What Became of the Garage

August 4th, 2010 comments 20

Continuing with the before and after photos of this little Maison de Village


At the street level entrance to our house we originally had a space that was referred to as a garage. It wasn’t quite big enough for a car and it certainly wasn’t a welcoming entry. “Off with the roof!” we cried, “Let there be light!”

We think it’s much happier as a courtyard.

An old stone puis sat awkwardly in the middle of the vaulted cave; not original to the house, it was a decorative touch the old proprietaire had added. I thought that it could be re-purposed into a lovely fountain and drew a little sketch on the proverbial napkin. Voila! Our skilled stone masons made it so.

New doors crafted by our iron worker enclosed the vaulted stone space.  It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter. My antique habit claimed this room early on.

From my desk I look back towards the gate. I love this view. See that little bench under the watering can? It covers all of the not so attractive necessities: the water meter, the drip apparatus….My husband and son made it from old ivy vine twists they collected in the forest. Clever non?

Every time I climb the steps to the front door I smile as I look down on the transformation and I think about the many feet that have worn these treads before me. Better to think of that than the snap crackle pop in my right knee….

Before and After Encore

June 26th, 2010 comments 3

i’m sending a heartfelt thanks for the generous comments and emails you’ve sent about our kitchen project. And today I’m feeling particularly honored to be mentioned here on the fabulous blog Belgian Pearls.
Thank you Greet!

I promised some of you more “before and after” shots so here are a couple of images… more to come… Have a great weekend!

Before - red window matched the blue and red ceiling!



After - Mezzanine reading nook

La Cuisine… Before And After

June 17th, 2010 comments 16

It’s a pretty scary image isn’t it! Yet somehow I saw possibility… I seriously wonder what I had been drinking….

I’ve mentioned before that we’ve been en travaux (under renovation) for what seems like an eternity, but now that most of the dust has cleared, I thought I’d share some pic’s of the finished project.

It all started with the kitchen and I’m happy to report that the room is no longer pink. There wasn’t anything we could salvage in the old space, in fact, what was the kitchen is now a bedroom and what was a bedroom has become the new kitchen. I wish my photos were better but I think they’ll give you an idea. In the new kitchen we kept the exterior walls and windows as they were and gutted the interior shell. Layout was a challenge because of the four doorways and traffic flow. The space wasn’t wide enough for a center island but we managed a bar area that’s great staging for serving on the terrace.

I found old planks that had been used to age big rounds of cheese and we had them re-purposed into the cabinet doors. The grain of the wood is rough and raised from years of washing and the color is a soft pale grey/white/tan melange. The cabinet boxes themselves -mostly all drawers – are Ikea. Sending Ikea love here…

In Provençal fashion we built plaster legs for the cabinets, but I wanted to try to create a more modern look with the old techniques so the legs are extra thick and have a radius that’s repeated throughout the room. The counters are a grey Portuguese limestone, totally impractical, and I know better, but I like the patina they’re developing… it seems to go with the house. The floor is pierre de Bourgogne – stone from Burgundy. Grey-ish palette of zellige tiles on the wall. Grey-ish paint on doors, windows, kicks, and shelving.

Dishes are stored in an 18th century armoire from Uzes, very simple, sober lines. It’s a brownish purpley color that I also have in some of the pottery scattered around from the Alsace region of France. (The purpley brown glaze was created using magnesium.) Antique Swedish chairs and French Directoire table that we can extend to feed a crowd.

I scraped the paint off of an 18th century door to use on the pantry, inch by tiny little inch.

Stone sink and other antique bits and bobs with some wood and antique wicker to add texture… I didn’t put the sink under the window in this kitchen. I don’t spend that much time at the sink but I do spend a lot of time chopping and baking and I wanted the view as I cooked.

I do love cooking in this kitchen… can you come for lunch?

But the very best thing about this room has to be the view.

View to the East

Double doors lead out to a terrace that looks toward Mt. Ventoux, Gordes, Roussillon, Lumieres and the valley below… a window looks to the east and the sunrise.. another window to our “found” outdoor eating area. Our home isn’t large, it’s a small-ish maison de village and no matter how we try to make it just so, mother nature always carries the trump card. Thanks for taking the tour, I hope you liked it!

Where To Sit This Summer?

May 18th, 2010 comments 5


I’m loving the Manutti above and the Vincent Sheppard below…. how about you?

top 3 photos Manutti, bottom 3 photos Vincent Sheppard

Graphic Greatness

May 8th, 2010 comments 7

i can’t get enough of these vintage cement tiles I find at the local salvage yard… poussière compris (dust included). I want to silkscreen the patterns on fabric, use the images in a collage, paint a frieze, embroider a border on a linen skirt, knit the patterns, make a tile top table… not to mention re-tile several rooms in my house….. What would they become in your hands?

The Stairmaster

March 28th, 2010 comments 0

When I first saw this little French house I call home it was a coup du coeur – love at first site. It certainly wasn’t to my design taste, but it was beautiful to the 85 year old woman who lived here. She had spent 30 years creating the home of her dreams. Yellow walls, provencal ceiling in alternating stripes of bright blue and red, each the sort of color that can only be created in a paint can. Nature would have never laid claim to theses shades. The kitchen was pink, hot pink, with un-matching tiles. She was from Brittany and she said the colors reminded her of home. As she showed me around the house I was touched by her pride and pleasure in her surroundings.

The house is a narrow village house, a little more than 4 meters wide. I was told that the reason so many of the houses are of similar width is because the sawmills that made the poutres1 only produced a standard width beam, hence a cookie cutter maison de village.

When Madamoiselle (she had never married) gave me the tour we started at street level. There was a cavernous covered space, stone walls all the way around. Not really a room because the entrance gate was open grillwork, but not a garage either as there was a step up to the stone tiled floor. Behind this space a stone arch opened into a vaulted stone room and behind that a cave, carved into the stone of the hillside the house is built against.

From ground level a set of worn stairs takes you up to the front door. I don’t know exactly how old these steps are but there’s a keystone in an arch down below that has the date 1744 carved into it. From the first level room another set of stairs lines the walls, and with 1970’s railing in hand we climbed another floor and a half.

As we were taking the last couple of steps up to the mezanine Madamoiselle turned to me, patted her bum, and referring to the stairmaster we were climbing said, “C’est bon pour la fesse!”. It’s good for the rear. I hope I’m still thinking about my rear at 85 years old! I think that’s the moment I knew this house was for me and we still had another two flights of stairs to go.

…..too be continued. I need to rest after climbing all those stairs. Meanwhile some photos of the “before”.

  1. poutres are the large visible beams that hold up the roofs in this type of construction

Weighing In…

March 25th, 2010 comments 2

it’s all about stone in this part of Provence. Our village dates to the Paleolithic era and it’s built of stone, on stone. Most of the structures we now call homes were never intended to shelter people. They’re patched together mazes of stone walls and stone caves that were constructed to house animals or crops. Our walls are stone, our floors and stairs are stone. You work with what you have and this region has it.

Samples of the stone in the higgledy piggledy place I call home

The quarries in the area supply the local building trade but if you’re renovating a house Provencal style my favorite places to source stone is the salvage yards. Centuries old mouldings, fireplaces, blocks, staircases, fountains….. waiting to grace a new structure. All with patina and age. In the nearby village Apt there’s a family run business called Jean Chabaud -Les Materiaux Ancien. In addition to monumental stone building materials they have pallet upon pallet of recovered tiles, poutres (beams) and roof tiles. Which piece would you choose for your home? Me? I’ll take the pigeonnier please, in hopes that the 3 turtle doves visiting my garden are confused and take roost.

notice the pigeonnier?

Stone window frame installed

This one found a happy home in Colorado

We make lamps with these!

The One That Got Away

March 18th, 2010 comments 1

I love looking at real estate, I always have. I particularly love looking at real estate in our area of France. These pale stone houses are irresistible. Renovated or ruin I love the color, the texture the unevenness, the idiosyncrasies. In any case it’s the ruin that sings loudest to me, the neglected property dans son jus.1 Every visit presenting me with a design dilema that I must solve to my own satisfaction, even if it’s only in my head.

When we first ventured into the housing market in Provence we were in for a few surprises. I can’t speak for all areas of the country, but in our neck of the woods there seems to be an unwritten code which prohibits tacky (handy) ‘For Sale’ signs and the sharing of information. Our familiar multiple listing service is nonexistent. Individual realtors show their individual (or their groups) listings and no others. Agents Immobliers, as they’re called in French, are very protective of their properties which means that each and every realtor might have something different to show you so you’re wise to visit each and every realtor to find out. It takes forever.

Having experienced life in a small village, we thought it was time for a house in the countryside. The green acres of France. So I called a realtor friend and he said he had just what we were looking for. What realtor doesn’t say that?  He gave me the details and it sounded almost too good to be true. Location, price, size all better than expected. He said there was some work to be done which was music to my ears.

We approached the house on a small gravel road. Even with the shutters closed it was inviting.

There was a fig tree in the courtyard outside the kitchen and I imagined our al fresco meals under that tree. I saw the future swimming pool, the gardens, the sculpting studio and yes, I have a very active imagination.

Ok, so it was a little rough on the inside……but I could see beyond that.

Don’t you see the possibilities? In French we say tout est possible, which means anything’s possible and indeed it is or was, until our friend casually mentioned that the vineyards and the fruit trees and even the land that immediately surrounded the house didn’t actually belong to the house and something about a pesky little problem with the road. You see, it too belonged to someone else but normalement (normally?) we would be allowed to use it. The only road to the house. Huge red flag.

Later that day (I’m not kidding) a rainbow appeared and from where we live in our little hilltop village it looked as if a pot of gold and our future good luck and happiness were pointing straight at the new house of my design dreams. My husband assured me that it was the universe’s way of saying pit (not pot) of gold, as in pit of money, money pit……you get the picture and needless to say we didn’t get the house.

  1. Dans son jus roughly translates to “as is” when referring to condition, but with an understanding that it’s probably seen better days. I hear this a lot in the antique world.

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