Our Greek ruin is coming along nicely: Part 3

Our Greek ruin is coming along nicely: Part 3

Hello fellow Greek-lovers. It’s been a while and I hope life finds you well? I’m not sure about you, but more than ever, we’re craving an escape from this crazy world we find ourselves in. Never has a slice of baklava and a strong Greek coffee been more welcome. Within the next few minutes I hope to whisk you away into the land of crumbling stone walls, blue shuttered windows and children who drive diggers! I’m happy to report that our little Greek ruin is definitely less of a ruin, and more of a home. Let me show you whats been achieved in the last couple of months. To catch up on the project so far, you can take a look at Part 1 and Part 2.

Walnut cottage is looking more like a house again…The plastering still needs painting.

The workmen…

Over the last couple of months we’ve been admiring the changes happening up at our little cottage. As you may remember, we recruited Stefanos, our builder, and his team of ‘boys’ as he affectionately likes to call them. All of the workmen have been lovely people, as well as working to a very high standard. Have some of them been climbing our walnut tree and taking our walnuts? They have indeed. Do we mind? Not in the slightest, they need something to break up the coffee and cigarettes. Everything I mention in this blog post was carried out by Stefanos and his team.

Repointing and plastering…

In the last post, I mentioned that the electric cabling had been run throughout the house. Soon after that, the repointing and plastering began. Within a few days the entire exterior and interior were repointed and the results are stunning. We thought the stone walls were beautiful to begin with, but we weren’t prepared for how fantastic they would look once the creamy mortar was skilfully pressed into all of the gaps. Stefanos chose the colour of the mortar for us because I was busy at work and missed his phone call! Thankfully he’s a craftsman and has a real eye for detail and great taste. We’re over the moon with the colour he chose. The inside feels so much lighter with the addition of the pointing, and the rooms are beginning to feel more homely.

As you can see from the photo below, the blackened corner from the old fireplace has been cleaned up, but still retains it’s history. Many years of open fires have blackened and scorched the stones, but personally I love the fact that this building has a history and story. I imagine a little old lady hunched over a bubbling pan of snails (very typical Cretan cuisine) preparing her wild greens (horta) as the fire spits and crackles.


After the repointing and plastering were finished, the pipes for the radiators, kitchen and bathroom were laid. A huge hole was dug in the front garden and a breeze-block structure was built to retain the walls. This created a large chamber where the water and waste will flow to, and soak away into the earth.

We’ve opted to future proof the cottage in case we want to put central heating in at a later date. As Stefanos explained, it’s easier to put it in before the floor goes down, than to try and add it afterwards. All the pipes are neatly concealed beneath the new floor.


We opted for a plain floor to contrast the busy stone walls. Polished concrete is quite an industrial finish, but once the soft furnishings go in, I think the effect will look clean and crisp. Additionally, it worked out at half the cost of tiling the floor, so it kept us within budget too. We opted for exactly the same finish on the roof terrace above as well.

I can’t wait to start adding homely touches…
Just missing a pink bougainvillea growing along the join (where the stone meets the plaster) to tie the two mediums together…

Windows and doors…

The installation of the floor really began to complete the cottage, but if anything was to finish it off, it was the fitting of windows and doors. Firstly the old, dilapidated green windows and doors were removed, but before the new ones could be fitted, the crumbling stones around the doorways had to be replaced. Stefanos is a master stonemason and he chipped away the stones in question, and inserted the new ones seamlessly. Next, the marble window sills were put in place, and finally the blue windows and doors arrived. We’re really pleased with the front door: before it was just a pair of plain, wooden doors, whereas the detail in the arched glass panel denotes that this is definitely the main entrance.

Children drive diggers in Crete…

At the end of this mammoth amount of work, we hired a father and son team who own a digger. We paid for all of the building rubbish to be taken away, and the front garden to be levelled. It was amazing to watch the young guy adeptly manoeuvre the digger backwards and forwards. On enquiry as to his age, we learnt that he was 26 years old and had been driving the digger for 14 years! Maths isn’t my strong point, but by my calculations, that means that he started driving a digger when he was 12! This is quite common in Crete, especially in the villages – children are allowed to start driving their parent’s vehicles even though they can hardly reach the pedals!


We purchased Walnut Cottage almost seven years ago for €30,000 (at that time it equated to £25,000) including taxes. After undertaking the basic unskilled jobs ourselves (with help from friends and family) such as removing walls, moving rubble and removing the plaster from the walls and ceilings, we budgeted €20,000 for the remainder of the renovations and finishing it off to a point where it’s comfortable to live in. To this day, we’ve spent just over €17,000 to get the property to this point. That leaves €3,000 left to finish the place off, which is realistic as we already have the kitchen worktops, furniture, soft furnishings etc. We just need to purchase appliances, a solar hot water system, a toilet, a sink and various bits and pieces such as taps, shower fittings etc, etc.

We may come in just over budget, but I don’t think it will be by much. Of course there will always be additional things to purchase and jobs to complete, but for the above stated amount of money, the place will be completely habitable. Items such as the staircase up to the roof terrace, fencing, planting etc will all be done when we have the funds available. Although they will finish the place off, they aren’t imperative immediately.


The last few months have been a whirlwind and it’s hard to believe how much our Greek ruin has changed in such a short amount of time. Stefanos and his team have almost finished their part of the renovation, they just have the bathroom to finish off. Part of us will miss the mound of takeaway coffee cups and cigarette butts they leave behind!

On reflection of the last couple of months, I’ve learnt that a) Although Greek builders have a reputation for being slap dash, we’ve only experienced skilled, professional, hardworking men, b) If it looks like a child is driving a car, they probably are, and c) Lots of people steal walnuts from our tree.

So, that’s the latest on Walnut Cottage, I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing the process so far ?

34 thoughts on “Our Greek ruin is coming along nicely: Part 3

  1. Well done it’s looking gorgeous . I love the door!
    I’m hoping to start renovating my little place next year in Limnes east Crete. We haven’t been able to visit this year and I miss it so much but with inspiration such as your posts it certainly helps . Thanks

    1. Thank you! It must be so frustrating not be able to see your little place. I remember how much we looked forward to checking on Walnut Cottage every time we went on holiday. Your hopes and dreams will keep you going until you can get back out to Crete.

      1. Oh I also love your shower enclosure design and hope to do the same. Have a safe winter and thanks for the inspirational posts

  2. So,pleased to read of your,progress, we are so happy that we saw it in its original state as we are able to appreciate all your hard work, waiting to hear from you on the net, sending love x x x x x

    1. I’m glad so many of our friends and family got to see it beforehand. We’ll definitely catch up soon. xxx

  3. It looks absolutely brilliant Steph. I love the blue door. Can’t wait to see inside and out when it is ready for holiday letting.

    I really look forward to your posts. Keep them coming.

    Well done to the builders and digger operators.

    1. Thank you, I really love the door too – you never know how it will truly look until it’s all in place!

  4. well

    its begining to look nice.
    what I want to know is when will the next door “villa” bed and breakfast place be finished.
    I want to visit with my cat

  5. Polished concrete floors are gorgeous and mesh well with the ambience. We’re doing this with an addition and I love the look.

  6. Wow!!! It is looking absolutely splendid. Congratulations. As you said a pink bougainvillea would fit perfectly in that spot.

  7. Hi Steph + Matt,
    Looking great, well done, you’re almost there!!
    Myself and partner Sue are in Kalyves at the moment, since end of October, searching for a property, here until end of March, hoping to find something by then!! Keep up the good work and words!!

  8. Well done it looks lovely and I can’t wait for the day we can book holiday in your lovely little cottage. No Corfu for us this year but hope to make up for it next year by visiting twice as much as we normally do .xxxxx Take care from Dave & Dianne in Stafford UK xxx

  9. It looks wonderful. Love the polished floor…very practical and adds contrast to the walls. So exciting to watch the transformation. Thank you for sharing such positive news in the turbulent world of 2020!

  10. Well done to both of you, your family and all of your workmen – looks like it is all coming together very nicely.
    Thank you for the update, I think we all need your lovely photos and writing skills all the more these days!
    We were lucky here in the UK today, it was a mild sunny day, warm enough to make ourselves a real Greek Freddo Espresso, which is pretty good going in late November!
    Have a lovely rest of the weekend and take care.

    1. You can’t beat a freddo cappuccino or espresso, so very Greek! You have my admiration and respect for drinking it in November in England though ?

  11. Walnut Cottage is looking great Steph, you and your team of craftsmen have done a great job. I’ve got to agree with your comment about Greek workers, I’ve always found them to be immensely skilful and hard working…..ok, they do things their own way, and manage somehow to do the job while taking a dozen calls an hour, simultaneously smoking a cigarette and drinking a coffee, but what’s wrong with multi tasking!
    Hope you’re keeping well, and thanks for giving us a little bit of Crete to help get through rotten times.

    1. Absolutely, you summed it up completely – their phones never stop ringing and they never seem to scrimp on breaks, yet the job still gets done! I want to learn their secret!

  12. Its all looking simply wonderful, love the floors walls and Blue front Door. You have done amazingly well. You are so lucky to have found such wonderful buildiers! Sending lots of love to you both and all the four-leggeds! Pip and Henry xxx

  13. Hello Steph and Matt, I was born in Crete but raised in Canada. I love following you on your little Cretan adventure. You are both such lovely people and you have given Crete the best part of yourselves and your heart. You have done a tremendous job with your little cottage. I love your renovations, they are so respectful of the structure and history of the place. Keep up the lovely work, I’m living vicariously through both of you. I can’t wait till you are finished and the finished product is revealed. Crete is lucky to have acquired 2 wonderful little souls like yourselves.

    1. Awww thank you so much, we have met such lovely people in Crete and it’s like stepping back in time. I hope Crete continues to maintain it’s traditional way of life. All the best.

  14. Looks beautiful!

    I was wondering… I take it you do not have sewers there. Do you have to treat the waste water (filter or something) before it drains into the earth? I am faced with a similar issue so looking for options… Thanks!

    1. Hi there,

      The main sewage pipe runs through the village, close to the cottage, but it would have been very difficult to connect because the pipe would have had to go slightly uphill, so we would have to have had a holding tank and a pump. We opted for the soakaway as it’s much simpler and we avoid the monthly charges involved with being connected to the mains.

      No, we don’t have to treat the water, it simply runs into the chamber and then soaks away into the earth. It’s quite a common solution in Crete. After about 15 years of continuous use, you can find that the soakaway seals itself and stops draining, in which case it’s common to get a big truck that puts a pipe in and empty’s it every six months. On the other hand, some people have no problems and their soakaways continue to work forever.

  15. Hello to you both,
    Although we don’t know each other I have become interested in your project thru reading your blog. And as you do not seem to have posted for a couple of months I want to say that I miss hearing from you. (MrsSN).
    These are insane times. Covid stuff. And you have no obligation to me,or anyone, to do your blog EVERY month. I think of you and hope,even pray, that you are both well. I enjoy sharing your blog with my wife. We are both Crete “nuts”.
    You need not put this note on your blog.

    1. Hello! Awww thanks for your message. I’m sorry I haven’t been on here for a while. I’m planning a blog post over the next couple of weeks, as we’ve got a lot to fill you in on!

      We are both very well, and I promise we’ll be back very soon:)

  16. Thank you to Robert for asking this question, I’m sure many of us wanted to, but in such weird times everyone is, I think, probably being over cautious about asking anything!
    Same message here, no pressure, no rush, no need, just stay safe and well and glad to hear you’re okay.

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