You may or may not know that I am half Hungarian and that Doug and I own a small studio apartment in Budapest. We bought it partly as an investment and partly to have a home there, which we really enjoy.
We have owned it for 10 years now and it is a little run down, so we considered selling it, as my dream is a little place in France where we could drive to.
Then Lockdown happened and we cannot sell it and the idea of driving around France looking for a wee bolthole is just not realistic at the moment.
So we are doing it up, remotely, during Lockdown – yep – you heard that right: on top of all the stress and uncertainty of Covid19 we are undertaking a major renovation in Budapest… No wonder I had a dizzy spell the other night.
We have a wonderful agent out there, Andrew Dorrian of QED Property, a brilliant communicator and an experienced property manager, but still… Doug and I are an unhelpful mixture of quite control freaky and not particularly organised, I am afraid, so that is quite stressful for Andrew.
I thought I would write a series of blog posts about our journey, partly because I thought you might be interested: it is fun owning a holiday home abroad and partly to help me organise my thoughts.
So far, we have gutted the place. We are removing a wall between the tiny kitchen, above, which was open to the hallway and the cramped bathroom behind it, creating a much more spacious shower room, with a door from the hall.
We are then bringing the kitchen into the living room, against the back wall, below, adjacent to all the plumbing for the bathroom.
A brilliant idea, I know. I cannot take full credit though, a friend did this in a studio in London – a really nice result, designed by her architect husband Gus Wustemann and I remembered it.
So far, so good, but the first hiccup occurred this week. We had planned to salvage and renovate the beautiful parquet flooring, depicted above, but then Andrew let me know that on closer inspection, it was too damaged to be worth it.
OK, well I failed to mention this to Douglas though or ask Andrew what the alternative plan was. I was suffering from ‘Lockdown brain’, I am afraid. It was all just a bit much: we are pivoting our business – you may have noticed, our online presence has increased hugely; our son was graduating and is looking for a job; our daughter is half way through her studies, which were very rudely interrupted and I am just generally worrying about this pandemic and our family’s future. It then suddenly occurred to me that the builder was planning to put down cheap laminate instead.
I asked him over the phone with Doug listening in and we realised that the beautiful, solid parquet flooring was in a skip and that Andrew was uncertain what the alternative plan was. Well, we discovered that it WAS the dreaded laminate. Zoli, the builder, for the same cost as salvaging the existing parquet, was planning to simply buy and lay some new laminate.
I know that to some people, this would be fine, however, this was not acceptable to us. So Andrew and Zoli managed to find some similar parquet, in much better condition, on the Budapest equivalent of Gumtree. They are buying it on Monday, storing it and will lay it at the original, agreed, cost of salvaging and renovating what was there, plus an extra cost of approximately £300 to us for buying this newer parquet.
Zoli then went on to lift the floor boards: there they are, above, leaning against the wall, leaving the ash, see below, which acts as soundproofing, I understand, between floors.
He is planning to apply a concrete screed and then an insulating material, onto which he will lay the parquet. I am absolutely puzzled as to how he will apply a concrete screed to this dusty layer of ash… but apparently this is a standard process in Budapest.
Douglas is less worried than me, he says he thinks it is a concrete building as opposed to the traditional timber frame structure that I am familiar with and that it will be fine.
Lost is the only word! But I will let you know what happens!!