French Country

My life in France is not what I expected.

The rental unit “before”

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I have had a request for a series of "before" shots. So okay, here is one. I think this is about as bad as it gets. This is the living room in the rental unit. Note peeling original-not-retro wallpaper and sad carpet. Note dropped ceiling and very badly neglected sideboard. This is about as bad as things get, though. structurally the building is quite sound, especially considering its age. Much of the damage has occurred since the previous owner died, two or three years ago. So as I find other images of things that will vanish I will post them. You will see little that is derelict, which is very good news.

I have had a request for a series of “before” shots. So okay, here is one. I think this is about as bad as it gets. This is the living room in the rental unit. Note peeling original-not-retro wallpaper and sad carpet. Note dropped ceiling and very badly neglected sideboard. This is about as bad as things get, though. structurally the building is quite sound, especially considering its age. Much of the damage has occurred since the previous owner died, two or three years ago. So as I find other images of things that will vanish I will post them. You will see little that is derelict, which is very good news.

Progress report

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well

I know what you guys are thinking. You’re thinking enough with the nice lady who sells magic potions. What about the house? Hmm???
The simple truth is that there hasn’t been that much going on with the house. I’ve been filling in, feeding you apps while I scramble in the kitchen to pull together some kind of main course.
I have an architect, Nicholas Adams, nice guy, good crews, great choice. I’m happy. We have been trading emails and floor plans. The time has been well spent but not exactly blog-worthy. The visit Jacqueline and I made to the gallery he and his wife run was close, but maybe a little off-topic. When you think Nick, I don’t want you getting confused about the connection.
Today we got to blog-worthy. I had been unhappy with some aspects of the plan. The floor plan was awkward and the kitchen layout even worse. The heating system was close but not exactly what I wanted.
A couple of days ago I went to the house and realized the logic of the original plan was starting to make sense to me. Then I started having dreams about where things should go. Yes, I had a dream that told me where to put the washing machine: sad but true. Then today I had a meeting with Nick, his cabinet guy and his demo/energy expert. They liked the house and really liked the new plan. I just love it when I describe my idea and the guy who has to build it, who came here from the chateau he is working on, listens and his eyes light up. That tells me it’s going to work, maybe even better than I thought.
And best of all? Do you see that well in the photo? That’s not just a 19th century relic, not just the nucleus of my graywater system. No, it’s more. We wandered into the cave, where I had never been, and found an old geothermal heat pump. The energy guy did a little dance and explained it all to us. This heat pump was some 30 years old; it was cutting edge technology back then. 30 years ago the previous owner created a heating system that used the earth’s warmth to heat the house. This involves a heat pump, such as the one in my basement, and rods buried deep in the ground — or, in my case, deep into the well. That well and a new heat pump are going to heat my entire house, including hot water and pool, at a quarter of the cost of electricity. They don’t have much natural gas over here, so this is big. The system set up by the previous owner made it possible.
So now, finally, we are ready to move forward.

Monique Diremszian

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Monique's display case

MDeready-2

Monique Diremszian

I have to learn my way around this area. If I have to get somewhere, I use GPS. If I don’t, I use a much better method. I get lost and then find my way home. Yesterday, while getting lost, I found myself way out at the edge of Lucon; yes, towns still have edges here. As I whipped around a curve, my peripheral vision cried out to me: Red Alert! Hippie Store! I pulled over, of course, and it was.

 Jacques is much too young to understand the magnitude of this discovery, so I left him to his nap and went inside.

Jacques is much too young to understand the magnitude of this discovery, so I left him to his nap and went inside.

I'm sorry this photo is so blurry but it does give you an idea of the eclectic assortment of the products inside. Seriously, no B-school graduate ever consulted on this place and I love it for that. I bought one of those teapots behind the Buddha. Mine is in the shape of a cabbage. I got nori flakes and organic grapeseed oil; all the food is organic. I thought I would have to bring nori from Paris. I bypassed the wine, the books, the jewelry, the Mariage Freres tea, but I did get a magic powder, Gui. Apparently you do a ritual -- I have to find out what that is -- and disperse the powder in front of your door. It brings you happiness, peace, prosperity -- Suzanne will like that -- and health.  The last time I was at the house I found hundreds of dead bees, just inside the door. I don't know how the previous owner managed that. I also find containers of long-dead leaves and herbs, this despite the fact that the house was emptied of its contents. These things were deliberately left, with everything around them cleared out. Whatever the weirdness is, I'm not above using a little magic to dispel it. I'm glad kind, eccentric women like Mme. Diremszian are around to provide them for me.

I’m sorry this photo is so blurry but it does give you an idea of the eclectic assortment of the products inside. Seriously, no B-school graduate ever consulted on this place and I love it for that. I bought one of those teapots behind the Buddha. Mine is in the shape of a cabbage. I got nori flakes and organic grapeseed oil; all the food is organic. I thought I would have to bring nori from Paris. I bypassed the wine, the books, the jewelry, the Mariage Freres tea, but I did get a magic powder, Gui. Apparently you do a ritual — I have to find out what that is — and disperse the powder in front of your door. It brings you happiness, peace, prosperity — Suzanne will like that — and health.
The last time I was at the house I found hundreds of dead bees, just inside the door. I don’t know how the previous owner managed that. I also find containers of long-dead leaves and herbs, this despite the fact that the house was emptied of its contents. These things were deliberately left, with everything around them cleared out. Whatever the weirdness is, I’m not above using a little magic to dispel it. I’m glad kind, eccentric women like Mme. Diremszian are around to provide them for me.

Jacques Report

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At the moment my architect has one set of keys and my potential gardener the other. This leaves me effectively locked out of my own house. I decided to take Jacques for a drive. I had been wanting to explore the coastal towns. We live so close to the coast that it influences the weather and the light, but it is surprising how soon one loses a visual connection with the water. Anyway, I drove south, almost to La Rochelle, then took a side road when I saw the word "port." That seemed like a good sign. Of all things, we came across a 17th century fortified church, the Eglise Saint-Martin, which still has its paintings inside; I guess the fortifications were effective. Jacques is good in churches. He never squirms. We explored and launched ourselves north. The port itself was where bored guys go to hang. They bring their fishing rods and their radios -- tuned to a soccer game, of course -- and who knows what all, but Jacques and I were definitely wrecking the mood, so we cut out pretty quickly. I found one of the clear advantages to living close enough to a tourist area. The stores are open on Sunday. I stocked up at one, my big discovery being Jambon de Vendee: cured, not smoked, and quite nicely flavored, too. On then to real deal tourist towns, with churros and fries and tourist tat. The beaches are lovely but in summer driving there will be not much better than having to babysit your parked car. I'm glad we went today. And finally we came home, where I took this photo.

At the moment my architect has one set of keys and my potential gardener the other. This leaves me effectively locked out of my own house. I decided to take Jacques for a drive. I had been wanting to explore the coastal towns. We live so close to the coast that it influences the weather and the light, but it is surprising how soon one loses a visual connection with the water. Anyway, I drove south, almost to La Rochelle, then took a side road when I saw the word “port.” That seemed like a good sign. Of all things, we came across a 17th century fortified church, the Eglise Saint-Martin, which still has its paintings inside; I guess the fortifications were effective. Jacques is good in churches. He never squirms. We explored and launched ourselves north. The port itself was where bored guys go to hang. They bring their fishing rods and their radios — tuned to a soccer game, of course — and who knows what all, but Jacques and I were definitely wrecking the mood, so we cut out pretty quickly. I found one of the clear advantages to living close enough to a tourist area. The stores are open on Sunday. I stocked up at one, my big discovery being Jambon de Vendee: cured, not smoked, and quite nicely flavored, too. On then to real deal tourist towns, with churros and fries and tourist tat. The beaches are lovely but in summer driving there will be not much better than having to babysit your parked car. I’m glad we went today. And finally we came home, where I took this photo.


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Garden shed

The previous inhabitant of this house was also an old lady. If she's not currently happy that I'm moving in, I think she will be. For one thing, I'll bring back the garden. It is clear from what I find here that she loved her garden and had a fondness for massed beds of bulbs. If you are on a strict budget, bulbs are good, as they come back. All she could afford were the most basic choices, King Al daffodils and single tulips; if you cruise the bulb catalogs, you know what's cheap. I'll have them lifted and moved to a cutting garden in back. Here in front I'll prune whatever is worth saving and alter the color palette. And this garden shed? It needs an upgrade, too. I'll show you the rest of it in future posts.

The previous inhabitant of this house was also an old lady. If she’s not currently happy that I’m moving in, I think she will be. For one thing, I’ll bring back the garden. It is clear from what I find here that she loved her garden and had a fondness for massed beds of bulbs. If you are on a strict budget, bulbs are good, as they come back. All she could afford were the most basic choices, King Al daffodils and single tulips; if you cruise the bulb catalogs, you know what’s cheap. I’ll have them lifted and moved to a cutting garden in back. Here in front I’ll prune whatever is worth saving and alter the color palette. And this garden shed? It needs an upgrade, too. I’ll show you the rest of it in future posts.


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Upstairs bathroom, before

before

It’s this sort of thing that helped the house sit empty, waiting for me, for so long. This is a shot of the upstairs bathroom, one toilet, one sink, one tub, no shower, for four bedrooms. As you can see the family must have run out of money some time after WWII, hard to say when. Anything that went in after that was not nice. Clearly they wanted nice but it simply was not in the budget. So yes, every fixture but the radiator will go. This room is so big that it will double as a laundry/utility room. Hard to know how we’ll do that and make it nice but I have faith in the power of cabinet doors. I have to get it right, now. I don’t want to embarrass myself.