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FOR THE LOVE OF OLD HOUSES

It took us a few weeks to move into our home in Burgundy, with the bulk of our possessions delivered by professional movers mid-November (see my last post if you're curious how moving is done in France). Some things we had to take care of ourselves. Our moving guy took one look at my collection of fragile "globes de mariée" and categorically refused to touch them. They would not survive... (btw, I swore it was my last move... I think it was my 8th or 9th one...).



Here are the "globes de mariée" made out of thin glass. These we transported ourselves.

So we lived in Lyon for a couple more months after we received the keys to the house. I was musing over what I would change in it, what the garden should look like, what colors can be used in the rooms. I saved countless images on Pinterest. But after we actually started living in our house, it dictated its own wishes. It is true that one needs to live in the space for a while to see how the light falls, how the rooms are used, which rooms face the east, and which the west, and a myriad of other considerations.


One morning we received a beautiful surprise of this blooming magnolia

Same is true for the garden. They say to observe it for a year before changing anything. In my case, I plan to create a "potager" and a flower garden where the large areas of grass and weeds grow. The beginning of the "potager" has been started this year. As for the rest, I decided to give it indeed a year. I am still identifying shrubs, and plants that just began to grow and bloom this spring. When I clean around the bushes, trimming them, removing fallen branches, I am discovering old overgrown garden markers, outlines of old paths, that might have been there for a very long time, overgrown by grass and weeds. As well as other plants that got "lost" in between of overgrowth, and now can get more light and air, with the hope to help them thrive again.


In February our lawn became covered with blooming primroses. So now I know that in order to save them from being dug up when we prepare the garden beds, I may want to replant them to other nooks and crannies of the garden.


Our "carpet" of primroses

Over the months we've been here the house "told" us what it wants. It is over 200 years old, and evolved over the years, but retaining many original details and the main layout. Sitting in a small burgundian village, amid the fields, it is neither a cottage, nor a farmhouse. It maybe described as a "maison de maître", a bit "bourgeois", but not too formal either. The style is somewhat hard to define. It has some quirky details, some can be changed, some are there to stay, and we have to just start loving them. It is obvious that it was once a home for a prominent family in the village, given its size and the central location. At some point we would like to find out more about the history of this place. One can go to the archives, probably in Nevers, to look at old documents. I hope to make it a small project once I have a little bit more time on my hands...


Now mostly a lawn, this garden just waits for us to grow flowers and vegetables

Although the house is proportionate and well laid out, there are some oddities here and there that can't be explained, or changed. For example, with generous proportions of the main rooms, the house has a curiously oddly shaped entrance. Was it like this originally? Maybe it was. We will make the best of it.


Another thing to love is a long and narrow corridor leading from front to back of the house. Having been divided into two residences sometime in the 1950s, the only way to access the big garden in the back is through this corridor. It divides the kitchen from the "salle a manger" and the salon. Everyone, including us in the beginning, first considers it a waste of space. We were planning to remove its wall on the kitchen side. However after using it everyday we realized that without it all the dirt from the outside would end up in the kitchen. And we would lose a wall in the kitchen - a very valuable wall on which I would like to have floor to ceiling tall cabinets, where I can display my pottery collection. So the corridor stays. And we will need to love the other quirks. If we wanted everything just perfect, we would build a new house from the ground up.


I always say if you want a new house don't buy an old one and try to change it. I am not saying you must live without electricity and canalization, but there is a reason to buying an old house. They don't make them like this anymore. Without the irreplaceable features and elements it becomes just another empty characterless box. This old house has a soul, which must be preserved.


We are still learning about this house

I refrained from showing a lot of pictures of the inside of the house (these will be coming soon, I promise!). The way it is now one needs some imagination to see the final result after all the work is done. One thing is certain - we both love old houses with character, and want to give this one back it's luminosity and warmth.

One way to do it is to keep the elements in harmony with one another. In tandem with our architect we are working on the plans to make the house a comfortable place to live in the 21st century, while honoring its history and charm, and preserving its soul. We want to reuse as many details of the house as possible - this even includes a sink in the kitchen and all the beautiful early 20th century porcelain and ebony doorknobs. We are even thinking about re-using old doors we found in the attic, if they are in good condition.


Irreplaceable charm of the old - the stone, the hues of wood, even the door handles


I am waiting impatiently when the actual work will be scheduled. But as they say - measure twice and cut once! I would hate to agree to something of which I am uncertain just to change my mind later. Or be unsatisfied, and make a costly changes after that. But we are out of the "dreaming" stage, and onto the "planning" one, so we feel pretty good about this progress. With longer and warmer days it is a joy to be here, and we are learning more and more about this house.


Next time I will be able to give you more details how things are progressing, and share some images of the inside - the plans are almost done!

Thank you for following along. Questions and comments are welcome.


To be continued...


xoxo


Joanna









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2 Comments


Hi Joanna,


It’s been a long time since we connected. I have been enjoying all your posts and love your charming home. Congratulations and all the best. Look forward to seeing all the pics and hearing about your home projects as you get settled in.

Best,

Carolyn Stewart

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Replying to

Hello Carolyn, so nice to hear from you! Thank you for reading :) There will be more stories to come from our new home in Burgundy. I hope all is well, hugs, Joanna

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