Friday, September 30, 2011


Re-doing an old house:a history of emotions

Monday, September 26, 2011

Before and After...

Original kitchen dining

bedroom attached to original  kitchen

demolition of wall between rooms

new kitchen

and dining room (from former bedroom)

before living room
and after

before back hall and bathroom
and after back hall and bathroom entrance

There are still plenty of details to work out every where, but we are so pleased with the space and light. Amazing what Tom can do - every bit of this is his craftsmanship and fearlessness!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Friday's Petite Aquarelle

Shepherd's Hut

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Closets Please

There are always vague questions about French life swirling in my head. Every now and then I come up with a personalized interpretation/pseudo answer that puts some of these niggling questions to rest. Today I tackle two of these:
Why are there so many beautiful old armoires for sale for so cheap?
How can the French stand to live in modern, new construction houses?
With an American vision of French life we bought the old house of our dreams and happily got to work on gently updating it. At first glance it had seemed like a very straightforward job. But with old houses after you pull off the wallpaper and rake up the leaves you have done all the easy jobs. Facing the hard jobs  you begin to understand why there are so many lovely old homes sitting empty, shutters pulled tight, and no one clamoring to get in. 
Even after our little nightmares re-doing one old home and hearing all the horror stories of other people’s problematic old homes, we remained unflaggingly optimistic. Sure enough, nothing in these old homes is as one would expect. Often there is very little that one can do to change the situation - outside of gutting out all the charm one thought they wanted. There is no changing the plumbing so one can move bathrooms or showers. And the cut-stone walls that attracted us to the house means you can not put electricity just anywhere without cutting ugly gouges in the stone. And then there is the plaster that won’t hold paint and the sanded floors that won’t come back up to gloss and.....  
hmm all this, or the opportunity to have brand new floors, updated electrics, sizing your rooms to dimensions you choose......The practical French smirk at the suckers-for-charm Americans.
At the same time another thing became glaringly obvious. There are seldom closets in these old homes. This house had one narrow cupboard in a bedroom, but no room for hangers. No problem we picked up two gorgeous armoires. Months later we put them together and placed them in the rooms. And a few weeks later I was organized enough to start wanting to hangs some things up. I asked my handyman to add a hanging bar to mine and was quickly shown how I had selected an armoire that is too narrow to hang clothes. Still no where to hang clothes! We’ve made some rearrangements in who gets what closet space that Tom built in and now I look at all those armoires in every antique store across France and think, “How quaint.”

So without any facts to back my interpretations I can now check off two things and move on to something like why do the French use shutters and Americans  use blinds.....

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday's Petite Aquarelle

Brantome Summer Day

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Early Fall

"Early fall in France - can you spot the Vermonter?"

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Weather Understanding

One can never really understand a new climate until they have experienced it throughout a couple of years. This in spite of our access to weather channels and incessant weather conversations.
When we bought our first home in Vermont we noticed that the owners had a heavy duty, walk behind snow blower. We asked if they would like to sell it to us since, coming from an apartment in Boston, we had no equipment for the much anticipated, arduous winters ahead of us. But, no, they didn’t want to sell it as they were taking it with them. What?!  They were moving to Georgia! Everyone told them that it hardly ever snowed in Georgia!  But, to a lifelong New Englander, “hardly ever” is ever enough. Away went “our” snow-thrower.

Yesterday I thought of them and how they felt when they pulled that thing off the truck in the heat of a southern September day.  It was a hot September day in France and I was pulling bags and bags of chemical toe warmers out of the boxes that are finally being unpacked.  We have brought hundreds of toe warmers to southern France-- where it “hardly ever” snows. Never has a phrase allowed so much peculiar behavior. I guess one can only think ahead to where one’s going in relative terms to where one’s been.  Vermont is at the extreme end of the weather spectrum and it’s hard to balance out from there. Looking at the Costco boxes of toe warmers and thinking about our first French winter, Tom says that we have a supply that would last 5 or 6 generations.  Then there are the six or so pairs of ear muffs that have turned up. Luckily we knew better than to bring the full-length down coats. (Coats so big most people thought we were wearing sleeping bags.)  
But I did find Jolie’s snow booties neatly packed in.
We are not living in the southern France of everyone’s dreams (that place is on the Mediterranean side of southern France), but it is a long, long way from the half-year winters of Vermont.

Friday, September 2, 2011