Madame opened the huge old heavy carved door with her large antique key, to total blackness. There is no power she said (I think) or maybe there is nothing inside, or it’s haunted… For the price of the house, I imagined a huge ruin, cobwebs, torn walls, broken beams and dripping Mold. I sniffed at the blackness and smelt no familiar mustiness, which was a good start.
Madame had a huge torch in her hand as she had anticipated the blackness.
As I peered into the house with great trepidation, the torch fired up. I blinked to focus as my eyes were lowered against the flash of the torch. As my eyes adjusted my heart smashed against my rib cage! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…
A floor covered with antique inlaid tiles as far as the light could reach. As I raised my head to the walls, I saw they were beautifully hand-painted with elaborate art nouveau designs, which is my favourite style. A squeak snuck out of my throat, which hopefully Madame interpreted as horror. I didn’t want her to think we were interested, just yet. My jelly legs followed Madame and her lightstick into the first room leaving my head behind to gawk at the hall ceiling which was dripping in relief hand-painted plasterwork. Meanwhile, as my head caught up with my body, Madame had thrown open the large shuttered windows to light up the living room. In front of me on the far wall stood a huge black marble fireplace with an elaborate gilt mirror perched on top. Antique hand-painted wallpaper adorned the walls and a beautiful wooden Parquet floor lay under my feet. I was speechless, as well as suffering from whiplash as my head kept swivelling around like the exorcist! How could this be I thought?
As we walked further down the hallway, the famous staircase appeared. Even more beautiful than the photograph! As I gazed up with my whiplashed neck it then started to cramp from leaning back so far. The staircase went up 3 floors in a beautiful scroll shape, lavishly hand-painted and carved. Even the cellar door underneath was panelled and carved with another elegant staircase leading to a cave for the wine to be stored and it’s own well! This house was built for the gentry or possibly a princess I thought! Oh my god, I kept muttering like a crazy person.
The previous owner had hired artisans to cut out some of the inlaid tiles for new plumbing which looked like they had stopped mid-flight. A little seed of suspicion crept in. The panels in the hall had been rebuilt and were waiting for their paint. Madame had explained (we think), that thieves had got in last year and stolen the original panels off the walls.
The next room was as magnificent as the first with another grand Marble fireplace, boasting high and frescoed ceilings, beautiful double French shuttered doors leading onto the back garden and another door opening into the kitchen. I was in heaven!
As we ascended the grand staircase, visions of Scarlette O’Hara standing at the top in her ball gown came to me and made me giggle. The first and second floors were also as elaborate as the ground floor, with large elegant bedrooms, 4 in all, gilded mirrors, marble fireplaces, wooden floors and an assortment of antique wallpaper in every room. No orange swirls but tasteful colours and patterns.
large French doors opened onto balconies and the master bedroom having a view of the garden.
The galley style kitchen was the worst room as it is a different period from the rest of the house, probably built in the ’50s, long and narrow with fake tiles and lower ceilings. It was built on the back of the house facing the garden. The garden was large and not looked upon by the neighbours. The garage is big with a loft. It opens onto a side street for a tiny car to manoeuvre into.
The sun when it appeared would shine all day on the garden and the back of the house where the living area will be. There is even a gorgeous garden shed in brick and a huge pergola dripping with grapes and old wrought iron brackets holding it up. Another terrace had been built over the kitchen, which is a private deck for the main bedroom. The balustrade is made from antique concrete pedestals that I love. I could see my coffees being sipped out there in the mornings. Another little balcony came off the main bedroom to have our petit dejeuner on with a wooden ceiling for shade.
Even though the bathroom is old and the plumbing even older, the wiring non -existent, the loft almost tumbling down and the kitchen a shell, I had fallen in love!
Nic and I looked at each other in disbelief!
I had already moved in and bought the furniture! I think Nic was rapidly totalling up the work to be done and looked a little pale, perhaps a relapse? After Madame gave us all the quotes for the work to be done which was a huge help and had explained (we think) that the woman who owned it had 2 properties she was turning into Chambre d hote ( small bed and breakfast), but she had run out of money and decided to sell one to finish the other. I think Nic could then work out the affordability of it.
I was happy to live in it burning candles, using the water from the well and lighting the fire for heat until we could afford electricity. A little like glamping…
As we walked away from the house my heart stayed behind, I had to walk over it as I stepped onto the sidewalk. We said our goodbyes to Madame and said we would be in touch. She was very blasé as I imagine a few people had viewed the house just to see the staircase.