Building the dream

What it is like to do a self-build project? Why did we decide to give up two perfectly good jobs and escape to the rural Spain? Read our story here. 

el gran sueño day 1

The idea for el gran sueño was born on a winter´s day in 2009 in our flat in Brighton. We talked about what we would love to do with the rest of our lives and what our ideal lifestyle would be. We debated till the early hours pondering this tricky subject. Most importantly, we agreed. We wanted to run a guest house. We wanted to pool our experiences and design something that would be special. It would be unique because it was created by us, designed by our experiences. Javier came up with the name “el gran sueño”, the big sleep, the big dream.

It took three years to organise our affairs and depart England. It was a tough three years. We had to finish renovating our flat and organise leaving our respective jobs. Javier was a teacher and, as such, the best time of year to leave would be at the beginning of the summer holidays. I was a sales engineer for a small private company in Brighton. My exit would be less constrained, but had to be equally well planned.

Finally, in September 2012 we were ready. We had sold our flat in 2011 and moved into rented accommodation for the last 12 months of our chapter in Brighton. A team of removal men had arrived and pack up our belongings into containers to be stored until we were ready to have everything shipped. We decided that we needed to keep enough stuff to see us through the first 6 months. At the time, we truly believed by then we would be ready to take delivery of the rest. Our lives were packed. We had one car load to take to Spain. We were off.

We set sale from Portsmouth to Santander on September 12th 2012 and arrived in Asturias 18 hours later. The next few months were dedicated to house hunting. We saw over 70 properties in those months. Finally, in November we found our house in Plaza del Caspio, Pintueles. It had been a long search, but we knew this was the place from the moment we arrived in the square.

It took five months to buy the house and another three months to arrange the papers and permits to begin the restoration of the house. These months were put to good use. We spent our time researching sustainable heating and hot water solutions and many, many hours playing with design lay-outs for el gran sueño. We finalised out plans for the design whilst holidaying with my brother in Turin in February 2013.

In May 2013 the builders arrived on site. Their first job was to repair the roof on the garage. It had been damed when the neighbouring barn had suffered a parcial colapse some years prior to our purchase. The garage was important. This was to be our office and workshop whilst the rest of the renovation took place. In June the real work began.

From June to November was a hive of activity. The ground source heat-pump circuit went into the ground in July and Javier and I, with help from a multitude of brave volunteers, set about reshaping and cleaning the soil in the garden, ready for the lawn to be sown. In the meantime a team of builders began the structural work and replaced the roof with a new structure.

In late August the roof on the house was watertight and with the help of another volunteer form the UK we cleared the upper floors from the old partition walls and removed the old ceilings. Our house was changing shape. The wall between the house and the old barn came down to join the two buildings together. By November, the whole roof and the major structural work was finished.

The next six months were filled with making the new room partitions, installing plumbing and electrics and painting - oh so much painting. One day I added up the number of individual pieces of doors, windows and shutters that I had to paint with three coats of undercard and three of final coat. It totalled dozens of pieces and hundreds of coats of paint. I painted every day for three months.

In March 2014 we started the second fix, finishing off electrics and installing the bathrooms. The place was really starting to take shape. We has some assistance with the painting from Nacho, a local guy with an exceptional eye for detail. He did us proud with the painting of the whole building, inside and out.

In the last week of June we reached the end of this first road of our project and we said a fond and tearful farewell to our helpers. Some of these guys had been on-site for a year. The challenges were great. Our emotions had taken a rollercoaster ride in the previous 12 months but we´d done it, we´d built our dream home, we´d created the first page in the new chapter of our lives. we´d built our little hotel in the Asturian countryside, El gran sueño was ready for guests.

On the 14th July 2014 we applied for our licence to trade, 2 years and 2 days after leaving our jobs in Brighton. We shelved our builder´s hats and donned a new uniform, we were now hoteliers. The building was empty, a blank canvas to create the spaces we would be selling in a few weeks time. The furniture had been delivered in April, 3 months too early. In the end, we had just 2 weeks to put it in place and start advertising it to potential guests.

On 1st August we got our licence to open our bed & breakfast, it hardly seemed real, within a few days we welcomed our first paying guests. We had done it. Our dream to build a unique rural hotel in Asturias was complete. Now our journey really begins. Our new lives as hoteliers, cooks and hosts to guests from all over the world. We welcome you to our unique bed & breakfast. We hope that you will love staying here as much as we loved creating it for you.