The story of the white piano

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Back in February when my 55th birthday was coming closer my generous husband Per asked me if I had some special wish, a new car perhaps? Or a nice party? I told him I had been thinking about a piano for our new house Alegria…

In my childhood the piano was the most valuable item in our house in Rakvere. My parents were fond of music; my mother had an exceptionally beautiful voice (she dreamed of becoming an opera singer) while my father often sat at the piano playing his favorite melodies or accompanying my mother. Lot of them where energetic pieces as marches inspired of the communist era but also soulful melodies about our small country with its picturesque landscape. I was always fascinated when the cover was taken away to tune the piano – the inside looked exciting with all soft hammers that hit the strings.

Also at my school in Rakvere, located in a beautiful white building of thirties, the grand piano was standing  at the place of honor in the beautiful sunny auditorium. The piano was always carefully covered, I remember my fascination the times the piano was uncovered and the big lid was open. Music had an important place at my school, we had several choirs led by our enthusiastic music teachers. Arvo Pärt, a world famous composer of today, was a pupil at my school and has started his musical life growing up in my hometown Rakvere.

Also Per’s childhood home has a piano and the clear sounds of it can be heard in the whole big house when his sister is playing. Also he, as well as me, took piano lessons as young and we both regret that we did not put more effort in it. Therefore we were delighted when Clara and Elsa started to take piano lessons, and even more now when Elsa has taken her piano playing to a higher level, training every week with a brilliant Russian piano teacher.

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I cannot tell exactly when the piano seed was sown in my head. I was reading about the craft of piano making in Estonia and accidentally checked the Estonia Piano Factory homepage. Estonia has a long tradition of skillful piano makers who also worked for famous factories in Russia and specially in St Petersburg, the town of culture. Many of them opened their own manufacturing and, when Estonia became independent 1917, started up their own production in the home county. However during the soviet era all the factories were closed down, except for Estonia Piano Factory that became a very prestigious factory exporting to many countries. The Estonia Piano Factory was purchased by the employees when Estonia regained its independence in 1991. A lot of effort was put to redesign the instruments collaborating with leading piano experts in Europe to create grand pianos of the highest level. I learned also that the factory now was owned and managed by Laul family including Mr. Venno Laul, the famous choir leader and important person in the music life of Estonia.

I really liked the idea of having something extraordinary from my little motherland! Something that daily reminds me about my background, something to be proud over. So I dropped a question through the homepage regarding retailers of Estonia piano in Spain.

 

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I got a surprisingly nice answer from Mr Venno Laul himself with an invitation to visit the factory and get a private demonstration of the mini grand piano that would be our choice for the house in Spain. I was excited – it felt like an adventure…

On March 27th at 13:56 I parked my car at the backyard of the piano factory, following the detailed instructions from Mr Laul, turned left to Kungla street and walked until I found the entrance. I pushed a button saying ”director” and soon a friendly voice gave me further instructions where to find the office. Finally Venno Laul, an elderly tall and stylish man, welcomed me and introduced his son, pianist Indrek Laul, who guided me through this exciting building with its many production premises.

A new world opened up for me… It was thrilling to see how much knowledge, technology and fine craftsmanship is needed to produce one grand piano, regardless if it is modeled for a living room or a concert hall. The Estonia piano holds many different quality parts; for example the Renner action, manufactured in Stuttgart, means that the instrument is on the same level as a Steinway, the most known piano in the world.

One of the most important final stages is the tuning. Only a small amount of people qualify for this work, that needs absolute pitch hearing. A piano can be set to more soft or more brilliant tones and Estonia piano is known for its warm romantic sound.

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In the demo room Indrek Laul demonstrated the piano of model 168, the smallest one in the production of Estonia piano factory that would suit our living room. I was overwhelmed when he started to play The Dying Swan of Saint Saëns – one of the ballet solos Elsa has done on the stage…

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I felt me treated like a queen during my visit and the whole atmosphere in the factory made me impressed so when the tour and demo was over the decision was not hard to make: we would have a white Estonia mini grand piano for Alegria, our Spanish home. Luckily I had an OK from Per with me…

Our nice and friendly email contact with Mr Venno who was a real gentleman lasted through the whole production process. I was always welcome to the factory when I visited Tallinn, to follow the progress. In May I visited the factory together with my brother in law Valdo to get instructions for the installation and in June, a short time before the piano was going on its long journey through Europe I visited the factory once more together with Elsa and her friend Louisa from California.

 

We came by ferry from Sweden through Finland and hurried to the factory.  Mr Venno met us in the silent factory – it was the day before Midsummer eve, a state holiday, that meant half working day. There were only the director and one craftsman left who wanted to work instead of going to party. Mr Venno seemed to have no hurry – he showed us our white piano with great enthusiasm and told about all the parts inside. We were enchanted and amused. This visit was an amazing experience that stays in our hearts!

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Only some days after our visit the white piano, being tuned, left Estonia with DSV transport through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Polen, Germany, France to the final destination in Spain. At the day the piano arrived to Alicante there was a confusion as we expected to get a home delivery but we sorted it out with a helpful DSV representative with beautifully sounding name, Mari-Liis Lilleleht. Finally our workleader managed to organize an express transportation from DSV terminal in Alicante to our house in Albir.

The early morning of July 10th felt like the Christmas eve; we were waiting for the piano that should arrive just after 8 am with a crane truck normally used to take up the building materials to our yard, situated on the mountain slope. It was a great relief to finally spot the big truck coming uphill – we were unsure whether we had any insurance for this part of transport.

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We were well prepared – Valdo and our building team with their muscles tense and me with my camera and iphone ready to capture every step of this important happening. The heavy crane lifted the box to the terrace as easily as it would be a soil bag.

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After a short struggle with mounting of legs the 250 kg piano could be rolled to its final destination, the living room at villa Alegria.

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After having written most of this text I get a phone call from my sister in Estonia. It was announced that Venno Laul passed away on October 14th, one month after his 80th anniversary.

I feel sadness; this very special man was still so vital, so passionate about his job, so kind and so polite and attentive.  On the other hand I am happy that I had possibility to learn to know him – our interesting conversations will always be in my memory. I hope some of the soft sounds from the white piano in villa Alegria will touch him high above us…

 

 

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“Dear Mrs Linda,

What a pleasure to know that the piano is on its place now, in one piece! All the steps you have planned lead to the day when you will be able to enjoy the sounds of your piano. Right now only seeing the photo gives a great feeling, the piano is really angel-like with its elegance and suits so well in your new house.

I wish you many beautiful musical moments!

Warm congratulations to You,                                                                                                               Venno Laul”

 

 

 

September in Spain

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Rain pouring down…

We were warned about the heavy rains that usually occur in September but it is difficult to believe it when the sun is always there, sometimes after some morning haze over the sea. Sometimes the sunbeds are moist when you go out on the terrace before the sunbeams reach over the mountains. Now we and our new house have experienced these massive showers – when everything gets flooded and the soil is swept away from your new flowerbeds, still waiting for the plants. One morning I woke up to a dripping sound in the corridor and found that someone had placed a bucket under the roof window 🙂 Our building leader says it was a good rain-proof test.

But the Spanish nature is well prepared to take advantage of these showers and in only a few days everything starts to grow and bloom hysterically. I’m already making plans how to collect the valuable rain water that does so good for the garden!

Even if there is more “important” stuff to organize/decide at this stage I cannot keep away from the garden shops (just for planning purposes) and end up dragging home lots of plants and sacks of soil. Luckily I have had my friend Nina here who gives me good help. So consequently I have started some small plant projects using old pots left at the property and the new built-in flower beds.

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When I came here alone one evening in beginning of September I was totally blown away by how everything had changed since I left this place in the end of July. Even if all the big jobs were done in July, everything seemed to have just fallen on their right places! The doors were there, the bathroom furniture installed, the staircase in natural stone…. just amazing. Everything was tidy and the view through the clean windows was stunning. I was wandering around in the house, sparsely furnished, airy, with wonderful warm lighting. It was overwhelming to see my ideas realized, all the materials and surfaces I had picked among hundreds, every light positioned according to my wish – everything felt just “right” . All has been made with such precision, feeling for the handicraft and material, you could see the quality in every corner, on every step! I felt great admiration for our building team, for the stone cutters, for the carpenters who had realized all our ideas and wishes. It seemed unreal but still so wonderful to know that this place now was our home for coming years, where we would love to spend most of our time.

 

 

A week ago I met my husband Per, who left the house in the end of May and hadn’t seen the progress in live since then, at the Alicante airport. He came with Uzanna who was a bit confused and nervous after the hours spent in the plane in her cage among other “special luggage”. At the same time I said goodbye to my brother and his wife visiting me one week and helping in getting things in order.

The biggest change since last time has occurred outdoors, all the outdoor tiles done, piles of material and rubbish gone, terrasses ready for sunny days and soft evenings with family and friends, flowerbeds and soil waiting for plants and fruit trees. It will be a pleasure to furnish and decorate every space in and around the house! My family seems to be as happy as me. A new chapter in our life just started.

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The next post will be about the white piano above! Bye bye until then!

Calor!

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After exactly one month I am back in Spain. Do I need to say that I am very excited to see the progress in the house…

Me and Elsa arrive to our house after sunset. We took our car from the airport, two hours delayed and without my bag – after a long search process found at Arlanda. No problem – I have some clothes stored in the new house. We park the car outside, switch off the Securitas alarm and start to open the heavy temporary gates to the yard. The big house looks a bit scary with its big dark windows. We look forward to come inside, turn on the lights and unpack our stuff, tired after the delayed flight. But –  why doesn’t the code of the padlock that I used so many times before work this time!?? Finally we manage to create a hole big enough to crawl through and enter our new Spanish home. Not very graceful first entry.

The house looks amazing – so much work done since we left it in the end of May! We turn on the lights in every room and just walk around. Am I dreaming, is this beautiful house really ours!? Our building team has almost finished the main floor and the master bedroom upstairs with only few installations still to be done. The light arrangements I have planned are just as beautiful I hoped they would be. The view outside is breathtaking.

 

An hour later I leave Elsa in the empty house and return to the airport in Alicante to pick up my sister and her husband arriving with a late flight. They are staying two weeks and give me some help with cleaning, fitting and furnishing the house.

Before we left the rented house we moved over a lot of stuff we bought so we would not need to start from zero. We got kitchen-ware, vacuum cleaner and coffe machine, beds delivered by Danish design in Altea and other important stuff to survive first days in an almost-ready house. We have two chairs but no table to start with – the table ordered from Concept is arriving only in August.

When I see the kitchen in the heart of the house, complete with worktops and lights I’m filled with gratitude: it looks better I could hope. We had chosen the worktops of natural stone, named Perla venata in a big stone factory filled with thousands of slices of stone cut from huge blocks. Each slice, even from the same block, clould look different so you cannot really know how the final result will be. I can say I’m really satiscfied with the choices we have made – everything is so functional and works so well together. Our kitchen designer from Concept in Altea has done such a nice work with our kitchen, it for sure is the kitchen of my dreams!

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While it is nice and quiet inside the house, at least after the electician and plumber have finished their works in the bathrooms, there is lot of action going on around the house. Sometimes things happen TOO fast – yesterday I almost got a nervous breakdown when I discovered that during the quarter of an hour, while I was talking to our building manager regarding a mysterious wall in the garden built during an hour I was away, on the other side of the house too many balcony railings were installed with insane speed. It resulted in some extra work: the wall was taken down as well as the railings that were reduced to half of the length. I have discovered that Spanish builders love steep and narrow steps and lot of railings while I like more open garden with practical pathways. I will keep my eye on them….

 

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I thougt only we people of north talk about weather all the time. I was so wrong! The world you most frequently hear here right now is CALOR – the heat. I feel sorry for the guys working in our garden in the hot sun building stairs, walls and painting the house. I guess they look forward to their vacation in august, when it is even more calor. I wonder where they go for vacation, Iceland maybe?

Luckily the climate in the house is perfect thanks to the air condition and the new fridge has an ice machine. I am not suffering at all. While Elsa is sweating at the Russian masters ballet camp my days float in a pleasant way. I wake up at 8:00 to the sound of starting cement mixer and jolly voices outside. Our building guys look always happy (even if I make them redo some projects) and work hard all day long except during their siesta when they lay down on the floor of our future gym. My days pass planning at the computer, visiting furniture shops and findig suitable lights, doors etc.

In the evenings when the workers go home we spend good time at the pool and have dinners at the terrace.

 

This morning the view from the livingroom window was a bit different:

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Time to go to sleep, a new day arriving soon! Buenas noches!

Finally there is the light…

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After some weeks away it was a real pleasure to spend a week in our Swedish home. At this time of the year, in May and June, there is this special light in the Northern countries that takes over and fills your heart with expectations and joy. I need to be there in our garden enjoying the bloom of cherry, plum and apple trees. A wonderful smell is following you when shooting the wheelbarrow, loaded with dry branches, soil or flowers, through the garden. Luckily the evenings last long so I managed to cut and fertilize most of the roses and to plant some flowers in the big pots, finishing after sunset the day before my trip back to Spain. Our garden has a bit of the sleeping-beauty-rose- garden feeling over it which we find is charming 😀

 

 

The first thing to do after my arrival at Alicante airport was to collect our dog Uzanna at the VIP dog hotel in Benissa, the best place to leave your dog at while away for a week or two. We had followed her stay through daily video updates and knew she had a great time playing with other dogs as much as she wished or lying in the sun which is her favorite “activity”. Of course Uzanna got slightly mad of happiness to meet me again – it was my husband Per who left her there so she was not expecting me.

I have discovered that I am equipped with an on-and-off switch. At these busy times I have learned to use it more and more – while in Sweden, Thailand or Estonia I do not worry about how things are going in Spain – I trust that everything goes as planned. Every now and then I get some questions from our building team and after answering them I put the building aside again. I am truly thankful for this switch, whoever gave it to me!

Now it was high time to turn Spain “on” again! After 2,5 weeks away in Sweden and Estonia it was exciting to enter the house to see the progress. The house feels much more like a home now as it is filled with warm light, the light I was missing so much from start. Most of the walls are painted and floors are ready at the main floor. The bathrooms are being tiled one after another. Also we got two new small windows, heading south, letting a beautiful afternoon sunbeam to otherwise dark rooms. It is time to think of furnishing the house! In fact we already ordered beds for all bedrooms in the house that will be delivered in mid June! Also most of the bathroom equipment is ordered.

 

 

The most exciting though is the delivery of kitchen. When I first stepped in to the house the living room was full of boxes with kitchen furniture and -machines. The next day most of the furniture was already installed and in couple of weeks it will be ready for measure taking by the “stone guys” who will cut and install the worktops in natural stone. We love the kitchen already and look forward for spend time there cooking and chatting with our visitors.

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Time for bed, tomorrow is a new full day! My to-do list for coming week is looong so it is important to put the energy on right things. Luckily there are lots of fresh fruits and vegetables of good quality available here that give you lot of energy. I already look forward to the green morning drink I make on fresh mango, freshly squeezed oranges and plant proteins (moringa). Yummi yummi!

See you soon! Buenas noches!

 

 

 

Inspiration from West

Already three weeks have passed since the last post that got a somewhat sudden end as I collapsed of tiredness. Thank you who gave me some really positive reactions on this post – I will be writing more about my childhood and background.

Meanwhile we have been travelling to the beautiful “city of tolerance and divercity” San Fransisco with plenty of good restaurants and sourdough bred AND Las Vegas – a crazy place where you always find something new and inspiring.  This vacation trip was planned and booked a long time ago with good friends. Even if our building is a priority right now I am happy I did this trip as I really enjoyed the time and came back with new energy and inspiration. In Las Vegas most things are exaggerated in one or another way – evertything is huge: hotels, streets, fountains, food portions, galleries, casinos, toilets, shows, even people – and the inspiration comes more from the euphoric feeling when walking around and admiring insane decorations than from actual ideas that could be used in a home. On the contrary, I realise how important it is to keep the base of our home simple, accent can be added with furniture, lights, textiles, paintings and other exchangable items instead.

 

The worst jet lag seems to be over and my brain starts working normally again. I am thinking about different solutions – currently for the bathrooms – in the house. The tiling work has already started so now all bathroom fittings need to be ordered so that electricity for lamps, switches, towel dryers etc can be installed at right places. We would not want to cause delays due to us not beeing here. Of course we got some photo updates from our builders during the trip but it was really exciting to see the progress with own eyes. The sunny roof terrace in terracotta colours, matching the roofs in our view, is ready and I am really pleased with the outcome. I’m sure many would have kept the grey neutral terrace (that the previous owner did) but for me it looked really boring. The pool is cleaned and is going to be tested for possible leakage before we start to rebuild it.

 

Also in the heart of the house, the livingroom/kitchen area it looks much different now. As soon as the tiling work is finished I will post some photos!

Maybe you wonder how it is going with my Spanish? Not very well, unfortunately. There are far too much visions, ideas and choices in my head now and no space left for new words… But I try to understand what people say on the streets and always choose a Spanish radio channel when driving the car. And I’m happy when I recognise words I would not have understood a month ago.

Now I’m going to bed and hopefully fall asleep – if not I will grab a book or an interior design magazine and my eyes will close in a minute! Buenos noches.

Searching and planning

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Yesterday we had guys from a local window factory taking measures in the house as we are going to order new sliding doors to the living room and windows to some other rooms. In general, except for the two panorama windows in the sitting room, the rest of them are planned mainly to close out the sun…. The Spanish people traditionally prefer to close their windows with shutters while we from the Northern hemisphere want them as big as possible. Luckily the architect agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to change some of these on her drawings.

The windows in Spain are often covered with grids. These have naturally a special preventive purpose but they can also look really beautiful! Right now I’m quite fixed about everything concerning Spanish ironwork. Therefore I felt blessed to be invited to visit the workshop where the windows as well as the grids and balcony rails are produced – mainly in the traditional way. A lot of interesting stuff there!

 

The work with the big outer wall is continuing. With the building permission we also got the liability to move the outer wall one meter closer to the house to give space for a sidewalk. That was indeed a very big work and now we need to make the wall even higher and longer… At the same time the work with garden replanning is going on. Because of the location on the hillside, the level differences are big and the old stairs etc must be taken away.

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Tomorrow we are flying back to Stockholm. The three weeks spent here in Altea/Albir have just flown away. I already look forward to be back here in January! Meanwhile we are going to spend some nice time with our families and try not to think too much about the building process here 🙂 Wish you all the best!