Downsizing to a Townhouse in Provence


Real life stories

Downsizing to a Townhouse in Provence

When it came time to downsize, interior designer Lorraine Goble worked wonders on a townhouse in St-Rémy

It was 2020, the year of Covid, with the whole world in turmoil wondering what the future had in store and how we would move forward. It was also the year when people everywhere were making changes, re-evaluating their work and home life. We decided it was time to downsize-look for a smaller place with a smaller garden, after all it’s just the two of us. We were fortunate in that our house sold quickly to a young family moving out of Paris.

It was a sad move for us as we had enjoyed completely renovating the house and garden, but on the flipside, it was comforting to sell to a family who would take the property to another level and enjoy it. It was time for our heads to rule our hearts.

Finding the house

This proved more difficult than we first thought. Homes in St-Rémy-de-Provence, whatever their size, enjoy a lively property market, due to its good commuting network of trains and planes and its lively year-round atmosphere, with a Wednesday market that people come to visit from miles away. Plus, of course, it’s Provence and who doesn’t dream of living in Provence?

The weeks flew by and despite registering with local estate agents and spreading the word among friends, we couldn’t find anything suitable – it was either the right property in the wrong location or the wrong property in the right location. We thought about renting until the suitable property to buy came up, but as St-Rémy is so popular with tourists in the summer, this was another nightmare.

We then heard, via a friend, about a townhouse coming up for sale just 500 metres out of town. It wasn’t quite what we were looking for, but it made economic sense as we weren’t sure how long we would need to be in a rental property before we found our ideal place with a small garden and swimming pool in this wonderful town.

We didn’t hesitate viewing the property and had our offer accepted. Having stayed in the development many times previously while visiting friends, we were familiar with it and therefore it was a no- brainer. The conveyancing was wrapped up in approximately six weeks and we moved in.

Moving in

The property is about 16 years old, less than half the size of our last house and needed refurbishing throughout. Being an interior designer by profession, and having remodelled our previous property, we enjoyed putting our own mark on it.

The house is arranged over three floors, with an open-plan kitchen, dining and living room and WC on the ground floor, two good-sized bedrooms and family shower room on the middle floor, and a spacious master suite comprising a living area, bedroom, walk-in dressing room and ensuite shower room.

It’s flooded with natural daylight from the floor-to-ceiling windows and has beautiful views of the Alpilles mountain range on the southern side and Mont Ventoux to the north. Within a small gated development, It has beautiful communal gardens with each property benefiting from its own outside dining space, where most of our entertaining is done in the wonderful Provencal sun.

With the house being arranged over three floors, the refurbishment had to be thought out very practically, with the ground floor needing the most work. The planning. lining up trades and ordering all the fixtures and fittings took us about three months, with the actual works taking four months. This all took place during 2021 with Covid still hanging over us – it was quite an achievement.

The refurbishment

We decided to move into another property on the same development while the work was being done; this helped ensure a speedy completion and was a sound decision economically as the tradesmen had the complete run of the property without having to worry about ensuring we had water and electricity supplies and so on. The work was carried out between December 2021 and March 2022.

On the ground floor, the original layout had a traditional fire with a deep hearth and walls enclosing the kitchen, which made it rather dark in winter. We replaced the fire with a stove that rotates through 180 degrees, which was very useful as the living area is to the left of the fire.

We also took down the dividing walls between the kitchen and living area to create an open-plan layout. The existing WC was moved to the right of the stairs, giving us more room for the kitchen. A storage cupboard under the stairs now houses the water softener and a small boiler.

Heart of the home

We installed a new modern kitchen. Apart from the practical layout of the room, there were certain design elements I wanted to incorporate such as the “feature” front on the island. To guarantee the colours and veining, we used ceramic- using more natural products like marble or granite wouldn’t have allowed this. We also used ceramic for the kitchen worktops and splashbacks.

The ground-floor WC is a small space, but the addition of a large wall mirror with integrated lighting has opened out the area and given the illusion of space. The ground floor benefits from two sets of full-height double doors opening out to the private terrace, which floods the interior with light and is great when entertaining outdoors and for air flow. Heating is via an electric radiator should we ever need it.

The terrace has an electric awning, providing some welcome shade from the hot Provencal sun- and also helps to keep that all-important glass of local rosé wine cool.

Middle ground

The middle floor has two bedrooms and a shower room. One bedroom is used as a guest room and the other as a study, which also houses the utility cupboard. The washing machine and dryer are mounted one on top of the other and the household linen is all housed in a wall cupboard with sliding doors, which keeps everything neatly shut away.

Fortunately, the floors are concrete which keeps the noise levels down, plus we’ve mounted the washing machine and dryer on soundproof matting. In this cupboard we also have a hot water cylinder supplying water to the two shower rooms.

The shower room was completely refitted in a contemporary style; it originally had a corner shower with shower curtain, WC and floor-standing vanity cabinet, which made the room feel very cramped. Now it has a glass shower cubicle, wall-hung WC and vanity sink, with a storage unit below and a tall wall-hung storage cupboard. Mounting bathroom furniture on the wall wherever possible is more hygienic and gives the illusion of space.

Top tier

The top floor is pure indulgence, devoted to the master suite with plenty of storage and dual-aspect windows. We’ve divided it into two areas: a comfortable bedroom and a tv/reading lounge or winter lounge-very decadent I know, but then why not! There’s a walk-in wardrobe with shelving, hanging space and a large drawer unit.

The master ensuite was previously fitted with a bath and overhead shower, WC and floor-standing vanity cabinet. The shower room was completely refitted with a large walk-in shower, wall-hung vanity sink with storage unit and tall storage cupboard.

The refurbishment kept us out of mischief and now it’s all finished, we’re so happy with our decision and are enjoying the fruits of our labour.

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