welcome to emmas housethought

the grand opening of the hallway


Since I’ve just spent 6 months holed up in a four-square-metre passage, I think you all owe me 6 minutes to read all about it in its painstaking detail.

Oh yes this blog has arrived at help-me-pick-my-tiles and let-me-talk-you-through-the-completely-boring-minutiae-of-my-DIY-renovation-fix-up-dream-home wank.

Excellent! Let’s go!


First, I’ll disappoint the reader by saying it’s actually not finished yet. That’s right, because DIY Dream Home House Project Fantasies never are. I was saving a bit of the budget for a big fat shiny new digital TV, me being news deprived for four years now, but dang world events! the hallway comes first! Useful ikea cupboard instead. Haven’t bought it yet so here’s some dodgy photoshop work. Time to phone in with your votes!


The Floor. Fabulous darlings isn’t it? This floor was first laid by our dear woofers, with flagstones found under the cement floor in a lean-to which houses the stone oven. But then we ripped it up again because the grading wasn’t right and laid it anew and in doing so stuffed up the entrance to the bathroom, and now The One can’t fit through the door without using his hands and knees. Yay.


Just so you know everything, beneath the floor is some hideous blue board and a chunky layer of limecrete with maltesers. Oh and probably a damp proof course. It was so long ago I can’t remember. Anyway, after being laid the floor subsequently endured splashes of cement render, lime render, limewash, plaster, paint, cat vomit, a smashed jar of pesto and a whole lot of dirty doggy footprints. So last week I spent three days and two bottles of ácido muriático (which doesn’t sound nearly as bad as hydrochloric acid) scrubbing it all off.


Also during those wire brush days I cleaned up this nice bit above the door which got roughed up when Penfold replaced the roof, last year sometime. So it’s been re-pointed in lime and the stone faces revealed using the Michelle Obama / Linda Hamilton arm workout video. While high on hydro gases I cleaned the timber with acid too and made the new pointing all dirty. The One didn’t know this was actually a mistake, and he complimented this accidental aging patina effect. And he’s right, it’s bloody lovely.


The Walls. I quite realise that six months seems a rather long time to spend on 4m2 (extrapolated this means the house will take another 5 years to finish) but there were these problems with the walls not being straight. This wall on the right is a brick wall I built myself, leaving me mystified why one face can be perfectly flush and the other not. Some time in the early months of year were dedicated to cement rendering both sides, the top bit being a bit fiddly as it been broken down and re-mortared a few times in the pursuit of electricity. I love rendering almost as much as plastering, although it does something weird to your brain. So fixated you become on smoothness that even one tiny rumple possesses me to do another coat. It’s not a job that manic perfectionists should be doing. It’s a bit like crack. Almost as soon as you’ve downed your tools you get the urge for more.

The entranceway needed radical rendering. It’s the doorway to the oldest part of the house, built in rough stone, a bit settled and as wavy as praia das rocas. It wasn’t working well for my obsessive compulsive need for straight lines and geometry. But after four weeks and 17 coats of lime render she’s lovely. Not sharp, but vertical and with all the nougat-ness that lime brings. Limewash over lime render looks dense and soft. I love it.


The entrance also needed a step so I knocked that up with leftover floorboards. Something went wrong with our new floor. We decided on oiling it with linseed but it never sealed properly and now we have a very dirty floor, which going by the 4:6 formula it will take three weeks to clean. So we’ve decided to stain and varnish it. Controversial, certainly, but one dog two cats building site practical. And this is the colour. No, there’s nothing to vote on here. Don’t phone in. It’s done.


The other wall wasn’t a big deal. So in between blogging, feeding the people, putting out the washing and taking pictures of cake I put up a timber frame, insulation and plasterboard and then plastered my way to bliss.

Picked up a dandy shoe cupboard from the Swedes and knocked that up in world record time, another thing I totally love. These days budget ikea may be as disposable as ever but the middle class stuff is superb. It fits, it works and in outback Portugal no one has seen it before.

The ceiling had been put up last year but still needed several weeks of plastering sanding painting filling sanding and painting. Bloody ceilings, we should just dispense with them altogether. Only where would the possums live, possums?


Bathroom door. The magnificent bathroom door has been covered in earlier publications but I still had to frame it up and hang the bitch. Never have I had so much agony as I have hanging every door and window in this house. It’s primarily the fault of the age of the doors and not being perfectly straight but I swear there is something wrong with the hinges I’m buying. Finally, after umpteen minor adjustments she swings and shuts. Mao just can’t get enough of it. He cries to be let in and then cries to be let out. I think he thinks there’s a very handsome burmese on the other side.


And finally, the front door. This was the original internal door from the hall to the living area. Fortunately protected from the elements and the neighbour’s pissing dog, it’s heavy and straight and not too eaten by woodworm. While sanding through layers of paint, including an insane turquoise, I found something written on the door in pencil. The words were illegible but the markings were obviously that of child’s height.

Old houses are so like people, don’t you think? So full of surprises.


  1. matt s July 21, 2012 10:39 am Reply

    congrats, looks very welcoming !

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  2. Mary July 21, 2012 12:00 pm Reply

    Could I see a photo of the child’s markings?

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: July 22nd, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Thank you for asking, Mary. NO. It goes like this: power tool, goggles, mask, hat a lot of dust. You see the first mark and you think it’s a scratch, sand it away. 2 mins later another mark (scratch) and it’s gone etc… by the time you see the words and realise that there’s a picture there… it’s too late. Like World’s Worst Toilets, you only realise there’s a photo essay in it after you’ve seen the first five and then after that there’s nothing as good, or bad, in that example.

    [Reply to comment]

  3. Ella July 21, 2012 3:58 pm Reply

    All looks beautiful! If the useful cupboard goes in the hallway, how will you reach the meter box etc??

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: July 22nd, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    excellent question, ella. The back of the cupboard would be removed, so that the meters would live inside the cupboard…hey hey… and to anyone thinking about the regulations – no it’s not illegal to have them inside because it’s a renovation not a project.

    [Reply to comment]

  4. cecelle July 21, 2012 5:44 pm Reply
  5. Natalie July 21, 2012 5:44 pm Reply

    Greatly enjoy your blog. Hope you are well away from the forest fires and keep at it!
    Best Regards

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  6. Rochelle July 21, 2012 7:38 pm Reply

    I’m loving that flooring! And the arch above the door. You make me want to save up to buy a house (there is a lovely place near by that would take me 5,000 years to fix up by myself, but it would be magnificent when done).

    I can’t wait to see what you get done next 😀

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  7. catherine July 22, 2012 6:08 am Reply

    Looks fab, love the floor, have a rest and some cake now! 😉

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: July 22nd, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    excellent advice

    [Reply to comment]

  8. Sheila Sim July 23, 2012 5:11 pm Reply

    Excellent work, Emma! I am really impressed 🙂

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: July 26th, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    thanks sheila

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  9. Tessa July 24, 2012 10:37 pm Reply

    I love the wooden step – I cant help but see Ian’s influence from the lovely steps in Surry Hills where he just turned them over and rebuilt the staircase – remember. Can we have more photos please – how about one of those corny webcam tour things with a commentary from you with asides from The One? I am loving my own idea already. Show us more house please! Tessa

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: July 26th, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    ian is the guru, man 😉

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  10. Nuvea July 26, 2012 9:54 am Reply

    It’s coming along great! I agree with an earlier comment: time to celebrate with cake!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: July 26th, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    thanks Nuvea …. mmmm I think I will!

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  11. Vern July 26, 2012 1:29 pm Reply

    I expect that now you are an expert house renovator you will soon launch yourself into renovating houses all over Portugal.
    I have renovated many houses in Australia and well understand the frustration that is experienced when you knock down a wall, especially, when it’s a hessian plastered wall.
    I admire you for your persistence and stamina in this wonderful project, as renovating in Portugal must be nightmare when you attempt to purchase the building blocks of the house.
    Portuguese houses are so different with completely different codes of building practices.
    What are the internet speeds and TV reception like in Portugal?

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: July 26th, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Hi Vern – it’s interesting what you take for granted: cement fibre board, flashing, good quality putties… not being able to get these things is partly to do with my outback location, but sometimes it’s also those pesky construction cultural differences 😉
    Oh and please dont say “internet speed” – we have a whole 1MB, sometimes. Daily calls to PT. Infuriating. I think TV would be ok now it’s digital but it was shockingly bad when I had a tele 5 years ago.

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  12. Lisa August 24, 2012 5:13 pm Reply

    Dear Emma
    It may be a mere 4m square, but what an inviting entry. What did you seal the flagstones with to repel zoological and other stains etc? This stone is very typical of your area, isn’t it? Doesn’t matter if it takes another 5 years to finish the house because the pleasure’s in the planning, not necessarily in the execution. I’ve had that planning pleasure for my little piece of Tuscany in ruins in Mosteiro de Fraguas nigh on 11 years now. Your progress has spurred me on to …. buy some more country house renovation magazines today. Truly Emma, a great job!
    Um abraço

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  13. Gabriel September 12, 2012 5:38 pm Reply

    Just one little comment,

    In case you don’t know it, these little curtains, when hand made and in good condition are becoming very valuable.

    This kind of embroidery is practically extinct. People who still do it don’t even know how to find the genuine material anymore.

    Many old houses (and there are thousands in hundreds of half abandoned villages in Portugal) are being violated in order to get stuff like this. Most of the time, they just stay put in the windows, getting yellow and rotting for decades until they are worthless.

    You could get an insignificant value for them from any antiquarian (some roam the old villages looking for old artefacts and fabrics – very wanted in many markets) but, their real value, if you take in account that it’s a lost art form that marked Portuguese feminine housing culture for decades – centuries, is a lot bigger.

    [Reply to comment]

  14. Jackie September 26, 2012 6:07 pm Reply

    Did you go for that IKEA cupboard in the hall? Is it metal? Didn’t look right to me… couldn’t you get a wooden one made around the metres instead? Otherwise looking good!


    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: September 29th, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Timber has its place but it’s not in my hallway 😉

    [Reply to comment]


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