So, when I bought the house, they basically threw in an acre of land and two barns, more or less the way nice bars give you snacks with your drinks. Those barns have been talking to me.

The other one will be the biggest two-car garage ever, that plus housing for four pairs of barn owls, should they ever choose to move in; I think last summer they nested in some loose hay on a mezzanine. It’s a big open space where there used to be a porcherie. It could be a terrific pop-up concert hall, gallery or cafe. It’s nice looking and has doors on its public side, so no need to invade my space or irritate the owls. Right now I’m happy that I can leave it the way it is.

This one is getting my attention. This one is shaping up to be Money Pit II, MPI being my happy home, of course.

Let’s start here, in the room above, the one with the oven. To save money, maybe, when they reroofed the barn, previous owners decided to destroy the chimney — not completely, just at the level of the roof. So if you light a fire, you’ll die of smoke inhalation. Plus, let’s face it, the whole installation needs help.

This little project went on the back burner and this room became storage. And then. I sold the rental house. The bar snack there was half an acre of land and all the furniture. The land can stay, but the furniture has to go.

I’m doing pretty well. I got it down to the dining room table and sideboard, which are too nice for the BonCoin bottom feeders, who are cheaper even than their Craigslist equivalents, but maybe not nice enough for a local auction house. In addition, I found a good guy to rebuild the chimneys on MPI, they having suffered years of brutal bullying by the ravens. Seriously, at this point those chimneys are swaying in the wind.

So, to avoid the pain of selling some decent furniture for almost nothing, and because the right contractor — maybe — will be on site anyway, the storage barn will soon be transformed into MPII. I’ve been running the numbers, so I know. Wiring, plumbing, refurbished chimney and um, did you notice that the floor is half dirt? Well, I found these gorgeous glazed terracotta tiles and the factory is less than an hour away! Don’t think about the price. You’ll just get depressed. And what could be nicer than a sweet little summer kitchen with a way cool pizza oven? Seriously, what?

18 Replies to “Another Money Pit Moment”

  1. I cannot wait to see the progress on MPII!
    Congratulations on selling the apt. I had my fingers crossed that it would not be canceled in the craziness of the economy.

    1. Well, don’t uncross them yet. That’s a whole other story. I’m not writing about that yet because I don’t want to jinx it. On the plus side, the buyer is one of those guys with two government pensions, so it should go through.

    1. I hope this to be the case during your search for the forever house. Here, if the land can’t be farmed, it is worth nothing. And once a vacation house is sold, the furniture is generally unwanted. You know how it is in Massachusetts and I came here from California. Every square inch is worth its weight in gold and no one thinks of just leaving you antique or even near-antique furniture. I was amazed. Then I started paying for improvements….

      1. It IS very different in France. Here, yes – every square foot is valued. We have 1.6 acres and know exactly the value that translates to. French friends think we are barking mad to want land. Hopefully they will be charitable enough to give us a chunk that they don’t want when we do find that forever home. And the furniture … I can’t imagine anyone here leaving anything behind that might have a price tag, however small attached. Different attitude entirely. By the way, HB2 went Senior shopping at Trader Joe today … came back beaming and said it was the most surreal yet delightful experience of the whole hot mess so far. Your barn will be worth every centime you spend and I know it will be a triumph of design and elegance.

      2. France is SO different in attitude to here. I cannot imagine anyone giving away a vintage or antique anything and land is priced by the square foot. I’ll be super chuffed if whoever we end up buying from throws in a bit of spare acreage! And furniture. How I wish the previous owner of our place in Marcolès hadn’t been so brutally bonkers and attendantly resentful. He turned down our offer and went to Auction only to get less from the town. We then bought it from them for the same price they had paid plus fees. As you may recall, he stripped the place clean – it was right to stand by for several months and let him do it because I honestly think he would have set fire to us AND the house he was so bitter but it was really hard knowing he was probably just going to stash all the lovely pieces (and he had some beauties) in a barn to rot. We would gladly have paid him for the things we liked but the Mayor advised against it. Anyway., you will spend a fair bit on that barn, I am sure but it will be a triumph of well designed function and elegance. Because, well, that’s what you do!

        1. Thank you so much! If you want to stop by a village near La Rochelle, on your way to the mountains — you have to recover from jet lag somewhere — you will be more than welcome to come see whether the reality measures up to the photos. Not that I have posted many, lately. I should do more of that.

  2. MPII, otherwise to be known as Jacques’ summer house…somewhere to lounge when it is hot…
    It will prove a rather expensive way to safeguard a dining table, but you will enjoy every hair tearing minute of it.

    1. Right. It will be fun to read about. I’ll be hoping it’s not the same story with different contractors. I can see Jacques now, though, munching warm bits of roasted meat while lounging on cool tiles. Do you remember that old surf movie, Endless Summer? That’s what he’ll be hoping for.

  3. I looked up the definition of “masochism” and found a photo of you standing next to the (cough) barn. It was cross-referenced to “self-inflicted incipient poverty” but that article was too gruesome for me to explore. I guess some folks are content with a couple of vegetable cages whilst others yearn to conquer much taller hills. I do wish you all the luck in the world and ignore any peals of laughter from the barn owls who have malicious senses of humor. I admire your pluck, confidence and ambition. When I get those feelings I have a beer and then wait for them to go away. 🙂

    1. Self-inflicted incipient poverty? Have you been talking to my investment guy? I think he wrote that article and I bet it’s full of pictures of me. And the barn. And the house. And that taller hill, the pile of Jacques’ snacks.

      Maybe I should switch to beer. Gin has me going online, shopping for building materials.

  4. If you do find reliable, competent, reasonably priced contractors please let me know! I’ve handed my house in Brittany over to my daughter. The people I used for years – artisans, electrician, plumber etc – are either dead or retired and she’s having trouble finding replacements. My advice – demolish and rebuild – is dismissed as unrealistic in view of the quality of French building skills …

    1. I’m three hours from Quiberon, four from Rouen. That’s a long commute. I doubt that my guys would do you any good. If you find one good guy, he/she will likely know others. The best contractors I have found have been from Eastern Europe.

    2. Emma Crews is a plasterer based in Poitiers. She caused quite a stir among my female-deprived crew and did a fantastic job to boot. She drove here from Poitiers, so she might travel to Brittany as well. emmacrews at gmail dot com.

    1. I’d like to show you before-and-after photos of the house, but the « befores » are mostly in my computer, which is in Paris. I’m hoping it, Jacques and the SO will arrive in a couple of weeks. I’m quite comfortable living alone, but I have been socially conditioned to think it’s weird. So there probably will not be a post on that topic. Let’s stick to the house and Jacques.

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