Bring in the big cats

This week there was a major change to the landscaping behind the house, so we needed to bring in the big cats to make the earth move. The land, which is a mix of 50% limestone and 50% top soil will be excavated and moved to the front of the property.

Episode 4 – the big cats making the earth move for us

In my YouTuve video I give you a full 360 degree tour and also explain a couple of compromises I’ve had to deal with. Don’t forget to hit the like button on YouTube if you enjoyed the video, subscribe if you want to keep up to date with my build and hit the bell icon to be notified when I post more content on there.

The first time we’ve viewed the house from this angle.

We had a small digger onsite for a couple of days, but it wasn’t up to the job of moving so much earth once we decided that we could no longer afford the concrete wall we’d planned for the north of the property. In this episode I will give you this week’s update and show you the new landscape features. I am going to visit site again tomorrow to discuss the drop away of land in front of the infinity pool and take a look at what the big cat team have been up to.

Big cats bringing us some hammer time!

Building the road for the concrete trucks to access the east wing.

Most of the stone behind the house is limestone, but we hit a new patch of granite so we needed the huge mechanised hammer to break a new access to the higher land to the north. The hammer costs more money per day- wear and tear on the machinery plus the operator probably needs therapy after spending the day being on the end of the world’s largest and loudest hammer. I will take some video tomorrow if he’s still drilling away so you can see just how impressive this piece of kit is. You can check out my last blog post here and episode 3 on YouTube here

Totally wearing the wrong clothes for this very long unplanned visit!

We hadn’t intended to spend so much time onsite for this visit, it was supposed to be an office meeting plus a drive by of the site. Needless to say after a couple of hours onsite my hair was full of dust and my jeans looked like I’d been playing 5 a side football.

Check back next week for another update. You can send me message via the contact page by clicking here.

Have a beautiful day!

Gail x

Change of use

Change of use of the en-suite bedrooms.

Lots of time to think over the past week due to the slight delay with the ruin demolition, so I’ve come up with a change of use for 3 of the bedrooms. I shall explain…

Saturday 5th February, getting ready for the footings for the ruin.

Through the years

We started this build process 5 years ago after selling our large family home in the UK. We had hoped that the whole process would be complete within 2 years, even with delays (wishful thinking!). Well, we certainly didn’t factor in the painfully long length of time that Loulé planning would take to approve both our planning application and the construction licence, plus a pandemic stopped everything in it’s tracks, but here we are 5 years later with the concrete structure taking shape nicely.

Just after we bought the land in 2017, Shaun standing in the pool.

Just the two of us.

Our intention initially was to build a home for our family of three, me, my husband and our son, (who works in the maritime industry and – at the time- was spending long periods away at sea). However, after spending some time in Portugal, our son decided it wasn’t for him, even though he loves the weather, the people and life in general here. What’s missing for him is an abundance of young people… Where are they? Well, they have left to find better paid and more varied work than is available in the south of Portugal. Head north and you will see more young people out and about in the evening – which is surprisingly a rare sight in Algarve.

This is the original design submitted to planning with 5 en-suite bedrooms. Scroll down for the updated use of surplus bedrooms as scribbled/edited by me (very badly!).

Memories of muddy pups and soggy socks

So…. then there was just the two of us to live in the house with the prospect of regular visits from our son. I’m not going to bore you with all the toing and froing but we were selling the project, then we weren’t, then we were….well you get the idea. We moved back to the UK in November 2019 to renovate a small cottage we owned there, and spend some time figuring out what we wanted to do. Lots of rain and mud and more rain, soggy dogs and drenched clothing reminded us why we left in the first place. Then the pandemic hit, lockdowns, travel bans, you know how it was. We were stuck there for a while but decided to make the most of it and renovate our cottage. We finished the renovation and listed the house January 2020 which sold within a week or so. Fast forward a few weeks and we were on our way back to Portugal to finish this project once and for all.

Cacela Velha - one of our favourite beaches.

All in my head

My husband sees this as an investment, he doesn’t have any emotional connection to it at all, he just sees profit. For me, I have invested a lot of time and effort designing the layout of the house and have considered every detail of the build and finished project over and over in my head. I’ve spent hours in my imagination, opening doors, looking at light switches, placing artwork and trying out different options for exterior flooring finishes. I can see it finished and enjoy spending time in this home in my head. I didn’t think this was unusual until I mentioned it to my husband, who informs me this is not normal to be able to walk around a virtual house in my head. Maybe it’s my magical power – does anyone else have this ability?

I finally found a round bath to buy in Portugal - it has potential

Investment vs dream

We designed the house with five en-suite bedrooms to maximise the profit. However, we are just two people, why would we need so many bedrooms? This past week it hit me that we could actually be living in this house by the end of this year. I guess I didn’t think too much about the reality of moving in, as lots of people including my architect and engineer told me it would be sold before we finish it. The reason being, there are lots of people with more money than me who will pay top dollar for a unique and NEW home. There are some people who only buy new. I have already declined a very nice offer, but what would I buy instead? Ultimately of course, everything has a price and I may not be able to decline crazy offers if they come my way, but for now, I am going ahead to finish it for us as our dream home rather than with only re-sale in mind.

I’ve been playing around with the layout and this is my very amateur artist’s impression of the rooms. It was a lot of fun though and it does the job!

All change!

This brings me to the changes I’ve made this week to the function of the rooms. Instead of 5 bedrooms, we will have 2 master bedrooms, an office, a chillout/music lounge and a spa room.

This is a very similar idea for our spa bathroom.

Very 'la-di-da' Spa

What do I mean by ‘a spa room’ I hear you ask? The family bathroom on the east side will be designed as home spa bathroom. I’m going to spend a lot of time designing this room which will have a circular tub, next to glass doors opening out onto a small terrace with an outdoor shower. The bedroom next to this will support the use of the pool. I shall explain…. The spa room (which can easily revert back to its original use as a bedroom) will have towels, bath robes, spare swimsuits, toiletries etc and act as a changing room for visitors using our pool. It will also be where I practice yoga and meditate. I will use it for home beauty treatments and my own personal salon – a sort of beauty room. So basically, I have claimed this room for myself, a quiet, tranquil space for me, but with the added use for visitors using the pool.

The far left is the covered stairway next to the en-suite chillout room.


At the other end of the house on the west side, we will have a music/chillout room. A place where we can go and lounge on a huge day-bed to escape the summer heat, without worrying about a damp swimsuit or wet hair. Somewhere to listen to music in comfort, surrounded by comfy cushions and throws. This could also double as a spare bed if a tipsy visitor decides to stay over. My husband wanted this as an office, but it’s a waste of a room with an amazing ocean view, just to have a desk and an office chair, so he’s been shuffled eastwards next to the spa room. I don’t need an office as I’m happy to work anywhere, however I’ve made a claim on the space in the basement/garage with panoramic views of the ocean, to use as a studio / workshop for all my art projects and silversmithing.

More big changes this week.

This week we have the transformation of the ruin going ahead, so I will be back with another video before the end of the week. Don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube (click here) and tap the little bell icon to be notified when I post something new. Thanks for stopping by!

Have a beautiful week.


Episode 2 of building our home in Loulé, Algarve, Portugal.

Finally! You can now watch episode 2 of our construction on YouTube.

We are now three months into our house build in Algarve. Episode 2 gives you a walk through of the concrete and steel construction. Click here if you missed episode 1.

Steel and concrete prices increased substantially last year due to decrease in worldwide supply, so we’re busy cutting costs of the construction by limiting the number of materials and different craftsmen. In a bid to make it passively eco friendly, we increased the overhang on the southside to provide additional shade, and extensive use of glass on the north side to improve flow of air to cool the interior in the summer months without the use of aircon.

View of the Atlantic ocean and coastline from our land just above our home.

The finish in the majority of the house for the ceilings and flooring will be raw concrete, so the upfront costs for the construction are higher, but will save time and materials at a later stage. All of the electrics will be surface mounted, providing easy access and again less materials. The only downside to this is, the workmanship must be exceptional to prevent mistakes and the need to redrill poorly positioned fixtures. I shall be overseeing the electrics daily as an essential extra pair of critical eyes.

From the terrace we can watch the sun set over the ocean.

The search is now on for solar panels and battery storage, which will take up the least amount of space but with maximum lifespan to prevent early replacement. Solar has come a long way in the past decade or so, but strangely is not a regular sight on houses in Algarve. With over 300 days of sunshine per year, one would expect to see panels on every home. But, with the average salary of locals of €700/per month, the panels are out of reach to the majority of the population.

The short video above is a computer simulation of our finished construction project. The rear of the property will in reality have a different layout, with a terrace of 3m x 60m as I mention in my episode 2 video.

Solar or wind power + use of storage battery for power at night.

We will also install a small wind turbine to power the house at night, reducing the need to use the battery backup, or mains backup during the hours of darkness. This will ensure heat to our swimming pool all year round to make use of the pool outside of the summer months. Something else that surprisingly isn’t standard practice here!

View from below which will change when we start landscaping.

Water will be drawn from the bore hole once it’s installed, with backup from the city water supply. This is simply a case of switching to the mains water from a stop tap. We anticipate that we will hit water at approximately 125m deep, drilling through limestone all the way. The cost depends on the geology of our location, if its stable and solid we can use plastic pipe, if we discover pockets of shingle or caves, we will be forced to use steel – the most expensive option.

The concrete structure of the new main living space is complete

Our dream is to build a minimalist, industrial style, single story home, nestled in the mountains facing the Atlantic coast. A low maintenance home and garden, with free power and water, needing no extra input from mains services once complete. Add to that a kitchen garden and edible plants in the landscaping and we can work towards self-sufficiency in the future. I’m loving every minute of the process and excited to see the build progress each week.

You can see more of the design on my website for the house which is

Click here to watch episode 1 – as the first machinery arrives to prepare the construction site for the steel and concrete.

Click here to watch episode 2 and subscribe on YouTube to be notified when I post new videos.

Have a beautiful day!

Sunset February 1st from alongside the ruin - which is about to be rebuilt.