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!
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. 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.