Design Mom » french cottage http://www.designmom.com The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Thu, 28 Aug 2014 22:09:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 Update on The French Cottage http://www.designmom.com/2014/03/the-french-cottage-update/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/03/the-french-cottage-update/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 17:43:11 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=46081

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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Olive Us: How to Travel http://www.designmom.com/2013/12/olive-us-how-to-travel/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/12/olive-us-how-to-travel/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 17:04:56 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=43600

width="500" height="300" classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" style="visibility: visible;">

By Gabrielle.

It’s going to be a bit of a crazy week at our house. Ben Blair flew to France yesterday and won’t be back till Sunday, and starting Wednesday, the wood floors are being refinished. Which means we need to live upstairs until they’re done. Which means we won’t have access to the kitchen. Which will be tricky. But I’ve got a plan! And take out menus! And we’ll make it work.

how to travel1

In honor of Ben’s trip, I thought today would be a fun day to share one of the newest Olive Us episodes, called How to Travel. I’m sure many of you have travel plans for the holidays (or are just returning from Thanksgiving trips), so hopefully this cute little video will resonate. And if you have your own travel tricks and tips you’d like to add, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.

The aim of Ben’s trip is to have the roof and chimney of The Cottage repaired. I tell you, I get a case of the butterflies when I think about progress being made on our pretty little bit of France!

P.S. — Would you like to know more about Olive Us? Here you go:

- Find the official Olive Us website here, and subscribe to the Olive Us Newsletter here.
- Find all the posts I’ve written about Olive Us here.
- We’ve collaborated with ulive for 20 episodes, you can find the Olive Us page on ulive here.

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The Architect http://www.designmom.com/2013/06/the-architect/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/06/the-architect/#comments Thu, 27 Jun 2013 14:30:56 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=38184

converted french mill

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Okay. Let’s just get this out there. My blog is going to have a split personality for the next year, or probably longer. I’ll be talking about the French cottage in the countryside. Giving updates on the renovation. Sharing photos. And very likely taking trips back to France when we need to make in-person decisions. But I’ll also be talking about Oakland. Very urban Oakland. What it’s like to settle in. What we figure out for schools. And how we’re making our house a home. I hope it will be more fun and interesting than it is confusing. But who knows? We’ll find out soon enough. : ) This one is a cottage post.

On Tuesday, we met with an architect named Bernard Pasquier. And it was the dreamiest sort of meeting. Bernard is actually retired and he’s only taking on passion projects at the moment. So before he would commit to our project, he wanted to meet us, and visit the property to “get a feel for the spirit of the place”. He also wanted us to see his work in person to make sure his style was a good fit for us.

So we had our first meeting at his home. It’s the building pictured above. A converted mill. And it’s stunning! See the bridge heading to the top floor? That’s the entrance. He designed the bridge himself. And that top floor? It’s a modern open loft with French industrial influences. It looks like it would be right at home in Soho. I love it.

french loft

Oh man. I was in awe at the space and couldn’t believe how lucky we were to meet him. We really wanted to work with a local architect if at all possible, but we are so rural there aren’t many around, so to be introduced to Bernard feels like such a gift. And guess who made the introduction? The same family that owns La Cressonnière. They know all the coolest people! I swear.

At that point, we knew it would be ideal to have him as our architect, but he still needed to see our cottage. And what if he didn’t like it? It’s so modest, and in such ruin! But he went with us to the property, inspected every inch of it, and spent some time walking around the building. His conclusion: it’s a special place with a really unique outbuilding. And yes, he’s going to work with us!

french architect and ben blair

As an extra bonus, Bernard speaks about as much English as we speak French, and we understand each other quite well. During our conversation, Bernard would typically speak French, and we would answer in English. It worked out for everybody!

We couldn’t be happier. This adventure is really happening! We can hardly believe it.

Tell me, Friends. Have you ever worked with an architect before? Any tips? I haven’t and don’t quite know what to expect. But I’m excited!

P.S. — I’m thinking I should create a “Cottage” tab and an “Oakland” tab to make it easier to follow along. Watch for it.

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Our Little Piece of France http://www.designmom.com/2013/06/our-little-piece-of-france/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/06/our-little-piece-of-france/#comments Mon, 10 Jun 2013 17:00:42 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=37384

Le Menil Scelleur

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Friends! I have some big news: We bought a house today. A little French cottage! We can hardly believe it!!

It might not feel like big news if you’ve been following along. Because we first saw this house last August (so long ago!), and we’ve been under contract since February. The house has been uninhabited for decades and has mostly been used as a barn, so there were some questions about whether or not the house could be legally inhabited again.

But — hooray! — the questions have been resolved. And we became the official property owners today.

Now the hard work begins. We start with a phone call to the electric company to visit the property and install a meter. And then we go from there! When we hatched this plan, we assumed we could quickly buy a house and spend our last year here renovating. Hah! Reality check: We leave in a month, and if we manage to get electricity installed and roof repaired before we move, we’ll consider that a triumph. : ) We keep thinking we’re crazy to take on a project like this, but we LOVE that it will keep us connected to the area in such a real way.

Today, during the closing, as we signed the official papers, the previous owners gave us the photo at top. It’s our house circa 1900 (compare it to this photo). And it’s actually a postcard, with an address label on the back. When I saw the little family, I started to cry. What a treasure to be able to picture the people who lived in this place oh so long ago. (And the collar and cut on the son’s jacket — it’s so French! It just does me in.)

Tell me: Does this project make you gasp with terror at the amount of work (and frustration) ahead for us? Or gasp with inspiration at what it might become? Maybe some of both? I’d love to hear your renovation stories!

P.S. — I detailed more about what it will take to redo this property here. And you can see more images here, here and here, if you’re curious.

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Cottage Shopping Update http://www.designmom.com/2013/02/cottage-shopping-update/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/02/cottage-shopping-update/#comments Tue, 26 Feb 2013 15:30:56 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=31724

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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Cottage Shopping http://www.designmom.com/2012/08/cottage-shopping/ http://www.designmom.com/2012/08/cottage-shopping/#comments Wed, 15 Aug 2012 12:28:00 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=21601

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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