Cottage Shopping Update

February 26, 2013

Text and image by Gabrielle.

I’m a bit late posting today, but I have a good reason. Today, we put an offer on this cottage!

We’re so excited we can hardly stand it. We’ve been looking at it since last August, but the property needed some certification before we could buy it. It used to be a house, but hasn’t been inhabited for many, many years and was reclassified as a barn. So we’ve had to make sure it can be certified as a house again before we move forward.

There is one catch: all these months later, it’s still not officially certified. But. It’s so close to being certified that the notary felt like it was okay to go ahead and make the formal offer and sign all the paperwork. So, there is a chance that it won’t receive the approvals and we won’t be able to buy it — but I can’t help but be excited anyway!!!

The house is essentially a stone shell — in fact, will need to restore both electricity and running water on the property. But it’s on a lovely piece of land and has a charming outbuilding too. And it was an amazing bargain! It needs a huge (HUGE!) amount of work, but the prospect of owning it and fixing it up still has us grinning ear to ear.

As soon as it’s officially ours, I’ll be sure to share more photos, but for now, hopefully my instagram shot above will whet your whistle.

P.S. — For those of you who are curious, we’re still planning to move back to the U.S. in July. Our intention with this cottage is to use it as a vacation home and a base here in Europe. And mostly, we hope it will keep us connected to the friends we’ve made here and to this region which we love so much.

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Just Moms » Blog Archive » Cottage Shopping Update
February 26, 2013 at 4:42 pm

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Starr February 26, 2013 at 9:23 am

Wow! Congratulations!


2 natasha February 26, 2013 at 9:24 am

Fingers crossed and sending good energy your way! What an adventure.


3 Sandra Gonzales February 26, 2013 at 9:25 am

No fear of squatters if you do purchase the house and leave?


4 Design Mom February 26, 2013 at 9:31 am

Good question. It’s actually in a tiny-but-charming village and has close neighbors, so I feel confident it will be looked after. And we’ll be hiring people to upkeep the garden while we’re gone, so we know it will be checked on regularly.

Honestly, between my big family and Ben Blair’s big family, we hope it will get lots of use as a vacation home. : )


5 Erin February 26, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I wondered about that, too. I don’t know where those sorts of towns are in the U.S. any longer…they do exist, but they are few and far between. Whereas I have this probably-false notion that these are spread all over the countrysides of several other countries, including France.


6 Charlotte Owens February 27, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Check out Fallbrook CA, avocado capital of the world and about an hour north of San Diego! if you want to experience a small and old-time town experience. These places really do still exist. Recently bought here to get a break from San Francisco city living.

Congrats on your second/holiday home. What we have found is that even when you aren’t able to be there, just thinking about it will make your day brighter. You won’t regret making this decision.


7 Rose D. Frenchtown, NJ USA February 26, 2013 at 9:29 am

Congratulations!!! I must have missed the post where you said you were coming back to the states. New job??


8 Kate Frishman February 26, 2013 at 9:29 am

What a lovely “shell” to be working with! Good luck on the certification!


9 Lisette Wolter-McKinley February 26, 2013 at 9:31 am

I love making dreams happen, there is nothing more electrifying.


10 Jillian in Italy February 26, 2013 at 9:38 am

Looks like a gorgeous project to take on. I can already picture it finished with smoke coming out of the chimney, kids playing in the the yard and a pie cooling on the windowsill. Keeping my fingers crossed that the certification comes through soon and you can call the place yours!


11 Thelma February 26, 2013 at 9:41 am

That’s terrific! I would love to do something like that. It’s so great that you’re going to be able to stay in touch with all the friends you’ve made while you’ve lived in France, and I’m sure the kids will enjoy using the house for many, many years!
Best wishes!


12 Eva Kolenko February 26, 2013 at 9:47 am

Gabrielle! This looks like a dream! I hope you will be updating the blog with all your renovation projects. Will you be renting the place out at all while you are in the US?
Just started a family myself and my goal is to spend a month a year living abroad with them. Good luck, congrats and keep us posted!


13 julie February 26, 2013 at 9:47 am

Best of luck on it. We have a tiny cottage way up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and it has provided my family SO many wonderful times and memories. While ours is a bit easier to get too (well barely, its on an island with NO bridge) being just 8 hours north, when you have a special place you seem to be able to make the time to go!


14 Valerie February 26, 2013 at 9:53 am

One word – ENVY. One of my Uncle’s was a “shop” teacher by trade and when my cousin bought his shell of a house (circa 1880′s) outside of Orleans they spent over 5 years restoring it; granite lentels, reclaimed (even older than the house) terracotta tiles, beautiful old beams, and hand troweled plaster and so on. It will be an adventure but .. OH, the reward at the end!


15 Jennifer F- American mom in bordeaux February 26, 2013 at 10:20 am

What a great project. From the outside it looks so charming! Congrats! Hopefully the French process of getting things done wont be too slow.


16 Sam February 26, 2013 at 10:28 am

Congratulations – it’s so exciting! I love the cottage and can’t wait to see what you do with it!


17 Christa the BabbyMama February 26, 2013 at 10:28 am

Congratulations! That’s amazing!


18 Kacy Faulconer February 26, 2013 at 10:29 am

What a dump.

Just kidding.


19 Zoe - SlowMama February 26, 2013 at 10:29 am

So exciting! Can’t wait to read about the steps you take to make this a dream family vacation spot.


20 Danielle February 26, 2013 at 10:32 am

Congratulations!! So excited for you guys! :)


21 Joan February 26, 2013 at 10:35 am

It’s gorgeous! I can already see the hydrangeas blooming. Congratulations!


22 Ashlea Walter February 26, 2013 at 10:36 am

Eeeeeek! I’ve been waiting for this post. So excited to follow the cottage renovation adventure. Congratulations!


23 Abbey February 26, 2013 at 10:37 am

Congrats! Does it get any more cute and rustic than this?! It’s going to be the perfect getaway when you guys are through. Where’s in Europe is it?


24 Donna February 26, 2013 at 10:45 am

EEEK! Why leave?!!! Stay!!! :)))


25 Gail February 26, 2013 at 11:00 am

It has great bones! What a find. Can’t wait to see what you do with it.


26 Ma February 26, 2013 at 11:04 am

That is so cool. I would love to buy a stone shell in the French countryside. It’s going to look gorgeous when you are finished with it. Well, I don’t know if anybody is really ever finished with interior design, but you know what I mean… :)


27 Mary-My Life in Scotland February 26, 2013 at 11:05 am

It’s gorgeous! What a dream!

We are making our expat experience permanent here in Scotland. We’re looking to buy and I’m just dying for a thatched roof cottage! Those are really expensive… but we’ll see what we can get close to. I’d love a cottage though. It’s my dream!


28 Jennifer February 26, 2013 at 11:06 am

Congratulations to you~ tis’ beautiful! I dream the dream of owning two homes one day, a real home and a vacation home. Probably will never happen but the dream is alive :) :)


29 Giulia February 26, 2013 at 11:23 am

so exciting!!!!!


30 Jenny February 26, 2013 at 11:27 am

How wonderful! I’m curious about the process of purchasing property in France. Are there any special considerations for foreigners (visas, etc)? Fingers crossed that you get the cottage so we can watch the transformation!


31 Amanda Robinson February 26, 2013 at 11:50 am

So wonderfully excited for you and your family! What an amazing adventure to embark on!!! Looking forward to following all the details!!!


32 Azra February 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Congratulations! That is great news. Would you share info about what does it take to own a property in France? Taxes, cost of renovating etc… it would be interesting.


33 julia [life on churchill] February 26, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I love this! What a beautiful space. I hope you get it!


34 Melissa Walsh February 26, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Delightfully dreamy! Magically majestic! Perfectly yours;-)


35 Jean McMorris February 26, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Very exciting..I love the stone houses in France. We stayed at a B&B in Normandy & I just loved it.
Let us know if you will rent it out when you are not there.
Best of luck on living your dreams!


36 Lindsay - Shop Ella Lou February 26, 2013 at 1:03 pm

A huge congrats! You must be over the moon. It’s funny, you can leave France, but France will never leave you. It is one of those countries that becomes a part of you. It is wonderful you will have a home base there now. I am sure this is a purchase your family will treasure for generations to come!


37 Lynn February 26, 2013 at 1:06 pm

always love reading about your new adventures. Do you know where in the US you will be moving to?


38 Sara February 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Would love to know more about what went into your decision to return to the States!


39 Danielle DtotheB February 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm

It is darling! looking forward to hearing more about it!!!


40 rue du chat qui peche February 26, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Congratulations! This is sooo exciting!…
I am looking forward to seeing what you make of it. keep us posted:)


41 betsy February 26, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Hooray! I’m so thrilled for you all! I hope the reclassification certification goes through without a hitch. So exciting!


42 Holly February 26, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I am just so caught up in your cottage hunt after reading this! I have always wanted my hubby to get transferred for a few years abroad so we all could do what you are doing! So very wonderful and it is just perfect that you will buy a souvenir such as this to bring you back to France, your other home. Nothing is more fun than a fixer-upper, especially a really old special one! Oh, fingers crossed for you! I just know it is going to happen!


43 Dagmar ~ Dagmar's Home February 26, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Oh, what a neat adventure! I bet it’s going to be amazing when you have made it into a home. I’d love the challenge as well. I especially love the history of buildings like this.


44 mail February 27, 2013 at 1:52 am

The cottage look really nice and I can imagine the land on country side around Europe because I been there before (Portsmouth) for me it really nice if you make it as vacation home. I hope you will get it. Looking forward to here the news from you.


45 Kim February 27, 2013 at 2:40 am

Oh Gaby! Jealous, jealous, jealous! You will make it so lovely, I can barely stand it!


46 Corinne February 27, 2013 at 6:07 am

Congrats! Imagine what it’ll look like when you’re done.


47 Lisa | Happy By February 27, 2013 at 7:17 am

You’re giving me fever anytime you update us about cottage hunting. I just want to move to France for some months and renovate and decorate this cutie with you :)


48 Lisa | Happy By February 27, 2013 at 7:17 am

P.s: fingers crossed for you to get it :)


49 Gea February 27, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Congratulations, what a great looking cottage! 10 years ago we fell in love with Basse-Normandie and its lovely granite farmhouses. We have been living here permanently since 2008 with our children and live in a gorgeous farmhouse and have transformed a second derelict house nextdoor into a holiday cottage. And just this afternoon we agreed on a contract with a builder to put a new roof on another (third) old farmhouse behind us that we bought last year. It is an addiction ;-) !
We may do a full renovation, but prices of building materials and artisans have gone up so much, that we are not 100% sure yet. Please make sure you look into the rules considering plus value! If you ever want to sell a secondary home, you will need to pay hefty (capital gains) tax on the resale value minus the investment. And if you have invested a lot of money in the renovation; the governement will only accept official bills for work and materials carried out by artisan. Any materials and work you put in yourself are not considered!
With regards to the certificat d’urbanisme that you do not have yet; you could ask the notaire to put a clause in the compromis de vente (preliminary sales agreement) that stipulates the sale will only go through upon getting it certified for habitation (CU positif).
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need tips as we know too well how wonderful and stressful a big renovation like this can be! You can see some before and after pictures of our holiday cottage on


50 Jeff G February 27, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Great idea – this totally reminds me of Stephmodo’s renovation that she shared with us on her blog! She did such a fantastic job with their cottage. Good luck!


51 Dee February 28, 2013 at 11:59 am

How exciting, Gabrielle! Best of luck!


52 Tiffanie February 28, 2013 at 2:46 pm

That honestly looks like Heaven on Earth to me. What a dream! xo


53 Lee Bennion March 1, 2013 at 9:39 am

I am very happy for you guys. It looks like a marvelous structure- even though a shell, it a beautiful shell. Yes it will be a TON of work, but very satisfying and you and your kids will learn so much. Basically it is what Joe did to make his pottery shop and me my painting studio. His shop had a 10 diameter reunk apple tree growing inthe front door when we bought the building… My studio was a log crib/barn structure full of used water heaters and pig manure, roof gone- I could go on and on. It is a lovely space now. I have always wanted to live in the barn with my horses and now I kind of do. They have 1/3 of the barn and I have 2/3 for my studio.


54 Béa March 4, 2013 at 1:40 am

Soo Exciting! Je croise les doigts!


55 kate March 5, 2013 at 4:47 pm

such an inspiration! so excited for you!!!


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57 M Mongeon A June 13, 2013 at 9:47 pm

This reminds me of “A Year in Provence” by Peter Mayle. Love.


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