Saturday, March 5, 2011


Oh my, I'm not talking about my own! Thank goodness, I have nothing to divulge on that subject for the moment. No, I am referring to the bones of a house. What lies beneath all of the torturous things we can put them through especially in a town such as Arles where there can be centuries upon centuries worth of layers. I saw an especially good example of that this morning.

Isabelle, one of the many, many real estate agents that we have come to know in Arles (and yet one of the few that hasn't given up on us due to our winning combination of impossible pickyness and a restrained budget) rang us up. "I think I might have something for you," she announced and then proceeded with a brief description of a large home dans son jus, literally translating to "in its juices". Hmm, it was possibly within our budget and sounded appealing enough. Besides, there is nothing that I love more than going to visit these old homes here in Arles. You never know what you are going to find...

Well, beyond what was arguably one of the uglier kitchens that we have come across, we found something, that, in the right hands could be turned into something lovely. Can you see it? No? Well, perhaps you need to know the workings of how homes have been renovated here. After the Second World War, the gorgeous stone that all of these homes are made of was considered far too old fashioned--something for the peasants! And so it was covered up, either with cement and plaster (or even, gulp, stucco) or with sheetrock walls set inches away to let the stone breathe. The same shame treatment was given to the stone or terra cotta tile lined floors as well as the wooden beamed ceilings.

So, with that in mind, just take a look at this room. Now imagine ripping up that linoleum--with pleasure! From the sound of our footfall, we were fairly certain that there were tomettes, terra cotta tiles, underneath. If not, then a parquet could be installed, which would reflect nicely the sunlight traipsing in from that typically 18th century window. Next, strip down the hollow plaster walls to reveal the gorgeous blocks of cream colored stone from Fontvielle. Beside the built in armoire on the right is a hidden conduit for a huge firpeplace--add that to your mental picture. Finally, also remove the at least three feet thick fake ceiling, paint the beams underneath a pale cream and voila! Gorgeous! 

And that is just one room. After climbing up the final flight of the stone staircase (note the cement on the side wall--heart-breaking), we were rewarded with an open loft like space, much bigger than what my little camera can covey, something true of all the rooms actually. Here, if you look past the thick whitewash, you can get an idea of the stone walls but also look at the parfeuille tiles on the floor--centuries old and increasing rare. What could you do up here? Well, several things. Simply finish off the insulation for an extra room, or open up the ceiling to create a terrace complete with a summer kitchen. Or a combination of the above by building a patio on the roof off to the side above one of the bedrooms.

Is this the house for us? No, it isn't. The work that needs to be done, even though I can imagine doing alot of it ourselves, puts it out of our budget. Nor did it make our hearts go thump, thump which is definitely called for on a project that requires living in dust for a year. But it is an interesting opportunity for someone. Let's hope it falls into the right hands...


  1. Yowza! Bravo to you for seeing past scary wallpaper and linoleum to imagine the beauty underneath! It reminds me not to judge a book by its cover, and to strive to find the things to LOVE rather than the things to dislike. Thanks, Sister! : )

  2. We got our house for a better price than we should have, because other buyers were put off by a sea of blue--blue carpet, blue drapes, blue blinds, blue furniture, blue accessories, etc. (Gee, someone had a favorite color, eh?) You really do need to look past those things!

  3. Well if it didn't make your heart thump then it is certainly not for you - especially with all the work involved. But I love your detective work and vision!! Look forward to seeing what you DO fin!!

  4. How fun to come across these unique discoveries waiting for just the right person to renovate.

    Do come and enter my Artful Offering!It is truly beautiful!

    Art by Karena


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