Our bed & breakfast building techniques

When we moved in and started building there was no electricity, no water, and the one mostly finished building was full of destroyed furniture and had a leaky roof. The property had been abandoned for five years after hurricane Georges destroyed the main house. As I have told many guests when giving them tours of the property, we filled five 30 yard dumpsters of garbage when cleaning up the hurricane damage. My immediate goal was to finish the villa and chalet so we would have rentals to have some income as soon as possible to help with the monthly home depot bills. Laurie's goal was to clean up the property and make everything look nice. You can guess which one of us does the accounting. We finished the chalet first and started renting it out that summer (2004) and had a few guests while we worked on getting the villa ready for the season which starts after Thanksgiving. To help keep us on our toes I had the first renters booked in the villa November 15th so if we didn't have it finished by then we would have had some explaining to do. It worked out that the day our first renters showed up Laurie was still sweeping sawdust out the front door as I was leading our new guests in the back door after checking them in. Now that we had two rentals completed and enough income to defray the constant Home Depot (we call it Home Despot) bills our next goal was somewhere for us to stay. The chalet was built over a large garage. We cleaned out the horse feed, tack and god-knows what else and I built a temporary kitchen on one side. The kitchen was fairly important as we bill our place as a bed and breakfast so Laurie needed somewhere to make the breakfast. In the wall dividing the new kitchen from the rest of the garage I put in pantry shelves. This temporary kitchen is the one we still use today and our guests comment (when seated on the long mahogany table) that the farm house style kitchen is so romantic. They don't know that if you open the dishwasher door all the way it may unbalance and fall over because I haven't installed it completely only just resting it on the packing pallet which it came in and hooking up the pipes and power. I installed the stove top in a mahogany cabinet that was part of my shipping agency office (very nautical) in the distant past and the oven is on blocks. The central work table we made from an antique examining table from a pediatrician. I finished it with a large cast iron sink mounted beside the dishwasher. On the other wall we have two large refrigerators, one a commercial unit recycled from Laurie's flower shop and the other a very nice two door well-known name brand "Elite" machine with an ice maker that is only capable of working 91 days or until the end of it's warrantee whichever comes first.

I think I better make a new paragraph. I didn't realize that describing our quant farm house kitchen would take so many sentences. The worst part, the embarrassing part, is the bedroom which Laurie and I slept in for the first year of operations. So our bedroom was behind the wall of pantry cabinets, basically on the other side of our quant farmhouse kitchen. There were several things about this location for a bedroom that were annoying:

1. Whenever the commercial refrigerator's compressor kicked-on you stopped being able to hear yourself think which would disturb my REM sleep patterns (Laurie was more annoyed by other things further down in this list but since I am writing this I will order the list with the things that most annoyed me first). The lesson to learn from this is that no matter how cool it is to have an expensive commercial refrigerator in your kitchen remember that the people who make the household units know a thing or two about what you might want in your home as opposed to your factory and being startled out a sound sleep by the jet-taking-off sound of a commercial refrigerator's compressor kicking off is not a selling point.

2. The bathroom we used was not very close to our bedroom. For our first year the only working bathroom was under a tarp in the north wing of the main house (which became the villa). Running through the rain on the slippery tile floor was hard to get used to. Sometimes we would get stuck inside waiting for a rain to subside. Remember that we live in the rainforest. Later I built a bathroom in the south wing (we call it the Anderson wing after the volunteer who did most of the masonry work). But access to that bathroom still involved walking through the kitchen and then across the south breezeway. We decided that having a bathroom adjoining your bedroom is not a luxury.

3. The roof over our heads was the floor to the upstairs. That is a convoluted way of saying we were living downstairs. I know that lots of people live downstairs but I never was a very good apartment dweller (witness the fact that I moved a mile into the heart of the rainforest) so I didn't suffer the pitter patter sound of feet upstairs very well. Sometimes in the middle of the night my imagination would take over and I would try to deduce what the sounds coming from upstairs were--perhaps heavy fishing boots and a game of musical chairs? I didn't know but I laid awake anyway.

4. Occasionally guests would ask us where on the property we lived. Our place is a rambling mansion of five houses in various stages of repair so a wave in almost any general direction usually dismissed this question but Laurie was never comfortable with it. We certainly weren't going to say: "Our bedroom is the squalid nine-by-nine room with the cement floor on the other side of the pantry."

Laurie just came in--interrupted this writing--to tell me the dishwasher fell over. She bought some new cutlery that is very heavy stainless steel and you really can't pull the drawer out all the way when it is loaded with that weight. She has already forgotten how bad our first couple of years were and wants me to mount the diswasher. Now that we live in the south "Anderson" wing of the house and have our own private bathroom and a front room with weight training equipment and all sorts of other luxuries but it is all in your expectations. Maybe if we had spent our first year staying in the stable down below with a straw floor and a mud path to an outhouse, maybe then the dishwasher falling over wouldn't be so serious.

Laurie and I still have conflicting goals. I want to finish the jungle suite (it has a huge bedroom high in the tree tops with tree ferns and epiphytes at eye level). I want more rentals available for next season. Laurie wants me to finish repairing the swimming pool (like that isn't a hole for throwing money in) and she spends hours working on the grounds tying orchids to trees and planting heliconia. The rainforest is so prolific that, lucky for me, she just concentrates on the paths between the buildings and the yard in front and is willing to let the rest of the acreage be wild. Sometimes she will be working on the grounds and forget about everything else, like dinner...