If not now, then never!
After 24 years of a relationship, really difficult at its last stage, a determined woman doctor decides to get divorced and build a house for her and her children. Using own money, a credit and her parent’s support she orders building a house to a developer, and then she supervises the final works herself. She moves into a dream house after 16 months from the moment of buying the plot. She is not discouraged by unpredicted difficulties with the heating or attempted robberies. She finds a solution also to these problems. Now she is ready to build her life again.
Jola bought a house of 104 m2 floor surface in a “shell” condition – that is just with walls and a roof, so she had to finish the interior on her own. The house had to be equipped with everything what was needed to live for a single mother with an 11-year-old son and an already grown up daughter who visits her mother almost every weekend, as she lives in Kraków where she is about to graduate from the dentistry studies. – I got the keys to the house in December, before Christmas, so I started to renovate it as of January, and we moved in September. The daughter motivated me to finish the renovation quickly so that she could live there for a while before going back to Kraków, this time to take up the traineeship – Jola recalls.
A house is a house
Before that Jola shared a few, bigger and bigger apartments with her husband, but she was unhappy with him. After the break-up, she left everything to the husband, she moved with the son to her parents for some time. She looked for her own place. When she compared prices on the market, she decided that building a house would be less expensive in time than buying and paying the rent for an apartment. – A house is a house. In a way I made my mother’s dream come true, she had always dreamt that someone in our family would build a house – the doctor says. When I informed my parents about my decision, they promised to help me with everything they could. I thought: If not now, then never! I had the division of property done, I filed for divorce, I took a credit, I built a house. And I did all this in one year!
She was thinking about buying a house in a shell condition from the beginning, she didn’t want a ready-made house, because she preferred to decide about the interior on her own. She knew also that she would not have time to build it from the basis, as she would have to supervise all the work daily, and she had lots of work. From the early mornings till the late afternoons, or actually until the evenings she worked at two hospitals and a surgery. So she ordered building the house to a developer. Before that she had bought a plot in a great location – she knew she would have a good connection to work from there, and the son’s school could be seen almost out of their windows. He would have to commute to the middle school, but it was close to a bus stop.
Before she found the right plot, she had seen different places, but she was not convinced about any of them. Finally, a friend from work advised to her that area, because he had started building a house there and was just about to finish it. He also said: – I would give you a contact data to a great, proven developer. You know, he is from here, you can come and see what the area is like, because he is a friend of mine, he lives just next to me. And it really was so. What else convinced her to that area? – When she talked to the developer she heard – Ma’am, a lot of people have bought houses from me because I have experience in this. Imagine that I live here, no one comes with complaints. I would be afraid to live here, if there was something wrong. The arguments seemed convincing to her. She went to see the place, she chose a bit bigger plot than she planned – 750 square meters, but closer to the existing road, which was particularly important to her, especially in times of difficult weather conditions. It would always be easier in getting to work. And this was how her adventure with building her own house started.
Renovation works and interior design
– When designing the interior, I used the support of a young and nice woman architect with whom we were sitting and making plans – that was what it looked like in the beginning. I told her what I wanted everything to look like. What I liked, what needs I had and how I imagined that place – the woman says. – I had travelled to Tuscany for a few years and had always been impressed by that place. It is known that our climate is not the right one for having a Tuscany house here. But I wanted to create that atmosphere at least partially, because I don’t really like modern interiors, which are trendy now. I have always preferred more classical design, not rustical, but still a warmer climate. Jola knew that she surely wanted to have a fireplace, suspended beams on the ceiling, which she had always dreamt about, plants and warm colours of the walls. She put up a painting on one of them, which she brought from Vinci, a Tuscany town, of course.
She also wanted to feel good energy in her house and hoped it would flow between people who would visit her. She decided to invite only friends with a positive attitude to her and to one another. – That painting (The creation of Adam – Michelangelo) was supposed to be a positive element, – these outstretched hands are such a kind gesture-friendship, peace- she matched other decorative elements with it. She had natural stone plates matching in color mounted at the fireplace and on the walls in different rooms, what puts them together in one piece – And here I have beams, which are in fact the bearing beams and they wanted to close them in plates – she points at the ceiling in the attic – But when I saw them, I ordered to leave them, the workers told me – do you know how much heating would be needed here?And I said, I was not interested in it, this was my house, I was supposed to feel good in it, so I ordered to polish these beams and leave an empty space up to the roof. This way she gained another beam element.
The plants look beautiful at the window sills. – Unfortunately, in the previous apartment where I lived with my ex-husband, my plants always disturbed him – she recalls. – I promised to myself that I would have a special place for them here. In the beginning she had an idea that these would be simply sprouts out of soil, but then she understood it would be more difficult to keep cleanliness, so she chose a separate place for the plants. She got also orchids as a gift from her friends, which bloom beautifully, although as she admits, she doesn’t always have time to take care of them. Sometimes the daughter helps to water the plants, and also her mother who has “green fingers”.
The house owner really likes the day light, so most of space at the ground floor is glassed. – It was supposed to be one, big glass, but this would require some special reinforced glass, which would cost more, and of course when you start building a house, you need to watch every penny – she admits.
Jola takes me upstairs. – Here are our bedrooms and, as my son Marek says, “a storage room” – that is my wardrobe. – A place that can hold everything. For a woman it is a necessity, so it had to be there, especially that there is no space downstairs to store things, as we have almost no furniture except for the kitchen of course. Even my daughter puts her clothes here because she lives in a small bedsit in Kraków – she points. She just started working as a dentist there.
Kuba’s room is the biggest one upstairs. Originally there was supposed to be his mother’s bedroom, but Jola knew that the son would need more space with some time for his friends. The boy picked furniture to the room. – We also have the attic. In the future Marek wants to make an additional room there to keep the audio equipment in it, but now we store there different things, for example, games, skiing equipment. When my daughter comes with her boyfriend, we take these board games, because there are more of us now, we sit together and have good fun.
When the daughter leaves, her room becomes Jola’s bedroom, who wanted to avoid extra investments and found this to be a good solution.
Costs and safety
For building the house Jolanta used some savings, some money earned in her daily work, some from the parents, and the rest was paid with a credit she took for 23 years. She paid 430 thousand zloty for the house in a shell condition and for the plot, and finishing the house inside cost another 200 thousand zloty. – Still not all the works have been finished, but we can already live here comfortably – she persuades. – Slowly, I will manage somehow with all the details that need most time to be finished. I also have to deal with some financial problems, because in spite of many types of collateral, I have inherited them after my already ended marriage.
Friends ask her whether she is not afraid to live alone in the house, without a man. She claims not to be, but she installed an alarm system during the house renovation, which was also an important condition of co-operation with one of the subcontractors. He said he had so much of expensive equipment there that he would not like to risk losing it and in fact the alarm went off during site works, because someone tried to break in. She lived at the other end of the city at that time. At 24:00 she got a text message signaling the break-in. – It was the middle of the night, I was thinking what to do. I knew that arriving at the place would take 40 minutes. First, I called the equipment owner, one of the subcontractors, and he promised to go there before me, as he was closer. Then, I dialed the number to a person who installed the alarm, he was finishing other work somewhere around. And of course, I contacted the police, but they arrived as the last ones, even after me – she says. It turned out that the robbers broke into the utility room, they drilled through the locks that fell to the inside and this way the alarm went off. – I guess they didn’t expect there would be an alarm installed in a house which was just being built. They didn’t steal anything, got scared and ran away. On the next day Jolanta decided to buy out the right security and to sign an agreement with a security agency, because she stored in the house not only the equipment for renovation, but also the building materials. Now if the alarm goes off accidentally, when she is at work or skiing with her son, the security agents arrive within a few minutes. There have been several robberies in the neighborhood, even when families where sleeping in the houses. Therefore, she bought an extra security package.
Difficulties and advantages of building and having a house
She was very tired during the house building; she worked at three posts, she built the house, she took her son to school and to other classes. In that time she changed one job for another. It was like a rollercoaster from the morning till the evening nearly for one year. She went to sleep, and woke up just like a robot and again the same. – But now I can see that it kept me alive after the divorce in the new life situation, whenstarting everything from the scratch – she admits. – The parents have always supported me, also in bringing up Marek. I often came here after work, and left the son with them, and then I went to the building site. I had only two main subcontractors, but I had a regular contact with them.
She had to look for the right materials. – I was supported by my designer, but I had to choose certain things and decide about the key issues on my own – where to put the sockets, lamps, wall lights. Sometimes I had to face stressful problems, unpredictable situations. It happened, for example, that the newly installed stove stopped working suddenly. This was at the time of a skiing trip. It was a cold winter and when she came back with her son the house was freezing cold, although the stove was set for the room temperature. It turned out the stove broke down because the building power supply was switched into the standard power supply. It was Sunday, winter, and the stove didn’t work, but the fireplace saved them. They slept downstairs on a couch, and on Monday the professionals fixed the problem. She used the fireplace regularly at the weekends, she put the firewood in it on her own, thanks to which she reduced the heating costs that are cheaper now than in the previous apartment. Besides, she loves that sparking, warm climate of the hearth and home she created herself.
She had to learn the house, but now from the spring to the autumn she enjoys the beautiful, sun terrace where she spends the weekend mornings. She also has a lot of space inside and in the garden which she has been still working on. When she lived in a block of flats, she was exposed to the party noise made by the neighbors. It was hard to stand it. So that is way she was afraid in the beginning about who would be the new neighbors. It turned out that fortunately they are nice people. They help each other, they agreed on the access road, rainwater drainage. A very nice woman named Grażyna lives next door, she has also built the house on her own. The same developer commented on that female self-reliance by saying – What a time, women build houses on their own!
She doesn’t regret that she has changed her life, although now she has to pay off the credit and raise the son by herself. – As long as I have the job, the strength to work and the people’s kindness – I don’t see a big problem about that – she smiles. In her marriage she always had to adapt to the husband’s decision. She finished with the past, with what she didn’t want to experience anymore. Now she can decide about her life on her own. She is not going to resign from pleasures she needs, for example, a nice holiday with Kuba, her own interests. – I would like to meet someone close, a true, kind partner. I’m not running away from that, but I’m really busy with my work – she says. – But I don’t avoid occasional entertainment, meetings with many friends. I’m not hiding, I’m not running in work. I’m looking forward to the future, and at present I’m planning to create my first, own garden.