Thursday, May 30, 2013

APARTMENTS IN CUENCA - Our "Before and After" remodel of our tiny Ecuadorian Flat!

To Move AGAIN or NOT to MOVE!!!!!
After moving into Apartment #5 on April 1st, having consistent hot water was not happening!  It was the first thing we asked our landlord when we were considering the apartment, and he assured us that "Yes, of course, there's hot water."  Well, just because it came out of the faucet hot when he did his demo, didn't mean it would last for a shower, or that it would be consistent throughout the day.  So, here we were again - thinking about our next place.  I wasn't happy!

Bo is fine with taking military showers, but one of my joys is taking looooong HOT showers every day.  When we were living in our Motor Coach for a year, I got accustomed to the RV lifestyle, and taking military showers was one of my sacrifices.  Well, I'm not in an RV now, and I want my HOT showers.  I also want hot water for our dishes.  Wah, Wah, Wah.  It now was decision time as we paid for our second month's rent May 1st, still considering a recent offer made to us to rent a house near Parque De La Madre.  After renting to an Ecuadorian family with lots of children for five years who destroyed their home, the owners wanted to rent to a responsible couple with no kids or pets.  We seemed to fit that requirement for them.  So, we went and looked at the house and told the owners if they were able to clean it up and fix some major damage done by the previous renters, we would take it.

We continued to talk to our current landlord about the hot water issue, and he assured us he was looking into it.  Knowing this was not an apartment issue but a building issue, our hope for this being rectified without some major expense on his part gave us two options - live with it or move!  The thought of moving again made us both weary.  Our apartment was becoming "home" and we had already put some time, money, and remodel effort into this place.  We didn't want to move AGAIN, but a two-story house?  Leaving my beautiful house of 40 years in Oregon had left a void in me.  I missed having a house.  This house offer was calling me.  We decided we would go and see it again after they cleaned it up and fixed the previous renter damage (I'm talking major cleanup and repair here).

In the meantime, we continued to fix up our apartment.  Bo reminded me when I asked him if I should put up curtains and continue the remodel since we might move again, "Bloom where your planted!"  This is where we were planted for today.  To live one day at a time means live in that day and make the most of it.  Live in it as if it's your last.  MAKE IT GRAND.  I was also reminding myself that this apartment had truly "WOW"ed us when we first saw it.  It had such potential for my decorator touch, it was in the perfect location of El Centro for us, and the monthly rent was too good to be true.  These were the major reasons for staying here.  Could I adjust to the intermittent hot water issue???

We began to have friends over for meals.  They would tell us how fabulous our little flat was.  I continued to decorate.  Bo and I found fun art for our walls.  We love art!  One of our major decisions in our spending was to do it as inexpensively as possible.  We were frequent shoppers at the Rotary Market for our furniture pieces.  We continued to put lots of love into our little place, and now it was decision time.  In a week, we would go and inspect the house that they were cleaning up for us and then let them know our final decision.

Unexpectedly, we ended up leaving for Peru for a couple days prior to seeing the house we were considering.  During our three days out of country, our landlord had beautiful wooden cabinets installed in our tiny Ecuadorian kitchen.  When we returned from our quick trip and walked into our place, we were once again WOWed.  It was a major transformation and it made our humble place even sweeter.  I put away all of our kitchen accoutrements and it felt even more like home now.  House or Apartment?  Now I'm torn.  Curtains are up, kitchen is remodeled, painting is completed, furniture is finished.  To leave or not to leave?

We went to see the house the next day.  Our decision became final.  Was I disappointed?  A bit, but had it not been for our landlord's generosity with that lovely kitchen remodel, I'm not sure what we would have done.  It sealed the deal for us.  The house was not up to our standards, though they had been working on it for a month.  So much damage had been done by their previous renters of five years, and yet they just cobbled together a cleanup and repair job that I personally would have been embarrassed to show as the final touch to anyone.  We couldn't even go into the bathrooms because of the strong unpleasant odors permeating from them.  These were things that weren't going to go away, and the work we would have had to put into this house to get it to our standard of cleanliness and living was more than we wanted to tackle or pay out of pocket.  It's a rental!  We both knew immediately that we would stay in our cozy, clean, easy-to-care-for small Ecuadorian apartment.  It had become home in less than two months because we made it our home and our Landlord had once again come through.

We've learned to make every decision here by the peace we sense about it.  We've learned to trust our instinct, to watch for those red flags that begin to wave in our faces.  We've made some decision errors since arriving in Cuenca, but they've taught us that "when in doubt, DON'T" and if we're already in a bad decision, GET OUT OF IT QUICKLY!  Being in the house did not give us a peace.  Being in our apartment gives us peace.  I quickly made a decision that I would learn to live with the hot water issue and take military showers if need be.  I would wait for hot water to do my dishes.  It was the only con.  Everything else was a pro.  So here we'll be, joyfully and thankfully.  We came home from the house viewing and walked into our colorful place and smiled.  It truly has become and continues to become home more and more each day!

Our Ecuadorian Flat - The Before and After!

The day we saw this apartment we were WOWed by the windows, the brightness, the openness and spacious feel of this place.  I had a vision!  To be creative, inventive, and frugal has always been my way to decorate and transform a place.  It's my passion!
Our place is still a work in progress.  It now has warm colors, fun and funky curtains, comfortable Ecuadorian furniture (a rare find in Cuenca unless you have it custom-made -which we didn't), and some colorful art on the walls. 

UPDATE:  Over time, we've added beautiful plants, art, furniture pieces.  It's even cozier than before!

Having a nice kitchen is major for us.  We both LOVE to cook and entertain.  Could I live with this sparse Ecuadorian-style kitchen?  There were no cabinets, drawers, shelves, appliances, or overhead stove light-fan.  Again, I had a vision.  The paint cans were lined up and we were ready to get rid of these boring white walls and turn this into a "Bo and Linda Kitchen!"
It takes a bit of money to furnish a place from scratch.  Our four other apartments were already furnished and equipped.  Since we came here with only our clothes - we needed everything:  appliances (this ugly outdated stove didn't even work and was hauled away), furniture, dishes, pots, pans, beds, closets (no closets in this flat), etc.  We had to buy it all.  And we have and continue to - very frugally, but with thought, lots of searching, and with taste.  A place that would finally be our style and our stuff, not someone else's.  
We told our landlord that the ugly aluminum window in the kitchen had to go.  Here, Bo is helping Juan and his Maestro haul the window away.  The kitchen is painted, but what a mess.  There's no place to put anything except to pile it underneath the counters.  PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE!  I kept hoping that one day I would have cabinets, a light and fan over my stove, and my kitchen would be comfortable and classy.  Then, one day Juan offered to pay for and install the cabinets and fan unit.  He sent his carpenter over to measure and talk to me about what I would like....

My sweet kitchen today!  The window opening is framed with a nice shelf over the sink, cabinets are in, and we have a fan and light over our little stove.  My "Bo and Linda Kitchen" dream came true!

They make very wide openings for larger stoves in most places here, so we want to have some shelves made for the sides of our tiny stove unit and hope to create a bit more counterspace above.  For now, this is fine.  What a difference from that UGLY yellow stove they hauled away.  

Update:  Side cabinet by stove was made to order!  
Now we have more counter area and it looks quite lovely, don't you think?

Update!  More cabinets were built to order, and it has given us such a sense of organization and  much needed storage in this tiny Ecuadorian flat.

So many windows and what to do?  I had about 4 different drapery experts come in during the first month to measure and give me quotes on custom-made drapes.  After hearing a range from $675 to $1,800 to do all the windows in the dining/living area, I decided to get creative and frugally do it myself.  For $40, we hired someone to put up the rods (which cost another $20).  I then bought fabric and a needle and thread (I don't have my sewing machine here), and I hand-sewed the curtains myself.  Curtain Fabric Cost: $110.  YES!  Now that's what I'm talkin' about.....
Funky Fun Living Room Curtains - sheer, so the light comes in, yet our "vecinos" cannot see us.  In the daytime we slide them open and enjoy our fabulous view of the city.  (Art work above sofa still needs a wall home.  We're looking for something extra large and colorful to go on the red wall.)

Update:  It takes time to get a place just the way we want it!

We bought our unfinished dining room table and chairs at the Rotary Market near 9 de Octubre Mercado.  The painting and artistic touch had begun......
We could have left it unfinished and just thrown a table cloth over it.........
.....But after painting, lacquering, and covering the chairs, and staining and laquering the table, we like it much better!  Total cost for our finished dining set:  $115.  Yes!!
We priced bar stool for our island at furniture stores, and the least expensive we found were $60 each.  We got ours from the Rotary Market .  Total Cost for 4:  $24!  We still have to trim the legs down and lacquer them, then I'll pad and fabric cover the tops.  For now, they are painted and they work......

Ecuadorian Apartments do not have light fixtures, just bare bulbs hanging from the ceilings.  We didn't want to spend a lot on fixtures and we found these fun hand-made light covers from an artist at the 12 de Abril Art Festival for $5 each.  Since we had 11 overhead bulbs to deal with, this price was perfect.  Cost:  $55.

 Update:  We had to replace our table because it was too small for our dinner parties and English Lessons.  We also replaced the chairs because they were not comfortable for hours around the table.  

Update:  We designed this hutch from a photo we found on-line - and a talented carpenter made it to perfection.  The bottom of the hutch was a dilapidated cabinet that friends were going to have hauled away from their storage area.  I saw it, had a vision, my friends said, "take it" - and this is what graces our dining area now.  

Now we have a comfortable dining area with more storage for our art, photos, dishes, and linens.
Below, you can see the difference!  Our hallway entrance is now warm and inviting!

Update:  Photos and plants add more to the entrance.

Hallway Entrance - before I sponged over the wall....

After:  Left wall side is sponged!

The littlest Bathroom - Before!!  (I'm blinded by the white walls!!)

 Bathroom - After!  Bo built me an over-the-toilet triple cabinet with extended shelving over the    sink. We also had custom-made cabinets for under the pedestal sink on both sides.  We added our lovely towels and delicious bath smells and this is it! 

    Update:  We decided to change the guest room (sold the bedroom furniture) and made it into a TV room.  We enjoy our movie nights.

  One thing I like about this apartment is that the it is open and the rooms are large.  Bo, painting away the white walls in the master bedroom.

We have a master bedroom room large enough for a KING bed.  We also bought a triple length wardrobe (for all my clothes) which we put up against the hall-way window to block out light and sound.  It is truly our cave-bedroom - and with two white-noise units on each table, we can't hear ANYTHING!  It makes for a good night's sleep.

My girl-cave - where I spend most of my hours enjoying my art, photography, and reading.

Not one wall left in our apartment is white - and that makes me happy!

We hope you've enjoyed the "Before and After" tour and recent updates of our Ecuadorian Flat.  

I'm not afraid of color!!!!  Are you??


  1. Linda, I love your apartment. What wonders you have wrought!!! And I look forward to each of your fascinating blogs!

    1. Thank you, Shadley,
      So glad you love our apartment touches - I'm happy we're staying and it's feeling more and more like "home." I always look forward to your comments.
      Thanks for all your continued support and cheers!
      Come visit!!

  2. Yes, Yes, YES!!!! It is your home for sure....I love the new additions. The kitchen is amazing and know the added pieces beside the stove will be welcomed when they come. Your curtains are the perfect touch. I know who I'll be asking for decorating advice....now to find the perfect place for us next summer! Miss ya!!!

    1. Hey you two,
      Next Summer? I thought you two were coming back in December?
      So glad you got to see the before in person, and now some of the after.
      By the time you return, we should be even more settled in.
      Hurry back and I'll help you decorate your perfect place!
      Miss you too.

    2. [giggle] But December is YOUR summer....

  3. I have been reading each piece of your journey since the beginning. When I read the title this week, I thought OOH NO WHAT NOW. [ reading on } I'm ok now. Love the way your place is turning out.. Wife and I are going to be in Cuenca in July. It really helps to see what we have to look forward to.

    1. Welcome to our Blog, Larry!
      It's fun meeting our readers, and we hope you will contact us when you're here in July so we can meet. Yes, we're happy with our decision to stay in our little city flat. We're making it work, and to think about moving again made us weary. Are you coming to stay or visit? Look forward to hearing from you both.
      Linda and Bo

  4. Good Morning Linda. We are looking for a place to retire to in a couple of years, and Cuenca is on our short list. I have read so much about Ecuador, I just must see it. Larry

  5. Hi Larry,
    Yes, come see Cuenca! It is a beautiful historic city, with much to see and do. The Ecuadorians are beautiful and loving people.
    Let us know if you'd like to meet and we would be happy to show you around El Centro.

  6. Great pictures! I love color too! About the hot water situation, on Guam and in Thailand I used to have tankless, instant hot water devices. I guess you could call them inline. Paloma makes them and there might be a few other alternatives by now. You might not have to rely on your landlord to fix the problem in the building. Maybe you can get your own endless supply of hot water with one of these contraptions. Good luck!

    1. Hi Bob (and Cathy),
      So good to hear from you - and appreciate your feedback on our hot water issue.
      We will research the Paloma device you are talking about. How wonderful if your suggestion would fix our "con" problem to this apartment. Other than having only one SMALL bathroom and our hot water issue, we really love our apartment and what it's becoming - HOME! Stay in touch and let us know when you plan to visit us.

    2. I knew there was something familiar about your apartment! We have the same exact color scheme in our home, kind of like adobe and goldenrod. And talk about color, we also added a couple of shades of green in an adjacent room. And LOTS of art!


  7. Hi Bo and Linda!

    My partner and I retired to Costa Rica last year from California. We really have enjoyed Costa Rica and living in the jungle but are now ready to spend some time in a colonial city. Becuase of your blog and the great things we have heard about Cuenca, we traveled to Ecuador and arrived in Cuenca on Saturday and are already in love! I can see now why you guys are so happy. Love, love your apartment, so glad you choose to stay! Thanks again for taking the time to share your experiences of your move and the gorgeous photos.

    Wishing you much happiness!

    Jamie and Bill

    1. Hi Jaimie and Bill,
      Welcome to our Blog - and WOW, you're here! So, when do we get to meet you?
      Thank you for the compliments about our apartment. Today, we finished painting Bo's office. It keeps getting better and we continued to love our little Ecuadorian Flat.
      Let us know if you want to meet and we'll make it happen.
      Glad our Blog has been helpful and that you are now "in love" with Cuenca.
      Looking forward to hearing from you.
      Bo and Linda

  8. Yes, I was going to suggest looking into one or two on-demand water heaters. If the electric supply will support them, and there's access to the hot water supply to the shower and/or kitchen. This could make you independent of the building's problems.

    If you don't have access to the water lines near the shower, there are also small-tank-size electric water heaters that are designed to go in the overhead ceiling space in offices with suspended ceilings. These might be used to supply the entire apartment. And my parents, 30 years ago, had a small one that fit under a kitchen counter. These were maybe 25 gallons, so they'd definitely work for the kitchen, and for the shower unless looooong means REALLY loooong.

    1. Thank you for your suggestions. We continue to research the feedback we're receiving, and we hope there will be some resolution to our hot water issue - but even if not, we'll make this home for awhile. Again, thanks.

  9. Hi Bo and Linda (again!)

    We would love to get together, perhaps for a coffee at your favorite place - if you guys have the time. I know how focused and busy you can get while working on projects. Tomorrow (Tuesday) is our last day in town. Is there any time that would work for you guys?? Email me at jacross10@hotmail.com.

    If not, we definitely will make a plan to get together on our next trip to your lovely city (and give you much more notice!!).

    Our best!

    Jamie and Bill

    1. Hi Jaimie,
      I will e-mail you and we'll make a plan.
      Looking forward....

  10. OMG, I can't believe what you did with that place! You have so much vision!
    Congratulations on a finding that great diamond in the rough and turning it into a gem!

    1. Beautifully said, Katherine!
      Thank you. It's important to have "vision" when finding one's home in Ecuador.
      We are at peace in our little humble Ecuadorian flat, and we're glad we made the decision to continue on here. Our life is truly simplified and less is more for us here. You'll see....

  11. You are a woman after my own heart Linda! I so love what you've done with the place and I especially admire your DIY spirit. I have built and finished furniture before and it was a blast. I love the curtains you made-----that is something else I have done in the past and I look forward to it again when I settle in down there.
    I sure won't miss the Willamette Valley. It's soo cold and wet here right now.
    I can hardly wait to arrive in Cuenca.

    1. Okay Kiangagirl,
      What is your name, and where in the Willamette Valley do you live? Bo and I are here in Eugene-Springfield until Jan 29th - and it is FREEZING! When will you come to Cuenca?
      Thank you for enjoying our before/after photos - we LOVE our apartment and simplified CUENCA life and do NOT miss Oregon anymore. WooHoo! Cuenca is bliss!
      We must meet.

  12. Don't know if you got my comment, this is a new and very cheap computer! Jim and I (Jayne) live near Salem Or and are considering moving to Equador. We would be sincerely thrilled to contact you regarding this via email, phone or fb. Our website is: www.GrapeLanePoultryFarm.org and www.OreCat.org Thanks kindly and hope to hear from you!! Jayne

    1. Welcome to our Blog, Jim and Jayne!
      I always love hearing from Oregonians who are contemplating a move to beautiful Ecuador. Sorry for the late response, but Blogger did not notify me of your comment. I just found it! I enjoyed viewing your websites and seeing your beautiful photography. I will be in touch with you via your e-mail. Until then, keep on reading our Blog and hoping you find it informative for your possible future move.


Leave us your comments and I will respond with any questions you may have. Enjoy our Blog! Linda (y Bo)