Doors and Light Fixtures








Spiral Staircase complete

My first post since I returned from my quick trip to Panama.  It was a very busy couple of weeks punctuated by the Easter holiday, which is one of the biggest events in Panama.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get as much accomplished as I had hoped. 

We have officially started the bathroom tile installations.   It was important to make sure the tiles were going to be installed correctly and they waited until I got to the site to ensure I was ok with the install.   Juan Carlos who has been installing all of the tiles at the house made a sample of each wall in every bathroom with the correct tiles and we approved each bathroom one by one.  I did not take any photos simply due to the fact that I did not want to show them to you until the work is completed.  I think you are going to be amazed at the look of the bathrooms especially the powder room which will be 100% white Carrara marble.  This look will evoke the “revival” component of the house which harks back to the early part of the 20th century.  The polished nickel hardware and white pedestal sink will complement the black and white mosaic floor. 

Juan Carlos has been doing a terrific job of keeping the tiles in their rightful place.  Both the floor tiles and now the wall tiles will need careful attention in order to give justice to the patterns Nicola had originally designed for each bathroom. 

He has also just finished the spiral staircase and I’ve taken some photos to include in this post of not only the staircase with the re-finished Canterra stair treads, Talavera tiles, belly picket iron railing but a photo of Juan Carlos himself. Here he is sitting on the completed stairs, which is not something I see him do often. 

Juan Carlos, Canterra stair treads, Talavera Tiles, Wrought iron railing:

Double click any photo to enlarge:

Justin Bieber Bus

When I rolled into Panama City, I had to take a photo of this Diablo Rojo (red devil) bus juxtaposed against the Panama skyline.  It’s an interesting look at the past and the present in a photo.  What’s even stranger is to see is a Canadian born pop star like 18 year old Justin Bieber have an effect in Panama.  After all, the music and styles are so Latin -American here.  Salsa and latino influences dominate the local scene.

So when I saw the bus, I was amused notably because the drivers of these buses like to personalize them with what inspires them.  Most buses have painted pictures of Jesus, beautiful models, their girlfriends or whatever they choose to distinguish themselves from the rest of the buses that stalk the Panamanian streets.  This one even has dual stacked chrome exhaust pipes at the back-end.

The Diablo Rojo’s are and were the main form of public transportation for so many years in Panama City.  They were actually used school buses purchased from the US long after they were retired and put out to pasture.  The Panamanians bought them and decided it was a good idea to use them as passenger buses.  These buses can be one of the most dangerous forms of transportation not only for the passengers but usually for any transients who just happen to get in the way of one storming down a busy street.  The buses have been known to accidentally hit people as they race from one bus stop to the next.  I’ve seen two buses race each other down a busy street weaving in and out of traffic in order to get to a bus stop before the other.  Passengers don’t seem to complain as they have not known anything different.  You just take your chances when you ride the bus.

What adds another layer of humor to the photo of Bieber, is a well-endowed woman just above his picture with horns on her head and underneath her bosom is the statement “Portados” which translates to “well-behaved”.  If you double-click the photo and then once more you get to see what I mean.

These buses are privately owned and the owners make money on the fares each passenger pays to ride the scary bus.  The government as of last year decided it was time to retire these buses and offered the bus owners $25K to each owner so they could take their buses off the road.  The last day will be sometime in July 2012.   The new transit system includes  modern buses driven by public sector workers so no need to try to race and pick up fares. Of course they will never be on time as a result.  Hopefully we shall see some lives spared!


Window Grilles part II

The window grilles that I had manufactured in Canada are finally up and it’s great to see this part of the finishing come together for the exterior windows.  I think it really makes a difference albeit a small difference to the overall look of the house.  It’s the details that count and in this case, the effort to get them from Canada to Panama was expensive but worth it.  SCR homes need to have wrought iron and it’s not only appropriate but a necessity in this case.

I had the iron pieces powder-coated and I am hoping that the iron will not rust for a long time.  Unfortunately, I have experienced problems with rust corrosion due to the salt air environment with a few of my iron light fixtures.  I installed these on the exterior only a few months ago.  I have some rust paint and will attempt to repaint those fixtures before the rust starts to work its way too far into the steel but it’s most likely that I will need to replace these with a non-iron product that looks the part but won’t rust.

With every product, I have made every effort to order stainless steel or rust resistant materials for the entire house but believe it or not even stainless steel rusts unless it’s salt air grade SS.  It’s a real and constant problem where you have exposure to salt air.

Village Flowers

I arrived in Panama a few days ago (March 27th ) and I have been busy working on a number of things related to finishing the house.  I don’t have much time on this trip but it looks like we might get a fair amount accomplished, unlike my previous visit.

We also have begun to work on the landscaping design and I need to think about the kind of plants that I’d like to have around the house.  Pedro has also started to move more truckloads of dirt onto the property and we will begin to level out the area around the house so we can start to plant when the dry season ends in April.

I also have plenty of other things to report in the coming days with regards to the installations including bathrooms, kitchen and doors but for now, I want to show you some of the magnificent flowers I get to see in the lovely town of Pedasi.

Pedasi is a quaint little village of a few hundred people.   Before the world began to discover this part of the Azueros peninsula, the town was home to mostly cattle farming and fishing.  It has not changed for decades until very recently when people began to move into the area.  When I first discovered Pedasi, it only had a couple local restaurants and it was a very sleepy little place that rolled up its streets at an early hour.   Now we boast more than 2o very small restaurants and a new hospital.  Of course at Carnival, the population increases ten fold with party revelers.

Most all the houses in town are very small in size compared to western standards, spanish colonial in style and many have been here for decades.   The town has begun to grow and of course people like me from all parts of the world are discovering the area and choosing to make it their primary home or vacation paradise.  

I’m not sure how much longer the town can continue with its natural quaintness; I guess it’s only a matter of time before it concedes to globalization or to people like me that want to make serious changes to their lifestyle.  I am definitely one of the people who have been a part of this change and I’m hopeful that I continue to respect the people and culture in order to maintain it.  From a architectural perspective, I’ve stayed true to the Spanish Colonial style that permeates throughout the area.  


What makes me smile every time I roll into town are  the locals who take great pride in their homes.  The town is clean and the houses are small, quaint and usually well-kept. 






Panama in general has one of the most fabulous climates to grow just about anything.   They say you can put a stick in the ground and it will take root and start to grow.  I’ve seen it for myself.  The flowers in Panama in general are beautiful and probably the most notable is the orchid which grows on trees in the rain forest.

In Pedasi where the climate is much drier, you get an abundance of flowers everywhere and I mean everywhere!  In fact, people here have to constantly trim back their plants otherwise they’ll overtake and spill over their houses.  I’ve taken a few photos of those too!

Despite the fact it’s the dry season and there are not as many flowers as the rainy season, you can see it’s still quite spectacular.  Earlier today I took a short drive (I mean very short drive) to shoot some plants and flowers so I could use the photos to choose what kind I may want to plant on my property.  See for yourself:  Double click on any photo to get the full-size version.


Wrought iron railing installation

The iron railing that I spent so many months agonizing over the design and fabrication is finally ready to be installed on the staircase. 











You may remember from previous posts,(,  that I tried to find a blacksmith in Panama that could fashion such a staircase but to no avail. I finally made the decision to work with a blacksmith in Canada to fabricate the wrought iron balusters and railing based on a model we had taken from the plans and drawings.   Afterwards, we dismantled the staircase into parts and had them shipped to Panama.  That was a lot of work but it’s beginning to look like it is coming together nicely with the crew in Panama working their way up the stair case. 





The hand-painted Talavera tiles are now on each stair riser.









 You can see that each baluster is connected to the side of each stair rather than on top.

It gives the staircase a decorated look while it remains clean and functional.  I was particularly cognizant not to over decorate the wrought iron.  Overall, the circular staircase with all the different elements is fairly busy and I did not want the wrought iron to overtake the look of the staircase, but to complement it. I’d like you to see the rustic hand hammered wrought iron details but not at the expense of the Canterra stair treads, Talavera tiles, wrought iron light fixtures,  tall windows and the 5 meter chandelier. 

 Here’s where it all started, Manfred from Custom Ornamental Iron works:









Yes, it’s a blue kitchen


My kitchen builder was able to deliver some of the kitchen cabinets for installation after Carnival came to an end last week.  You can see Wolfgang and his son,Thomas assembling and installing each cabinet on the wall of the kitchen that will house the copper farmhouse sink, bar sink and other appliances.

At the moment, I am not in Panama so I cannot see the color of the cabinets in person.  The blue shade on the cabinets look a little brighter/lighter than what we had originally picked out. I’m hopeful that the actual shade is darker than the photos I see on my computer.  Two of the photos were taken with a Blackberry cell phone and the others were taken with a digital camera.  The photos taken with a digital camera show the color to be more turquoise than the Blackberry photos.  Also the photos were taken at different times during the day (early morning and late in the afternoon)  Once the granite counter tops and kitchen island are installed, I think they will blend in nicely.  Either way, I believe both shades of blue will be “period correct” for a SCR home. 

All of the appliances in this kitchen will be covered in the same color panels as the rest of the cabinets. There were no stainless steel appliances in Spanish Colonial Revival kitchens that I am aware of.



The center island is still yet to be installed.  It will not have any color other than natural wood stain.   The cabinets on either side of the stove on the end wall are also yet to be installed. 

 Which shade do you prefer?

 Update:  April 2012,

Here’s the iPhone photo I took a few days ago.  This is probably the closest true color of the kitchen cabinets.  The shade does change depending on the time of day. You can see an example of this by looking at the cabinet that houses my refrigerator.  The top half of the cabinet is a slightly different shade than the bottom where the light is not reflected as much.  The overly bright photos at the beginning of this post are not really indicative of the true color.  This photo taken at midday:

Saltillo comes to life

Just a quick update.  I’ve been waiting for more photos of the house in progress.  Heading into Carnival, it’s guaranteed the workers will be off for the next week and until things get back to normal, it’s unlikely that I’ll see anymore photos.

 Most of the light fixtures have been installed and while I have some photos that were sent to me, I am waiting for my trip next month to Panama where I will be able to take higher quality photos of each fixture to post on the blog.  I think you get a reasonable idea of the style in the following photos.  90 percent of the wrought iron light fixtures are hand-made to spec and are period correct.  The rest of the lighting is made up of small recessed ceiling lights.

The Saltillo tile is also hand-made the old-fashioned way and fired in a wood burning oven.   I’ve talked about this in previous posts so I won’t get into it again but it’s great to see the tiles at the end of their journey.  It was quite a feat getting them from Mexico to resting on the floors.  They look like they’ve been there forever and that’s exactly why I went to the trouble to get them.  They’ll be here for a long, long time.

The workers are applying the sealant and enhancer to the tiles this week after they were grouted and left to dry for a few weeks.  You can see the richness and unique characteristics of each tile. Most importantly, there is not one tile that is the same as the other. 


Lastly, Juan Carlos is putting finishing touches on the stair treads that he had to re-cut and also the hand painted Talavera tiles he installed on the riser of each stair.  The final application of grout and sealer over the next few days will finish the spiral staircase.  We still have the wrought iron railing to install but that’s another post on for another day.

See for yourself:


Window Grilles

One of the important components of a Spanish Colonial Revival home is the use of wrought iron.  I’ve already espoused the work and initiative to find a builder for the iron railing and balusters that will adorn the circular staircase.  A decision was made a couple of months ago to have the staircase built in Canada and shipped to Panama where it now sits awaiting installation. Hopefully, we will have the railing installed over the next couple of weeks. 

It’s now time to start thinking about the wrought iron window grilles and doors.  Previously, I had some of the basic grilles made and powder powder-coated in Canada along with the railing but now it’s time to begin planing the intricate and decorated grilles for two of the windows and the one door located on the upper terrace, similar to these in the photos below:

 I am hopeful that I can work with someone in Panama.    So far I have not had much luck with any of the other wrought iron items but I do have an idea, stay tuned!

Stair treads


Things are getting back to normal at the project his month.  The road that fronts the house will be paved with the addition of sidewalks and as this endeavour progresses, I’ll be posting photos in the weeks to come.

A year ago, I spoke of the stair treads that I had ordered from Mexico for the circular stairs inside the tower.  At that time, I had to have templates of each stair tread copied on site and sent to Mexico where the stone workers cut each slab of stone into individual stair treads. 


The Canterra stone is a softer material similar to limestone and if we were not careful in packing them, they would most likely break on the long journey from Mexico to Panama.  So a great deal of care went into ensuring they were crated properly and I was happy to see they arrived without breaking.  Each tread is four feet wide, two inches thick and heavy.  You need two people to move one tread.

It was not until recently that we were ready to fit each tread to the concrete steps.   After all that planning, we discovered that almost all the treads had been bullnosed on the wrong side!  The templates we provided to the stone cutters were not clear as to which end of the tread should have been bullnosed.   Thankfully, we have Juan Carlos who has been able to re-cut each tread to fit each stair and re-bullnose the correct sides.  Whew!  It would have been another awful and costly mistake.  Here are some photos of the tower stairs with the Canterra stone placed on each tread.  The hand-painted Talavera tiles are still to be installed on the riser of each stair along with the wrought iron railing I had shipped to Panama from Canada.