Work started with a bang quite literally, with the opening up of the walls around the current entrance to mansion and the path leading to the garden. Instantly it made the whole mansion look larger and brighter. The level of the entrance had to be raised to prevent the rainwater from coming in.
No project is worth its weight in salt without some animated discussions, such as “which contractor “ to engage. Loulou was keen on using her contractors as she was confident about the quality of their work having worked with them before. Antonio however was keen on giving the job to his contractors who have worked on his previous projects. Jonathan and I also jumped into the fray choosing Loulou’s contractors over Antonios’ as we were concerned with the quality of the finishes. Antonio however won this round assuring us that quality would not be compromised.
Work started with Joe as the onsite coordinator and Vinayak as the contractor. Since this old mansion was to be converted into a boutique hotel, the number of toilets needed to be increased so a Structural engineer was engaged and provisions were made for the additional toilets.
Once that was completed, the next big task was the roof. Having been built in 1879 major repairs needed to be carried out. The onset of the monsoons meant that this task has to be prioritised to curtail the amount of damage. Water proofing material that had thermal insulation properties was used and improved ventilation was provided in the roof area to keep out the condensation. The roof was retiled using old tiles to match the original roofing. To fit in the skylight the opening in the roof had to be increased. Flooring was provided in the roof area to make place for storage.
Most of the original ceiling has been repaired however in 3 rooms the ceiling had to be replaced as it was broken beyond repair. In those 3 rooms the ceiling was replaced with a terracotta false ceiling. A significant amount of time was spent on replicating the Sundrapatty all across the ceiling. Sundrapatty is the Facia roof with design elements of a Portuguese house.
The next stage of the construction phase was the flooring. During the design phase both Jonathan and Loulou were keen on preserving the original Portuguese tiles and the timber flooring. The mansion was previously been used as a guest house and in 2 of the bedrooms there were cement beds. The beds had to be removed with great care so as to not damage the old flooring. I am happy to report that both the tiles and most of the timber flooring has been preserved.
Loulou’s vision with the bathrooms was to keep the old world look with modern sanitary ware , such as the thermostatically controlled Grohe Showers. Bharat tiles was a clear choice to maintain the elegance and charm of the 1800s. Bharat tiles pioneered the cement tiles industry in India as part of the Swadeshi movement as a contribution to India’s economic independence by producing tiles of international quality to replace imported tiles. The best European technologies were brought and modified to create a unique product suited to Indian conditions. Recognising that a good floor is only achieved when it is laid correctly, Bharat tiles were engaged to lay the tiles. Jonathan visited the Bharat Tiles factory and fell in love with the collection. The tiles for each bathroom were handpicked by Loulou, each different in colour and design with a great deal of detail. A lot of thought was put into which tiles would suit each of the bathrooms, the colours coordinated for each bathroom, the feature tiles that would be used and where they would be placed. I for one cannot wait to see the final result.
The window and door frames were painted white by the previous owners. The paint was painstakingly scraped off to reveal the original rich timber. The walls were very uneven and had to be repaired by replastering and rendering the whole of the first floor. The walls were then finished off with plaster of Paris to get an even finish.
The courtyard of the mansion transports you to a little village in Europe. It amazes everyone that in the bustling city of Panjim, there is a well located on the property. The well has been cleaned and now houses a variety of fish. It just adds to the charm of the outdoor area. The outside stairs had to be demolished as they were in a dilapidated stated and the wall was fortified to ensure there would be no damage in the years to come. A small portion of the garden was excavated to create a small water body. Loulou has some grand plans to make the water body a stunning feature of the hotel.
I could go on and on about the construction phase as each minute detail of this phase was planned and executed to perfection. Now onto the next phase – The interiors where Loulou’s magic touches every little space and brings it to life.