There are always vague questions about French life swirling in my head. Every now and then I come up with a personalized interpretation/pseudo answer that puts some of these niggling questions to rest. Today I tackle two of these:
Why are there so many beautiful old armoires for sale for so cheap?
How can the French stand to live in modern, new construction houses?
With an American vision of French life we bought the old house of our dreams and happily got to work on gently updating it. At first glance it had seemed like a very straightforward job. But with old houses after you pull off the wallpaper and rake up the leaves you have done all the easy jobs. Facing the hard jobs you begin to understand why there are so many lovely old homes sitting empty, shutters pulled tight, and no one clamoring to get in.
Even after our little nightmares re-doing one old home and hearing all the horror stories of other people’s problematic old homes, we remained unflaggingly optimistic. Sure enough, nothing in these old homes is as one would expect. Often there is very little that one can do to change the situation - outside of gutting out all the charm one thought they wanted. There is no changing the plumbing so one can move bathrooms or showers. And the cut-stone walls that attracted us to the house means you can not put electricity just anywhere without cutting ugly gouges in the stone. And then there is the plaster that won’t hold paint and the sanded floors that won’t come back up to gloss and.....
hmm all this, or the opportunity to have brand new floors, updated electrics, sizing your rooms to dimensions you choose......The practical French smirk at the suckers-for-charm Americans.
At the same time another thing became glaringly obvious. There are seldom closets in these old homes. This house had one narrow cupboard in a bedroom, but no room for hangers. No problem we picked up two gorgeous armoires. Months later we put them together and placed them in the rooms. And a few weeks later I was organized enough to start wanting to hangs some things up. I asked my handyman to add a hanging bar to mine and was quickly shown how I had selected an armoire that is too narrow to hang clothes. Still no where to hang clothes! We’ve made some rearrangements in who gets what closet space that Tom built in and now I look at all those armoires in every antique store across France and think, “How quaint.”
So without any facts to back my interpretations I can now check off two things and move on to something like why do the French use shutters and Americans use blinds.....