The Doors of Mas Oms

Mas Oms has some very special doors!  Several of them were on the property when I bought it and were ripe for restoring and re-purposing.

I had some professional help with these very chunky wood doors:

bedroom door before

Xevi (my door guy) put them in “the bath” of paint stripping and bug killing goo and then filled in the bigger cracks and holes.

Pre-install, I make some further touch-ups:

bedroom door during

Post install.  Doors from living room to master bedroom.

bedroom door after

Below is one of a set of six matching doors that originally served as bedroom doors.

closet door before

One panel was very twisted.  As I don’t have a steam press at Mas Oms, I improvised a straightening method using wet towels, clamps, and the heat of the summer sun.

closet door during

After straightening, trimming, sanding, prepping, and painting, the doors were ready to screw into their custom frame.  Extra-wide closet in the master bedroom:

closet doors aftercloset doors after open

It was pretty obvious that the quirky door below would never be the prettiest one in the house;

olivo door before

But with some TLC, it is now the entrance to bedroom #1, downstairs:

olivo after

The remaining doors were sourced from Xevi the door guy.  He roams the hinterlands of Catalonia searching for beautiful and/or character-filled old doors.  Many are from Lleida province, where history has been unkind to houses like mine.  Xevi puts the doors in the “bath”, patches up cracks and holes, and makes whatever other adjustments are required to get the doors looking good again.  Below are the doors I bought from Xevi.

The main entry door formerly hung in an Andalusian cortijo:

front door

This beauty is another entry door to the right of the main entry.  The openable panels are called porticones.  We added glass to give the option to open for extra light (but not weather or bugs).

porticones door

Entrance to the family suite:

family suite door

Almost matching doors side by side in the upstairs hallway.  They lead to the powder room and bedroom #6.

hallway doors after

And finally, double doors leading to bedroom #7:

teenage door

Before and After: Bits and Bobs

Sadly, I don’t have a good “before” photo of the loft above the living room.

The photo below shows a small sliver of the loft behind the safety barrier in its original state.  No stairs, no windows, falling plaster:

attic actually before

The pano below shows the attic in progress, with custom windows fitted into the arches and plaster on the walls.

attic during

The pano below is the current state, with a glass window to bedroom and a glass railing overlooking the dining room.

attic after

Mas Oms’ stately façade, before and after:

facade beforefacade after

Olive press dating from the early 20th century.  I moved it into the corner of planter box and polished it with Rustol Owatrol.

pressbeforepress after

The stones from the olive mill (used prior to purchase of the press) and the grain mill (background in “after” photo).

mill stones beforemill stones after

And finally a dry rock staircase heading down from the rear apartment to the patio.  It was tough navigating that hill before adding the steps!

stairs beforestairs after 2stairs after 1

Before and After: Upstairs

Pano shot of the upstairs “diaphanous space” (open plan), before and after:

pano beforepano after


kitchen beforekitchen after

Dining room:

dining beforedining after

Terrace to the right of the above dining room:

terrace 3 beforeterrace after 2terrace 2 duringterrace after

Living room:

lounge beforelounge 2 after

Master bedroom (bedroom #5):

bedroom master 2 beforebedroom master 2 afterbedroom master beforebedroom master after

Master bath, through the door at back of the above photo:

bedroom master bath after

Below is a “during: shot showing the wall framed out between the master bedroom (foreground) and the living room and loft in the background.

attic 3 before

We added laminated (soundproof) glass and very tall curtains. I can close the curtains for privacy or open them for more light and views of the mountain from the living room.

bedroom master glass after

Let’s start moving to the back of the house.

stairwell diagonal beforestairwell diagonal after

I find it’s much easier to move from one floor to another now that I have stairs.

upstairs hall beforeupstairs hallway after

Doorways in the hall:

hallway doors beforehallway doors after

This space . . .

pwd room banyera before

Is now two bathrooms.  The first door down the hall is the powder room:

pwd room after

And the tub bathroom (you’ll see it again below):

pwd banyera after

Second door down the hall takes you to bedroom #6:

bedroom banyera beforebedroom banyera after

This bedroom has a private terrace:

bedroom banyera terrace beforebedroom banyera terrace 2 afterbedroom banyera terrace pano after

And a bathroom with tub:

pwd banyera after

At the end of the hall and up a short flight of stairs, Bedroom #7:

bedroom teen beforebedroom teen afterbedroom teen 2 beforebedroom teen 2 after

With it’s ensuite bathroom:

bedroom teen bath after

Next time we’ll see before and after photos of the exterior and the 3rd-floor loft…

Before and After: Downstairs

The entryway, before and after:

entry beforeentry afterentry open after

The biggest changes here are the new door (recovered from an Andalusian cortijo) and light restoration of the original stone floor.  I reset a few stones that were awkwardly high or angled and filled in the deepest grooves with mortar matching the original.  It’s still quite rough and rustic, but I’m not expecting many visitors in high heels.

The downstairs hallway, during and after:

downstairs hall beforedown halldownstairs hallway after

The first photo is not a pure “before” photo because it shows the steps and concrete levels created by my builder, as well as some electrical conduit.  Originally the floor was dirt and sloped upwards going back.

We’ll move clockwise now around the ground floor.

To the left of the hallway, Bedroom #1 with it’s ensuite bath and closet:

bedroom olive beforebedroom olivo afterbedroom olivo bath afterbedroom olivo bath 2 after

The bedroom window is new.  The small window above the shower is the original window visible in the “before” picture.  The feeding trough is original, its wooden beam heavily treated and varnished, its interior resurfaced with micro cement to match the floor.

The family suite contains bedrooms 2 and 3, a shared closet, shared bath and private lounge room.  Before and after:

family 1 beforefamily 1 afterfamily bath afterfamily 2 afterfamily 3 after

The before photo shows a large and deep animal shed, with the only light coming from a window linking to an exterior room.  The first two after photos show the foreground of this space, converted into a closet and bathroom.  The last two photos show the far end of the space, converted into the “parents’ bedroom.”

family 2 beforefamily 5 after

The above photos show the connecting “kids’ bedroom,” before and after.

family 3 beforefamily afterfamily 6 after

And finally, the family suite’s private lounge room, along with the access hallway, which lies to the right of the main hallway (stairwell).

Bedroom #4, the first door on the right from the main hallway:

bedroom tower beforebedroom tower afterbedroom tower bath beforebedroom tower bath afterbedroom tower bath 2 after

The ensuite bath (at the far end of the bedroom) features a double sink made from a watering trough found on the property.  The base is made from original roof beams.

Future posts will show before and after photos of the upstairs and exterior.

Finished Patio

Another round of apologies for a long absence.  I’ve been up a ladder and/or out in the cold, racing to get the place finished and on the market.

Mas Oms is FOR SALE as of March of this year.  I’m still adding a few “extra” touches, but I consider the project FINISHED.  Below are photos of the “patio” (gated courtyard in front of the main façade) in its current state.

Two general views of the façade:


Two views from the living room windows:


And a view from the balcony off the dining room:


Plantings include lavender, prostrate rosemary, creeping thyme, Mediterranean cypress, plumbago, jasmine and bougainvillea.  Below is a long row of year-old lavender getting ready to open its blooms:


In the planter boxes I placed the farm’s 19th century iron olive press and its original millstones, now in pieces.


And finally a couple of “before” pictures for posterity’s sake:


The final touches I have planned for the patio are more landscaping around the mill stones and a coat of anti-rust oil for the gates and the olive press.  Hope to get this done before the summer heat arrives!

The pool!

This project has stretched out over an unusually long period.  I kicked off the planning in January 2017, with June 1 as the date of completion.  But I failed to get it in writing. Perhaps I have been worn down by the prevailing Mediterranean cazh attitude.  Perhaps I thought it would be impossible for a pool to take more than 6 months to build.  But it dragged on right through the summer.

The architect sharpened his pencils and got to work on a plan that, as usual, incorporated my ideas but refined and improved them.

PISCINA MAS OMS - Piscina -04.05.2017 PROPO MOD 2.jpg

That’s a lot of deck and initially I was skeptical.  But as I see the final product, I think it’s a great use of space.  Previously, I had a long and skinny weed patch outside and lower than the walled patio in front of the house.  Now I have a large, useable space only 2 steps down from patio level.  With a pool!

Sadly, actual construction did not get underway until the full ripeness of spring, 2017.  The first step was to pour the foundation–we are building up rather than digging down, because the pool zone needs to come up to meet the level of the patio zone.


The builders set a brick frame on these foundations to create a tub for the pool and supporting walls for the deck.  The deck consists of concrete beams laid across the walls, filled in with brick slabs and then topped with a 5cm layer of fresh concrete.


We switch over to the pool builders now, who filled in the brick tub with rebar and gunite, a sticky concrete sprayed at high velocity.


Inspiration board:


Glass tile (or gresite) is considered an entry-level construction material for pools in Spain.  But for me these tiles are exotic and blingy–nothing like the traditional plaster in the pools of “mi país.”


When filled with water, the beige gresite with white accents and grout takes on an aquamarine tone.  That is, of course, unless you have a shockingly high iron content in your well water.  In which case, the pool takes on a rich and opaque rust tone:


As Walter White liked to say, all problems can be solved with chemistry.  And so it was that the iron was removed, and my pool became sparkling and inviting.


For ten glorious days in August and September 2017, I had full use and enjoyment of these turquoise waters.  Then fall fell early and more than a pool in se, I had another maintenance responsibility and another set of big bills to sort through.

When the snow melted and the swallows started getting frisky in the spring of 2018, I added the final touches to the pool area.  I added a safety fence in powder-coated black, many square meters of high-end artificial grass, and a pergola for shade during the hottest months, which are right around the corner.


The pool at Mas Oms is officially open for the season.  Won’t you come and take a dip?

Upstairs baths

I have two more upstairs baths ready to plaster!  Both are en-suite bathrooms in upstairs bedrooms.

Below is the first bath I’ve built with a tub, which requires a lot more brick work than I realized.  To start I built a shelf behind the tub and at the back (away from the faucet).  This shelf both supports the tub and acts as a handy place to put your soap, loofah and rubber ducky.


I tiled the tub surround and back shelf before installing the tub.  I was able to work standing on the floor (vs. in the tub.)  This tile is a massive 1 meter by 50 centimeter format–you only need a few tiles to complete the job.

Next I mortared the tub to the brick base and bolted it to the wall and shelf.  Note the tub is elevated to accommodate the plumbing for the drain.  You can’t put the plumbing in the gap between floors because in Spain there is no gap: the floors are not built with wood beams.


Also, unlike in the US, bathtubs come without a finished front face.  You need to build that face and tile it.  First I made a flat face with bricks called supermaó.


Then I tiled the front face and the remainder of the tub surround.


I had to raise the floor by 10cm with buckets and buckets of mortar, my least favorite task in Spanish building.  With the floor in place and tile grouted, here is the plaster-ready product:


For the final en-suite bathroom, I chose antique-effect white subway tile and two formats of floor tile in a color called “dove” by its overpriced Italian manufacturer.


Here, I sank the drain into the concrete slab just as I did in the master bath. The rim of the drain sat 2.5 cm above the floor and I allowed another 1.5 cm for the slope of the shower pan.  This meant raising the shower pan and the adjacent flat area buy 4 cm.  Instead of raising the entire bath floor by 4cm, I sloped downward to meet the 2cm rise in the doorway.  This saved work with the mortar and increased headroom in a bathroom than is a bit tight.  Floor looks flat to me!

There’s one more upstairs bath to share–the powder room or “bath of courtesy” as they say here.  First I tiled a backsplash:


Then more tile on an accent wall behind the toilet.  This was a terrible job because the floor was not level.  I reached row 3 before I realized that the tile was going on crooked (not plumb) and I had to pull all the tiles off, scrape them, wash them, and start again.  Now the tile is plumb.


Because I finished the tile job last spring, I was able to get the plasterer in for this bathroom at the same time as the downstairs baths.  This fall I finished the floor, raising it with an agonizing 8 cm of mortar and adding traditional Catalan hydraulic (also called encaustic) tiles made of cement.  Here is the final product and an action shot showing work in progress, complete with the exit pontoon.


I am creating a highly custom vanity and sink which is In Progress.  I have the countertop and the sink but need to get smitty in to build the iron base.

Next week we will look at the pool!

The Master Bath

They say that kitchens and bathrooms sell houses, so I felt a good deal of pressure as I embarked on the master bath.  It only needs to be PERFECT!

I wanted to get the shower drain as low as possible for two reasons.  1. The ceiling is a bit low in this bathroom because I added another bathroom above it.  2. The shower drain is the lowest point on the bathroom floor and the rest of the floor needs to be raised above it–that involves laborious mixing and hauling of mortar, like I did in the kitchen.

I jackhammered a hole and a channel into the concrete floor for the Schluter Kerdi drain and the drain pipe.  I did so GINGERLY because I did not want to rupture the hot and cold water pipes, which you can see in the photos above.

The drain poked up 2 cms from the concrete slab.  I could not get it any lower.  Given the size of the shower pan, I used a 3 cm grade to the drain, meaning a height of 5 cm at the perimeter of the shower pan.

I tied a 5 cm wooden board to the concrete slab with anchors and screws.  Then I used sand topping mix (4:1 sand and cement with very little water) to establish a 5 cm-high perimeter on the other three sides of the pan.  Finally, I filled the pan with sand topping mix and used screeds to establish a uniform slope toward the drain.  That’s how you build a shower pan.  (N.B. In the USA you can buy a custom-sized plastic one from some very nice people in Georgia.)


After waterproofing, I tiled the shower pan with a black marble-effect porcelain tile.

marble shower

Once the tile was in, I realized I had a problem with the shower door.  The brickwork (false wall hiding upstairs drainage) ended outside the shower zone, but I really needed it to continue into the shower so that I could anchor the shower door to the brickwork.  So I extended the brickwork:


And this is the straightest vertical surface in the house.  By a longshot.  Not to brag, but if you want something done right…

For the shower walls, Roma Statuario from Ceramiche FAP:


Now I had to raise the remainder of the bathroom floor by 5 cm, which involved unspeakable amounts of mixing and hauling and screeding mortar.  In the doorway I made a short ramp to meet the hardwood floor at level.


More Roma Statuario for the bathroom floor:


Custom made zero-profile shower door from Lasser, installed by professionals:


Custom-made wall-to-wall vanity with double sink in acrylic polymer, installed by Rob:


I added a micro-mosaic backsplash that coordinates with the 5×5 cm mosaic in the shower pan.  Once the backsplash was installed, I yanked out the vanity to facilitate plastering.  I’m hoping the second vanity install will be more expeditious.


Ready for plaster in the master bath!

Next week we will take a look at 2 more upstairs bathrooms.


The Stairs

Mas Oms has three floors, with two full-flight staircases connecting them.  A third short staircase leads up to a landing and a bedroom between levels 2 and 3 (Euro 1 and 2).

The frame of the staircases is iron.  For about a year, I lived with the bare iron and provisional (that means temporary) steps I cut out of of MDF (medium-density fiberboard or “chipboard”) that was lying around the house.  They held up surprisingly well!

I sampled a few different metallic paint options and settled on “brown oxide” from Titan.  It has tiny bits of metal embedded in it!  The effect is rusted iron, but clean and pretty rusted iron that will not disintegrate on you.  Below you can see the painted stairs with or without MDF.


Now it’s time for the real treads.  I used the same material as the floorboards [oak recovered from huge wine barrels], but the treads are a whopping 6 cms thick.  All four sides are brushed for the rustic look.  Below is the raw material and the highly technical varnishing process, which was carried out in a clean-room under the highest standards of precision according to ISO 123.456.789.

Below are views of the long flights with the oak treads in place:


Close-up of the fancy hardware:


Below is the finished half-flight to the landing on floor 2.5.  The top 2 steps will remain as is, with brick treads and plaster risers and sides.  I see I need to touch up the paint a bit!


I scraped and cleaned and scrubbed and polished the brick landing at the top of the half-flight. This is the ONLY original flooring in the house that I have been able to preserve.  Before/during:


And after, below.  You can see the winter sun gently reflected in the new satin finish.  You can also see centuries of unidentifiable stains on the brickwork.  I call it “patina.”


And finally, I had Jesús fabricate one last tread for the transition from the living area into the master bedroom.  This step is adjacent to the top of the first flight of stairs.  I’m going to try to use recovered bricks as the risers (the vertical part under the step), but if I am not satisfied with the look, I will use remaining hardwood flooring.


Next week we will take a peek at the master bath!

Hardwood flooring

I chose reclaimed oak flooring for most of the main level.  The floorboards are 1.7 cms (3/4 inch) thick solid oak from old wine casks.  They have been flattened, tongue-and-grooved, and brushed on the obverse for a weathered look.  Sample here:

I signed the fabrication contract in January with Jesús, who together with his brother runs an operation that produces traditional Catalan terra cotta bricks and pavers, as well as flooring and furniture from recovered hardwood .  We agreed that the first delivery of 25 square meters would occur in mid-March, in order to facilitate kitchen installation in April.

I called Jesús the second week of March and learned that he had not started fabrication yet.  Apparently, he got sidetracked.  Jordi, Jordi and Jordi told me the this was in fact my fault because I had not called repeatedly in the interim to remind Jesús that I was expecting the material.  Because we had a contract.

Jesús got to work and delivered the first lot by the end of March.  Here is what that delivery looked like.


The planks are milled at varied widths from 5 cm to 17 cm, which complicates the installation.  Once you pick a width, you have to stay with that width for the whole row.  Organization is key–all the planks here are sorted according to width.

I spent two weeks getting to this point:


and I was out of time and out of material.  The kitchen needed to go in and I needed to wait for more boards.  Towards the end of the lot, you are left with odd sizes that cannot be matched together to make an entire row.

In May came the next delivery.  How much, Jesús?  “All of it.”  A hundred square meters of hardwood planks, which, once unpacked and sorted and hauled up stairs on a warm day, looked like this:


I stacked the planks in the master bedroom, with the idea that I would lay floor there last.  So I got to work on making more meters of finished house:

And trying to keep things clean and tidy.  When I finished the ballroom-sized common area, I got to work on the hallway, which leads from the common area to back bedrooms.

Little trick with the hallway.  The planks are visible from below, so you can see the black “x” marks that Jesús used to keep track of the “wrong side” of each plank.  I noticed this phenom when installation was over half done.  I had to pull all the planks up and shave them with my electric plane to get rid of the “x” marks.  (I LOVE my electric plane, btw.)

To get a smooth transition where the planks change direction at the start of the hallway, I installed the common-room planks too long and then used a hand-held circular saw to cut the sides of all the planks in one go, while kneeling on the ledger that guided the cut.  I’m happy with the results.

At this point I pulled all of the remaining planks out of the bedroom and organized them in the common room.


You can see that there are a lot of short planks  And quite a few long ones too that overshot the distance between the runners.  I hate to waste material, so I decided to opt for a different install technique.  I started with shorter runners than normal (6 cm x 6cm) and added an intermediating layer of plywood.  I screwed the planks to the plywood instead of the runners, which allowed me to achieve a truly random plank layout and avoid cutting every plank strictly at 40/80/120 cms to meet the runners.  The result: less waste and no need to order more hardwood to finish the job.

Once summer was over and I had re-established my perfect solitude on a Catalan mountaintop, I was able to finish the parquet install.  The tricky final hurdle was a landing at the end of the hallway.  Behold an aluminum door leading to the Goatshed.  This is a provisional (that means temporary) door that is common at Spanish construction sites.


The bottom of the door is below the level of the new hardwood floor, so it had to go before I could finish the floor.  This had to happen when it was cool enough to close the windows (to avoid a dust cyclone) but warm enough to have a hole in the house.  First the demo, then the installation of the runners:

And finally the installation of new door.  Toni is coming in March to touch up the plaster.


Next time we’ll finish the stairs!