Haunted Mansion


This is the window in the big bathroom, the one that will have the tub in it. The guys removed the wood paneling surrounding the window. Then they wandered off and did some other stuff. Some time later — an hour, a day, a week, maybe — they were working in the attic and heard a huge crash. Total freak – out: what could it be?

Well, it turns out they destabilised the window, maybe knocked loose a hinge, though it may also be that some freeze – thaw cycle had caused the hinge to come loose anyway. After a while the weight of the window pulled everything loose. The window fell to the floor, breaking the top pane on the window opposite.

Or maybe it’s not so simple. Is the house getting fed up with the slow progress of construction? Is it really  just a coincidence that this room adjoins the bedroom of the most recent resident? The incident of the radiator in the corridor and now this: in what way will the house next assert itself? Time for a call to Jane Bell, the house whisperer???

Jacques Report


This is Jacques in the attic, trying to look regal. He’s heard all this “Your Majesty” stuff and wants me to know he’s ready to roll with it.

He’s moving out of the puppy stage and really is turning into quite the dog. Today on the train we sat across from two little children. He didn’t jump up. He waited for the kids to come to him. Even then, he was sweet, not too wild. I thought the kids were going to pet him to bits but he was okay with that. He has had almost nothing to do with children so all in all, I was impressed.


This is Jacques in what will be my office, with what I hope will not be the radiator in that narrow corridor and, I guess, a sketch in the dust, probably done by Eddy, the Armenian carpenter. Jacques is about to demonstrate his erudition by giving his best BBC/PBS discourse on ephemeral outsider artistic endeavors in 21st century semi-rural France. If he does that as well as he charms bored children, it should be a good show.



People are asking — politely, offline, bless their courteous hearts — for more pictures of the house. I’d love to have more to show but right now all I have are acres of drywall and vaguely obscene images like this one. Really, I’m living in the land of weird right now.

Yesterday we all got together for a site meeting. I had the fun of trying to keep a perfectly straight face as I asked, so, what is this?

Seriously, it’s in a narrow corridor sticking out of the wall. Back when I started in construction, this would have been a contractor prank. Today, with these guys, it’s a real thing. But what?

It turns out that the electricians got worried that the corridor and adjacent bathroom might get cold, so they decided — surprise! — to add a radiator. They will take one of my thinner older radiators — I am told that the older ones work better than the newer ones but don’t ask me why — refurbish it and hang it right there, smack in the middle of the hall.

So any guests who find themselves working their way around an immovable object on their way to their room, take it as a compliment. It means I think you’re skinny enough to handle it.

Crazy Day


What a crazy day this has been. Nothing serious, just a lot of small but strange things.

For the last couple of years, life has presented me with a whole new world every day. I try to deal with it by establishing routines, at least, since any schedule I might try to establish would be more of a joke.

This morning a friend tried to help by offering breakfast. Sweet, but my “train day” routine is to grab a smoothie at the station. So okay, nice breakfast but I reached the station with just time to dash to my seat. The train was packed with vacationers, not the usual half-full car of businessmen at all. I had to evict a squatter from my seat, then fend off a pan handler,  on the train. Panhandlers never do that.

When staff arrived to ask her to leave, she had a bit of a meltdown. I could see how disturbed she was. It is one of the great shames of the US that such a wealthy nation throws its mentally ill onto the streets. I am sad to see that this may be happening in France as well.

So off we went. The guy across the aisle wants to play with Jacques but the lady just in front of me is horrified by him, so I spend the next three hours monitoring canine migration patterns.

We arrive. Julien is there, worried that I will finish the house and not need a handyman any more. Come on, this is France. No way will I not need a handyman.  So we talk about work. I find that I can actually speak coherently in French. This us good. The lessons are psying off. It would be better if the conversation weren’t all about car registrations and leaky pipes. Oh, and the fact that due to last week’s escapade, the locking hardware on the door is destroyed. Oh, well.

On to the house. It looks different because, out of the blue,   the metal guy appeared. My portico and handrails are gone. Let’s hope they return.

By this time I had been surprised nonstop for about ten hours straight. Enough already. why do I even do this? Well, this is why. This is the view from my dining room.


Rounding the Mark


Okay, we’re starting to think about wrapping up this project. The house is till not entirely drywalled but we can all see it finished. The electricians are bugging me for info on the light fixtures — a whole pallet of them showed up yesterday! –and bathroom fittings. Stuart wants paint colors. Yesterday’s site meeting moved outside, so we could talk about the terrace and garage. There is nothing interesting to photograph but the progress is clear.

So, what about that paint? I tried everything and settled on Little Greene. I tried nearly every grey — the backs of many of those boards are painted, too — but too much grey is too depressing. I think I will wind up with some selection of the colors you see here, not all of them, but a few. That creamy white, Tusk, and one of the light greys, Pearl Colour, will probably become the “when in doubt” colors. The Easter egg colors will go in some of the bedrooms. I figure that by the time someone gets tired of them, it will be time for them to go — the guests, not the paint.

And my own bedroom? Well, good question. So far I have looked only at the house and the light. I have not considered how they will go with anything I bought or brought from California. So while the fifth from the right, Aquamarine, will probably go in a guest room, the next one to the left, Tracery II, will probably go on my room. Will that color go with my bedframe? Dunno. Will the bedframe show up before the painters do? Dunno. Life is about to get interesting.

Flaky, flaky, flaky


This is not me. This is my sainted site supervisor, saving my ass.

I made the train this morning. For me to make a 9 AM train is something of a miracle but I find that I can pull it off pretty regularly, these days. I got off at the right station and found the cab that was waiting for me. This is all good and for me, not at all automatic. Then, halfway to the house, I realized that I had forgotten my keys. All my keys. One gate, one car, two houses. Maybe it was a Freudian slip, as I have two sets for the apartment.

I did the only reasonable thing. I called Kieron and asked him to break into my house. “Can you wait 45 minutes?” As the locksmiths I had called had not even answered the phone, sure, I could wait all day.

Silly me, having the locks changed. The new super cylinders took two hours to drill through.

So okay, I’ll find a place to stash a spare key. You’d think I would have thought of that before.

Now I get to rent a car.

Preview: Hangitall


Out in the countryside I have an amazing camera and lenses calibrated so finely that they can focus on the angels, leaving the pinhead on which they dance all warm and fuzzy. However at the moment I am in the city, trying to coax a decent shot from my cell phone. Such is life.

This is a coat rack, known as a Hangitall, designed by Charles and Ray Eames,  with new colors by Hella Jongerius.

I started with the idea that my house, which combines elements of France, England, Poland, Turkey, Belgium and Italy — so far — should have a bit of California added in. I never met Charles Eames but I have been to the house a couple of times. It was my privilege to meet Ray just once. She was adorable. I wanted to adopt her. Now she’s gone. I’ll have to settle for the coat rack.

And what is this Jongerius? Google tells me she is Dutch and designs for Ikea, among others. Another country and maybe a few items to be selected that won’t break the bank. Excellent.

Preview: stairwell fixture


Well, so, this is where things get interesting.  One respects the historic fabric and all, of course, but I would have gagged on a house that was just a jumble of real and repro 19th century stuff . The question is how to mix new and old in a way that looks right.

So we have those Fortuny pendants in the entry. Then two floors up you hit the attic.  It was always a rough space. We will avoid replacing those rotten floorboards by covering the whole thing with fiberglass mesh and seagrass. One thing and another,  it’s shaping up to be the bachelor pad at the top of a great old house. So how do I signal that?

I’m going to try this swirl pendant. Imagine it flipped over and hanging centered on the skylight, at about eye level or a little above. It picks up the Fortuny swirls without imitating them. It tells you something different is coming. It might even light the space a little.

I hope that when the walls go up on either side of the stairwell, the proportions will be right. Now it looks a little small. We’ll see how it goes.