Wednesday, November 20, 2013

An almost in Arles, the attic renovation project



Kids, it is official as delivered by un huissier de justice this morning, we are getting kicked out.

Now, we have known that there was a "situation" at hand for some months. The owners, who had inherited the building from their Great-Aunt, had decided to put it up for sale. 

When we first moved in, two and a half years ago, the apartment was in dreadful shape. Truly. But we believed in its potential from the get go and so decided to put some work into renovating it, despite it only being a rental. For many of you, this is a new story so if you would like to see or rediscover the "transformation" please take a look here:

And while the final product really suits us, there are several aspects of life in this building that truly do not, namely the ever present street noise and the lack of an exterior space (for honestly, what is the point in living in Provence if you don't have the sun?). For those reasons, we had no interest in making an offer on this apartment. However, the grenier or attic, now that is another story entirely...

What an incredible opportunity. Yes, even though the space hadn't been inhabited since the last World War. Would you like to explore it? We spent many hours in the planning. Très bien, on y va...


The attic occupies the final floor of this 17th century hôtel particulier. The entry for the apartment would start on the landing above what is now our apartment. The stairway is filled with light and gorgeous ironwork.


At the top of the stairs are several options. To the left, if we enter the doorway, we come into what could be a very large open kitchen and living room area.


Ah, I warned you that it hadn't been inhabited for quite some time now, didn't I? So the important news is that the roof has already been redone and done well. Now, take down the pigeon-poop-covered partition and open up the window upper left, that leaves four windows for this half of the space. A fireplace would be inserted in the middle of the far wall.


Looking back from that far wall, there is another partition to be taken down on the left, where the kitchen counters, including a sink below the additional window, would be. Note the gorgeous stone that just needs to be sanded down and treated to a lime wash--it can be found throughout the attic. The beams would be painted an off-white. There are two rooms leading off of this main room.


To the left is my chou-chou or favorite. A small room that would be our petite salon for reading and watching movies. There is a window to be opened up on the far wall and my desk would have been under the window on the left with a gorgeous view over the roofs of Arles. And yes, those are original 17th century tiles and they could be outstandingly beautiful with proper cleaning and treatment.


The other room would be Remi's office. Note the fake ceiling in both of these rooms. All of that would be taken down to reveal as high of a ceiling line as in the living room. The tiles are perhaps slightly later maybe 18th century and would also be restored.


This is looking back from the office. I couldn't resist to include it because of the patina.


Back out in the hall, the entrance to the bathroom (not seen) is to the right through an original door that is amazing and there are also ancient tiles too. Directly in front is the entry to the bedroom. And yes, that is our old club and we know that it needs restoring!


Now, can you see the foot high pile of bird poop? I never said that this was an easy project! That partition would also come down and a dressing area would be installed on the wall lining the staircase that leads up to...


...the terrace! Ta-da! 


It is a huge space for the center of Arles with nearly 360° views over the city, including the Rhone (you might be able to make out a swath of blue in the upper left corner below)...


...as well the towers of the town hall and the St. Trophime Cathedrale. 


Remi and I snuck up here for many a sunset with glasses of rosé that reflected the sky in hand. Despite being in the heart of town, it is amazingly peaceful.

So what happened?

We found an excellent mason who understood exactly what we wanted to do and came up with an estimate that fell within our budget. The crazy DJ/hair-salon owner was eager to buy his space on the ground floor, the owners of the Cuisine de Comptoir were ready to buy the first floor (with amazing gilded plasterwork) and we knew that they would easily be able to find a buyer for our rental once we promised to leave it. Prices were discussed, everything seemed to be in order and then...

...the heretofore silent Brother of the owners in London decided that he wanted the building after all and bought his Sister's out. 
*insert sound of air leaking out of a deflating ballon here*

So much for that particular dream. One that was months in the making.

But we have until the end of June 2014 before our lease runs out and there are some things that we need to wait to hear on before we can make any solid decision. So we most likely won't be going anywhere soon. And having moved twice in the past five years, we really want to take our time to find what is right for us where we are now. The country perhaps? 

A new adventure lies ahead...



Many thanks to my honey for all of the photos save for the first, taken by me, rather wistfully, earlier today.

66 comments:

Gustia said...

I find being uprooted is always unnerving but oddly freeing at the same time. Think about all those charming abandoned stone ruins you write about - now you'll have an excuse to look behind the "A Vendre" signs. Even though you have some complaints about your apartment, whenever you post photos of it, it always looks so cosy and welcoming. You'll be my favourite homeless person.

Barbara Lilian said...

Oh Heather, this reminds me so much of dreams we had, then from out of nowhere a lost brother/ sister or cousin popped up out of the blue and our dream was lost. But now this notice from the 'huissier de justice ' will make your searching more serious and you will find what you are looking for. Good luck and enjoy your search.

Judith Ross said...

Wow. On the edge of my chair to hear what happens next......

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

I loved the before and after and the tour of that attic! I spotted some hexagon tiles! I am sure you will put your touch on the next home like you did for the on eyiu have now. I look forward to where you go next, it is all rather exciting Heather!

Gina said...

Hello Heather, Oh what fun! You get to make all those dreams of restoring an ancient and beautiful house come to fruition. Yes, please consider moving to the country. We did and built a new house (that we immediately made to look old). Your puppers will love you for it and you will be so very happy. ox, Gina

Marsha Splenderosa said...

I would go to the countryside, but not too far away from conveniences. You guys are young, life is an adventure, you will most likely end up with something which will make you much happier. The really good news is that a move is months away and you have plenty of time to find something special. But, I do know how you feel. xx's

Annette Mickelson said...

I would, of course, opt for the countryside but you are able to find beauty where ever you go. I'm looking forward to reading about your journey to a new home. Having just moved, and being in the midst of renovation (but not to the degree you were contemplating), I understand the fatigue that goes with the thought of moving. We've sworn to never, ever, move again.

Splendid Market said...

That looks like a pretty exciting project, but if you don't have to be in the city, why not go for a little more open space??

Heather Robinson said...

We really do like this apartment a LOT but imagine if you didn't have your garden to escape to? We really need to see more of the sky! Especially as we love to BBQ. And now that we have Kipling...aka "The Rascal"...
But I do agree and I know that Remi would as well that setting up a new home is so wonderful!

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you and I know how much you love where you are now so that gives me hope to stick in there and keep looking!

Heather Robinson said...

Well sit right back there, Ms Ross because it should be a bit before anything happens. But your easy access to fine walks with Karina certainly will inspire me...

Heather Robinson said...

I appreciate that doubly knowing that you are in the midst of your own monster renovation!! And yep, there are tomettes but the rectangular tiles in the small room on the left and "bath" are parfeuilles and actually much more unusual to come across. I remember with another apartment that we were looking at years ago a contractor tried to tell me that he would "be happy to get rid of them" for me and I was like "you are kidding right? They are worth a fortune!" :)

Heather Robinson said...

Oh Gina, it is our dream to do exactly what you did! Build a new home with a mix of contemporary and old materials--we know exactly what it would look like too. Alas, the price of land with a building permit in Provence??? It is more than the price of a house!

Heather Robinson said...

You are completely right, dear Marsha. I will have to learn how to drive for a move out to the country (at 44!) so something with conveniences not too far away in the meantime would be perfect. And yes, time is definitely on our side this go 'round, unlike our move to this apartment which was rushed.

Heather Robinson said...

Oof. We are both too much of nomads (and our lives are too unstable as artists) to be able to say "never again." But I hear ya! The thought of moving...whew. I hope that your renovation goes swimmingly and of course you vote for the country!! No surprise there. I remember a few years back when we still owned our house a rental came on the market that was reasonable and yet had land with a three horse stall barn!! We were so tempted as that is unheard of here.

Heather Robinson said...

Exactly! But I have to own up that it is completely because of me that we have stayed in town for so long. After living in NYC, then Paris, I just wasn't ready for the country but now, I REALLY am. :)

Judith Ross said...

Aww. Thanks. Things have been bit quiet on the blog these days. I've been up to a bit of business writing.... But your encouragement is always appreciated.

Heather Robinson said...

Oooh, I for one will never dissuade you from a paying writing job! Your readers are loyal and will be there for you when you can...

Lorrie said...

Oh, those Silent Brothers from afar who throw wrenches into perfect dreams. Still, there are always new dreams to dream and more houses to restore. Living in the countryside in Provence - now that's a dream to fill your soul.

Heather Robinson said...

Ah, no place is perfect Lorrie. I think where you live it is beautiful PLUS folks are nicer, not so bad! :)

Michel said...

Heather, I love your vision for the attic. It takes a special eye to envision the possibility of building and I unfortunately don't have that. BUT I do have family/friends that do and because of that a space in a old building turned out to be perfect for our Bistro Des Copains. So with your eye and imagination, I am sure you will find a place and get the maximum out of it. Good luck!

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

What a wonderful adventure! When one door closes. . .you know the old saying and I firmly believe it! You've also fueled our fires. . .we figure there might be one more wild and crazy 'home in a foreign land' adventure left in us. . .perhaps next spring we will both have new tales to tell.

La Contessa said...

OH<YOU had me there!I was actually holding my breath!Then when you said TERRACE I was swooning…………all I could think of was KIR ROYALS ON THE ROOFTOPS!!!!DONOT be deflated,please dear dear HEATHER………the country is calling!I can hear it.YOU and the PUPPERS would love that I just know.EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON even if we do not see it right away!I truly believe that.
To brighten your day there is a box in the mail for YOU!It should be there TODAY!!!!!!!!I do hope they FIT!!!!!!!!!!
XOXOXOOXXOOXXOOXOOXOXOXOOXO

La Contessa said...

Oh, I forgot you do not drive!Problem solved……….Contessa will come and teach you!WE WOULD HAVE A BALL!

Joan McKniff said...

NYC, Madrid, London....city life for me a three year assignment in Madagascar found doors and windows I never imagined and while folks here don't like or don't understand it, it is because of living in Madagascar that I'm living w orchids on the deck, night blooming jasmine that intoxicates, in my sandy patch of Florida....previously referred to as "of all places! " All of which is to say happy exploring and discovering to you.

Loree said...

Oh no. I was hoping you would say that you got the attic apartment. It looks so charming. But perhaps the country might be a better place after all.

Glamour Drops said...

Aha…I so wondered what on earth happened…and who could have foreseen this outcome? Would have been amazing, but as one door closes another opens, and yes, I do sense there is another adventure waiting to happen!

simpleimages2 said...

"A new adventure lies ahead..."

To think of new designs...and place...

Laura said...

The attic was a wonderful space that I'm sure you and Remi could have transformed beautifully. Whatever direction the wind may change, you will find the perfect location Heather. One thing is certain, you will make it lovely. Have always admired your sense of style and look forward to your next design adventure!

puppyfur said...

You will find your spot....just as Kipling has found his forever home with you, Remi, and Ben. Your place will be what you want and need it to be, have no doubt.

penelopebianchi said...

I hope you do not consider all that planning "a waste of time"! I think it is "anything but"!!

I have spent many hours on houses that fell through; and I have learned just as much from those hours spent
as working on real projects!!

I think you will probably find something better! (that is what has happened to me every time I have been disappointed like this!!)

penelopebianchi said...

WAIT A SECOND!! DON'T GO WITHOUT ME!!!

Penelope

Mumbai said...

oh Heather, I understand you so well...Am in the same situation now....where to go? Somewhere we will find a shelter. Haha. Let's take it as an other challenge in our life. Good luck.

silkannthreades said...

I have had a lovely time looking at your old post showing the transformation of your apartment. I can imagine how wonderfully you would have transformed the attic but it seems your love and talents will have to find a home in another place. Take courage about learning to drive. I didn't learn to drive until I was 45! I found a car I wanted then I set about learning to drive it with the help of a driving instructor...not my husband or any family member, please note. Living in a city with a pathetic public transport system, this was the best thing I ever did. That and learning to touch type at 46!

Sara Louise said...

Oh what a project this will be, so much potential! I can't wait to follow you on it and see how you make the space your own x

quintessence said...

It is always so disappointing and as you say, deflating, to have months of planning go awry. But as many have pointed out, it sounds like a move to the country might be in the offing. I think that is a marvelous idea that all three of you would heartily embrace. I look forward to following your adventure!

robin said...

Ok - I know we've vowed not to believe in "signs" anymore. But I don't think it's a sign anyway; it's an edict: you must move, must find new place!! Yes, the attic would have been lovely, but SO much work, and wouldn't noise have still been an issue?? (and I've experienced the "it sounds like people are talking right here in the living room" effect in person!). Thinking of growing up in the fields of Colerain, I know you, not to mention the pups, would thrive in the country, so that's where I hope this newest chapter takes place! But thank you for the lovely, haunting photos and "what if" post and to Remi for the photos!

Heather Robinson said...

Oh, thank you so much Michel! And yes, how wonderful to have friends to make your bistro all that it should be. If I am ever so lucky to find myself in that beautiful part of the country again, I most certainly will go. And ps, I thought of you as I just realized that the BIB (sorry to be tacky but we bottled wine is out of our budget most of the time) is from Sablet!!! The Domaine Chamfort. I quite like it. :)

Heather Robinson said...

Oh now THAT would be something! Being taught to drive by La Contessa and Penelope Bianchi?!? I can't imagine that anything would be accomplished, we would be laughing too hard!

Heather Robinson said...

REALLY?!? Actually, you two are on the road so often I say why not?? :) But of course now I am VERY curious about where...you have gone to some really amazing spots recently...hmmm...more info please! I can't wait!

Heather Robinson said...

They arrived and they fit!!!
Everyone, La Contessa sent me a present and not only that, she sent me a pair of the shoes that I loved that she wore during her photo shoot with Carla!!!!
http://carlacoulson.com/la-contessa-portrait-shoot-paris/
I am over the moon with happiness. If it were anyone else, I would be astonished but the generosity of La Contessa knows NO bounds. She is one amazing woman.
Merci La Contessa!!! Gros Bisous!

Heather Robinson said...

Joan, I have said it before and I'll say it again: you have had a fascinating life. Mada??? Whew. Now that is amazing. And I can see how such an experience would mark you for good. When are you writing your memoir?

Heather Robinson said...

I think so Loree but who knows? :) Hope your headache is gone...

Heather Robinson said...

Let's hope so! Let's see...my friend V from Melbourne decides to move her wonderful family to the French countryside but she needs two guardians with ferocious watchdogs to look after her estate... :)

Heather Robinson said...

Lots of ideas swirling around up in the noggin, Edgar. We'll see when that gold dust settles!

Heather Robinson said...

What a lovely thing to say, Laura! Thank you! Very touched by that.

Heather Robinson said...

As long as I have my "peeps" around me, I'm good! :)

Heather Robinson said...

Penny, we learned SO much from all of this--you are absolutely right! Things that we can definitely carry over for the next time we do renovate PLUS we found a really good, reliable mason which is no mean feat in Provence, I can tell you! His name is Augustus--isn't that amazing?

And while I think that we are leaning towards another rental instead of buying, I know that there ARE better things on the market right now. We'll see...

As always, you are so wonderfully kind and supportive--thank you!

Heather Robinson said...

And to you too Mumbai...although I am sorry that you are going to have to leave your kitchen behind. Here is hoping that good things lie ahead for all of us. Sending Good Wishes.

Heather Robinson said...

Really??? You have no idea how inspiring that is to me. It really gives me hope. Did you learn on a stick shift (manual)? THAT is what worries me most. Well, that and that I will have to learn the code in French for the test and that people drive like crzed weasels here. But whew, if you can do it, I can too!
Thank youuuuu.

Heather Robinson said...

Oops! It didn't work out Sara. But on to other things...

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you so much, Stacey. And wherever we do end up, I know that there will always be plenty of inspiration to be found at Quintessence!

Heather Robinson said...

Sister, I was lost in reverie there for awhile, just thinking about Colerain. Sigh. I was just telling Remi that the area where we rent the cabanon in the Luberon reminds me of Colerain! Rolling hills, beautiful trees. And we all are so happy there. It is true. So fingers-crossed that countryside it is...
Love you!

Laoch of Chicago said...

What a project that would be!

George Snyder said...

Oh, this is SO right up my alley - I adore renovation stories - and old house porn.
Plans are firming up for us to be in Aix beginning of March.
Can't wait!
XXXXX
G

George Snyder said...

Oh, this is SO right up my alley - I adore renovation stories - and old house porn.
Plans are firming up for us to be in Aix beginning of March.
Can't wait!
XXXXX
G

Teresa Maria said...

This would have been such a great project but with the kind of eye you both have I'm sure you'll spot something even more fitting and rewarding!

Mumbai said...

The kitchen I described before was in bygone days in my own house. Now we have to made the decision going back to Europe or build here where we have the plot already. Lot's of headache and not much time anymore.

D A Wolf said...

Oh Heather! This is so much to process! It can be both exhilarating and deflating to face finding a new place to live and making it your own. But that "making it your own" process? Such a labor of love (I adore renovations, personally)...

I wish you both a happy outcome to your search (and whatever pokers are already in the fire)...


Bisous,

D. A.

Unknown said...

Yes. very ferocious watchdogs...like ours, they probably would give a burglar lick-kisses (after they terrified him/her with amazing basso profondo barks)! XOXO, Leslie in Oregon

Unknown said...

Stick shifts are so much fun, Heather...I hate to drive anything else! Like most people raised in the U.S., I first learned to drive using an automatic. It wasn't until years later that, in Europe, I discovered the joys of a manual shift (when I was left alone in one, in a VW bug in a very hilly Spanish town). I've never looked back! A stick shift forces/allows you to become a full participant in your driving in a most exhilarating way! Enjoy...and let me know if you need any encouragement, Leslie in Oregon

Unknown said...

I am sorry for your disappointment, Heather, very sorry, but I know that you and Remi will find some place wonderful (whether you rent or buy) that you will make even more wonderful. (Just one lingering question about the disappointment: has the buying brother told you that he does not want to rent out any portion of your current building?) It has felt like you were veering toward living in the country for the last year or so, and I have a strong hunch you would love it (driving and all). Best wishes for finding some place close enough to the city to continue to partake of its cultural life and far enough from the city to give you an affordable piece of the outdoors, Leslie (P.S. We are engaged in a similar search here...without the gorgeous French renovation possibilities)

Maywyn Studio said...

That's blanked. I hope the brother decides to sell.

The Sabbatical Chef said...

Wow. I was holding my breath while you took us on the tour. What a fabulous tale... there will be another perfect apartment. I love the roof top terraces in Arles. I was invited to dinner several times and served in those spots overlooking the Rhône and the rooftops. --Big sigh-- Bonne chance et bon courage!

Nathalie Beaumes said...

Oh wow, I was ready to follow you on that fantastic adventure, starting to dream the dream with you... well, it looks like it's going to be something else. Not to worry. I'm sure that you two will find a a fantastic place. Fingers crossed.

Mary Ann Pickett said...

You have excellent vision.