When is a door not a door?

When it’s a concertina.

I bought this flat because a) it was cheap b) it was crap and c) it was in central Gib.

My philosophy on buying houses is to buy cheap and crappy that needs tidying up rather than pay more for something that has been done up, because it will never be to my taste anyway. And it would seriously gripe me to rip out something that didn’t need to be ripped out just because I didn’t like it. But I do try to buy in good areas.

If that doesn’t make sense to anyone else, no matter, because it does to me.

I should add that nothing is cheap in Gib. Apart from Both Worlds and Ocean Heights. Both Worlds is a strange complex on the eastern side of Gib in the middle of nowhere. One side is open purchase, the other is for people aged 50 or over.

Ocean Heights was one of the many buildings in Gib originally intended to be a hotel. I used to stay there when I came to Gib to look for a property to buy, and it suited me fine as a rental apartment for a few nights. We had a friend who lived there and paid £3000 a year in service charges. This is because there are no separate meters for each apartment – remember, it was intended to be a hotel. Similarly Both Worlds has communal services such as a laundry that is included in your bills so you might as well use it.

I would rather pay low service charges than fund someone else’s extravagant electrical lifestyle through communal utility bills, thank you very much. (Electricity is expensive in Gib).

For comparison, our service charges (for block maintenance) are around £400 year. Our water and electricity is £600 or slightly more. I can never understand their bills actually. But anyway, the total cost is not £3000 a year for a one-bed apartment.

Over on the dog’s blog there are pix of our grotty flat when we first acquired it.

It was one of the many posts imported from Blogger so the comments were lost, and the pix are small, however they do enlarge. Slightly.

So the two blocks mentioned above have flats for sale for less than £100K. But elsewhere you are normally looking at £100K plus for a small one-bed flat, unless someone is desperate to sell. You can pay more for a ‘decent’ (the term being relative) one-bed flat than you can for a larger two-bed one. Premium price properties tend to be the ghastly new-build ones or the expensive conversions, or something off Main Street. People frequently fall over when a) they find out we own our own flat, and b) they discover we are just off Main Street in the Jewish quarter.

Assumptions, assumptions. People see a decorator – actually they probably consider him a painter – and immediately assume he must be renting somewhere. What they don’t see is more than 40 years of work in the same trade, running his own business in the UK, me with a well-paid job, and us owning a few houses in our previous life. As I learned on my MBA course, ‘Never ASSUME anything. It makes an ASS out of U and ME.’ It might be old and clichéed but it is certainly true.

Back to our cheap, cheerful and grotty flat. Or the dog’s kennelflat as I called it, because really, it is not much bigger than a kennel.

When I first viewed the flat, well the only time actually, the estate agent said how delightful the internal doors were. Personally I thought they were vile and kitsch in the extreme with some appalling attempt at stained glass in the top half of the doors. I put them on my get rid of list. I like proper doors and these are foldy back doors, presumably because the flat is so small. In fact as we never shut them we don’t even need them.

A few weeks ago, Partner was asked to revarnish some doors for a customer. Inspired by this, he promptly decided our front door needed doing. Fine by me. Looks crap anyway so it couldn’t look any worse. He fished out an antiquated tin of Sadolin in dark something or other and set to work. Exterior went fine. Interior did not.

Coating up the inside (to no avail)
Coating up the inside (to no avail)

The following day it was still tacky. ‘It’s because you cook all the time,’ said a neighbour helpfully.

Er yes. How else am I supposed to eat? Microwave junk from the supermarket? I don’t think so.

In fact, it was only when he said that, we realised there are no other food cooking smells in the block. Goodness knows what people eat. There used to be a tomato sauce smell sometimes, but they obviously moved out. So now I am the only cook in the block!

Anyway, the offending tacky coat was taken off and the door treated with dissolvente (can’t remember the English for that).

Stripping off the tacky first coat
Stripping off the tacky first coat

No problem after that. Three coats on both sides and frames.

Exterior front door
Exterior front door

Fired up with this success, he then started on a windowsill, this time using a medium oak stain and varnish. Another good result, so he started on one of the concertina doors. Even they started to look tolerable.

Restained door frame
Restained door frame
Kitsch door being restained
Kitsch door being restained

The one advantage about sleeping on camping mats on the floor in the bedroom is that it gives you space to put up a trestle table and work on the doors. There is enough space for him to sleep on the floor and I have stolen the dog’s sofa. Normal sleeping will resume when the door has been rehung.

I don’t actually like varnished doors of any type. To me doors should be solid wood and painted in white eggshell, or possibly a colour – black or dark green, never red! – if they are on the outside of your house. But it’s amazing what a few coats of well-applied varnish can do.

Oh, and it smells wonderful. Totally addictive. I can’t wait for him to start today’s varnishing work.

And from the woman who is always cooking, a couple of casseroles.

One is a veg goulash and the other is a French style daube/bourguinon with croutes. Yum.

Goulash - more or less, well it has yoghurt, peppers and paprika so it must be
Goulash – more or less, well it has yoghurt, peppers and paprika so it must be
Seitan and tofu casserole à la something French
Seitan and tofu casserole à la something French

35 comments on “When is a door not a door?

  1. We buy things no one else would look at….then we can make them as we like them.
    Housing isn’t cheap here unless you look around, so we were lucky to find the house in San Jose, ten minutes from the centre on foot. It looks small but is a bit of a Tardis having four huge bedrooms, a double height atrium, and four other rooms two of which are now a kitchen and a bathroom…but it had the curse of varnish…which is gradually being replaced by paint.
    It’s now at the stage where I can think about furnishing it….and am finding it is cheaper to have furniture made than to buy off peg.


    • We were discussing today how many repossessions we had bought – after eyeing up another interesting looking one – interesting = cheap.

      But yes, I just don’t want someone else’s idea of taste. We never go over the top with our properties (OK, maybe the last UK one, with the Rayburn and the stand-alone bath thing whatever they are called), just make them look nice and live-in-able. What more do you need?

      Tells you, if we tried to repaint these doors it would cost a fortune. Varnish it is. Seems to be trendy anyway unlike sensible white doors.

      I had furniture made because I couldn’t find what I wanted. It was all crap standard anyway.

      I think I have enough furniture now to last me out.


  2. Kim once painted our lounge ceiling and it took several coats of emulsion – she blamed me and my fondness for candles and they have been banned ever since!
    I’m not that keen on decorating myself so I force myself to adapt to the previous occupants taste and decor.
    Doors really should be blue but I suppose that is just a Greek obsession!


    • Painting the ceiling with lots of emulsions due to overdosing on candles sounds like repainting a smoker’s house!

      i didn’t marry a decorator for nothing. At some point in our various houses, we do pull our collective fingers out and tidy up. Usually just before we sell.

      Doors are fine in blue in Morocco, Greece, Pakistan and Batley Carr. But not in Gib, Spain or UK.


  3. Er, you should try buying in HK!!!!! But it is about location x 3. It doesn’t matter where you are, location counts.

    My grandfather was a decorator. Nothing wrong with that!

    Your copyright is a new introduction or have I just not noticed the K Pyjama before? Is someone hijacking your photos? I feel hungry looking at the food porn. Please send rations asap.


    • I know my limitations. Abert Rider sounds a better buy. I am talking bottom end of the market here, I might add. If you want to spend millions of pounds sterling here it is easily done. I don’t. And can’t. I’ll add some more property info on a later post.

      I didn’t repeat the location thing but it was going through my head. Although I knew it before it had been promoted as lx3, (me being a sabelotodo and all that). Two choices, buy a shithole in a good place, or a palace in a crap place. Interestingly I had a work colleague who did the latter.

      His grandfather was a decorator too.

      Copyright has been there for some time. Not because I think anyone will steal my pix (although I did think Pippa’s were at risk because he is so adorable) but rather as a point of principle. Dates back to my journalistic days of copyright law.

      There are no PJs however. I don’t think you need further details on that one.

      Rations currently in the oven. Tofu casserole (onions, garlic, carrots, the usual really) plus spaghetti, plus, bechamel sauce. Will be sent pronto although may be soggy on arrival.


      • I don’t copyright my pictures directly. The jpegs are quite small. But I do embed a copyright in the EXIF data of all my RAW or DNG files. I hadn’t noticed yours before.

        No PJs, no comment.

        Soggy rations? Ho gwor mo, as we say in Sai Kung. (Better than nothing). Had the most delicious leg of lamb last night. Mrs. Ha cooks very well. Not good for vegetarians but lets not go there.


        • I know yours are small. That’s why we can’t see the flaws :) They never blow up. Having said that, I tend to keep mine down to 600. Sometimes I think it is a shame as a decent size pic looks really good on the comp. (flaws and all).

          I wrote about copyright on Clouds: http://wp.me/p22GQH-io

          I do possess a warm weather clime of PJs however. But those pix have not yet made their way onto the blogs and most likely won’t.

          Mejor qué nada? I did inherit my mother’s side of the family traits for good cooking, so in a previous life, a leg of lamb was not unheard of. Preferably with rosemary and/or garlic inserted. However, I prefer my sheep on four legs these days and still alive. Usually seen running past our finca in Spain when the local goatherder/shepherd takes them on their walkabout.


  4. Rust and Grime dominate as our primary decor colours. Me thinks it is time for a lick of varnish this side too:-) Fun post!


    • Our previous colours were Grey due to Dust – the cleaner spends too much time on the internet. However as part of the unusual blitz on flat revamp, even she has managed to clean up the furniture. Most commonly seen at the current time with a toothbrush in hand scrubbing away at the intricate moulding on the furniture. Thanks.


    • Bloody WordPress indeed. Either the majority the bloggers I follow have suddenly lost their fingers or my Reader is playing up yet again. I keep meaning to put a note on a blog post to tell people I really haven’t stop reading their blogs, it’s just that Reader has, and I need to make the effort to visit manually.


  5. Yum is right. Love the door and love the grub.

    By the way costs are just as bad here. Try this:
    Bell (telephone etc. ) ~$500/mo (I have 6 cell phones in the house + fibre internet)
    Electricity: ~$3300/yr
    House & Car insurance $2000/yr
    Single detached 3 bedroom bungalow: ~$350,000 Mine is smaller :>)
    Average income taxes: between 35% to 40% or so
    Municipal taxes: ~$2500/yr

    “The Lord Giveth and the Government Taketh Away”


    • I tried to keep it to one topic especially with you in mind (in fact I actually managed it on the previous art post) but as I’d taken the pix of some nice warming food, and it fitted with the neighbour’s comment, I couldn’t resist adding them. Given the French influence in Canada, I would have thought the casserole with croutes would be pretty familiar over there. I did the croutes in the oven and then smeared them with a cut clove of garlic – just heaven!

      Ouch! Your costs are pretty bad. Hope the salaries compensate for that. You wouldn’t want to be unemployed where you live. I’ll add some more on a) property costs, ie actual houses in Gib rather than flats and b) other costs.

      Our Spanish council were illegally charging extra for rubbish collection. So they had to abandon that nice little scam. And then put the general local tax up by virtually exactly the same as the lost rubbish tax. I think I did a post some time back entitled ‘The council giveth and the council taketh away.’

      Ah yes, here it is: http://wp.me/p1XwsS-f9


      • No matter what, we will ALL pay. I don’t know what it is with people when they rise to positions of power. My guess is that they start listening to all the arse-kissers and actually start believing the nonsense they are being fed. Pretty soon they start believing that are doing the right thing and deserve all those perks they are giving themselves. WHOOPS up on the soap box again. Should slip over to clouds…
        …speaking of which, I wonder what was in that post :>) I had tagged it and had it open in a new window (opened the link on wordpress) but by the time I got to it the post was gone.
        I figured you’d had second thoughts and my hesitation cost me a good read :>)


        • Oddly, I have never had a problem with paying local or national taxes. Society has to be funded somehow and I think individuals should contribute. I blame that solely on my studies of history where it was clear that for Britain to go to war in the Middle Ages, they needed to raise revenue from the populace. It would be nicer however, if the greedy, polluting, profiteering bastards in big business paid rather more. Ooops I’m on the wrong blog too.

          My gripe is not with taxation but the expenditure which, in my tight-arsed opinion is badly allocated and mis-directed eg a totally unnecessary new airport in Gib at a cost of 75 mill euros (or something similar).

          Actually the post was up for a while as our power went off so I couldn’t take it down immediately. It was related to an email I’d received from a solicitor regarding our block management (I chair the committee) which had rather racked me off, so I wrote it up to get it out of my hair. I might re-instate it, but it will probably be more moderate if I do!


  6. Varnish is such a trial if it’s humid….which is most of the time here.
    The front door looks nice. (I agree with you about colors: depends on geographical location)
    Like the idea of rescuing items to redo…besides what ever you do to it is an improvement.
    But you are making me feel guilty about not cleaning the house to perfection…the dog gets attention first!


    • Ironic you mention the humidity. We had a couple of days of rain, and it must have taken 24 hours for the door to tack off. But today was dry and sunny so it dried much faster and got rehung (normal sleeping arrangements have resumed to Pippa’s relief).

      It’s interesting that something that – to us – doesn’t look good, can be improved with time, effort and at relatively little cost. So much better than changing for the sake of it and buying new.

      Molly is young and needs attention. Pippa is old and needs his sofa. So I do finally get around to cleaning occasionally.


      • We have this really great door from an old 1940’s house that is sitting in our garage – one of those huge heavy ones with old cut/beveled glass. Needs refinishing and work to make sure the glass is in tight. Some day we”ll have a place for it.
        And it’s raining again…no need to try and clean the paw prints of the floor for a couple of days.


        • That sounds lovely. We had huge Victorian doors at school with some of that very thick and intricately engraved/carved glass.

          Our rain is intermittent. Pippa and A just managed to avoid getting soaked this morning as it was only spotting. Fine now, although more forecast over the next few days. Hmm, the only washing that has got done so far and dried outside has been Pippa’s throws for his sofa. Our clothes are gradually piling up in the laundry bag.


  7. I agree, buy the worst house in the best street… so much of the [inner] Sydney real estate market is overpriced residences tarted up to sell… to suckers. My interest is vicarious of course because we’ll never buy anything in Sydney. Unlikely either we’ll sell our TA house but we keep it maintained… redundant to put up with deficiences only to fix them for the next resident. We also keep an eye on the $$$ we spend on both houses as there’s no point in over capitalising. LikeA, the G.O. is very handy and he does most work. I clean if I’m forced to.
    I very much like your front door, it looks solid, practical and stylish. The lead light panels in the ‘kitch’ door are lovely. I hadn’t realised until you mentioned it that I’m not much of a varnish person either. In furniture I prefer oiled or polished timber and in room trims & doors white paint works well enough.
    How odd there are no other cooking aromas wafting through the communal areas of your building. The yummy smells emanating from your flat must drive the neighbours crazy with longing for a taste.


    • It’s not difficult logic is it? I was pretty hot on buying decent places in the UK because you know the market and the environments. Slightly different here in Gib and Spain so it’s fluke that we’ve bought into decent places. Or maybe not. Perhaps the roughseas propertyometer works everywhere.

      We would actually have bought our place in Potts Point had we been going to stay and had it been on the market. It was actually smaller than this (it was a bedsit), and around 35,000 bucks at the time. It would have been a good investment.

      We’re just too idle to get on with the big changes in our properties. The decorating gets done but the kitchen and bathroom jobs take longer. We’re quite good at living in slums :)

      I disliked the front door intensely, I so wanted a nice olde fashionede one like my neighbour has, but after the revarnish it looks great.

      Even the leaded lights/stained glass look better with the darker and better varnish.

      As for furniture, when I designed the oak furniture for the dining room (pix somwhere on here, you’ve probably seen them), I went for no stain, and just wax. That was a good result.

      What makes us laugh about the cooking smells is that I’m often cooking curry. We have an Indian neighbour upstairs but never smell anything curryish from him. I wonder if our neighbours think our curry smells are his?


  8. I will gladly trade your electric bill.. Mine averages $1500/year..
    i really like the “after” shots of the front door..he did a really good job. I personally do like some colors on doors ..The brightness is cheery, now mind you I don’t mean shocking pink or fushia but red I can do. I agree with Elladee, no cooking smells? well then you must keep cooking then :-)


    • Our Spanish bills are cheaper, around a couple of hundred euros a year. But in both places we have no heating, and although we used to use the tumble dryer in Gib when it rained, we’ve left that alone this year. So here our electricity is limited to cooking, lighting, washing machine, coffee machine and computer. There, (Spain) it is lighting, washing machine, dishwasher and coffee machine. Oh and water heaters in both places too.

      Actually coloured doors don’t seem to feature in either Gib or Spain.

      Just doing some chips now at 2am. Doubt anyone will smell them though, suspect they are all asleep, as should we be!


  9. Those service charges for Ocean Heights are mind boggling!!!
    I always loved the idea of buying an old house and doing it up, it would have been wonderful too with a handyman husband, but it just wasn’t practical with a long distance trucker hubby who was away for weeks on end :-( I did go through a phase in our ‘poor’ days when I’d search out old painted furniture and strip it back to bare wood (could have done with a certain Scotish friends knowledge back then).
    Your finished front door looks stunning, it looks extremely solid too, I bet it makes a lovely deep clunk when it’s closed (mums got a door like that), unlike my PVC doubled glazed effort.
    I’m afraid you wouldn’t like my interior doors (satin coated pine), I keep looking at then thinking they’d look good painted white, but then the thought of doing it wafts over me, so they remain.
    It’s the same with the many, many coats of paint over the ancient wood chip (yes, I’m from the poor wood chip generation lol).
    Could do with hiring A ;-)


    • Well they are to me. Not much use buying a cheap flat with on-costs like that.

      I’ve managed to hang onto my policy of oldish houses, although A did once try to buy a new house, but that got kicked into touch, and here in Gib he fancied a fairly tidy flat but sadly some of the residents objected to Pippa (technically I’m not sure they can do that) which happily suited my intentions of buying a cheaper grottier flat.

      A has done the furniture thing too, whether stain/varnish/shellac or brush/spray finish. He didn’t just learn how to put a coat of white emulsion on the walls when he was an apprentice.

      Actually when I went out today, it did clunk. Most of the doors in the block do. Ours is particularly solid. Looks Spanish to me. PVC double-glazing is not me. I hate our windows here and would so like some original ones but until we need to replace them, they can stay. The only other place we had DG was in Scar. Although only on the back, not the front where we had lovely original windows and door, leaded lights etc.

      You could always stain the doors darker? Like we’re doing. Woodchip is on a par with artex. Nasty stuff, attracts dust and looks vile (artex, even woodchip isn’t that bad). Have to say any woodchip houses we bought had it stripped and any artex was plastered over for a smooth finish.

      Just make sure you hire A in summer or the whingeing about the cold, the damp, the rain, the snow, the grey skies will be unbearable. He even managed to do it here!


    • Two crap looking doors – the external/front as it is only external within the block, and the internal folding ones with stained glass – look so much better for being revarnished in a different colour. I can’t believe it.

      In my block – ie my block of flats with 15 flats, although only 12 residents, ground floor isn’t lived in – not on my block! Although the block isn’t that big actually, however it would included hundreds of flats, say a couple of hundred? And two large houses. ie we refer to going around the block as the circular dog walk, compared with the block in which we live.

      Apparently I am wrong however, a neighbour above told my partner he cooks, as does his immediate neighbour, and another neighbour on the floor above them. But for those of us downstairs we probably can’t smell the cooking anyway. So all is not lost in the world of real food after all.


  10. Not only do I cook pretty much everyday, so do my neighbours, so a street of cooks so to speak. When I was shown round my now home by an estate agent, he made great play of the stripped pine doors, I soon shut him up by saying that was nothing a few coats of white paint couldn’t fix; not that I ever got round to it.


    • Phew, I’m feeling relieved here. I was beginning to think not only was I a dinosaur, fossil, out of the ark etc but that I was stark raving mad for being the only remaining person in the world who cooks not only every day but more than once a day. Two meals down so far and another one to go for supper (sandwiches and salad probably).

      In fact, I’ve since discovered – in my reply to Phil above – that other strange cooking specimens do exist in my block.

      Your stripped pine comment sounds a bit like my double glazing response. At the time of buying our first house/s it wasn’t as rampant as it now is. Estate agents always pointed it out as a novelty and a huge asset, only to be met with me saying something like, yes, it’s a shame they’ve added that isn’t it, I really don’t like plastic windows.

      As for pine *gets on snobby wooden hobby horse* (so to speak) – it’s really a mass-produced cheap wood that doesn’t merit being stained/varnished in terms of doors/skirtings. It’s far better painted. My parents had nice 30s staircase that naturally they boxed in and painted over in the 60s, but I finally persuaded them to open it up again to expose the oak handrail and newel post. But the fad for stripped pine everywhere was truly awful. Especially the way some of it was done too.

      Perhaps your stripped pine doors can be a major feature of your auction? In fact, maybe you could auction them separately?


  11. LOL, you are not the only one that goes for cheaper property that needs work rather than buying the places that have already been tarted up. We bought our current cottage as a semi-derelict. Most of our friends and family thought we were mad as the place was a wreck but we saw past the slugs wondering around the floor, the mould on the walls and the gale force wind blowing through the rotten window frames. A few years hard work and the place was gorgoeus and a real home. Nice to know that it is also still worth twice what we paid for it despite the housing crash ;-)

    Our windows are varnished in sadolins mahogany which I think is the same as yours in the pics above. Looks nice on the outside but we’ve painted all the interior doors, skirtings and door frames in gloss white paint as it is lighter and makes the rooms feel bigger. Our doors are the old ledged and braced style and they were originally dark stained wood but they were soooo dark that the rooms felt oppressive and tiny. Painted white the whole place feels so much bigger, brighter and more welcoming.


    • How long have you had your cottage? You have done some good work on it.

      Slugs, mould and rotten window frames aren’t really a huge problem. Depends how rotten the window frames were I suppose. Did you get a retention on the mortgage? We did on our first property. Do they even still do retentions on mortgages?

      Our Sadolin is ebony for the front door, and the internal doors are a Johnstone’s medium oak. No Sadolins in Gib. A is a big Sadolin fan and was most impressed to hear you had used it on your windows. Can’t remember what we used on our Spanish dining room window – new frame and shutter – but must have been decent as it hasn’t been revarnished in ten years. It was varnished with plenty of coats before we actually fitted it, and it’s only ever been washed down.

      We did go for some coloured paintwork in our last house in the UK, I was feeling rather trendy at the time, and I quite liked it. Sort of duck egg blue in the kitchen, terracotta in the sitting room, grey in the toilet and bathroom ….. But basically I like white paint too, although prefer an eggshell/satin finish to gloss.

      Have you seen my kitchen door pics (finca)? That’s a similar door to the style you are talking about although without the diagonal bracing. It’s painted white too. All the finca doors are white internally. I’d have liked white doors here too, but you have to live with what you get, unless you have an unlimited bank balance and I don’t.


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