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Friday, August 1, 2014

Buying a Home in the South of France

Oh that title sounds SO romantic doesn’t it?

But how does one capture a bit of the dream without it turning into a French folly?

There have been many books written on the subject. I myself love Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” as he perfectly and humorously captures the French work ethic. There are also a few films such as “A Good Year” and “Under the Tuscan Sun” that had thousands flocking to France and Italy in search of their own piece of Paradise. But please know while the films were made to entertain there is also a heaping dose of absolute truth in the well scripted plots.

We as Americans were spoon fed on the concept on manifest destiny. However it is not a concept embraced by the French. More than one American has become completely exasperated in the red tape and rules associated with owning French architecture and given up. You must have patience and an understanding that the French are just trying to protect and preserve their culture. Particularly if the home has been designated as historical architecture. Unlike America,  French properties cannot be torn down or massively altered if it is a historical property.

But that’s ok. It is because of this that France is France which is why we love it. Grasp this concept and you will be fine. Oh and one other small thing. You must LOVE France. Because we all know that when you really love something you will make allowances for its idiosyncrasies.

My cousin and her family LOVE France and are in the beginning stages of purchasing property in the South of France. I for one wanted to sit shotgun on this ride. 

Not everyone wants a place in the country. My cousin is a city girl and wanted a place close to a train station so that if she and her dashing husband woke up and felt like having lunch in Spain or Italy they could. For that reason she looked at properties in town and after some lengthy research her heart was captured by a 19th century set of apartments.

You can see that the exterior of one side of the apartments has been cleaned and completed its restoration.

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The other side has not. This is the entrance to her apartment. :)

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Now is a good time to introduce you to Johan and François. Johan, on the left, is an agent immoblier ~ better known as a real estate agent. The best way to find a good one is through the recommendation of a friend. François works for the French architect who will be renovating the property. Both are well versed in the rules regarding French property. Let me also say that everything that is said about French men being totally charming and having that certain je ne sais quoi is true. After spending the afternoon with these two gentlemen I inquired if they were single as both would have been lovely suitors for my daughter. They both laughed (charmingly) and Johan was very game. :)

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Upon entering the property I immediately noticed the mosaic floor. From then on I basically had stars in my eyes throughout the visit.

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The amazing staircase was straight ahead although a small lift (elevator) will be installed as well.

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I want to say that there were two apartments on each level and there were approximately five flights of stairs. So it is a relatively small complex. At the top of the stairs was a skylight that filled the space with amazing light.

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Are you ready to see the apartments? Remember, there is “No smoking” on the tour.

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We toured several apartments. Upon entering each space in the main salon there were French doors on the left…

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…and French doors on the right. A small balcony ran between the two doors with a grand view of the town. Even though the day was overcast and rainy the light was lovely.

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Yes, the paint was peeling but the plaster ceilings were SO good!

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No two spaces were alike. I loved this ceiling medallion with its cherubic faces. I would finish it off with a lovely old sparkly chandelier.

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This medallion would work well with a modern fixture.

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Everywhere you looked love was living in the details.

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Sure the bathrooms need to be updated…

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…and the kitchens all require a complete overall….

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…but there were surprises upon surprises just waiting under layers of bad remodeling.

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If you have priced French antique hexagon terracotta floor tiles (tomettes anciennes, carreaux de terre cuite, format hexagone) you know that you are looking at a treasure trove.

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I would remove the black ceramic tile, which was added at a later date, to let the focus remain on the carreaux hexagones.

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But if you would prefer not to have this classic French tile…

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…there were several apartments with antique oak flooring.

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As well as numerous styles of fireplaces.

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One of the apartments had suffered through some interpretation of monolithic deco mid century madness.

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With a bit of Art Nouveau on the walls thrown in for good measure.

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But for the most part with just a bit of scrub, sand, paint and glass replacement I can see the potential that lies beneath. Can you?

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For those that need a garden don’t despair….

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… a lovely little park is right next door.

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Yes, the building is just filled with goodness. On the exterior there is a plaque that says so. A loose translation is that during WWII the building was used to house many Jewish children who ultimately were saved from deportation. I think this is what sealed the deal for my cousin. You can read more about the amazing Camille Ernst HERE.

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French bank accounts and mortgages are a must. I shall report back to you in a few months on how the property is progressing.



Patti said...

How exciting!

Cranberry Morning said...

How dreamy! I don't care if it needs restoration, it starts with so much going for it. Just beautiful!

Maureen Wyatt said...

If ever I should decide to live in an apartment, it would be one of those!

Rita C. said...

And you will have a residence to visit again. How wonderful!

marty (A Stroll Thru Life) said...

Oh my word, this is so exciting. I can't wait to see her apartment transformed.

Jennie Schumann said...

This is very exciting and I'm looking forward to seeing how she renews this treasure. I think I took a photo of this building and plaque when were in Paris last year -- it's going to be stunning!

Vicki said...

How exciting! I have to admit that my favorite "House Hunters International" episodes are when they go to France. They make it look relatively easy to buy there. I'm thrilled to have this real life adventure to follow.

Denise said...

Oh Laura, this is fascinating; it reminds me of House Hunters International! It's great that you photographed all the architectural details for us to see; they really are amazing. :) Your cousin and her hubby have lots of adventures to look forward to. By the way, the adorable Francois reminds me of Johnny Depp. ;) "A Year in Provence" is one of my favorite books; I laughed 'til I could barely breathe in so many parts of this book. I think it would truly take a special person to live through one of these big renovations.

Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful weekend, my friend!

Warm Hugs,

Denise at Forest Manor

Karena Albert said...

Dear Laura, this is a dream come true in a most magical way.
To say I am happy for you cannot even begin to express my feelings after all that your family has been through!

The Arts by Karena

Bonnie said...

Loved seeing the apartment features. Exciting to have before pictures. We look forward to the after pics when the renovation is complete. Love all things french!

Magali@TheLittleWhiteHouse said...

Oh, my so much potential! Please don't get (or tell your sister not to get) rid of the terracota tiles, they are so typical of Southern France, even the bathroom blue tiles were probably done in the region. They could be saved and reused in a new bathroom. All the details in this building are lovely...but are those upvc windows I saw? I thought they were forbidden in historical buildings? Well, maybe the South has its own rules...

Julie Corbisiero said...

How wonderful and exciting for your cousin. What a big project too. Wishing them lots of luck with it all. Enjoy the weekend.

Michele @ The Nest at Finch Rest said...

Oh my goodness! WOW!!! Is this ever going to be some fun blogging, yay!!

Creations by Marie Antoinette and Edie Marie said...

How exciting all this is going to be and a lot of money too. LOL...
I wish all of them the best of wishes and May God Bless them in there adventures.
Thank you Sweetie for stopping by. Its always nice to hear from you.
XXOO Marie Antoinette

Sarah said...

Laura, this looks to be a dream project. I'm so excited for your cousin and her husband, and thrilled for you that you get to ride "shotgun" on this journey. I know you will be a wonderful help on the team. What fun!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

How exciting! And I love the House Hunters programs, too....always makes me dream of living somewhere far away! We've traveled to the mountains to spend the rest of the summer so I'm enjoying my day and catching up on your news! Sweet hugs, Diane

Debbie said...

Loved this! At first I though, "Wait... I thought Laura was moving to Texas?!?" Then, I read the post. What a really exciting thing for your cousin to do! The propertie(s) are gorgeous to me and make me feel all "old world" just peeking at them. The story of the children would be the deal sealer for me, too. Imagine owning such a piece of history.

Gypsy Heart said...

Such beauty! Can't wait to see her apt finished.


Elizabeth Eiffel said...

I am very pleased for your cousin (and you too Laura). This apartment block is beautiful . I am looking forward to reading about your cousin's renovations. Warm regards