if any container doors we’re going to leave exposed. And let’s not forget about my future guest spots on HGTV and guest columns in Dwell magazine.  Oy vey.

If the past year is any indication, let me assure you, that you and I are in for quite a ride.













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!