Every couple of days our Geometra, A, comes up to us, grinning from ear to ear. “Ho un’idea!” he says excitedly. We listen to this idea of his, and it’s normally a very good idea, but then inevitably have to utter the two words he’s dreading… “Quanto costa?” How much does it cost? His face drops and he hangs his head. He must have known it was coming but it still feels a bit like kicking a puppy. He just looks so disappointed in us.
It shouldn’t be like this, and I really wish it wasn’t. At the risk of sounding like one of Kevin McCloud’s monologues at the end of Grand Designs, it should be all about honesty, authenticity and doing what’s right for the building, money shouldn’t come into it… but sadly that isn’t the reality of renovating. Or it’s not our reality anyway. Much as we’d love to just say ‘Si’ to everything, we can’t. Money matters.
Every decision has to go first through a cost-benefit analysis, and then a do-we-have-to-do-it-now-or-can-we-do-it-in-a-few-years-time-when-we-can-better-afford-it analysis.
Anything structural gets the nod straight away. We went to town on the new roof, floors have been strengthened and beams replaced wherever the engineer advised. And the dreaded back wall got fixed straight away. Damp-proofing and insulation were also prioritised, and we’ve got ourselves some nice new windows on the way.
If something adds character that usually gets the go-ahead too. A large part of the house had its heart ripped out in the early 90s by the previous owner, with brick vaulted ceilings plastered over, stone walls covered up and cheap bathrooms and lighting put in. We’re slowly reinstating the rustic, despite various suppliers occasionally trying to convince us otherwise (it turns out that even the most enlightened Italians occasionally have a problem with character… a metal garage door that looks like plastic that looks like aged wood anyone?).
And then there is the grey area… stuff that would be good, but we don’t necessarily need right now. Rooms that we could make slightly bigger, a ventilation system that would improve the air quality, hardwood flooring, sound-proofing, wireless thermostats, custom-made doors and high-end lighting. Where do you draw the line?
We’re almost certainly making a few mistakes, when you’re making four or five decisions a day the chances are they’re not all going to be correct, but hopefully by spending big on structure and character we’ll at least have set ourselves up to be able to make smaller changes in years to come without too much difficulty. Regrets? I’m sure we’ll have a few, I think that’s unavoidable, but hopefully they won’t be too big or unsolvable.
In the meantime, I’ve set up a Just Giving page so that you can all make contributions, we just can’t keep breaking poor A’s heart. Please go to: justgiving.com/IvegotsomuchmoneyIdontknowwhattodowithitsoImgoingtogiveittoanincrediblyunworthycauseandatleastmakethegeometraabithappier