Monday, March 14, 2011

It Was My Dream Home

This was the home of my dreams in Rio de Janeiro.  Just look at her shining in all her glory.

But we didn't meet that way. No no, I'm not one to fall for something so shiny.  When I first saw her, she had been abandoned for a while. Grey and moldy. My diamond in the rough.   

Imagine my surprise when I passed her a few years back and saw she was getting some work done.  I never judge a lady who gets things lifted up and put back in their place, but it broke my heart a little. I knew she now had someone and would never be mine.

You see, there are many abandoned homes in Rio de Janeiro. A lot of them are too expensive for the owners to fix up, have back taxes, or have relatives fighting over the rights of them in court. Regardless, the poor homes suffer as they are left to rot in their own stink.  

I saw the house above my first visit to Rio in 2003.  I fell instantly in love. As with all my romances, I immediately started forming ridiculous fantasies about the lives we'd have together.  

I saw Mr. Rant and I somehow making a crap load of money and buying that house out from under whatever drama it was drowning in. We would hire an amazing architect who would bring our baby back to her prime. Obviously we would do a lot of the work with skilled workers to help with the hardcore stuff. Hell, we would have the time and money.   

We would bring Villa Sylvia back to life and then fill her with even more.  Our world would be grand with our numerous children running around filling the spacious rooms and tiny yard with laughter.  

Ah well, unfounded fantasies normally leave us disappointed anyway.  But this time that is not entirely true. 

After a tad bit of researching, aka 10 minutes on google, I was able to find out who fixed up this little lady.  Apparently someone does own it and they busted their ass trying make things right. Since the building was originally built in 1913, it is considered a type of historical landmark. The owner had to jump through quite a few hoops and maybe even over a barrel to get this home fixed up.

Everything had to be as close to the original as possible, including saving whatever building material salvageable.  They looked into old, old, crazy old Rio de Janeiro water records and stuff!  No new tiles here. Just shiny up the good stuff from a classic age. 

And while there will be other houses and fantasies, this one will always have a special place in my heart. You see, it was my first fantasy about living with Mr. Rant in Rio de Janeiro.  Every time I walk past that place I remember the white California girl who wandered around lost in the streets, the language, and the culture.  

It seems that while the building developed, so did I.  

For more on this story, check out: Oglobo  Fyi, this site is in Portuguese. 


  1. I love old houses & buildings. Not sure I have the intestinal fortitude to deal with local historical (hysterical?) societies to do a restoration like that, unless a museum is going to pay me to open it to the public. Then I wouldn't want all those tacky people traipsing through my house!

    The main thing is a house should be livable, and be a home. I am not sure having to not use new tile in a bath to make it usable or lose your status/tax credit/whathaveyou is the way to an enjoyable home...

  2. You're a romantic just like me a happy end to a story like this. It wasn't plowed to become some 10+ story highrise filled with people who have no connection to its past or glory...a new day for an old lady. = )

  3. Rachel,

    Our taste for homes is exactly the same!
    Villa Sylvia is stunning, beautiful!!
    I found some pictures from Rio in the beginning of the 1900's when the entire city was beautiful like that, entire neighborhood, no ugly glass boxes like today...
    I love history and follow a blog called Sao Paulo Antiga, here is the link:
    Maybe there is a similar one for Rio.
    Hey, don't loose your hopes, your house is still out there in Rio waiting for you to find it and love it the way it deserves to be loved :)

  4. OH Wow Really Dream and lovely home . I loved and nice look .Interesting story posting and cool idea for home . fantastic your this post

  5. When I lived in Belo Horizonte the city was giving incentives, cutting down on property taxes and things like that for owners to fix up these old abandoned buildings and homes. They got a few fixed, don't know where they are at with it now, but it was a nice change to the city's downtown. It's a shame to have those beautiful places left to rot. I have a few in BH I'd move right in had I the money to restore them.

  6. Paissandu street is very charming, with all those palm trees. At least 15-20 years ago it was. Unfortunately I do not remember this Villa... I am happy to hear about the renovations !

  7. Love this story! Glad it's gone well for the both of you.

  8. I'm a total romantic! I love these kind of fixer uppers and imagining what it could be. I was so a carpenter in a past life or something like that.

  9. It's beautiful! And I love fixer uppers too. I like the idea of restoring something and putting my own little stamp on it.

  10. I never thought you can find a very charming house in Rio. We all know the reputation of the city. But seeing a pleasant, little house like this is a breath of fresh air. The owners of this one-of-a-kind house are very fortunate.