I wanted to share some photos of our new home in France. The house was built in the early 1800s and, so the story goes, was given as a gift by Napoleon Bonaparte to one of his generals.
Our criteria for finding this house was a bit vague, but we knew we wanted a house in a village with shops and a restaurant, and we didn’t want a house that required a lot work. Well, this house is not in a village and it requires a lot of work, but somehow Justin and I both knew this was the house for our family the minute we walked inside.
The view from the front of the house is spectacular; it’s so peaceful, and beautiful, it makes your heart sing. And whilst we have extensive plans for the remodel, the bones of the house are fabulous. The property has also been lovingly maintained over the years, with many of the original floors, doors, shutters, bookshelves, and fireplaces, all still intact.
One room in the house that doesn't need any work at all is the kitchen. It's wonderful.
After doing a massive remodel on our kitchen in San Francisco, where we ended up without a kitchen for 4 months (!), it's quite a relief to know that we will always have this room to enjoy while the construction is going on.
The first thing I did after we got the keys was unpack our kitchen boxes and get the room set up and ready to go.
We love the tall ceilings, big windows, wide hallways, and large staircase. The wrought iron banister has been so handy for Rosie, who loves walking up and down the stairs on her own.
At the time our house was built, it was typical to make the first one or two stairs out of stone, while the remaining ones would be made out of wood. They did this to prevent the wood rotting in the case of a flood. Our house is on a hill, so it's unlikely to flood, but it's interesting to see that the traditional building technique persisted even though there was no real need for it in this instance.
We also learned that the original owner of this house would've probably been a right-handed swordsman. You can surmise this from the position of the banister on the staircase. A right-handed swordsman would always have the banister on his left when walking down the stairs, so he could hold the railing with his left hand for balance, while holding his sword with his right during a duel!
The house comes with 4.7 acres of land, and we love the idea of Rosie spending lots of time outside in the countryside, surrounded by nature, with space to run around, play and explore.
I'm also excited to develop my green thumb and learn more about growing organic vegetables and fruit trees, as well as keeping chickens for eggs.
We also wanted to give Rosie the chance to learn a second language in a natural and easy-going way. Seeing as there are very few English speakers in this part of France, we hope this proves to be a good opportunity for her.
Interestingly, the house doesn't currently have a dining room, which is unusual for a period property like this. The room that is currently being used as the laundry is directly off the kitchen, so our plan is to transform this room into a dining room and move the laundry into the barn.
It's actually quite a big room, and has a wonderful vaulted ceiling with the original beams exposed - it seems wasted on a laundry room!
Ensuite bathrooms are in short supply, so we'll be adding three new ensuite bathrooms to the main house, and remodeling two powder rooms and the master bath.
One of the other advantages to this house is that whilst it feels rural and remote, we're actually only 50 minutes away from Toulouse International airport, 5 minutes away from a lively market town, and 3.5 hours drive from Andorra which has some of the best skiing in the world.
In the master bedroom, one of the previous owners installed new (squeaky) floorboards, which don't feel very in keeping with the era of the house. Our hope is to replace these boards with parquetry flooring made from reclaimed French oak. We'd also like to restore the original fireplace back to its former glory, and replace the light fixture with something more traditional.
The master bath is clean and functional, but we'd like to create a space that is a little more luxurious, with more storage. We'll lose the bidet, add a shower room, and we'll re-purpose the lovely wrought iron bathtub in another bathroom in the house.
The back of the main house opens onto a walled courtyard, flanked by wings on either side, and opposite the two-story rear wing. Our goal is to unite all the buildings around this central courtyard, and remodel all of the un-renovated space so that the entire property is habitable.
Justin is going to do as much of the work in the main house as he can, while we will hire a team to work on the rear wing.
The rear wing of the house represents at least a year's work for a full-time team. Our plan is to restore the building into a habitable two-story space with five bedrooms, five ensuite bathrooms, a wine cave, gym, laundry, and single car garage with workshop.
We're busily working on the floor-plans with our architect at the moment, and are excited to get started on the build in Spring.