Brian & Esme’s Casa Laguna

A perfect mix of modern and retro was the final outcome of Brian and Esme’s house near the lagoon in Gigante, and a game changer in the overall look of a fishing village.  It really has been an interesting and rewarding ride; creating the concept together, dealing with the environmental setbacks, and ultimately communicating thousands of miles apart on how to create the perfect vacation home for the Woltz family.   Upon completion, we held an open house for everyone to get a chance to see the inside, as townspeople were so curious after watching the progress each day as they walked by the job site on the main road in Gigante.  We set up all the furniture and added personal touches with items left by Brian, Esme and their kids, so people could feel the home the way it should be.   The open house was a victorious moment to finally celebrate the end of a construction challenge and the beginning of a beautiful surf villa for generations.

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When we began construction, we quickly learned from Marena (Nicaragua’s environmental protection agency) that the lot Brian purchased was actually in a wetland zone  and prohibited to build upon.   The lot itself, is actually not on the wetland, but actually near a crab habitat.   Apparently the previous owner had tried to obtain a building permit three times before, with no success.   This was unknown to Brian or Barefoot builders, so a typical Nicaraguan troubleshooting case began.  Head contractor, Ben Love, drove to nearby Tola, wherein lies the mayor’s office, to have countless meetings with Marena, the permit office, and the mayor until they finally realized, after much convincing,  that they could still protect the crabs and build on the lot.   So Ben and Brian’s original house plan had to be lifted one meter off the ground.   This, not only, changed the design, but the materials used as well.   In the end, Brian’s house is made of cinder block and stucco for the exterior walls, and the wall divisions on the inside are made of Coventec, which is a styrofoam insulated mesh paneling covered in stucco to create seamless, cement walls, but light enough to use for the lifted house.  In order to lift the house, and requested by the mayor, we had to dig down 10-15 feet, almost below the water table, to put in the concrete and steel footings and pylons.  In order to grant permission for the build, the mayor and Marena insisted that  the basic structure of the house be made from concrete, thus making the build more labor intensive and more costly.  This was an unexpected twist in Brian’s plan, but he patiently and understandingly proceeded with the build.   This is just one of many of the issues we encounter in construction in a developing country.

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We made a foot bath next to the stairs and entrance to the door to wash sandy feet off after the beach.

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The rest of the build went off painlessly and smooth until it’s last days of completion, when we realized that the well drilling company, Abacus drilling out of Managua, had drilled a well on the property that hit straight salt water.  Barefoot chose this drilling company based on their professionalism and expertise of water systems and trusted in them to drill a well with fresh water in that area.   We assumed that the well drilling company would have advised us that we would hit salt water at that depth, given the proximity to the ocean and estuary.  After noticing that fixtures were beginning to clog in the home’s early days of completion, Ben did extensive research on water tables, and discovered that the Ghyben-Herzberg equation states that for every foot of fresh water above sea level, there will be only 40 feet of fresh water in the aquifer below sea level, and in fact, they should have never drilled a 100ft well in that specific area.   These types of challenges are common in Nicaragua, and each one gives us more knowledge on the topic and make our experiences invaluable.  Thankfully, our guys at Barefoot are resourceful, and they pulled the pump and piping from 120 feet up to only 20 feet to find fresh water.   The fixtures were saved and all the plants in the garden had their fresh water back again!

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To offset the concrete base of the house, Ben decided to add some beautiful hard wood accents like a gorgeous red wood deck made from local Carbon, a giant sliding barn door opening onto the deck from the great room, and heavy hard wood door jams.  Ben added beautiful hand made furniture made from local hard wood including a six person dining table made of Laurel and Guapinole and custom  bunk beds that sleep three people comfortably.  He also left some of the galvanized tubing exposed, running along the vaulted ceilings for a cool modern look throughout the interior.

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The rock mosaic used in the bathrooms were created by hand and the rocks were brought in from a nearby island by local fisherman, Walter Obando.   Ben wanted to use local river rocks, and Walter new just where to find them.

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Esme chose a fresh mint green for the exterior paint, giving the house a unique, retro feel and keeping the energy nice and relaxed.  We chose white star jasmine trees for the flower beds surrounding the house and coconut and palm trees flanking the deck in front.  The large “tree house” tree in the front yard became the perfect garden for climbing plants called Uña de Leon, or Lion’s nails, that thrive in the shade of the tree and will climb it’s trunk, creating a lush, jungle look.

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Brian and Esme’s house is finally finished, secure and beautiful and available for rental now in Gigante.  It is a spacious three bedroom home with good airflow, close proximity to town, walking distance to the surf and definitely the nicest rental around.

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Please feel free to write us with any questions or comments!    info@nicabuilders.com