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A Modern Country House in Uruguay - On Location - NYTimes.com

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September 7, 2011

Uprooting Their Lives for a View of the Hills By JOYCE WADLER

PILAR ACEVEDO and Enrique Saulle were living in a loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and working as translators and editors four years ago, when they decided they wanted to change their lives. Ms. Acevedo grew up in Cartagena, Colombia, and her husband grew up in Trente y Tres, a small city in Uruguay. So they might have comfortably chosen to move to a city like Montevideo or Bogotá, Ms. Acevedo says. But that wouldn’t do. What they were seeking was an extreme change — perhaps life in the country, something neither of them had experienced. Now they have that life, on a remote, 100-acre property in an area of Uruguay called Punta de Pan de Azúcar, about 70 miles from Montevideo. And the house they built on a rocky hillside, with its grass-topped roof and stone walls, looks as if it might have grown out of the mountain. The walls are 15 inches thick, the ceilings 11 feet high and the rooms a size that one is lucky to find in New York: the bathroom, for example, is 90 square feet. The nearest neighbor is a half-mile away, and 17 chickens and 5 cows wander the property. Ms. Acevedo, 46, and Mr. Saulle, 49, still make a living as translators and editors, but they do it freelance, from home, where they can see the hills from nearly every room. As for the grass on the roof, Ms. Acevedo says: “Enrique wanted that since the beginning — he’s into ecological things. He read about it when we were in New York. Electricity is very expensive in Uruguay, and it is very humid. The roof keeps it cool in summer and warm in winter.” She continues: “The grass for the roof came from our property. With the help of two other people, we cut, carried up and put down the sod ourselves. It took us four days, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and I couldn’t move for a day or two afterwards, I swear.” The couple found the property, for which they paid $60,000 in 2007, online. But it was not purchased sight unseen; one of Mr. Saulle’s brothers, who lives in Uruguay, inspected it and sent them photos. The cost of building the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, which they began in late 2008, soon after moving to Uruguay, was $140,000. Construction took 10 months. What they wanted was a very simple house — a shoebox, Ms. Acevedo told their architect. She was also determined to have industrial-style windows like the ones they had had in their loft in New York. Their architect envisioned a more modern home, with walls of glass, that was larger and more expensive. So http://www.nytimes.com/...tml?adxnnl=1&ref=garden&adxnnlx=1321366119-mohdavbHcB754ZUBsv4vhg&pagewanted=print[2011-11-15 .. 9:09:49]


A Modern Country House in Uruguay - On Location - NYTimes.com

eventually they took over the design themselves, working with a civil engineer. The granite stone for the house came from their land and was cut by hand by a father and son. The floors are polished concrete. The dining room table and benches were made locally. The Williamsburg-inspired windows that Ms. Acevedo insisted on turned out to be the second-most expensive item in the house, costing $3,800. The most expensive thing was a 1920s Italian marble bathtub the couple spotted in an antiques store. They went back to look at it a few times, but at $4,500, it was out of their reach. Then the store’s owner found out what they did for a living and offered to swap the tub for translation services. It is a tub so big, it holds two people easily. And when you’re sitting in it, you can see the hills of Uruguay.

http://www.nytimes.com/...tml?adxnnl=1&ref=garden&adxnnlx=1321366119-mohdavbHcB754ZUBsv4vhg&pagewanted=print[2011-11-15 .. 9:09:49]


Uprooting Their Lives for a View of the Hills - The New York Times