Philippa Spurway Interior Architect


Beautiful Zabrdje House

House from top : side

I am back out in Montenegro for more meetings and the weather is truly perfect, though I am of course staying out of the sun.

Tivat Municipality is really being extremely difficult about all the changes that we thought had previously been agreed, except that the original architect had not submitted them properly, so it was almost back to square one. We now realise that it is going to take a lot longer than we had originally anticipated for this planning process to be completed.

A few months earlier my daughter and I had been looking on a Montenegro property website when we found a very interesting house for sale and as I was feeling a bit discouraged about the lack of progress at Tivat planning office, I thought I would give myself a treat by going to see this potentially lovely house.

I decided to phone an English estate agent (Tivat based) I already knew at
NTRealty, who had this same house on his books. Off we went to see the house and it was one of those special property moments, Love at first sight!

This house consisted of two very old houses, being built between 1600 - 1700. The first building had three floors, a large covered terrace and was in OK condition, though needed to be completely redesigned and undated. The other building had two floor with much larger rooms and was a complete ruin. 

I nearly forgot to mention that it had exceptional views as an added bonus.

I am going back to London tomorrow and never being one to let the grass grow under my feet, I will immediately put in an offer to buy this potentially beautiful house.

Terrace in day

Bedroom window view House with plants

House from bottom road

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Fantastic New Builders

It is now April and I have just been to Montenegro to meet my new builders, well their representative actually, who is a capable young man who speaks fluent English, which is a rarity in the Montenegrin building trade.

We had various meetings and came to realise that the previous architect had not completed the whole project in the way he should have. Unfortunately we also realised that in the time I have been deciding whether I could ever go to Montenegro, the regulations about rebuilding ruins had changed and this project had now got to be completely redone to comply with these new rules. 
This new building company is going to try and sort everything out for me, so we could get going on the project as soon as possible.

Despite these new problems for the first time in all the years of meeting various builders who wanted to do this project, I felt extremely confident as I knew I was going to be able to trust and work well with this new building company. I could tell we thought in the same way about what exactly needed to be done and how to do it.

I was doing a big property refurbishment project back in London, so I was really torn between wanting to stay and get more involved with what was about to happen in Montenegro or rush back to my commitments in London. Unfortunately London work took precedence so home I went.

Tivat - Coat of Arms
Tivat - Coat of arms

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Hopeful Future

Over the last 18 months I have learnt to adapt to my new way of life and I have come to realise that I cannot let be predisposed to having another malignant melanoma ruin my life. 

I started the healing process by this summer going on a family holiday, including taking our dog Otto, to Haarlem in the Netherlands, where it was sunny and warm but not too hot that I had to hide away. I walked and cycled around this lovely country the whole time, which made me feel free to do what makes me happy.

I went to Montenegro in May and October, being the cooler months and just stayed out of the midday sun. In fact I discovered that these are the best times of the year to go to Montenegro as it is much less touristy, everything looks even more beautiful and found out those times of the year are the local peoples favourite.

While in Montenegro I had various meetings with builders and I am back on track to start this project next year.

Lovely Haarlem

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Time To Change

I had got to change myself into another sort of person who enjoyed being completely out of the sun.

I felt trapped by not being able to go out at all in the sun without a parasol and being extremely well covered up. So being in such a hot country as Montenegro, which has 260 sunny days per year, would just be very dangerous for me.

I thought that really I could never go to Montenegro again, unless it was not hot and the whole reason I had bought these properties was because I loved the sun, being warm and the sense of freedom it gives you.

I was really terribly confused by my new situation and felt very unhappy about it.

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Malignant Melanoma

The one thing I did not mention in my last posting in August 2012 was that I had recently been diagnosed with the most aggressive form of cancer a malignant melanoma.

In June 2012 I had noticed a tiny black dot on my upper arm, in the centre of a very small patch of skin, which had no pigment on. I immediately thought this is not good and went to my GP. Luckily I immediately got referred to Hammersmith Hospital skin cancer clinic, where they instantly removed that area and discovered it was a malignant melanoma.

After two more operations the doctors hoped they had removed all the cancer. All that you can have as treatment after these operations is to get your skin thoroughly looked at all over you body and get your glands checked by the consultant, every three months for the next five year.

I was also told that I could never ever go in the sun again or I would die. From now on whenever I was in a hot country I would have to make sure I did not go walking about in the sun between 10am and 4pm without being extremely well protected, by completely covering up in thickly woven clothing, very high factor sun cream and possibly even a parasol. 

I have naturally strawberry blond hair and lots of freckles and I found out that such people are most susceptible to malignant melanomas. I then realised how stupid I had been to have ever loved sitting in the warm sun.

When on holiday in Montenegro in July 2012 I had just had my last lot of stitches out and was feeling extremely vulnerable, in a sort of state of shock about what had just happened and how drastically my outdoor habits and activities had got to change.

Overnight I had to change my life from being a very outdoors sort of person, into someone I just did not know how to be and definitely I could no longer go on holiday to hot countries.

What was I now going to do about my future life in Montenegro?

The sun in all it's dangerous glory

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Summer Holiday

We have just come back from yet another lovely holiday in Montenegro with 14 glorious sun filled days.

My daughter has always come on our summer trips to Montenegro and ever since her brother stopped wanting to come with us and she became a teenager one of her friends comes with us to keep her company. So as I have two teenagers with me I am staying in the same area, called Muo, that I have done for the last two years as it is in the perfect position being about 10 minutes walk or 2 minutes by taxi from the centre of Kotor. Then the girls can safely come and go as they please.

Once I settled into our new home in Muo for the next two weeks, I always go and have a look at our property in Milovici.

I drive through a long tunnel, that goes into the mountain between Kotor and Tivat as I usually do. On this occasion as I came out of the tunnel there was new huge billboards saying
Lustica Bay. I rightly presumed that this must be the new name for the Lustica development, which used to be called Traste Bay.

Before going to my houses I decided to drive to the new Lustica Bay and see what had changed. Apart from there being an office for people to register their interest, a new road, large areas where the vegetation had been cleared and a lot of tall flag pools, no actual building had started yet.


The biggest worry was when I took the girls to Blue Horizon beach in Przno Bay and saw that Hotel Blue Horizon (Hotel Plavi Horizonti) a large busy hotel, had been completely flattened since our last visit. A company called
Qatari Diar own this peice of land now and I think REV Architecture a French company based in Paris have designed a new hotel resort and Mace Group will be project managing it.

I am worried about wether the locals will still be allowed to use this beach. We will have to wait and see what becomes of this lovely beach, which was extremely popular with the locals.

Hotel Blue Horizon with Blue Horizon bay behind it as it used to be

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Planning Permission

The final stage before getting planning permission was the submission of important documents. So we had to submit urban conditions (technical requirements) to the Municipality of Tivat town-planning department and the water + sewer design for the Public Enterprise for Coastal Zone Management, which protects the costal regions of Montenegro.

My architect submitted everything for me and by the end of November 2011 these requirements were documented and paid for.

Everything is at last completed, so as soon as the registration problems are sorted out I can start work, which makes me feel very excited as I always do at the beginning of a project.

Tivat Municipality Offices
Tivat Municipality Offices

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Planning Dept

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Radovici Orthodox Church taken from a hilltop in the village of Milovici

This August, while on holiday in Montenegro staying in Muo near Kotor, I met with my architect and his interpreter. You may wonder why I didn’t use an architect that can speak English but this architect really knows about these old stone buildings and understands the ways of the local villagers for that reason he was perfect for this project.

Everything was ready to be sent of the Tivat planning department and he left me his master copy so I could mull over everything and decide if I wanted any internal changes.

I was slightly disappointed when he told me that I would not be allowed to have any of the balconies I wanted and therefore I was worried about there not being the lovely views that I had been imagined from these balconies. He did tell me that in the future when more of these old houses have been developed the regulations for these villages may change as at present you can only rebuild what is existing.

Over the next few days after having a good look at all the plans and accepting what I would be allowed to rebuild I felt happy with everything.

All the original buildings will have to be taken down and then rebuilt so they can comply with the structural regulations of today. Mains water has just be taken to Milovici so at least that is one less thing to have to worry about. Though I will still have a large water tank to collect water for the dry summer months as water supplies can occasionally run out with the extra demands of the tourists.

By the time I get this planning approval who knows what other services with be available to the village of Milovici.

Every time I go to Montenegro I love it just that bit more and I have a feeling of yearning for my new Milovici home to be finished.

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Parking Space

In the summer of 2008 I was interested in purchasing a small piece of land just up the hill from my house in Milovici, to be used as a shaded car parking space. The piece of land in question was owned by someone, who I was told by a neighbour, lived in Belgrade but nobody knew how to contact them.

Today my solicitor has told me that someone from Belgrade contacted her after hearing I was asking about their land. So I told my solicitor that I was still interested and asked her to look into it for me.

The photograph shows part of the area in question

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Registration Problem

My architect discovered a problem with the registration documents for the building I purchased in Milovici. One of the buildings is registered as only having one floor, even though there are actually two floors and they are both original.

So the building must be re-surveyed and then my solicitor must re-register it before any work will be allowed to start, which I have instructed my solicitor to organise.
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Lustica Peninsula

Lustica Peninsula
Lustica peninsula is all the land directly behind the tree

I have heard back from my Montenegrin architect and I am not going to be able to make many of the changes I wanted to do. I am slightly disappointed though I must not waste time dwelling on it but get on and revise my architectural drawings to something that the planning office in Tivat will be more likely to accept.

At least it is good to know that the planning department in Montenegro might actually care about the changes that are happening in their beautiful country.

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Municipality of Tivat

The waterfront in the town of Tivat

I have completed the architectural drawings and sent them off to Montenegro. So the local architect can try to get planning consent from the municipality of Tivat, being the jurisdiction that Milovici is part of.

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Staying In Kotor

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We stayed in Muo directly opposite this glorious view of beautiful Kotor

On this visit to Montenegro I decided to set a start date for this project which is April 2012 as getting the planning consent needed to start the renovation work will probably take that long to get approved.

I had meetings with various architects and builders who were both English and Montenegrin and I came to the conclusion that I'm going to use a local architect who I liked immensely, to get the planning consent and an English builder who speaks fluent Montenegrin as he has been living in the country for many years.

I also had to have meetings in Kotor with my solicitor and my bank so that my solicitor can deal with things on my behalf whenever I'm out of the country.

We have got a family of three tortoises living in the garden, which my daughter is thrilled about.

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Lustica Development

Orascom has recently changed from being an Egyptian into a Swiss company. They are now working on other developments including the eco-town to be built in the Cornish mining communities near St Austell. This development will cover six sites including the villages of Penwithick, Stenalees , Par Harbour, Bugle, Trewoon / Lanjeth and Nanpean - see Eco-Bos.

Though Orascom is a company with a good track record and seems to care about what they are doing, there are pros and cons to this sort of development so let's hope it's more good than bad, see Lustica Development.

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Postponing Project

I had to postpone the start of this project for at least another year because a large very well respected Egyptian development company Orascom has recently purchased a 90% share in Lustica Development, a company started by the Montenegrin government in order to develop a particular area of Lustica called Traste Bay.

Orascom intends to build an eco-friendly high-class hotel resort with a golf course, 3 marinas, hospitals, schools and lots of shops. Though it will give a lot of work to the local community I do hope it will not destroy it at the same time hence my reluctance to start work now.

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