Update on The French Cottage

March 24, 2014

Cottage New Roof 1

By Gabrielle. Images by Caroline.

I’ve been working like crazy on The Treehouse, and I have a few spaces that I’m almost ready to share. The reading loft is close to done. The boys’ room is like 75% finsihed. The living room is really shaping up as well! So you may be getting a house-sharing overload in the next few weeks. But today, I thought it would be fun to cross the ocean and tell you about some progress we’ve made on The Cottage in France.

Cottage New Roof 3

If you remember, when we bought it, the building was basically a shell. Good bones on a pretty piece of land. But no electricity. And no plumbing. And guess what? There is still no electricity or plumbing! We closed on the cottage about a month before we moved back to the U.S., and I was sure we’d have electricity installed that month. Hah! Instead, it’s 8 months later and if we tried to stay at the house right now, we would basically be camping. : )

That said, we have actually made major improvements. The roof has been repaired and replaced. The chimney is now in working order. The cracks in the stone walls and the stone fence have been repaired as well. And a new dormer was added!

Cottage New Dormer

Essentially, what we’ve done is make that “shell” weatherproof and ready for interior work. I admit, none of that is very sexy work — it’s much for glamorous to choose a bathtub, or share photos of a new kitchen; images of a functioning roof are not that dramatic. But honestly, I get goosebumps! chills! butterflies! when I see photos of the progress. Sometimes in our day to day routines I forget we have a little piece of French paradise waiting for us, and when I remember I catch my breath.

Our friend Caroline went to the house to check out the work and sent us these images and it was like Christmas morning!

Now that we have The Cottage in a stable place, we can start thinking about the interior — where we’ll put bedrooms and bathrooms and gathering rooms. And now that the exterior is secure, we can go at a slow pace if need be. Which is nice. It gives us time to make decisions, and also gives us time to save up budget for improvements.

Cottage Repaired Fence

Two things I’m curious about: 1) Have you ever taken on a similar project? Maybe created a cabin off in the mountains? Or a little vacation spot on a lake? I’d love to hear. And 2) If you could have a little cottage/cabin/bungalow anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

P.S. — As I looked back through The Cottage posts, I realized I’ve never shared photos with you of the whole property. Would you like to see it? I took about a million pics before we moved! I’m thinking I should do a “Introducing The Cottage” post.

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Azra March 24, 2014 at 11:55 am

Gabrielle, this sounds so exciting! I know interior work is pretty but this is fun too.
I wouldn’t mind having a piece of land and a cottage somewhere where life is not so fast paced (east cost where we are) like France, Spain or Italy.

Yes, please hit us with the Cottage pictures. I love seeing house posts.
Thanks for sharing.


2 Sheila March 24, 2014 at 11:57 am

Would love to see more about your lovely French cottage ~ love the roof, by the way <3


3 Design Mom March 24, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Isn’t it pretty? And it has proper rain gutters too!


4 Siobhan March 24, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Oh my! So beautiful, breath-taking! I can only imagine what it must feel like to know you have another home half a world away. I have a plot of land in Ireland on the property where my mother was raised. My aunt and a cousin have homes there already. We would love to have our own little cottage one day. Nothing fancy- just a 3 or 4 room stone cottage on the hillside. It is on the coast in beautiful Co. Donegal up on the northwest coast of Ireland. Congratulations and keep us posted!


5 Design Mom March 24, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Having property with family history sounds romantic!


6 Janelle Thietje-Dunn March 24, 2014 at 12:15 pm

I love living vicariously through your family’s adventures. I actually live where I want to – the Western Slope of Colorado. So, if I could have my dream cabin/cottage it would be in the mountains just south of town. someday….


7 Design Mom March 24, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Our friends from Colorado were visiting yesterday and we got so homesick! Colorado is such a great place to live.


8 Jocelyn March 24, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Uh, yes please share all the photos you can of that gorgeous place! I’m sure no one will complain. I’ve always wanted to see more of it. I’m sure it is a relief to have the structure sound and ready for the next phase. It is looking really great.

And looking forward to all the treehouse updates as well!


9 dorothee March 24, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Oh yes, please do introduce the cottage – and I am very much excited about the impending house improvement overload! Yeah!


10 Design Mom March 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Oh goody! I’m really looking forward to sharing more updates here at The Treehouse. They have taken over my brain lately so it’s exciting to see the spaces come together.


11 Karen March 24, 2014 at 12:25 pm

I don’t own a cabin or a cottage. I don’t even own a primary residence! (I rent.) But someday… maybe. My favorite recent renovation “follow along” was the Lake Michigan cabin renovation by Sarah Sherman Samuel: http://www.smittenstudioonline.com/category/cabin/

Looking forward to seeing more about your cottage. Congratulations!!


12 Emme March 24, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Um… let’s see… I’d choose FRANCE. So, I guess I’m living my dream vicariously through you! Ha! :)


13 Jessica @ Little Nesting Doll March 24, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Renovating or designing and building a property is in the top three things on my lifelong to-do list. I think if I could choose anywhere it would be on the lake where my parents have a cottage in Massachusetts–then we could kayak across the water to visit them. :) But also in my top three list is living in Europe for a time, so maybe when I get that one accomplished, my eventual destination for my cottage will change. :)


14 Ceci Bean March 24, 2014 at 12:35 pm

I had almost forgotten about the Cottage and now I’m excited all over again to see what your plans are for it!


15 Design Mom March 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm

“I had almost forgotten about the Cottage”

I know what you mean! Sometimes our life in France seems like it was just a dream. : )


16 Bambi March 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm

This looks awesome! I’m green with envy:-)

Greetings from Germany and a peek into life lately…





17 Amy3 March 24, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Please do an Introducing the Cottage post! I would love that.

If I could have a little cottage it would be a) upstate New York, northwestern Connecticut, western Massachusetts, or southeastern Vermont (doable) or b) the Cotswolds in England (more of a stretch!).

So fun to dream, though.


18 Design Mom March 24, 2014 at 1:39 pm

When we lived in New York and couldn’t afford to buy near the city, one of our favorite things to do was look up houses and land and farms in Upstate New York and Western Mass. There are some diamonds to be found!


19 Robin March 24, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Love that new blue roof – gorgeous!

Any and all house and cottage posts are great!


20 Sarah March 24, 2014 at 1:29 pm

We’re doing something similar also in France. And what we thought was a solid shell, turned out to be no good. A structural engineer told us the whole thing had to come down. Ah! Glad to hear you are having better luck!


21 Design Mom March 24, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Oh dear, Sarah! That must have broken your heart. Crossing my fingers the next stage of your renovation goes more smoothly.


22 Mindi March 24, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Yes, please do a full post on the cottage! I would love to read it!

I’d probably choose a place near the ocean as I love to hear the waves and the beach is my happy place. :)


23 Emily March 24, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Oh, yes! A tour pretty please! I’m dying to learn more.


24 Camille March 24, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Love the roof! It’s lovely. I can’t wait to see more of your improvements of the cottage and the tree house. If I could choose a getaway home it would be a little beach cottage in St. Augustine, FL. I love that place.


25 TracieMcOB March 24, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Would love to see the property – A cottage in France – sigh! Lover-ly :)


26 Gretchen March 24, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Everything about your cottage looks as picturesque as I can imagine. I’d love to see as many posts as you can manage about it. :)

If I had a vacation cottage, I would want it on the beautiful Oregon Coast.


27 Sandra March 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm

When we lived in Toronto we had a cottage about 2 hours NW of the city. It was quite rustic and on a gorgeous lake. Imagine spending the summer in bathing suits – swimming, water skiing, wake boarding. Clean, fresh water lakes in the region with pine trees and granite.

We sold it when we moved to Vancouver but still rent in the same area each summer. We just couldn’t give it up. And we’ll eventually own one again.

I love the contrast of a city life and a slower paced, simple cottage life.


28 Rachelle Bourget March 24, 2014 at 2:33 pm

The more pictures the merrier! I think we could all use a little more French paradise right about now :)

p.s. also excited to see house pics!


29 Lindsay March 24, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Oh how exciting! There’s a lot of romance in that cottage of yours. Dreamy. If I were to choose a spot for a little cottage I’d have to say Napa Valley or somewhere in Italy. And Switzerland! Wait – can I have 3 cottages?


30 Jeanne March 24, 2014 at 3:23 pm

That roof is very beautiful- how exciting! I would love to see more pictures of before! I was so excited to see this post today. I was getting ready to walk to the store with my girls so I shared it to my wall so I could come back and look at it!
Hmmm, if I could first of all, I’d work on my own house. We need some work done inside and out, but dream location somewhere in Southern Utah probably so I can be a snowbird when I’m old. Someplace I could have a farm, maybe even buy my grandpa’s land, but first I’d have to buy it from my dad and whoever else has a portion. I’d also love some place like Ireland or the English Countryside. But I’d have to visit Italy again too. I miss it. I don’t necessarily want to learn another language though.


31 Jeanne March 24, 2014 at 3:24 pm

It’s not that I am opposed to it, it’s just that I’d feel impatient to learn it :)


32 Marta ABilingualBaby blog March 24, 2014 at 3:50 pm

I’d have a house in Formentera, or Mallorca or Lanzarote. I’d invite my friends often and just enjoy life with my family, some fantastic food and drink, and the sun and the sea!


33 Tammy March 24, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I was soooo excited to see updates of the cottage! Would love to see the whole property. Have traveled to France only once np but have traveled to a few places around the globe. If I were lucky enough I would choose the French countryside as well!!


34 Jennifer March 24, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Are you kidding?? Of course we want to see!


35 Rebecca March 24, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Heck yes we want to see more photos and hear more about your French cottage!! Give us details!!


36 marie March 24, 2014 at 5:07 pm

The Atlantic coast ! Or maybe Brest – so Normandie sounds like a very good choice : )


37 Valerie March 24, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Oh the waves of jealousy reading this post … you are living my dream! While I have not done it I have been a first-hand witness to a similar restoration. My cousin and his wife bought a farmhouse southwest of Orleans; I want to say it was about 200 years old and in a very similar condition. My uncle, who essentially was a shop teacher, spent 5 years and 1000’s of hours working on the home. Major work included replacing the timber frame (reusing the timber in the home) and slate roof, salvaging terracotta tiles and chiseling off the old mortar to use on the ground floor, fabricating new granite lentils, building a reclaimed wood, steel and cable staircase .. the list goes on and on and the home is just spectacular! One of my favorite features is the glorious farm table he built for the kitchen that can comfortably seat 12 all from wood reclaimed onsite. A true labor of love but what a gift for generations to come. My uncle’s home was actually a barn that he converted into a home when my cousins were young (we’re all 40ish now) and I fear none of my cousins will ever want to live in the home as it is a bit too rural with a good amount of land that needs tending (my uncles garden was always prolific) – in my dreams I would love to own that home.

Et, bien sur, partager les photos avec nous!


38 Amanda March 24, 2014 at 6:19 pm

My oldest (9) just came over and asked what I was looking at. I paused and then said, “Well, these are pictures from a mom who took her family to live in France. She decided to go for it.”
She said, “Go for it, that’s so cool. More people should feel like it’s ok to go for it.”

She’s right. Love the updates.


39 Meredith March 24, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Yes! I would LOVE to see pictures of the cottage! I got so excited when I saw that you were sharing an update on it today. :-)


40 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay March 24, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Yes, please (!) on every last detail.


41 Kendra March 24, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Yes, please introduce the cottage! I’d also love to hear about the plans for the future in terms of how much you plan to visit/if you’ll live there permanently etc. I imagine that will shape how you design the inside (how many bedrooms etc.).

As for the other question, I’m living where I want (Montana), so if I could have a cottage anywhere it’d probably be a lakeside in northern Idaho…or Alaska. :-) Somewhere where the mountains run right down to the water.


42 Juli Bee March 24, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Please share more of The Cottage! I’d love to see more of the landscape and views. I love your description of “taking your breath away”. We should all feel that way about our home (permanent or vacation).

I admire you for taking such a huge leap by owning a home overseas. I often think I would love to have a place in the Midwest (close to where I went to college) but spend an enormous amount of time talking myself out if it…it’s too far, it’s another state, who would watch it, would I really go enough to make it worth it…on and on. How did y’all ever decide you could and would buy The Cottage?


43 Barbara March 24, 2014 at 8:39 pm

The roof is beautiful. What material did you use?


44 teresa March 25, 2014 at 3:04 am

What a dream…and I hear you on the roof… =) We are remodeling a mountain cabin right now…fun but crazy….and it is only 2 hours away from us.
So fun to hear about the progress on your French Cottage…looking forward to hearing more.
What a dream =)


45 rose | rockrosewine March 25, 2014 at 3:23 am

I can totally relate to your frustrations since we are working on a historic reno on an early 17th century townhouse in nearby Bayeux. Here are some good pics: http://rockrosewine.com/2013/07/24/old-tower-love/
It’s been over a year and we don’t have plumbing either! However, you are doing what needs to be done to solidify those “good bones”. The roof looks absolutely beautiful!!! We started with the roof as well, moved onto interior demolition (which took forever), secured the floors and walls, and now we’re going to start repointing the stone exterior and some of the interior. I so want to start picking out tile and doing the sexy stuff…but that won’t happen for a while! As they say in French “courage!”


46 Shannon March 25, 2014 at 8:21 am

Gorgeous roof. Absolutely keep sharing.

I’ve outgrown my home studio so right now we’re renovating a house we own in town for my new studiohouse. After our daughter, Leila, died in aug I lost enthusiasm for everything. When we talked about making it into my studio it was the first time since her death that I’d been excited. There’s just something about creative doing, in whatever form, that feeds the soul. So that’s our project at the moment.

I’d pick just about anyplace to build if with my husband and my kids were near.


47 Polly March 25, 2014 at 8:25 am

Please more updates! I too want to know about the roof. Its amazing! Planning on building here in the states soon. Pretty sure we couldn’t find that roofing material, but I think I might die if we could. So exciting for you! My parents have renovated 3 houses and are on their 4th. Ha! They must love finding other people’s mistakes and mold. Enjoy! The results are so worth it!


48 Ann March 25, 2014 at 8:36 am

I can’t wait to see the reveal of the boys’ room in Oakland. We bought a 2-bedroom condo in September on Lake Michigan. It was the show model so we really did not have that much work to do other than furnish it which was fun. It was such an experience to get something totally new. We have always bought old houses with lots of renovations to be done. The house we live in full time will be 100 next year! So to go from something that always, always needs some kind of repair to something that needed nothing but some new carpet, furniture and art on the walls was refreshing for us. I like that you have friends to keep an eye on things for you. I love the roof on the cottage too.


49 Christina March 25, 2014 at 8:37 am

I agree with Shannon – two above. Gorgeous roof and please keep sharing. I want to know the materials/style/name of the roof/design. More photos!

And Shannon, I am terribly sorry for your loss. Peace…


50 Shannon March 25, 2014 at 8:51 am

Christina so thoughtful of you. It’s people like you that have reached out with kindness that have been a strength to us. Thank you.


51 Kimberly March 26, 2014 at 9:24 pm

“Yes, please!” on more cottage posts!


52 Lisa | Happy By March 27, 2014 at 10:12 am

The roof and wall mending might not seem like much, but it’s like a person with good looking hair and clothes without holes, so pretty good base and instant polished look. I have been dying to look at the initial cottage pictures, but as you didn’t post them back then, I thought you had strong privacy reasons or just saving them for a surprise post. So bring them on, along with all the dirty/boring work upgrade you can :)


53 Alicia March 27, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Hi Gabrielle,
I do encourage to post the progress on your cottage, I think this is fantastic idea.
In fact we have been running quite similar project in a cottage on the mid south of France, it was an old house from my grand mother and we decided to completely work on it my brother and me. Starting by the roof (what a nightmare) and then also changing the wood on the floor, working in isolation as well. Well, it has been a hard work but right now we are able to go there on holidays with our families and this is wonderful. Now we are starting collecting furniture trying to keep as much as possible the style of the house, taking things from the “vide-grenier” in different villages around there. So I want to encourage you with that project as I think this is fantastic. For me it was and it has been in end a source of inspiration for other aspects in my live. If you want some pictures, and take some ideas please let me know. Keep posting!


54 Emily C March 28, 2014 at 2:21 pm

I often dream about building a little off the grid cabin in Enterprise Oregon where my husband’s family lives. It is breathtaking and peaceful.


55 Joan October 20, 2014 at 3:20 pm

I dream of a renovation project like this, but have never done one. The fancy of the foolish? IF I could do it anywhere, it would be France, without a doubt.

Keep the cottage posts coming. I am definitely living vicariously through you!


56 visiter June 20, 2015 at 1:46 pm

souvent qu’autrement je voudrais avoir en aucun cas ont commencé cette poursuite .


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