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