Cottage Shopping

August 15, 2012

On Monday afternoon, we visited two more cottages for sale in our area. I think of them as Cottage #2 and Cottage #3 (because we visited Cottage #1 on Friday). Cottage #2 was charming as can be, but had major mold problems, so we passed on that one almost immediately. Cottage #3 (pictured above, see more pics here) was pretty much fantastic.

We really like it! It’s on a bigger piece of property than the first cottage, and the structure is more sound. The living space is almost non-existent — just one room with an amazing old oven. There are attached barns on either side of the one room, and huge attic space above. So if we bought it, we would need to work with an architect to create more living + sleeping areas in the attic or barns.

It hasn’t been lived in for many, many years and it’s currently classified as a barn instead of house. So before we can consider it seriously, the homeowners need to get a certificate that says the building is allowed to become reclassified as a house. But we were told we could go ahead and start getting bids on work if we’re interested.

This would be a major endeavor. (Understatement!) The property needs electricity, a septic tank, and roof repairs (luckily, not a whole new roof) just to get started. That’s before we get into projects like adding a stair case or creating bedrooms. I am no stranger to renovations, but this definitely intimidates me!

Ultimately, we love the idea of having a little place here. Something to keep us connected to France even after we move home.

For those of you who are curious, in our area, bare bones properties like this have low, low price tags (this one is around $33,000 after taxes), and require approximately $65,000 in work to make them liveable. The low price tag means we could buy the home outright without having to get a mortgage, then save up for the improvements as we go.

Tell me, friends. Does a project like this appeal to you? Or does it give you a headache just thinking about it? : )

P.S. — Do you know of an amazing architect that would love a project like this? 

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{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Isabel Dess August 15, 2012 at 6:58 am

Dear Gabrielle,

What a beautyful barn. It would be lovely to have a place like that to come back to every year and create fabulous childhood memories.
I just wonder what happens if your project isn´t finished by the time you are leaving France? I don´t see how someone could manage major renevations like a stair case from the US.
Also i would be worried about burglary and theft, because your summer home would be left empty for long periods.
I suggest you just stay for good… ;-)

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2 Rebecca Grace August 15, 2012 at 9:01 am

…OR… They could rent the property when they weren’t there, to offset the airfare involved in traveling back and forth.

Gabrielle, are you just looking for an architect, or for an interior designer? Kathryn Ireland is very experienced with projects like yours, and if you have an English-speaking designer overseeing things then you may be able to use a French architect and/or contractors without language issues. You can see Kathryn’s rescue of an old ranch property in CA on Cote de Texas’ blog here: http://cotedetexas.blogspot.com/2012/08/reese-versus-kathryn-knockout-duel.html
I could totally see your family in that home (Kathryn’s version, not what Reese Witherspoon did to it after she bought it). I know Kathryn is based out of Los Angeles but she does own a home in France as well that she renovated extensively. Even if she wasn’t able to take on your cottage project personally, she can probably point you to someone else you’d be comfortable with. Bonne chance!

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3 Elizabeth T. August 15, 2012 at 7:07 am

A friend from high school is an architect based in Paris. http://www.kelemen-architecture.com/en-contact.html
His parents are European but he grew up and was educated in the States, so is totally bilingual. He did great work for friends of mine when he was starting out! (here are those projects – http://www.kelemen-architecture.com/en-ref04106-data.html and http://www.kelemen-architecture.com/en-ref00101-data.html)

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4 Ashley F. August 15, 2012 at 7:08 am

How charming! The idea of taking something old and abandoned and making it useful and beautiful again just makes me smile. Of course, it involves a lot of work, but there’s something so satisfying about the before and after, I think:)

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5 Amber August 15, 2012 at 7:10 am

I love it! What a fun dream come true! Just wondering about the taxes in France, are the property taxes something to consider? Lovely old house!!

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6 Robin Witte August 15, 2012 at 7:13 am

I’m an architect! I followed stephmodo on her cottage renovation and was envious the whole time. What an amazing opportunity.
A couple of things to consider:
1. The architect would definitely have to visit the cottage, so that means travel expenses paid by you for the visit.
2. Make sure your architect has a license to sign and seal drawings in France, if required. Your cottage may or may not require an architect with a French license. I would check this with the local code official. Another note is that EU licensed architects (English speaking British architects) automatically carry a French license.

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7 gail August 15, 2012 at 7:15 am

Wow. This is so awesome. I’d go for it in a heartbeat, and opt for keeping renovations utterly practical and simple. Maybe a bedroom for the boys and another for the girls, that kind of thing. Oh, but I forgot about your extended family who would of course want to visit…..You could also finance it my renting it by the month when you weren’t using it…..Best of luck on this one!

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8 Jody August 15, 2012 at 7:16 am

I SO admire this. It would be so enriching for your children. My husband and I would both be stressed by this task-we aren’t that visionary, but greatly admire it in others. I would personally use the money to travel and avoid the commitment, but I will love seeing you take on this lovely project!

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9 Meagan August 15, 2012 at 7:30 am

It does sound intimidating, but what a neat project! I love the idea of taking something like this, with existing history, but making it entirely yours.

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10 julia @ life on churchill August 15, 2012 at 7:43 am

oh it sounds wonderful. You could create exactly what you are thinking, and what a story. I’m sure there were would be a little stress, but if you aren’t living in the space while you renovate it makes all the difference

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11 Giulia August 15, 2012 at 7:51 am

What a wonderful potential project. I would second the opinion above about considering a British architect. You’d have the EU knowledge and certificates and no language barrier. If you do go through with this are planning on renting it?

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12 Sandra August 15, 2012 at 9:33 am

All of us who have done renos are salivating, right?

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13 Sherri August 15, 2012 at 7:51 am

So appealing. Go for it. Would love to do this myself someday.

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14 Sonya August 15, 2012 at 7:53 am

I think buying a home abroad, especially in a country you’ve spent an extended period of time in, is a fantastic idea. Especially at this price tag, so you can renovate it to make it your own. I admire this endeavor and do not think you are crazy and I get all giddy just thinking about it! I definitely think getting an American architect (or native English speaker) is probably an excellent idea though. You and your husband are definitely not crazy!

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15 Heather August 15, 2012 at 7:59 am

Appeal to me? Sounds AWESOME!

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16 Coffee with Julie August 15, 2012 at 8:06 am

“Tell me, friends. Does a project like this appeal to you?” — I want to send your blog post to my husband and tell him to start learning French asap!!

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17 Sandra August 15, 2012 at 9:34 am

Hah – I just emailed the link to my husband!

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18 Mare August 15, 2012 at 8:07 am

So appealing even more so now I know the price tag! DO IT!

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19 EB Black August 15, 2012 at 8:07 am

Bien sûr! Do it.

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20 {plum} August 15, 2012 at 8:17 am

The sentiment “….oh darling, let’s be adventurers” most definitely applies to you. Bravo on grabbing life by the horns. Certainly the best parenting technique around.

best ~ d.

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21 Marlena August 15, 2012 at 8:17 am

I LOVE this idea! And the kids could help plan and work on the house as it allows. What a great place to getaway each year and build memories.

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22 Mel August 15, 2012 at 8:20 am

This is a wonderful idea and something that I hope to do myself one day. I’ve already picked out the architect I would use :) so I am going to suggest him to you. Perry Chan is based out of New York and has an amazing blog called Little Diggs that I love! http://www.littlediggs.com/
He has some brilliant ideas for small spaces and lofted living!!

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23 karla August 15, 2012 at 8:20 am

It sounds like a great idea… but do check out inheritance issues with regards to owning property in France. When my friends mother died (who owned a house in France) it literally took them years to settle this before they could sell the property.

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24 Sandra August 15, 2012 at 8:23 am

At those prices how could you not? And then when you aren’t there you can rent it out as a vacation home. So beautiful. You could spend the entire summers in France and zoom back for school once you return to the US.

See, I have it ALL planned out for you. Whether you like it or not!

You are getting me thinking….I can “blame” you, right? Heh…

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25 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag August 15, 2012 at 8:35 am

Have you read ‘A Year in Provence’ by Peter Mayle? One of my favorite books that I’ve re-read several times. Makes me laugh every time! The descriptions of their French house renovation process are truly hilarious….

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26 Sonya August 15, 2012 at 8:52 am

Ooohhh, I need to read this. Thanks for recommending.

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27 terina August 15, 2012 at 9:42 am

they made that book into a movie. seriously so fun to watch!

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28 Sonya August 15, 2012 at 11:34 am

Even better! I can read and then watch!

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29 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag August 15, 2012 at 12:42 pm

the book is one of the few I have read in my life that is laugh out loud funny! It’s really worth seeking out :)

30 Karin S August 15, 2012 at 8:38 am

Sounds so great! We moved to Atlantic Canada and renovated a 100-yr old house. It took patience and we struggled with budget overages but its now our dream house and we plan on keeping in the family forever.
BTW Architects are worth every penny and they double as marriage councillors during projects like these. :) Good luck!!

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31 Kristen RvF August 15, 2012 at 10:05 am

This! Do it!! We just bought an old farm house with a million dollar view (and a bad roof and shag carpetting and lots of faux panelling) in Cape Breton. For me, it is my home and we are military, so this will be our one constant. I was very nervous, it was premature but now that it is done I couldn’t be happier. The rental rates in the area and we will make it pay for itself once renos are done. It was daunting as we bought just as we were moving across the country to Alberta from Ontario but I would do it again in a heart beat.

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32 Jillian in Italy August 15, 2012 at 8:40 am

I love the idea of a little romantic cottage in the French countryside. I just get nervous for all the little unexpected “surprises” that always seem to arise when you do a project such as this. But I guess that’s part of the whole adventure.

We bought a house here in Italy and soon afterwards we had to re-do the entire heating system and roof (which we were told were in perfect condition). It seems as though the buyer isn’t as protected for these sorts of things as in the States.

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33 Sara August 15, 2012 at 9:06 am

I think i love the idea of it, but having spent five years in France I would be wary of doing renovations if I couldn’t be there in person to oversee them (and frankly somewhat even if I could). Not to mention the bureaucracy headaches that would come with owning property in France.
But then I’m always seeing the negative side if things.

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34 Nichshee August 16, 2012 at 10:46 am

Hi Sara, have to say I am with you on this and I have lived in France for the last 12 years, absolutely, you have to be on site to oversee renovations. I have seen waaaaaay too many French programmes on what can and does go wrong (and this is for the native French) and the paperwork (and charges) for buying a property in France can be impressive. I would double any cost estimate for renovation as a start, I don’t think it is negative, but realistic. However, if money is not an issue, it would be sooooo much fun!

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35 Tanja August 15, 2012 at 9:16 am

It looks beautiful and we have done something similiar in northern Italy. We have learnt a few lessons along the way…. not to dissuade you and dampen your enthusiasm, but just off the top of my head the following issues come to mind: 1) the amount quoted to you for basic work sounds too low to us (of course depending on the standard of work you want), 2) choose an architect who knows French building regulations (and available grants) very well (e.g. if you want to let the place later, your bedrooms might require a certain amount of squarte meters etc.) – you might want to try and find an American/Brit living in France, who then could also regularly show up at the building site to check if any work is going on.. .3) consider how far the building is from neighbours. We wanted something similiar in the beginning, but then ended up buying a place with neighbours close by and it is such a blessing to have someone to keep an eye on the house when we are not there. Not only regarding burglaries, but also things like making sure that in the winter the pipes do not freeze etc.. 4) We would be careful about contacting builders before actually owning the house and having already architectural plans at hand for them to know what you really want.
Well, I guess we could go on but this would be too much for your space here. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you would like to discuss some our experiences.

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36 Krystle @ Color Transformed Family August 15, 2012 at 9:26 am

This is so exciting. Giving old places new life is a passion of mine. I can’t wait to see how you transform any space you decided to buy!

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37 vermontmommy August 15, 2012 at 9:33 am

I have never done such a thing but oh, I want you to so I can watch and learn and enjoy the adventure.

Would you ever plan to stay forever or is that just not in the cards? I have so enjoyed your travels.

How much land would you have? Oh, to own a plot of the world….

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38 Anna August 15, 2012 at 9:45 am

This project looks fantastic! Charming house made even more charming by Design Mom—what’s not to like? We’ve redone two houses and although it can feel like a long haul, it’s so gratifying when a fixer is fixed.

As for architects, you might try Touraine Richmond Architects in Venice, California. He’s French, she’s American but speaks French, and they specialize in eco/green designs.

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39 Jessica August 15, 2012 at 9:47 am

This is a beautiful building! I have always wanted to renovate an old barn to a living space, what a great opportunity! I think it would be a fabulous family project, kids learn so much from seeing how to renovate. Reminds me of Under the Tuscan Sun, and we all know how successful that venture was! Go for it!

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40 Jules August 15, 2012 at 9:48 am

I’d be all over it like white on rice.

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41 Barchbo August 15, 2012 at 10:19 am

LOVE IT! I am already looking forward to reading about your renovation! :)

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42 Lisette August 15, 2012 at 10:29 am

I would highly recommend my father who is an architect. He is a great visionary and full of ideas.

Don Wolter
http://www.wdgarchitects.com

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43 mandi@herbanhomestead August 15, 2012 at 10:32 am

Oh yes. I would be all over this!

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44 Christy August 15, 2012 at 10:41 am

I love this idea! Love!

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45 Ashlea Walter August 15, 2012 at 10:42 am

Oh my, lady. That is quite an undertaking, but at the same time it seems so affordable in the grand scheme of things. This love story & adventure has to be pursued!

My father-in-law is an architect and is coincidentally taking French lessons…

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46 Andrea August 15, 2012 at 10:57 am

My good friend’s husband is an architect in Seattle, but he has experience working in France. In fact, he has already restored farmhouse in Brittany — so he may already be familiar with some of the issues that could come up. He is amazing, and I think his family is traveling in Europe as I write this! If you would like his contact details, please feel free to send me a message. I feel funny posting them in a public forum. I’ve been in some of the houses he’s designed and renovated, and they are stunning. And, he’s a terrific guy!

Best,
Andrea

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47 elz August 15, 2012 at 10:58 am

Oh God, yes. I would do it in a heartbeat! I’m sure Stephmodo has lots of useful advice. My friend is an awesome architect, but she’s based in Houston, so that’s not helpful.
Bonne chance, this is going to be a great adventure.

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48 terina August 15, 2012 at 11:17 am

first, you were in my dream last night. i came to visit you for a weekend in france. very strange, especially since i don’t actually know you.

second, i have looked into buying a home in france. this may sound a bit morbid, but i’ve always said that if anything ever happened to my husband, i’m taking the money and going to france.

if i had the means, it would be something i would love to do!

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49 Bambino by the Bay August 15, 2012 at 11:39 am

A project like this looks amazing!! It really would an incredible project to take on- where everything is exactly the way you dream it to be! My parents bought a very small two bedroom cottage the year I was born and did many remodels over the years. Some of our best memories as a family were in that home and during the renovations. I always remember as a little girl sitting outside telling jokes to the stone mason. So I say- Go for it!!

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50 Jessica Wren August 15, 2012 at 11:39 am

This sounds absolutley wonderful, a lovely callenge! I’m an american/swedish architect who has worked in both countries and currently reside in Sweden. My experience lies in adaptive reuse, restoration and housing. Contemporary design deeply rooted in local tradition and good, healthy materials! I can send you a portfolio if you’d like. The travel from sweden would be easy and you will have no problem communicating with me, I guarantee!

Love – Jessica Wren

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51 Heather August 15, 2012 at 11:41 am

I love this idea so much. I’m an architect, too, and I completely agree with Robin (though I’m sure you’ve checked on a lot of the legal stuff. In North Carolina, for example, an residence can be “designed” by anyone. An architect is not required. Any commercial property must have an architect’s signed seal.

If I could have my dream architect, it would be Glenn Murcutt. He’s Australian (major travel fees, but would be licensed in the UK) and fabulous. He is one of the people we called a “starchitect” when I was in architecture school. I think he might love the challenge of designing a smaller home for a bigger family.

I also love James (Jim) Cutler.

Good luck on your search. I do think it’s always a good idea to go with a designer. They are able to think about things differently and creatively.

Good luck and I can’t wait to see the outcome!

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52 Alexis August 15, 2012 at 11:53 am

This is so up my alley! Please do it so I can live vicariously! Yay!

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53 Nora August 15, 2012 at 11:54 am

I’m so into this I’m already planning your kids weddings in my head!!
Do check into all the EU regulations, taxes, etc. as mentioned by others.
Although, even some road blocks seem to be insignificant when you consider all the positives.
Bye and good luck.

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54 julia g blair August 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Frankly, my first response is a deep and dizzy head ache! But that’s me and my knowing how impossible such a project would be for us. But I LOVE the idea for Ben and Gabby and Ralph, Maude, Olive, Oscar, Betty and June because they are
so amazing! A sweet little home in France——wow!

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55 Lisa August 15, 2012 at 1:08 pm

If you can afford the whole cost after basic renovation, just go for it. I am sure the renovation process will be fun for you. Your kids will thank you forever for this present you are making them and they will cherish it for many many years. If you need remote help, just let me now (I live in the Balkans), I will be glad to help you with ideas/concepts, although I’m sure you won’t need them, coz I bet you already have the finished house pictured in your mind already :)
Good luck !

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56 julie August 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm

If you and your whole family are on the same page to go ahead with a project such as this, it will surely be worth the effort. Nothing in life that is worthwhile is truly easy. . . right? And your kids are going to be so blessed to come back, even once or twice, and build on their experience in France. I would love to have had an opportunity like that with my husband and 5 boys. We did build our current home together here in Utah, when they were little, and it was a great experience for us. We have been in a constant state of Renovation 0.O

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57 Aimee August 15, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Warren Lloyd is one of the most fantastic architects I have ever seen.

He did my bosses house that was featured on Stephmodo here:
http://www.stephmodo.com/2011/09/real-life-home-no-10-modernizing-older.html

You can check out more on his website too.
http://www.lloyd-arch.com

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58 Esther August 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm

a project like this would be my absolute dream! we bought a fixer upper as our first home… we’re still here and projects go slowly but i’d be lying if i said i didn’t love being able to be inspired by something and do it in our home.

good luck with this endeavor!

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59 Joan August 15, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Does it appeal? It would be a dream come true!

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60 Valerie August 15, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Love & Envy! I was about 15 when my French grandmother passed away leaving the house to all the kids (5 including my mom). This was the house my mom mostly grew up in. Pretty much two rooms with attached loft and barn. When my mom was young it didn’t even have indoor water (though it did in later years) and it never had indoor plumbing. My mom and her siblings slept in the hay loft with big down comforters made by my grandfather. An uncle and his wife lived in the house for about 5 years when mom’s other siblings put pressure on them to either “Buy” the house from them or sell it so they could gain the proceeds. When it was said and done the house and property (about 2.5 hours from Paris) sold for $25K or so. My dad was shocked and couldn’t believe the low price. He said many times had he known they wanted so little he would have bought it and made that their summer home in their retirement years. I love to think of what could have been and hold those memories close to my heart now that my dad has passed away and my mom suffers from a rare dementia. All this to say … do it! You, nor your children will regret it. And remember me and probably 1000′s of other readers will rent it to live a slice of the French life when you’re not using it.

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61 Mary August 15, 2012 at 6:30 pm

After reading “My Year in Provence” I might be overwhelmed, but you guys are pioneers! You can do it! Or have it done.

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62 Whitney August 15, 2012 at 8:21 pm

http://www.cearnal.com/
One of the top firms in Santa Barbara CA. You should definitely call them because they are very environmental and Martin Hartmann has experience with earth and adobe homes and well as other earth structures. I think old stone homes might qualify too. Not sure if they work out of the country, but worth a call!! Ask for Martin! Tell them Whitney. Sent you! Good luck!

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63 Amy August 15, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Sounds positively dreamy! You might consider Jessica Helgerson of Portland, Oregon, as a design duo with her architect husband as they have experience with the restoration of a stone cottage in France. Here is a link to the cottage.
http://www.jhinteriordesign.com/burgundy-house/

Best wishes!

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64 Beaula August 16, 2012 at 1:00 am

Congrats! We recently moved to my boyfriend’s summer home in Cornwall. A house definitely needs to be lived in or taken care of, it’s the little things, changing lightbulbs, bugs, doors that are sticking. His parents had a gardener who kept things from going wild but otherwise spent a good deal of time when they visited n cleaning, gardening, fixing up etc. I would recommend hiring an agency. It’s common here to do holiday cottages and hire an agency to do the bookings. You get first pick on when you want to be there but it’s rented out the other weeks. And you have the peace of mind that someone has keys and is looking out after it.

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65 Gea August 16, 2012 at 1:31 am

Sounds like a great project! We are a Dutch family who have been living here in South-Normandy for 4 years. After renovating our own home, we completely renovated a lovely cottage nextdoor, that was in a much worse state than yours (just four walls!) It is now rented out as a holiday cottage (gîte). Have a look at our website for before and after pictures (only in French and Dutch for the moment): http://www.espritdubocage.com
At the moment we are preparing to attack a third wreck! So , if you want to pick our brains on how to tackle your project feel free to contact us. I also have a very good Canadian (from Quebec) )architect friend who used to work in France that might be able to help.

Good luck!

Gea Keller-Visser

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66 Alexandra August 16, 2012 at 3:42 am

Hi Gabi,
It’s been a while since I am reading you website and your adventure in France. I am the mother of 2 boys (5 and 2,5) who together with my husband bought one old house in Italy (dated more or less Xvii th century). My dream is to have a post on your website under “Living with kids” :). But before this, our house needs major renovations from top to bottom. My brother who lives in Romania (by the way I am Romanian but moved to Italy some 15 years ago) offered to send a team from there (considering the lower labour costs from Romania). However we preferred to work with Italians ( from architect to ingeneer to plumber, etc) because they have to know the local regulations for renovating/building (you will also need to request an authorisation at the townhouse), the materials used in loco, how it was built as to not interfere with what was built already, etc. I think it is fine to have an American architect with whom you will have no language gap problems during works, but he/she should be based in France ( or more, in the region where you live and the barn is located, as sometimes the regulations change from town to town or region to region. At least this is what is in Italy).
Good luck
Alexandra

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67 susan August 16, 2012 at 6:48 am

It so appeals to me and you can rent it out to all your friends on your blog!

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68 Kristy August 16, 2012 at 7:33 am

We would sooo rent your cottage (and take excellent care of it) while you’re in the states! :)

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69 rachel schindler August 16, 2012 at 8:43 am

Go for it! I am selfish and want to read about your adventures in renovating your home in France.

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70 Marian August 16, 2012 at 9:11 am

My good friend Alex Kudla is an architect based in Paris. http://alexkudla.com/
Another good friend is Brady Anderson, a landscape architect also in Paris. http://bmalandscape.com/

Good luck!

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71 Jenny August 16, 2012 at 9:31 am

I would first say Bill Ingram, MacAlpine-Tankersley or Steve Gianetti. There’s also Jack Arnold who seems to specialize in cottage type homes. Me, personally, I would say Bill Ingram because his structures seem to have that cottage feel, but a little cleaner at the same time. Just something I would prefer. Best of luck…I would do it in a HEART BEAT!

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72 Katriina August 16, 2012 at 11:36 am

Oh! I hope you buy this charming place to add to your family’s adventures! I think we’re all hoping to follow along as you post about the progress of the project!

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73 Sara August 16, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I love the character of older homes but possible health issues that come with them like lead pipes and lead paint make me nervous. Not sure if that is an issue where you are, but that is something you may want to look into.

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74 Carina August 16, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Go for it! We love that our property future is here in France. Just be sure you have your own notaire (don’t share with the other party). Most important!

I’ve worked on a fantastic design project this past year and had loads of fun in Paris and London with this great designer/ architect based in Paris…..one half of an anglo architect team.

Barbara Brink – http://www.barbara-brink.com/

http://www.mbs-architecture.com/

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75 Anneliese August 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I am hopelessly idealistic about houses and renovations, so I say go for it! I would be another rich experience I a sure and as long as you treat it as an adventure, rather than the only abode you have, it is sure to be fun!

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76 Jacqueline August 16, 2012 at 6:08 pm

I would say go for it! But I would recommend not living in the environment until the renovations have been made. Exposure to the dust, debris, and VOC’s isn’t healthy for children or adults. Good luck!

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77 Corinne August 17, 2012 at 4:58 am

My husband and I bought a fixer-upper farmhouse 5 years ago. There’s a lot of things that are great about it and a lot of things that aren’t so great. But trying to do the renovations ourselves while working 40 hours a week has made it very difficult to get much done. But I wouldn’t trade it for a modern house, that’s for sure. :)

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78 Martina August 17, 2012 at 10:20 am

Oh what a lovely idea! I would be so excited, constantly sketching out ideas and different layout options. Before we decided to build a custom home (which is also thrilling!) we looked at some dilapidated old homes and dreamed of how to renovate and reconfigure them. I love houses, architecture and interior design. So exciting!

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79 sue August 17, 2012 at 10:48 am

Wow…what a fun idea. so much cheaper than your typical beach house, minus the airfare, of course. =) re: your one room/barn/cottage–I recently read At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson, which talked about the evolution of the anglican home, and it was very typical of the ancient houses to be “halls,” which where one room structures with a stove/hearth that the entire family ate/slept/played in! I think you would love the book, as it touches on nearly all facets of domestic life!

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80 Rachel August 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Before I give any practical advice, I’m just going to say that I think this sounds like a great project, and I’m so happy that you have this opportunity. :) Now I’m going to write what is probably too long for a just a comment…

I’m a soon-to-be-architect (working, but not yet licensed), and I wholeheartedly agree with Robin and Heather that you should check into what is actually required in France for signing drawings — especially since you will be reclassifying it as a house so you may have to submit it to certain authorities. As long as you can communicate, I would personally be less concerned with the architect being an American and more with their ability to 1) Legally sign the drawings and 2) Do the work. In a restoration like this, I would select someone who had considerable experience with restoration work in France — not just some residential experience and not just that one really cool restoration they did as a side project.

Also, I haven’t worked in the construction industry in France, BUT I have worked in the construction industry and I have lived in France, and I would say that $65,000 sounds pretty low to me, especially since it looks like it needs some serious work on both the exterior stone and the roof. I conferred with some other architects in my office, and they concur that $65,000 sounds very low.

If you are able to, I recommend consulting with your designer or architect to discuss the investment and feasibility of the project. I’m a money gal, so I would have to ask “Would the final product be worth the [insert pricetag] I put into it?” It may not matter to you since you would conceivably own it for a long time, but it’s worth asking.

Also consider things like: Who is going to manage the project if you’re back in the US? If you are thinking a contractor is managing the project, they may not be willing to manage a project in small spurts. Would you really be able to pay for parts of the work as you go or would you have to come up with pretty large sums all at once? (i.e. all the electrical and mechanical work).

I hope I’m not raining on your parade. :) Again, I hope you are able to figure all these details out and get this place. It sounds great, and I’m extraordinarily jealous!

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81 Nina Hetzner August 18, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I’d like to suggest my father, Klaus Philipsen, as an architect. His firm, ArchPlan, is based in Baltimore but he is originally from Germany – so he knows the metric system and European standards, he has experience with historic preservation, he speaks french, and he’s wonderful!
http://www.archplan.com

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82 Amber August 23, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Just reading this makes me exhausted…so I guess I would definitely pass on a project like this. But good for you! Can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

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83 Kate February 11, 2013 at 3:06 pm

This is so awesome and I’m completely inspired/jealous. I say do it! This will be a great bonding experience for you and your family, and by owning a home in France, you will become a permanent part of the country and its culture.
Please keep us updated!

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84 kim February 17, 2013 at 6:29 pm

A dreeeeaaaammm!!! Life is short – go for it!!

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85 annie@mostlovelythings June 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Congratulations! I can hardly wait to follow you along on this project! So exciting! I thought I was brave buying a house in New Canaan, CT last year without seeing it since we still lived in southern California. What an exciting project and one I would jump at the chance for! A beautiful stone cottage is just about as perfect as it gets for a starting point!

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86 Therese Le Mignon Priest October 9, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Chere Gabrielle,
les grands esprits se rencontrent…
http://kitchen-notebook.blogspot.com/2008/09/happy-stove.html

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87 SD Mueller November 26, 2013 at 10:10 am

You MUST check out a collaborative workspace called co-construct. Your architect and builder set it up, and everything is managed there, from deadlines, sourcing, message boards, to progress pictures. We are currently managing a renovation of a country house about an hour or so away, and depend on it. It organizes everything, sends updates, and notifications about decisions that are due. Hopefully your guys are fairly tech savvy (although it is very quick and easy to learn) because I honestly can’t imagine managing a project any other way… especially remotely. There is even app so that you can check in from anywhere. http://www.co-construct.com/ I check in every afternoon to see what they did! He posts pics daily. (My builder is also on pinterest to see what I have chosen.. that has been great too.) He has six kids himself so anything that saves time and energy (and money) for everyone is a huge bonus. Good luck!

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