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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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SOME 10 days ago, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides raised expectations by announcing the possibility of a deal with Turkey for the opening of the fenced off area of Famagusta, for the return of its inhabitants. In exchange the Cyprus government would agree to the opening of Tymbou airport to direct flights. ...
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By George Psyllides PRIVATE auditors have expressed doubt the electricity authority (EAC) could be considered a going concern and have asked its board to draft a credible plan to tackle the problem, according to the auditor-general’s 2012 report on the semi-state company. Among other issues, ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Labour of love ]

Labour of love

Limassol based artist Katie Sabry restored her colonial home to house both her life and work. MELISSA REYNOLDS takes a look around

Creating a living space that successfully combines domestic, work and exhibition areas can be a design challenge, but as the home of Limassol artist Katie Sabry demonstrates considerable patience, a great deal of effort and bags of creative flair are a winning formula.

Reminiscent of the decadence and whimsical collections housed in Ernest Hemingway’s Key West home, Katie’s chic 1920’s colonial styled house is an appropriate setting for providing artistic inspiration for the creative classes she runs from her home studio and courtyard garden.

Transformation of the property from stripped shell to the dream home of today has, she admits, often been torturous over the 14 years since buying it. “I love it but when you have a house like this it’s a relationship; there are times when I’m in love with it then other times when I’ve felt I can’t stand the sight of it, thinking ‘I’m going to sell it, I’m leaving it,’ it’s just like a relationship,” she says.

Back in 1994, Katie’s vision for her perfect abode had allowed her to see beyond the building’s less attractive attributes, “it had an inner courtyard with a lemon tree and a black and white tiled floor in the hall and that was something I’d always wanted. But it looked horrible, I could see those things but apart from that it was just crammed with horrible old furniture; it was neglected and dark,” she says.

Architectural plans were drawn up and a building permit obtained for the major renovations in 2002 but lack of funds meant Katie had to wait four years before commencing work on the house. Due to the building’s age, she managed to secure Historic Preservation funding to cover 40 per cent of the renovation costs. “It’s a long drawn out process because before you start you’ve got to get approval for your plans and you’ve also got to have some money to start with. They don’t give you the funding until you start and have done 50 per cent of the work. You have to use traditional materials as much as possible and the window and doorframes have to be in the traditional style.” Paint colours are also carefully monitored along with the construction work before any funds are released. “They’ve got to be within the stipulated traditional colour schemes of the old houses of Limassol. I went for very soft subtle colours,” explains Katie.

Despite the difficulties, Katie persevered, stripping the house back to its raw state. “It was a case of ripping up all the floors, taking the roof off and ripping all the wiring out; it was almost gutted really; it was quite traumatic to see this happening,” she laughs. “We started at the end of February 2006 and I actually moved in last May so it took a year, or 14 months.”

To minimise costs, Katie sourced or restored many of the house’s traditional features. “The floors are original throughout. We salvaged hand made old tiles for my en-suite bathroom. Wherever we could we salvaged and re-used things such as the original doors and window frames which I restored myself. The kitchen and bathrooms are completely brand new and the only original lighting is the 1950s one in the hall with the three green globes.”

First impressions count, particularly when Katie’s home also serves as a canvas with which to impress buyers of her work and the students who flock to her studio to master some of the tricks of her trade. Her bright and airy entrance hall certainly meets this aim with its instantaneous floor to ceiling ‘wow’ factor. The building’s original features - classic monochrome tiled flooring, fabulous art deco globed chandeliers elegantly suspended from elevated ceilings and painstakingly restored woodwork, beautifully balance walls emblazoned with the bright natural hues of Cyprus within Katie’s own artwork; the overall impact an eclectic treat for the senses.

The visual impact and attention to detail are apparent in every room. Each is furnished and decorated to endow a unique mood appropriate to its functionality, such as the calm and romantic ambience of the master bedroom complete with vintage four poster bed and cool neutral colour scheme. A striking mosaic, one of Katie’s original designs, dominates her modern en-suite bathroom and provides yet another immediate mood shift. The architecture of the house, designed to minimise the extremes of seasonal temperatures, was ideal for Katie to create her distinctive living areas. “It’s normal in an old house, you don’t have everything wide open. I don’t like these modern houses that are all open plan; I like rooms; rooms for specific things,” she says.

Katie’s assorted collection of furniture, family photographs, exotic fabrics and artwork provide the finishing touches. “It’s stuff I’ve collected over the years. A lot of it I’ve found, like my kitchen table. It was in the storeroom when I bought this house, but in a very bad condition so I restored that. My bookcase in the living room is an old kitchen store cupboard; I think the only new furniture is the sofa,” she says, “Most of the art is mine but I’ve got things from my dad and a few things from other artists that I’ve either bought or been given.”

Like many of us, Katie decamps outdoors during the summer months; her courtyard garden providing a haven from parties on Heroes Square, just a few steps from her front door. “At the moment when I’m not working I like the sitting room during the cold weather because it’s cosy, but in the summer, or whenever it’s hot, I’m outside. I live outside in the garden and on the veranda,” she says. With its warm colours, carved antique cedar dower chests and new wood burning cast-iron stove, the sitting room radiates homely comfort. In contrast, Katie’s colonial styled veranda, furnished with plump cushioned armchairs and fashionably retro fan, encapsulates sultry summer nights.

Around an imposing tree bearing the tastiest lemons in Cyprus, more artwork peeps from among the plant-filled beds, either Katie’s own or souvenirs gifted to her by travelling artists. Handmade glass tiffany-style lamps provide colour and interest alongside old farming implements Katie has collected. Often used as an alternative to the studio for life drawing classes, she hopes the courtyard’s traditional design will survive the coming summer drought. “They were built to accommodate the climate; the garden doesn’t need a lot of watering because these courtyards hold the moisture so things grow well. Cyprus had droughts in the past so this is nothing,” she explains.

Now completly enamoured of her beautiful home, Katie has no plans to move or embark on another project for the time being, “Well not on my own; I would go and do work for people and get paid decent money but I wouldn’t do this on my own again. You do get fit though,” she laughs. Her advice to those prepared to take on a renovation challenge of this size, “You’ve got to not have any other kind of life. For a year you’ve just got to focus on that and ideally if you are going to do a lot of work yourself then you should be in a financial situation to take a year out and just work,” she warns, “And even if you are paying other people to do work - you can’t you can’t just leave them to get on with it, you’ve got to be there every day checking stuff; it’s not a long distance thing.”

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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