Photos and text by Gabrielle.
Oh my goodness. The Cottage! If you’re new here, you may not even know this, but right before we left France, we bought a little cottage. It’s essentially the shell of a very old farmhouse. No electricity. No bathrooms. But we have BIG plans for it. I haven’t written a ton about the cottage, but there are a few posts. If you’re curious, you can find them all here.
About a year ago, I realized I hadn’t given you a tour of the property yet, and it’s been on my list ever since. In fact, I mentioned it again on my New Year’s post. Well, it’s JUNE! And I’m finally getting around to the tour. Related, I’m still quite baffled at how quickly these last two years have disappeared. I suppose the first year was mostly taken up with my mental health issues (dang, that was rough), and I realize the second year back in the States has been all about my book. And of course throughout both of those years there were a million other projects going on — including improvements to The Cottage! But still, I feel like I haven’t had brain space for this project in ages. And suddenly, I do.
Two years! Has it really been two years since I’ve been back to France? I think it feels shorter because Ben Blair has been back, and because Ralph & Olive both spent last fall there. But all the same, I’m aching for a return trip. Plane ticket prices look decent in the fall, so I’m thinking about how to make something work — but that’s a topic for another post.
Anyway, I have dozens of cottage photos to share with you. And I can already tell you that some of you will see these images and feel overwhelmed at all the work that is required. While others will see the photos and feel itchy to tackle a similar project!
When I look at these photos, I feel nothing but excitement! Especially when I see the work we did last year — we replaced the roof and repaired the walls so that they are structurally sound (and by we, I mean we hired it out, under the supervision of our amazing architect).
The difference is so striking! And now, I can’t wait to transform the rest of the house!
Here’s a room by room tour, starting with the door on the far left:
Heres’ the open door:
This space was apparently used for animals. Note the cement trough:
Here’s a shot from the back of the room looking toward the door wall:
And now, here’s a tour of space #2, with the second door from the left — this one has an attic access door above:
One wall of the interior in this space is brick instead of stone. I feel like brick is unusual for this part of France (at least, I didn’t see much of it in my town):
Like the first room, this space was also apparently used for animals:
Here’s the view of the back fields from the little window:
There isn’t much of a ceiling in this space to separate the room from the attic:
Next up, the center door — I would call this one the front door. I have the most photos of this space. The front door has a window to the left and a 4th door to the right:
Here’s the view peeking in from the front door:
Straight ahead, you see a small window with some built-in wall compartments below. To the left you see a fireplace that takes up most of the wall, and a small door leading to an ante-room:
To the right is an armoire:
Here’s the massive fireplace:
Here are two shots standing at the back of the room looking toward the front door:
Here’s the armoire/cabinet:
And a shot of the floor:
Here’s a peek at the small, sunny ante-room off the main room:
Moving on to door number 4 (second from the right):
The first 3 spaces we had mostly cleared out and swept before these images were taken. But not this room. It’s still full of general rubble:
Here’s a photos from the back of the room, looking toward the door:
This space is especially dark, so the photos are quite blurry (sorry!):
Next (and last) is door number five. This is the space on the far right of the house. This space has barn doors. Here are two shots with closed and open doors:
Based on the hay inside, I assumed this space was also for animals, but there are no troughs here, so maybe it was more for farm equipment and storage. Who knows?
The thing I like best about this space is that it doesn’t have a low ceiling like the rest of the house. Instead, you can see right up to the roof:
And the roof is pretty cool:
Also, all those holes in the roof? They’re gone. The roof is new and happy.
In the stone work in this room, there is also a column intended for a fireplace:
This particular space really gets my imagination going — it’s the space where I started imagining how our family might use this house and create bedrooms and living spaces.
Here’s the room from the back, looking toward the door:
And a detail shot of the window:
These photos were taken in July two years ago — on the day before we moved back to the U.S.. But here are some shots taken a few months prior (when it was still snowy) that show the overall property a bit better (can you see all 5 entrances?):
Here you can see our small outbuilding to the right. It has a rounded brick oven on one end and we were told that it used to be the neighborhood bread oven (I’ll give you a tour of that outbuilding in another post, because this one already has so many photos!):
A few overall shots:
There it is. The Cottage tour!
Something you may have noticed: there is no bathroom or kitchen. Or really any proper rooms at this point. Hah! I’m actually still not sure what the final layout or floorplan will look like. As I’ve noted, from the front of the house there are 5 entrances going to 5 spaces — and none of those spaces are connected! So figuring out how to connect and use these spaces (or some of these spaces) is definitely one of the biggest challenges for this home.
As I think back, I can tell you that I assumed we’d tackle the cottage in the first year after purchasing it, so that we could start furnishing and decorating and using it right away. Obviously, that didn’t happen. (Understatement of the year.) I’m trying not to feel guilt about it. Life happens. What can you do? I suppose in this case, it’s also been an out-of-sight-out-of-mind situation. But happily, I’m ready to keep it top of mind once again. I can’t wait to see it transform!
I can’t wait to hear what you think. Does seeing how rustic this building is stress you out, or get you excited? Have you ever taken on a project like this? Have you ever been to Normandy? If yes, does this sort of dwelling look familiar to you? Chime in!
P.S. — When we first purchased the house, one end was covered in ivy, but it’s really damaging to the stone work, so we had to pull it down: