Saturday, December 8, 2012

I'm Moving!

Yep, it's true.  As much as I love my adorable studio apartment, I've found a casita (little house) that is half the rent and I just can't pass it up!

I wish I had more photos and better ones than I currently have but you'll have a good idea of the "before" and then I'll show you the "after" as I have work done on it.

I think I may have taken the worst photos of this place that I've taken in a very long time.  My only excuse is that I was just snapping them because (a) I was intruding on the current tenant and (b) they were originally just intended for my own use to get a physical look at the space when I was doing my planning.

One of the things I love about my casita--it has a lovely courtyard paved with stones--the flat ones, though, not the round ones you see in the rural roads.  I'll have pictures at some point and then you'll see what I mean.

I saw the little ad for my casita in one of Jack's emails and contacted Steve right away.  Steve is a gringo who rents the casita from the owner and then sublets it at a profit.  Steve's the one who furnished it so I'm guessing he gets just enough income from it to make the management of it worthwhile.  Anyway, we had a bit of a rocky beginning.  He felt that since I had asked questions about it, then told him I didn't think I was interested, then wrote back the following day saying I thought I'd like to see it after all, that I, as he put it, was "confused and don't seem to know what you want."  It was hard to argue with that but I asked nicely and he let me see it.  There was one other person interested but I think I convinced him I was the right tenant by telling him I planned on doing some improvements that would allow him to increase the rent if I ever move out.  Right now that's not in my plans but you just never know. I thought I would probably be in this apartment "forever" too.

I did some measuring and it turns out it's a hair under 300 square feet (yes, that's correct--300).  There's a living room/kitchen combo, a reasonably-sized bedroom, and a fairly small bathroom.  Even though it's tiny it has pretty much everything it needs.  Right now it has a very inadequate kitchen but I can fix that.  It desperately needs some cupboard space and I know someone who can help make that happen.  The stove is just a four burner stove top with no oven and the refrigerator is fairly small with the freezer inside the refrigerator door, so it's also very small and won't keep things frozen all that well.  

The stove top is sitting on top of the table on the most visible wall. It needs to be extended and have doors put on.  Maybe the doors aren't all that important on this piece but we'll see how things go.

So, now you've seen every bit of storage in the kitchen.  One other thing to notice here is the roof.  I love the little beams but they do draw your eye to the ceiling which is also the exterior roof.  This is fiberglass rather than metal so I'll still hear the pitter patter of rain but it won't be annoyingly loud.  Since the weather here is consistent all year, having an insulated roof isn't all that important.  It will be warmer in the summer than my current apartment but there are the windows and door to let air circulate and I'm thinking that if it's still a bit warm, I can always get a fan, right?

Let's see, what else?  Oh, did I say it has great potential?  I hope you can see how cute it can look with just a little work.  As I said, the kitchen needs cabinets--that's a beginning.  Also, the gas canister for the kitchen is inside and I'd really rather have it outdoors (it's in the corner, under the counter, just to the right of the stove top).  I think I can have someone drill a hole through the house and set it up outside.  I even have a plan to have a little wooden cabinet made for it with a padlock on it so people can't just walk off with the canister.  

The living room needs help. The first photo in the post shows the straight-on view from the kitchen.  This one is from the viewpoint of the other end of the room.  I like this one because it shows the placement of the bedroom and front doors, the little wood screen outside the front and the beginning of the kitchen to put things in perspective.  As you saw in the first photo, there's a tiny table with two chairs that's really probably fine for eating.  There's also a loveseat with no arms and cushions so flimsy I might as well be sitting on the wood beneath them.  That's all the furniture in there.  Not a single table or lamp to be found.  I'm thinking I might want to have an extension made to the loveseat and get new cushions to make it more comfortable.  The extension would actually be a chair with one arm that I would attach to one end of the loveseat and it would then give me a support to lean up against when I put my legs up on the couch.  I think that would work well.  Then get a drawer made for underneath both the sofa and chair, get a coffee table with either shelves or drawers (or one of each), and maybe even a little end table--also with storage in it, and I'll be in business.  

I'd like to have a little desk but that will be down the road.  Right now I have the little table that's in there and I bought one of those plastic tables back when I thought I'd be renting something unfurnished so I can either use that in the living room or put it in the bedroom.  There's actually room for it in there but that's not exactly where I would want to have my computer.

The back of the little house is taller than the front so you can see I have great wall space in the bedroom and the back wall of the living room.  This little shelf is the only furniture in the bedroom other than the wardrobe and I think it will fit next to the bed which would free up that entire wall.

The wardrobe has a hanging space that I hope to have shelves put in there because there's plenty of hanger space just to the left of it. You can see there's a curtain behind the door and the window behind it opens so there will be plenty of air circulation.

My apologies to Rob for not waiting to get a photo of the bed and loft before he folded up the blanket.  Speaking of the loft, isn't that adorable?  My plan is to hang a decorative blanket or something over the rail and use that space for storage.  There isn't anything for those items I currently have tucked away in my little storage area in my current apartment.

The rent on all this loveliness is $160/month and internet is an additional $20.  I'm pretty darned happy with that.  It doesn't include cable but I don't watch enough television for that to matter and as soon as I get my computer up and running (it's going to happen, really it is) I can watch TV on there if I want--not everything, of course, but anything that the stations in the States have available which is great plenty.  Now that I have my VPN I can watch TV in the US and Canada just by setting the ISP to show my computer in those countries.

What else?  OH! I almost forgot the most interesting little quirk about it.  As you're walking up to the house, the bathroom door is outside before you get to the front door. (When you look at the above photo, it's to the left.  I know--not exactly normal but this is Ecuador and not everything that is normal here is normal in the States).  I have a couple of thoughts about it but first, there is a roof over the whole entry area so I will never be dashing between raindrops on my way to the bathroom.  Secondly, I was with a new friend of mine when I went to see it and she suggested I might want to consider putting a screened wall/door thing across the area that is currently open to the outside.  It's hard to explain but it would work.  I just need to find a handyman who can do it and not charge a fortune.  It's only about six feet across so it wouldn't take much to screen it in.  I'm definitely going to investigate that possibility.  

OK, back to the reason I think the bathroom is really OK to have just the way it is.  First of all, I wear jammies so going outside during the night is no problem.  The property is extremely secure and other than the woman who hangs laundry back there (she lives in one of the apartments at the front of the property), I'm the only one back there.  Then there's the whole issue of the plumbing here not being fabulous.  They haven't quite figured out the whole concept of "P" traps in the bathroom drains so there is pretty much a direct line from the toilet/sink/shower to the sewer line.  While it isn't always a problem, it can smell kind of bad some of the time.  I've experienced that even in this brand new apartment I have so I'm fairly certain I will experience it in the casita. Having the door outside the main apartment will keep those smells from infiltrating the house and running me out.  I know people who have had to tape over the floor drain and put little bowls over the sink and shower drains to keep the smell from being too awful to even bear.  I won't have that problem--hurray!

Oh, I didn't do much to describe the property in general and I failed to take exterior shots.  First of all, on many properties here there is a main house and a casita.  The casita was for the caretakers.  Generally it would be a couple and the man would be the handyman and gardener and the woman would clean and cook.  As time has gone by, fewer people have caretakers and now hire the work done by the day.  Also, many of the houses have either been torn down and replaced with apartments, condos, tiendas (little stores) with living quarters above, or other uses.  That's what happened here.  There is a new four-story building at the front of the lot.  There's an internet cafe on the main floor that is owned by the man who owns the whole property.  He has the apartment on the second floor and the third and fourth floor apartments are rented out.  There's a huge courtyard between that and the back of the property and that's where the casita is.  The courtyard is paved with stone and there are little green areas with trees, plants, and grass.  

Lots here are generally very narrow and buildings are usually built from "wall to wall" of the walls that surround the land.  That is the case for me.  My casita is not only at the back of the property, it's the back wall and part of the side walls.  The building in front also has the side walls as the sides of the first floor of the building so the only access to the courtyard is through a hallway with doors at both ends.  Lots here are very narrow and deep so I'm a long way from the front building.  Also, there's a huge avocado tree in the yard next door and an enormous branch hangs over my courtyard so I'll still have avocados that will volunteer themselves--just not as many.  That also gives me some privacy from the people in the front of the lot as well.

There you are, my cute casita as it is today.  I can have occupancy on the 20th of December which is lovely because I have plenty of time to move out before my rent is up in my apartment.  I'll pay my rent on the 20th of each month which I find a little unusual but I suspect I can get used to it just fine.

I'll keep you posted on the progress and get some pictures of the exterior so you can see how adorable that is.


  1. Hi Cynthia,

    Congratulations on the new Casita. I knew from an earlier posting you were looking. I hope Barb and I get to see it one day and also to meet you.

    Our target date to arrive in Cotacachi is still Jan. 5th, barring any problems with our Visa application when we meet with the Attorney on the 4th.

    This is crunch week for us as Barb wants to spend the last week or so at her Dad's house. We have a meeting with the Realtor Monday to talk about renting out our house - I feel bad it has not sold.

    In late Dec. we're having our own small family get together at a resort in Wisconsin Dells, then on the 1st our son takes us to their place just inside Illinois. We'll take a bus from Rockford into O'Hare to the International terminal on the 2nd. Our first leg of our flight leaves O'hare about 2:30 AM! But we are to arrive in Quito during daylight. Hope no major winter storms to delay flights.

    Well you take care and if we don't connect before we arrive - Happy Holidays.

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. You and Barb will definitely get to see my casita soon! Wow! January 5th is just around the corner.

      How lovely that you get to have such a lovely time with your family before you come down here.

  2. Hi, Cynthia! I'm so excited that you can see the potential in your little casita! But after reading your blog, I've come to expect that of you.

    Years ago I was looking for an old house to restore and my oldest daughter, then a teenager, finally said, "If you say the word 'potential' one more time, I think I'm gonna die!" LOL

    Not everyone can see a house for what it can be instead of what it is, and you obviously have that talent. It took me a long time (and a real estate career) to reaiize that not everyone has that talent. I'd love to see what you've done with the place. But we won't be there until May, so you have plenty of time.

    Enjoy the busy days ahead, but don't forget us, your loyal readers!

    All the best,
    Jan and Larry Myers, Dallas, TX
    (How surprised was I when I signed up and our daughter's name - Rachel Ann Carr - showed up. Rachel was killed two years ago, so it tickles my heart to see her name! I hope you don't mind that I don't change it.)

    1. Hi, Jan and Larry--

      I'm so glad you "get" the potential thing. I used to get so annoyed with people on those home decorating shows who would walk into a house and say things like, "Oh, I really don't like the color of these walls." Good grief--a can of paint will take care of that. Anyway, yes, I love potential and I think this one has more than usual.

      How could I possibly forget my loyal readers? You are, indeed, one of the high points in my life--right next to the loyal readers who get to come here either to live or to vacation that I get to spend time with in person. I'm looking forward to when we can do that.

      As for having plenty of time--uh, I'm probably the slowest decorator in the world. I've been known to live in a place for two years without so much as hanging a picture. This place won't be like that, though. I already have so many ideas. It's going to be great. I'm looking forward to being able to show it to you.

      Wow! I had no idea you weren't Rachel and I think it's lovely that you leave it with her name on it. What a special thing for you.


  3. Congrats, my friend, on finding your little "nest" perfect for such a fledgling bird as yourself. I have absolutely no doubt that with your crafty style and ways, and your brilliant eye for detail and for making the mundane both cozy and practical, that you will have your new abode molded to your desires and your taste in no time at all. I have to admit that when I saw the 300 feet as the total living space, I did shudder inside as I remember living in 400 square feet and how it almost drove me mad, but then I am much more attached to my books and having them surround me with their comforting warmth and soothing presence so that a tiny space sets me all atremble. But that is the beauty of life, isn't it--that what may not suit one suits another to a tee. And you are much more out and about than I am, tending, as I do, to sequester myself behind my door and nesting in my recliner as I do, my books all around me on the shelves and on the floor, my documentaries at the ready on the telly (what, am I a Brit now!? lol), and Claire molded and leaden on my arm. I admire your adaptability--to go from the large space you had up here to a smaller and now an even smaller space down there, and loving it all. Whereas you seem to thrive on change and newness, I find that all very daunting and scary, although I continue to push myself, always, to expand the what-would-otherwise-be smaller and smaller boundaries of my life.
    I have made a couple of new friends, real women I can be myself with and really share deeply with and with much humor, especially my friend Theresa, who has done professional stand-up comedy, etc. Both are liberals (of course) and share my values and ethics. They can and never will replace you, of course, but they are more than I ever thought I would have again after knowing you and never expecting I could find anything near that kind of connection again. That's the bad part of having your fantasies come true--when that comes to an end, it is devastating and tends to lead to a long and painful recovery period.
    I've been quite silent of late, I know--and as you probably remember, this holiday period is a very painful time for me--plus there is some shit going down at work that is really preying upon me and making me a nervous wreck. I have found myself starting to pick again, which I want to nip in the bud if I can.
    Well, I just realized how public this is, so will close for now. I am so happy for you Cynthia, that your dreams are coming true (all thanks to your persistance and onward and forward attitude and actions, not just lip service) and that life is giving you exactly what you so richly deserve, my friend.

    You are always with me in mind, soul, and heart,
    Big hugs and great vibes,

    1. Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. I must admit that I find myself surprised by my willingness to live in such a tiny space but it really does seem to suit me for some reason. Of course I plan to have more cupboards, several shelving units, and other little storage nooks and crannies designed specifically for that space so it won't always be quite so austere.

      My greatest joy is that it is a free-standing house far from street noise and such. While I was out and about today I stopped to tell the man who sells plants that I would be coming to see him in a couple of weeks to get plants for my new house. I'm hoping to encourage hummingbirds to come visit me. I've grown extraordinarily fond of them in this place.

      Be well, my friend, and we shall speak soon--