From my teens, I perused home magazines. I loved seeing all the different ways people made their homes pretty. At first, I thought decor was all about furniture. Later, I realized decor was how people stamped living spaces with their tastes and personalities, reflecting what was meaningful and important (or unimportant) to them. During my high school years, I used babysitting income to decorate my bedroom in Monterey, the first one I didn’t have to share with one of my seven siblings. I chose ’50s geometric-print curtains, a cute little black metal telephone stand to hold my treasured Princess phone, throw pillows for the bed and a 30″ ceramic cat named Caesar, in a ghastly shade of yellow with a crackle glaze.
College days brought brick-and-board bookcases, scrounged furniture, and a colorful cheap madras plaid bedspread from Cost Plus. Later, we dined around a white pedestal-based table which was in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. An Eames-chair copy was the most comfortable seat in the house. My evolving and eclectic tastes ultimately led to a beautiful oriental carpet and ornate carved wood tables which would have horrified me in the ’60s and ’70s. Back then, it was all about clean lines and white walls. In my case, the furniture had clean lines, but there was a mischevious purple stripe starting at the purple entry wall, and meandering through two white-walled rooms before it plunged to earth in the living room.
As for the exteriors, I agonized over choosing the perfect paint colors. Through three paint jobs over my 30 years in Hawaii, I never did get exactly the look I wanted. In Santa Rosa, I was happy at last with large swaths of lovely taupe with off-white trim and weathered blue-green accents. It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that I worked as a Realtor for 16 years; people and houses was a combination I greatly enjoyed. All this is to say, houses intrigue me, inside and out.
Homes of Stone
In France and everywhere in Europe where the homes are made of rock, the stones are subtle natural backgrounds for colorful doors, shutters and gates. Stone is my favorite building material, which is probably why the cities and villages of Europe never cease to enchant me.
An interest in architecture naturally followed from my fascination with interior spaces. After reading my France email posts from 2011, a neighbor asked what was up with all the photos of buildings — was I an architect or something? Nope, I replied, just fascinated by different styles of architecture. I don’t think he got it.
While there are similarities in the look of stone villages in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Great Britain, there are definitely regional differences. Sometimes the characteristic styles vary substantially within a single geographical area. For example, the distinctive patterned roofs found in Dijon and Beaune are said to be typical of Burgundy, but are nowhere to be seen here, just an hour’s drive to the south.
Typical two-story Balleure home with a veranda on the second-floor main living level.
A simple but appealing house in Étrigny.
Closeup of the home pictured above.
It was the orchids showing off in the window that stopped me in my tracks. The potted plants in the foreground are doing a poor job of competing, with their intense, almost artificial colors. I wanted to move them someplace where they might brighten a boring patch, and not detract from the elegant dancing orchids.
Balleure home handsomely refurbished and with spiffy cleaned stone.
The part of the roof with the dormer has what might be the original stone roof, which was built to last. And did.
They covered the stone walls with plaster, but thankfully left the wonderful gate untouched.
A clean stone Étrigny home. Notice how they don’t have many windows? At one time, homes were taxed by the number of windows; that was something the tax collector could ascertain from the outside.
Balleure home with wisteria in bloom.
Beautifully renovated home in a nearby village.
Château de Balleure’s next-door neighbor.
Étrigny home with newly-created dormers.
This house has towers flanking the typical veranda across the front at the second-floor entry to the main living space. The white tower is visible on the right. Its twin is on the left, not visible in the photo.
When I was young, my family lived in Verdun, located in Lorraine, in the eastern part of France near Germany. I recall it as a rather gloomy and unwelcoming place. One reason why was that many buildings and walls had a finish so rough that if you accidentally brushed against it, or rubbed your hand on it, you risked taking some skin off. It was invariably an unpleasant cement-gray color. I did a double-take when I saw the side of this house in Étrigny. It was the very same nasty finish so common in Verdun in the 1950s!
An architecturally unusual home in Étrigny.
This house stood out because it is so large, has so many windows, and the style and finish elements are so different from the typical homes in the area. When I approached it the second time from a little alley to the right, I discovered it was the one with that unfriendly rough finish!
Cats up high.
These kitties look as if they are in cruel cages, but careful scrutiny revealed that they have access to the house behind these perches. Meanwhile, they enjoy checking out village life from about twenty feet up. These old stone houses often show signs of previous alterations, such as windows and doors filled in. Note the curious stone pattern below the large window ruled by cats. I wish had the key to decipher stone clues like these. History has a whole other dimension in places inhabited since Roman times, or “merely” seven or eight hundred years.
À la prochaine,