Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Dream House(s) in Arles


For some time I have been trying to choose what is my all time favorite house in Arles--and I need your help! All of them are in the neighborhood surrounding the Arena, which finally is not such a surprise. The area is the most sought after in Arles and has been since Roman times as it is on a hill, high above the possible floods of the Rhone River below. Car traffic is limited by the winding, rising streets and so la colline retains a wonderfully quiet and elegant character all its own.


This ancient city is full of surprises and appearances can often be deceiving. A seeming doll's house might open onto an enormous complex fanning out from an innocuous front door while a long facade may only be one room deep! Crooked, graffiti-strewn walls disguise a magnificent jardin à la francaise replete with pool and fountains only visible via Google Earth. The cadastre or land registry office keeps maps that read like a maze with centuries of construction built smushed up against, on top of or even underneath another. So I hope that you will use your imagination as we visit. After me, if you please...

House Number 1

 

Admittedly, this house has sentimental value for me as Remi and I spied it with a For Sale sign attached on our very first visit to Arles. The house swerves around in an L with a large enclosed courtyard to the right so that it receives sunlight throughout the day. The rooms are well-proportioned, neither too grand nor too petite. It clearly has been well-renovated with an ivory and cream stucco exterior highlighted with greige accents on the shutters.


There is a small terrace above the courtyard and the wrought iron balcony looks directly on to the Arena. Here in the South, it can be a big advantage to have several outdoor spaces to enjoy depending on the time of day and the force of our Mistral winds.


House Number 2


Deceptively difficult to photograph, this house seems far smaller than it is in reality but it is un vrai bijou. Imagine an impressive Provençal mas in the middle of Arles, with creamy stone walls, exposed wooden beams on the ceiling as well as long 18th century rounded windows to let in the light. A really good energy emanates from this house and I often hear children's laughter when I pass.


To the right is one of the prettiest and most secret squares, in the center of town but with no noise but birdsong. It feels as if you are in the country.


And directly in front, down a tiny impasse, the tower of Saint-Trophime looms overhead.

House Number 3


We first met Bruno, a brilliant but utterly cantankerous mason, while he was renovating this house. Not happy with a simple stucco for the exterior, he revived an eggshell technique from the 17th century which creates an incredible smoothness, not to mention a depth of color. The rest of the house was met with the same care. He carefully reproduced the stone detailing on the facade so that it is impossible to see what is old and what is new.


Untold layers of wash were used on the front door to create patina, one expressly not too perfect. Just  inside is a sweeping stone staircase leading to the upper levels including a terrace and solarium. The house is on one of Arles' most charming cobblestone passageways with several views on the adjacent Arena.


 House Number 4


Halfway up the prestigious Rue des Arenes lies the formidable Hôtel Forbin-Soliers, not a hotel in the contemporary sense but a hôtel particulier or mansion. While heavily renovated in the 19th century, it has retained many of its finest 16th century features, including decorative pilasters and Corinthian capitals in the antique style, as was fashionable at the time of its construction. The stone facade has not yet been renovated but could easily be restored to a gleaming splendour.


Those of you that have read this blog for a while have undoubtedly seen this entry door a few times as I never tire of photographing it. I find it the most beautiful (if not the most ornate) of Arles. While I was trying to find an angle to fit all of it in, an extremely elderly woman slowly approached and entered without giving me a second glance.


In accordance with the period, the house has its own watchtower that is usually attached to a terrace, one that would have views over nearly all of the town. To the left is an expansive courtyard. It is difficult to truly know the size but I believe this to be one of the largest houses inhabited by a single family in the Historic Center of Arles.

House Number 5


The most elegant house architecturally speaking, is on another hidden square, right next to the Arena and yet completely off of the tourist radar. The right of the ground floor opens up onto a long enclosed garden that is completely private and covered with a tunnel of blossoms. 


The Renaissance fenêtres à meneaux,  or divided windows (here with the shape of a cross), that line the upper floor have a clear view of the Arena. 


A charming balcony in demi-lune form protrudes over the garden. Most often in such fine homes of the period, this level would hold the receiving rooms. Creeping vines along the perfectly renovated stone facade give an additional charm to this clearly well-loved home.


***
So what do you think? Each is interesting in their own right and I know that I would be thrilled beyond belief to inhabit any of them but I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts! It is good to dream, isn't it? As I mentioned in my previous post, I have given one guided walk through Arles and am open to doing more. What do you think--would you like to see these houses in person?


And for those of you cat-lovers out there (and you know who you are), I couldn't resist sharing this photo, taken on the same luxuriously blooming square as above...

Bon fin de semaine...


50 comments:

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Heather:
Easy. Number 4, Hotel Forbin-Soliers [apologies for the lack of accent, no idea how to do this]. Just as it is. No renovation to the exterior as we love the blackened stucco and, if it is peeling, so much the better. Our 'stuff' would slip in there beautifully and, should we not have sufficient furniture, as we suspect we might not, then we are confident that the empty rooms alone would be a joy.

In our minds eye we can see all the glorious architectural detailing. It is a house which seems to us to wear its history so elegantly. And, joy of joys, a look-out tower for spying. Perfect. Absolutely perfect!

Lost in Provence said...

A kingdom for Les Hattats! I love it! And yes, I should have imagined this would be right up your alley even "dans son jus". And who knows what the interiors look like. Maybe there are some peeling ancient frescoes? This is going to be so much fun to see what everyone chooses. :)

Dash said...

Heather I like number five but is it the details that are attracting my eye, the bowed balcony and railing, the beautiful Campsis and vines and the cobbled courtyard. Number 2 is also standing out for me. Oh heck I like them all I am going to have to come over and see them in person.
XXX

Lost in Provence said...

Now THAT is an excellent idea! I would have chosen Number 2 for you, I think. :)

robin said...

Hmmm, I think #5 - it looks beautiful (and I love the kitty with its tongue sticking out). But I have a feeling that my favorite house in Arles will be the one where Heather/Remi/Ben live!!! I can't wait to figure it all out in person!!

Lost in Provence said...

Oh my Sister--I love you so much! Hooray!

Gina said...

It has to be House No.3 for me. If the inside has received as much care and attention to detail as the outside, then it must be the perfect house.

Glamour Drops said...

#2 for me, thank you very much. Love the time-worn mottled colouring on the stone, and those "am I open, am I closed?" shutters which look as if they have a mind of their own.

Cheryl said...

I would be in house number 2 in a heartbeat! It has so much charm!! I love how it is nestled in, so unassuming!

BigLittleWolf said...

Terraces, courtyards, balconies - oh, you make me miss France dreadfully! (I spent time in Aix, with friends, which I loved - but never Arles. These scenes are beautiful. I want to run my fingers over the texture of the stone façades.)

I would have difficulty choosing... the elegance of the last house is compelling, but I love the way you described the sound of children's laughter and the good energy of that charming home with the red shutters. I go for cozy and good vibes, every time... But how ever to make a selection?!?

Loulou in France said...

Impossible to choose!
Though I do love that little Juliette balcony...

Lost in Provence said...

Well said Gina, especially as I fear that I photographed it less well than the others. I only saw the lower rooms (which is more than I can say for any of the other houses actually) and they were so gorgeous. The floors in some of the rooms had gorgeous cement tiles from the 40s and the beams had been painted a daring khaki.

Lost in Provence said...

Oh! A surprise! I would have thought that you would have gone for #3 although don't ask me why! :)

Lost in Provence said...

Nestled is the perfect word, Cheryl. It is like one of those houses in Harry Potter that get pulled out between two buildings and yet are huge inside!

Lost in Provence said...

Oh, as little as I know you, I see you well in the last house. A truly perfect home to host your weekly salon of Arles' artists and thinkers--you would just have to promise to invite me! And that tonnelle...imagine being under the flowers late at night when everyone else has gone to sleep with one last glass of wine...

I love Aix too--actually next week will be nothing but Aix around here!

Lost in Provence said...

Which one? First or last? True a Romeo would be more likely to shimmer up the latter. :)

Sharon (Roses and Rust) said...

So beautiful, all of them. I think no's 2 and 5 come the closest to the type of house I dream of living in one day "when" I move to France. I particularly love the pale blue shutters and climbing blooms of no 5. It is picture postcard perfect. I hope you do get to visit the Chateau de Moissac one day. I would love to know if it is as beautiful in real life. Have a wonderful weekend. x Sharon

Lynn at Southern Fried French said...

Lovely, never miss a good house tour. Love the cat with it's tongue out. PS mentioned you on my blog post this week!

LA CONTESSA said...

OH MY!They are all GRAND as you said I too would be happy in any of them.But I think if I had to pick just from what I have seen here it would be the last house number 5?I love the light, the garden and the demi lune balcony.I can see BEN there too!!!!!!The last photo of the cat with his tonque out is priceless!!!!!!!!!!!!

bloggingfromthemas said...

I would pick the one with lots of light, big rooms, a cool garden and a wonderful front door and gate. So, have I mixed them all up? Maybe you should knock on the door and ask for a visit. They might be so surprised at such a request that they might say yes. Let me know and I will go with you. I'm just down the road.
Judy

Jewel yet to find said...

You have some beautiful dream houses Heather but #5 has won my heart and it looks to me like very YOURS: exquisite, cozy, lots of light and flowers. Love everything about it. Unbelievable, I was there last August! Regretfully I was too shy to try to reach you.
Now, may I ask if there's any chance that you could be in Paris or Strasbourg/Colmar end of July?

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

I couldn't pick a favourite - together they weave a magical spell on the visitor. ...............so much character and history. We hope to get to visit it in person (for the first time) this summer. It would be great to meet for a coffee in one of these picturesque rues if you are in residence.
Bisous
P.S, I've been sheared for my summer in France!

Laura said...

They are all so different and each has it's unique charm. I must say, house #3 really caught my attention. The eggshell technique you mentioned produced a color and texture that was most appealing. The weathered wood door was perfect for the pale blue gray wash. Also, loved the passageway and the spot of sky you captured between the buildings. Thank you for this lovely tour!

FloridaRose said...

I love Arles - been there many times - now I reside in Florida. I really enjoy flowers around the house and yard, that's why #5 would be the picture perfect house. But my heart really goes out to #2. The stone walls, the view, the court yard, the shutters..it all says - Provence - I could picture myself in there! :)
Many greetings - and thanks for your beautiful blog/pictures every day.

cindy hattersley said...

I got a little confused...but if house number two is the one with the red shutters it has my vote. They are all equally lovely. Great idea for a post...don't we always stroll by houses and wonder if we could live there....

Leslie said...

Gorgeous! I'm going with #5 love it!

Wyn Vogel said...

So in order of vote:

House No: 2 - the lovely red shutters would warm you as you come in each day and protect you at night. The lovely little square and the easement to the church!! Whoo!

House No: 3 - next - the care taken to restore it and the lovely detailing on the door - I would have to stand there each day and run my hand over the door knobs!!

But as you say it is lovely to dream - they are all wonderful!! In fact while we were there last year I was almost tempted to see if I could rent studio space for several months and stay - talk about dreams!!! Cheers and thanks again for sharing!!

Greet Lefèvre said...

Oh dear , oh dear! Love all the Arles houses! Maybe my most favorite is house n°4!
Heather, you are so lucky to live there! And when I see all the pictures with sunshine all over!!! Oh oh oh!! Here in Belgium it is raining and raining ...
Happy weekend!
xx
Greet

Gustia said...

You can sign me up for #4! I'm a sucker for stone and please include the cat. heh heh

Aidan said...

I love Arles because it always feels warm there.
Greige is my favorite color so I was tempted by no 1 but it's so close to the Arena and all the noise.
I'd say nos 2 and 5. Paint the rusty red shutters of no 2 a creamy turquoise and I'm in. Or just do no 5 and enjoy the view without the racket.
Lovely post Heather...it's so fun to dream!
bon weekend,
aidan x

Acquired Objects said...

OMG these are wonderful but if I get to dream I want them all! But if I had to pick one it would be house #5 it was partly the orange trumpet vine that got me.

Enjoy your weekend Heather!
XX
Debra~

I Dream Of said...

Hi Heather, Why don't you take #1 and I'll move in to #5. Of course I would require several walking tours of Arles to get me acquainted with my new home, and I would need you to show me the best spots to paint. And said tours would have to end with a glass--wait, who am I kidding?--a bottle of rosé. Sound like a plan? What a lovely dream to start the weekend on! Hope yours is magical! XO

Lost in Provence said...

Hello everyone! Oh how fun reading all of your responses--and my apologies that I am too behind on responding to each of you as you all deserve. Wishing you all a wonderful, wonderful weekend!

Lost in Provence said...

It is ok Natalie, I am super shy myself and understand!! And it is not looking likely that I will be anywhere in the North this Summer. But I hope that you have a wonderful time and the next time you are in Arles...

Lost in Provence said...

Oh I am so ready to get sheared myself! And yes we will be and of course I would love to!!!

Lost in Provence said...

Oh friend I am sorry for your rain--time to hop on the TGV!!!

Lost in Provence said...

Yep, that was for you Miss.

Lost in Provence said...

Oh my gosh, I just did a tour today--if only I had read your comment I would have insisted that a bottle of rosé as a finale. I did partake of some insanely good cucumber sorbet--yes, cucumber!

And I think we need to find a way to make your plan into reality. Just think of all of the things that you would paint here and I would have a new copine--everyone wins!

Wishing you a great weekend too...xo

Julie Mautner said...

Heather you should sell real estate, so evocative are your descriptions and photos. I'd buy all of them.

labergerebasque said...

I would vote for # 2. I love the idea of quiet retreat in the big city. That being said I LOVE the city of Arles and look forward to my next visit…as soon as I can get this Sheepfarmer off the farm :)

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

Heather, As soon as we find ourselves headed to France again I am contacting you and figuring out a way to visit Arles with you as the guide. . .and I'll provide the rose! Beautiful photographic tour through your enchanting town. (Number 2 for me).

vicki archer said...

It looks like all the houses are sold Heather!! Your descriptions are magical... as is Arles... How fabulous... I love them all and would happily take up residence in any of them... Happy Sunday... xv

Lost in Provence said...

Thanks Jules, I did think about it at one point as I am a real estate geek when it comes Provence but it seems like it is too...complicated. But maybe one day....

Lost in Provence said...

Ooh! So that probably means not anytime soon? I loved what you wrote over at Daily Plate of Crazy!

Lost in Provence said...

Oh I would love that! They are really fun to do and Arles makes it so easy for me as there is literally history or something lovely on every corner! :)

Lost in Provence said...

I can see you working your magic in any of them too! Happy Sunday to you too--isn't it glorious out?

Looking Glass said...

Haha! You definitely got me with the kitty pic ;-)
Well, well, well, these homes are all truly magnifique in their own ways. I adore the architecture of house number 4 but have to say that I fell instantly in love with number 5! I adore dreaming of fancy homes... sigh...

One day, Heather, I will get over there & see all your dream homes in person!!

~ Clare x

Angie Muresan said...

I definitely would love to see these houses in person! They are absolutely stunning! And I feel like I'm ready to move into house number 2. I love the fact that it's so secluded, and those red shutters are so pretty.

Lisa Farmer Designs said...

House number 5 is wonderful....but so are all the rest. I would be satisfied with any of them. I so want to live in France and envy you ...you are living my dream!!

Lost in Provence said...

Bah, it looks like I missed a few comments here!
Clare, Yes, number 5 is very you...very romantic! And yes, one day you will visit this part of France, I am sure of it. :)

Angie, it seems as though your choice was the most popular. It really is lovely.

Lisa, they are all really wonderful, I agree with you! And I try not to take my circumstances for granted!!