Building a dream house in Provence

Gordes, the perfect village for a dream house, in Provence.

We probably should have just looked the other way, but we are Huffingtons, and “we” like a project!  So when a choice piece of buildable land came up for sale in the highly coveted and very restricted area of Gordes, Provence, one of us couldn’t resist a chance to build a dream house – and bought it.

Buildable land is very scarce in this part of Provence, where the locals are trying to preserve the historic significance of the area and zoning is prohibitively strict.  In fact, there is currently a moratorium on the sale of any buildable land until mid next year.  So to find a parcel that could be subdivided into two parts (the idea being that you build on one and sell the other), in a coveted area, close to everything, yet quietly perched above a tiny country road with nothing to ever obscure the view, was an offer too exciting to pass up.  And so the dream progressed …

The parcel of land overlooking the Luberon mountains in Provence

We assembled a talented architectural team, and, like with any project, began collecting our inspiration boards – so that our team could turn the dream into a reality. In Gordes, the building codes are very strict, so we knew we had to use stacked stone for the outside but we begged our architect to add some features that might differentiate and add interest, like bigger windows, higher ceilings and touches of wrought iron.

We knew it had to be stacked stone and we gave our architects this house, from Decor Blog on Pinterest, as the inspiration.

The landscaping, as always, presented the biggest challenge, but we knew from the types of grasses that proliferated on the land that the soil was rich enough to accommodate a variety.  I asked for small niches and courtyards, because although I love a view, I also like a little nook that is inviting and cozy.  And I didn’t need to look any further for the pool inspiration than a wonderful house designed by Bobby McAlpine in California and featured in Architectural Digest.

We love the way cypress trees punctuate the typical provencal landscape, and dreamed of having a view like this one. From Cote Maison magazine.

And of course we always love boxwoods, like these from the landscaper Clive Nichols (via Pinterest).

In Provence, a sheletered outdoor terrace is a must … and this was the  inspiration for the kitchen terrace. From Zsazsabellagio.blogspot.

And I have always coveted a secret little parterre with herbs and lavender. From Tuinadvies.be on Pinterest.

The pool inspiration came straight out of this beautiful one designed by Bobby McAlpine, and photographed by Roger Davies for Architectural Digest.

And we wanted some casual, crunchy aspects to the house, like old doors and repurposed stone, so that it wouldn’t look spanking new. From regardsetmaisons.blogspot.fr

For the interior of the house, we asked for a clean and simple design, with an open floorplan kitchen, high beamed ceilings, pretty stone floors and wrought iron windows.  Because the view is the star, I asked for a small entry that led straight through to the great room with the view beyond. And I was very picky about the staircase once I saw the fabulous picture below.

From the traditional entrance, like this friendly door to a Provencal hotel (from tripscout.blogspot.com), I wanted an open view to the terrace and view beyond.

I was fixated on this gorgeous staircase by Axel Vervoordt, and asked for something as elegant and sweeping for the front hall. Photo by Laziz Hamani for Architectural Digest.

I wanted high ceilings with beams, wrought iron windows and a clean aesthetic, like this pretty house by Bobby McAlpine for Architectural Digest (photo Roger Davies).

From the first time I saw it in Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, I’ve loved this open plan kitchen by <a href="http://www.melanieturnerinteriors.com/" target="_blank">Melanie Turner</a>.

I asked for the look of the <a href="http://www.melanieturnerinteriors.com/" target="_blank">Melanie Turner</a> kitchen, but also wanted two windows on either side of the oven, overlooking the kitchen garden. Provence style beach-house in California by Oatman-Architects from dustjacket-attic-blog.

I dreamed of using some of the rustic furniture that we always seek out on our buying trips and that would blend so well with the wrought iron doors and decor. From Decor de Provence.blogspot.

I loved the open feeling of this enfilade, and was inspired by the beams, the floors and the wrought iron windows. From architect-web-nl. on Pinterest.

I wanted a pretty stone fireplace like this one, from Decor de provence.blogspot.de. (Note the 17th C. Biot jar in the background!)

We designed a small paneled library, outside of the master bedroom on the ground floor, that was inspired by this one from Bobby McAlpine, Roger Davies Photographer-AD.

I asked for thick white walls and old doors, just like this inspiration from decord-de-provence.blogspot.fr.

And I wanted to keep the bathrooms simple and functional, without frou frou tile or any other accoutrements, but preferably with a fireplace. (Bobby McAlpine design, photo by Roger Davies for AD.)

Upstairs, there is a small landing between the bedrooms where I wanted a library and a reading nook, overlooking the view, just like this one from tinyhousedesign.com.

We worked on this project for almost a year, back and forth with the architects and the town of Gordes.  We finally agreed on the plans, submitted them to the authorities, performed all the soil and irrigations tests, waited for the coveted building permits to be granted, paid the requisite tax for building new property on land in France … and once everything was signed, sealed and delivered,  decided not to build!

In the end, I discovered, the design process proved to be much more fulfilling than the building.  It’s what we Huffingtons love to do.  So, thankfully for my pocketbook and with no regrets for the process, I’ve put the land on the market and will be available to help someone, some time, build their dream house in Provence.  And meanwhile, there’s another little project lurking in Paris that we can’t wait to tell you about!

Ta ta,

HH

P.S. If you are interested in building this house or something similar, we do have all the plans and the land, and will be happy to put you in touch with the right authorities to make it happen.  Merry Christmas!

Meet Anne + Meg

What happens when two committed Francophiles, art lovers and design junkies get together over a bottle of red wine? A fine art gallery with a little je ne sais quoi is born, followed a few years later by its home furnishings and décor sibling.

ABOUT HUFF HARRINGTON

What happens when two committed Francophiles, art lovers and design junkies get together over a bottle of red wine? A fine art gallery with a little je ne sais quoi is born, followed a few years later by its home furnishings and décor sibling.

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