Monday, June 25, 2012


...but not quite. Still, hmmm. My eyes had nearly popped out of my head when I saw the ad for a house near the Arena (those of you that have been paying attention might remember that is the choicest neighborhood in Arles) with a garage, a cellar and a whopping 126 square meters of surface for only 138,000€. Pardon? I was on it. We came close to hounding Monsieur Meyson, the realtor, to be the first to see such an opportunity--one that was so below the price list of Arles that already Remi and I knew we would have to pounce or it might be too good to be true.

When Mr. Meyson gave me the address before our visit, I headed out the door immediately to check it out. Holy cow, the house is indeed huge! 

And it seemed as though there were two garages on the ground floor, say what? Private parking is something of an extreme luxury here in the center of Arles, a town where unfortunately many a fine car left in public parking has been scraped with a key by jealous passer-by. When we did meet, it was with trepidation and a little thrill that we waited as the large door on the right was opened...

Interesting. Not a second garage but an arched space--could it become an artist's atelier? An area to paint? If we replaced the garage style door with polished glass and steel?--with an open drop leading to the cave or cellar below, which had a nice voute but was not really large enough to convert into say, a home theatre as some folks do here in other homes.

To the right was the garage with the possibility to break the simple partition separating the two rooms.

Talk about patina! But yet these beams were quite solid.

Ah, the first glimpse of the winding stone staircase. The small stones on the opposite wall are called pierre froide and have traditionally been used in walls that are less important than receiving areas.

The first floor is one large room, meant to be kitchen, dining and living. As pitiful as the kitchen area might appear, I can assure you that it is far grander than the space where we cook up our little miracles in our current apartment.

Yes, there is a crazy sort of 1950s gold and light blue cement tiling on the floor but that could be easily covered with parquet...

...which would complement nicely the absolutely gorgeous wooden be painted a bone white perhaps?

A closed off arch is a reminder of a time when this house was part of a far grander residence.

Can one buy a house simply for a staircase? We were smitten. By the staircase. What is called an escalier à vis, something akin to a corkscrew staircase. Although the rest of the house seems to date to the 18th century, such stairs were in place long before...

Charming details of the past leading into a positively huge bedroom...

...with are you ready for it? Because I honestly don't think that you would believe me if there weren't photos to prove it--a bathroom entirely covered in a thick wine-colored velvet. Which I loved.

Are you sure we can't buy a house for a staircase?

Up to the grenier or attic--a wide open space just begging to be carved into a terrace and living area...

Yep, that is a toilet and a sink for no reason in the middle of the grenier but that means that there is already water coming up and water going back down! So easy to make renovations with that already in place.

Ooh but the roof. Well, if the plans are to take away half of it anyway...

...and this is the electricity. Oops. 

And yet it remained a great deal. Remi and I knew that we could do all of the cosmetic work ourselves just not the electricity and the roofing. Underneath the horrible yellow wallpaper gorgeous blocks of cream stone were waiting to be revealed as we had seen in the grenier. The house was sain or healthy but something was missing. It didn't call to us. And to invest so much of our time, energy and money into it just didn't make sense in that case. But it will find it's new owner in a New York minute of that I can assure you. Let's just hope that they appreciated its potential as much as we did!


  1. It might seem like a great deal, and i know you could have turned it into a jewel, but sometimes, you need to stop and listen to your intincts, just as you did. Have fun hunting ....

  2. Yep. Nice "escalier tire-bouchon," I concur. And potential, certainement. But, girl, this one could have easily turned into "Le Money Pit," non? :-) Glad you walked away... I am sure they are plenty of other houses out there, with bidets showcased in front of a thick wine-colored corduroy wall; or a delightful 70's marron tile backsplash in the kitchen. Keep looking, Heather. There is a good home out there for you and Monsieur Remi. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  3. You'll find your home the one that says you've arrived. The husband and I looked for eight years and went through five real estate brokers and four states before we found our forever home, our first and last home. We've busted our tails and then some on this place but it has been so worth it. Thanks for your comment Heather you made me laugh!


  4. I can see why you'd throw caution to the wind for that staircase, but always good to go with your gut. We backed out of a sale many years ago because my "gut" started to balk. We ended up here, instead, a much, much better place. Also, I'm not sure our little dog would be willing to tackle such a staircase, would Ben?

    You must be counting the hours until your sister arrives -- just a few days now, right?

  5. Heather,
    This is an interesting post! Oh dear, I love this house. It has so many potential. The staircase is indeed fabulous!
    Maybe you should start your own Arles real estate blog!!!!
    Please more of these beautiful houses!

  6. That staircase is so very similar to staircases found in old houses here. I suppose they had to build them that way to save on space. The house seems very grand with lots of potential but you need to find the one that's right for you.

  7. Fantastic.............FUN!The bathroom in VELVET!!!!!!!!!!!!!LOVE THAT!May have to copy!

  8. Goodness, I agree with your decision. I see wonderment in every old structure I come across....IF we just do this, or we do that, and then this...oh what a spectacular place it would be. The doing is the problem. It never ends when you have something like this which looks to me like it would take major work. xx's

    1. Not so much work considering what often goes into the old houses here as the structure was super solid. But still...yes, it would have been a full time job for Remi and I to get it into shape!

  9. Unbelievably cheap! The prices in Australia are so insanely out of kilter with the rest of the world. That is the price of a small garage only, here. Janelle from the library blog was bemoaning the very same thing recently. But then, the cost to renovate is something else entirely.

    I love that you are responsive to your little inner voice. And with dozens of properties out there, the one that you both fall in love with is still waiting for you.

    1. Virginia, it IS cheap for here too! But I can't imagine the prices in OZ! How do people do it?

  10. Yep - but it does almost make us all here, as Glamour Drops says - want to hop on the plane to invest!! What is the price of tradesmen like there - have you ever read the book by Suzanna Clarke - 'A House in Fez' Viking - Penguin Group ISBN978 0 670 07035 0 (pbk.). Not sure what the pbk means but this is a story of renovation worth reading!!

    The stairs are wonderful - the attic - I dream - not sure sure about the red velvet!!

    Cheers and here's to you finding your dream spot though!!

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Wyn--I'll look into the book happily. The price depends on how it is renovated. There are a lot of people who pay "au black" or under the table to workers that may or may not be legal. Then there are a myriad of other companies that are by the book (renovation is big business here) and much more expensive. So people choose to do a mix between the two...

    2. Good luck - I am sure it would be amazing to live there - but we are heading to your home in a couple of weeks - well the good USA and looking forward to exploring there for a few weeks!!! Cheers hope you dreams and nest all come together though it will be wonderful to read when it happens!!

  11. Oh, the dreamer in me says buy it in a New York minute! But the realist remembers when we bought a 110 year old farmhouse and within 6 weeks of moving in were praying for a way out! It can become overwhelming! However…the staircase is to die for and I would love to know the history behind this house! Thanks for sharing this adventure!

    1. I understand Carolyn and I hope that your house worked out well for you! Again, it is why we said no--if we are going to put SO much work into it, it has to be "the one".

  12. Hello Heather

    What a place? The staircase is incredible, however, I think Remi and you would have to consider the maximum of one glass of wine daily, otherwise fatal consequences could occur.
    The patina and all the beautiful aspects are exciting. Was it dark inside? I think I remember you mentioning your love for the light in your present abode.

    Your dream house will come.

    Thanks for sharing this exciting home

    Helen xx

    1. I love the way your mind works, Helen! :) And yes, exactly the light was a problem. Only morning light and even then perhaps not directly in winter. True, with the stone walls and white beams it would feel pretty happy but still, not enough!!

      And yes, the wine limitation had already been considered!

  13. You had me at Atelier!!! But, it must be right to both of you. This 'home' had a lot going for it, yet not enough. Only the two of you will know the right one for you. I know from many personal experiences that home renovation is generally a cash sucking venture, to be sure.
    Sounds like you are on top of the search. You never know when the right one will present itself and we will share in your exuberance!
    xoxo, Chris

  14. Reminds me of the house we bought in Tarascon but without the lovely staircase, though we had a staircase like that in our first house these houses with their history and bricked in stone tunnels reminding us of a very different past....

  15. Heather, the price of this property given the area and the potential it has (especially with your taste) seems almost too good to be missed however experience has taught me, that when the right place in the right location does come along and calls to you, you will walk over hot coals to secure it.

    Will be interested to see who buys it and what they do with it but I know you will be keeping your eye on the developments!

    1. Well, the last person who was interested in it (and nearly bought it but then was transferred out of the region) was looking to cut it into three studios. That is very likely what will happen. :(

  16. I thought you were going to say you had got it!! I was just about to jump in the car and head over.... ;)

    I believe in instinct too... and it obviously wasn't right... on to the next one..... Love all the looking though... xv

    1. The hunt is the best part!

      But you have to admit it was a GREAT price...sigh...on to better things!

  17. Oh, this is so fun. I love all this vicarious house hunting.
    I could see it too, Heather. But you'll know when the right one comes along.
    Plus, Ben needs a pool.
    a xo

  18. Oh my! What a diamond in the rough... in Arles, no less! I can see the potential but if it does not call to you then there will be another. I do love a hunt!


  19. I was convinced you were going to say that it was now yours! Quite an undertaking but what a home it could be! Look at all those wonderful architectural features!

    You will attract the right home for you!

    Hugs to you.


  20. Oh, so tempting. I think we should start a self- help group for house orphan rescuers. We'll be charter members and we can wash down our medication with champagne.

  21. Oooh! It looks phenomenal! The staircase got me too. Wow!

    ~ Clare x

  22. The place definitely had a lot of potential, if not for the very wide spaces it has to offer. Although the electrical system and the roof would really need some professional work, and if you had to remodel the whole place, it could get pricey. I have to say, when I first saw the grenier, I automatically thought of converting it to a home theater room. It seems to have the area for it.

    Angel Garcia

  23. Hey! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an established blog.
    Is it very difficult to set up your own blog?
    I'm not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast.
    I'm thinking about creating my own but I'm not sure where to begin. Do you have
    any tips or suggestions? Many thanks


Your responses are what makes this blog so special to me. I love hearing from you. Thank you for visiting!

* Comments left on posts two days after publication or more will be published after moderation. So not to worry, they will arrive and again, I appreciate them all so very much...Merci! *

If you prefer, feel free to email me directly at robinsonheather (at)