It’s well over 2 years now since we finally picked up the keys and opened the door to our little house in Provence after so many years of dreaming about it. We couldn’t afford a perfect house with elegant gardens and a pretty pool and always knew that our little place would need a bit of work to really get it as we wanted it, but lack of funds meant that the renovations would have to wait.
So for the last 3 summers we have managed with bedrooms and a bathroom without walls, a kitchen that is effectively a sink & a cooker with a work surface just big enough for 1 chopping board and very little else and we’ve spent our afternoons, post cycling, splashing around in a small blue pool from LeClerc.
It’s fair to say that it’s a far cry from the images that are conjured up when we mention we have a house in Provence, but that really doesn’t matter.
What’s important is that it’s ours and we love it, looking forward to every moment that we are able to spend here. Our dream though has now shifted from owning our little piece of Provence to finally being able to have a bedroom with walls and starting the process of turning our little place into the home we have always dreamed it could be. The project certainly is a far cry from that being done on ‘Escape to the Chateau’, a programme that has quickly become compulsive viewing in our house, but it will keep us busy for a good while and will enable us to do more of the things that we enjoy, mainly sourcing new bits to work with from wherever we can find it)
To be honest the most important thing for me will be to wall off our bedroom and have a door that we can actually shut. For the last 3 summers our bedroom has been separated from the only bathroom by a curtain and I don’t think that it’s unreasonable now for us to want a space where we don’t have to listen to the boys wandering about during the night and where we have some degree of privacy, which is pretty non-existent at the moment. The other drawback of the curtain is that it doesn’t really act as an effective barrier for the animals, as I found out this week when, during a night-time storm, Millie was trying desperately to climb onto the bed and hide under the pillows, whilst I was still asleep. Not the best way to be woken at 4.30 am!
Also whenever we’re here as a family, one of the boys has to sleep in the entrance hall, with the bed hidden from the main door by a fabric-covered screen. This has been a practical solution to the lack of upstairs’ bedrooms, but not ideal for the occupant who has to walk up various steps and through every other room in the house just to get to the bathroom. It also isn’t ideal when we have guests there as not only is it not very private, but we are always worried about waking them when we are trying to sneak out early in the morning to go cycling.
So over the last few months we have been starting to draw up plans for what we want to do and have been getting our heads around the projects that may be possible and the others that are simply ‘pie in the sky’. Slowly but surely though, our ideas have taken shape on pieces of graph paper and we are now on the verge of starting the work that needs to be done.
Happily we are able to do the work we want to do inside the house without a ‘permis’, so the lines have been drawn where we want walls and doors to be and we have worked out how we can use the space upstairs to create 3 bedrooms with 2 bathrooms and yes, each will have a wall and a door! We have found a local builder thanks to recommendations from friends and so far he has been happy with what we have suggested, without too many shrugs or exclamations, which is a relief. What I have liked is that he has always turned up when he has said he will, or has called if he is delayed at all – he is due to start work mid-October (give or take a few days) and so we are keeping everything crossed that will be the case. If all goes well we should have bedrooms (and insulation) in time for Christmas – we really won’t know ourselves
The fun though for us is finding the bits that we want to build into the house to give it the character it deserves. Effectively we are starting from scratch and will have to find everything from doors and bathroom fittings to quirky pieces to really make the house ours. There is something nice about starting with a blank canvas like this, as we have the opportunity to make it what we want it to be, although it will have to be done on a budget as we don’t have a fortune to spend on doing what needs to be done.
Happily though there are lots of places we can explore to find the ideal pieces, from the local Recyclerie at Apt, which has already provided most of the furniture for the house and was where we found this incredible marble mirror, which I really hope to use in one of the bathrooms……
The local reclamation centres in Apt and Les Beaumettes, which are stacked high with architectural salvage, when just one piece can add ‘insta-character’ to a room, making it look as if it has always been that way…..
And of course the local vide-greniers and brocante markets, which have already proved to be a great source of pieces for the house, including the screen found at Roussillon which I then re-covered to use in the entrance hall bedroom…..
This time though we can look for more substantial pieces such as this door I found at Villeneuve Les Avignon last weekend….
Sometimes I see something that just has to come home with me and this was such a find. The stunning Art Nouveau stained glass panel of irises made my mouth go dry and I wasn’t going to leave without it. I have no idea yet where we will put it in the house, but I’m determined that it will go somewhere and so after a bit negotiation on price and a considerable amount of heaving and shoving we managed to slide it into the car and I drove home carefully negotiating every pothole and speed bump to protect my precious cargo (much to the horror of the drivers behind, who clearly felt I was driving totally unreasonably on my way back through the valley).
So our long held dream continues and we are now in full-on renovation mode, planning the projects that need to be done and having plans drawn up for those that will need permission. Happily we seem to have found a very approachable and helpful architect in the area, who is guiding us through the complex process. He called yesterday to say he had just popped to the Mairie to submit the plans, but that it was closed until Thursday – evidently the Mairie are making the most of the forthcoming public holiday and have taken the opportunity, like many others to ‘faire le pont’, which is understandable with all the events that are taking place this week, including the wonderful Fete de La Lavande at Sault.
Hey ho, a few more days won’t matter – the main thing is that the process has started and we can finally look forward to transforming our little place into the images we have in our head and I hope that by Christmas we will be able to finally shut the door on our bedroom and have the peaceful, undisturbed night’s sleep that we dream of …..