Designing and building a house is a challenge, especially in a foreign country.


We wanted plenty of space for the two of us and for four to five others we might have as guests. But mostly it will just be my wife Linda and me, so we wanted the design to match our own tastes, and be flexible as far as sleeping, dining and bathroom arrangements.


We wanted to be outside the congestion of the Central Valley, but not isolated. We liked the level building site and peaceful view in Orosi and set about designing the right house for us.


Fond memories of my youth in upstate New York were visiting the cabin my father had built with his friends in Grafton, NY, and spending summers in the Adirondack Mountains. The cozy log cabins in 1950's motor courts there felt right for a vacation, but we wanted something grander. The famous Adirondack Great Camps of the rich and famous of a century ago were an inspiration as well, but were over the top for our rustic taste and modest budget.


As I write this, I realize that the homes of bygone Southern California, where we had spent the previous thirty years, were an influence as well. The sprawling single story Ranch houses, with patios and pools and ample parking. The California Craftman and Bungalows, with low-pitched roofs, over-reaching eaves, covered terraces, open fireplaces, wooden walls and rough timber. Even the big windows and views and indoor/outdoor living of the Case Study houses were in mind.


The Lodges in the National Parks of the American West were probably the greatest influence, and the Pondorosi is a tiny replica, complete with a scenic overlook, our Mirador.


The finishings have the rustic stamp of the Orosi Valley, and much of rural Latin America, with galvanized roofs, kitchens and bathrooms of concrete and tile, wrought iron railings and gates, and furniture locally made of pine.


A few photos of examples:




Three bedrooms with en suite baths seemed about the right size. And an office that would double as a fourth sleeping area. A big couch could be a fifth if needed. We didn't want a houseful of beds if were just one or two of us staying there, so we would use comfortable inflatable air beds to augment. This way, the cabina bedroom could be a studio for our artistic endeavors if we had no guests. 


The furniture would be rearranged depending on how many would be dining, so we opted against immovable built-in features. Flexibility was key.


A safe room with a steel door and heavy duty lock would secure our valuables in our absence.


The pool would be small enough for the water to be heated if pumped through our rooftop solar tubing. And close to the house so we could step right in.


The outside covered patio would be oversized, with folding seating that could be easily moved during heavy rain or strong wind. It would wrap around a corner of the house to enhance views while remaining invisiable to the neighbors. The non-slip concrete floor, which is stained, would extend all of the way around the house under the one-meter eaves.


The motor court would be able to accommodate truck deliveries of materials and parked cars of visitors.


The best views would not be squandered on bedrooms, so they were placed in the rear.