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  • Writer's pictureInes Ferrari Garcia

If Houses Could Tell Stories

When the housing market crashed in 2008 and the banks stopped lending, our Architecture and Interior Design businesses dried up overnight. So, my Husband and I decided we would be our own clients, and we sold our two offices in Ft. Lauderdale and moved north to West Palm Beach. I got my real estate license and we started looking for a house that needed renovation.

We came upon the historic neighborhood of El Cid and we both fell in love with the place. After touring several homes, we found a jewel of a house on Grenada Road, an old Spanish Mediterranean built in 1926 and listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The property contained a main house and a detached garage with a guest house above.

We tore her down to the studs. We replaced all the electrical wiring and the plumbing. Upstairs we replaced all the drywall with new, and downstairs where we didn’t replace the drywall, we ground down the heavy plaster walls and finished them in a smooth coat. We totally transformed the interior of the house. We installed a new kitchen with modern appliances and Carrera marble countertops, and we updated the bathrooms, installing a large soaking tub in the master bath with a crystal chandelier hanging in the center of the room. We kept the historic integrity of the exterior, and we also kept some original interior elements as well. We restored the original fireplace and converted it to natural gas. We restored and replaced the original pecky cypress ceiling in the dining room, and we stripped and stained the original Dade County pine floors.

It was truly a labor of love. We rented an apartment at City Place, Now Rosemary Square and lived there until the renovation of the main house was completed. During the process, Oscar was asked to sit on the Historic Preservation Board of West Palm Beach. Once the main house was completed, we moved in and started on the new pool and the guesthouse. All in all, it took two years to complete. That year we were nominated for and won the Historic Preservation Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation.

When it was all over and I had the choice to go back to work as an Interior Designer or retire, I chose the latter. So, we sold the house on Granada and moved up to Palm Beach Gardens to be back on the water. Our new house has an upper deck that looks out over the Intracoastal. I looked at that space and that view one day and I thought, “It’s now or never”. So, I sat down one morning and started to write.

I have always wanted to be a writer, ever since I can remember and although I love what I do, I knew in the back of my mind that one day I would sit down and write that book. I wrote about the house in El Cid and the renovation process. I researched and wrote about the rich history of the neighborhood. I incorporated several of my experiences during the renovation into the book.

I had toured several other houses in the neighborhood, and they were all beautiful and quirky and unique in some way. Many had hidden compartments under the stairs or behind the fireplaces. Some had secret stairs leading to the master bedroom. One house had a secret room the size of a closet that was hidden behind a paneled wall with a push-latch door. It was set up as a full bar, probably built during the days of prohibition. That got me thinking. I started asking myself a lot of ‘what if’ questions. What if the house was haunted? What if the owner was hiding something or running away from something?

There’s a little marble plaque, left hanging on the back of our new house by the previous owner that reads “Villa Cheralena”. For some reason it struck me as the catalyst for the foundation of my story. So, I started writing about Cheralena and what she was like, and little by little the story unfolded.

Every book I’ve ever read has taught me a little something about life, a new way of looking at something, perhaps a new blueprint to reinvent my life if only just a little. I do believe that reading got me through my awkward teenage years. I knew I wanted to write a story of hope and healing I wanted to share my belief that everyone is worthy of love, especially self-love, and that prayer does change things. I hope my work portrays that message to someone who needs it.

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