Saturday, April 04, 2009

Shame about the House

I don't know what happened to house-building in the 1980s in the village where I live, but it was taken over by some total lunatic who obviously dwelt in a parallel universe.

When you visit houses built during this time, it appears that the lunatic had an obsession with providing a granny flat/rental property integrated into the lower part of the house, or in an adjoining bit. An opportunity, sans doute, for when the owners fell on hard times and could earn a few bob renting to a someone unknown.

Quite who I don't know because there isn't a bus route to speak of and we are nowhere near the centre of town. It's too isolated for students and too quiet for young professionals. I suppose grown-up kids would be able to make use of the space until they left home, but that's hardly lucrative as French parents consider it child abuse to make their adult offspring pay rent.

That leaves granny who might well enjoy such proximity to her daughter/son, but I haven't actually seen much evidence of the generation game being played out.

Frankly would you really want to rent out half your house, when you'd have more enjoyment out of it without a third party popping up and joining you round the pool just when you thought you'd have an al fresco shag...?

There was this house that looked fabulous except that it was, in fact, three separate lodgings, all of them pokey and small. How nul is that?
Villa traditionnelle 3 étages sur 1200m²de Pinède au calme et sans vis à vis. Cette maison est décomposée en 3 appartements: Sous-sol: T2 indépendant de 50m² avec séjour, cuisine, chambre, salle de bains, WC. Rez-de-chaussée: T4 de 100m² Hab avec 3 chambres, grand séjour de 40m², cuisine, 2SDB, WC et Terrasse couverte avec garage de 50m². 1er étage: T3 indépendant avec accès privatif de 62m² avec séjour, 2 chambres, cuisine, salle de bains et WC + grenier.

I saw one place recently where the family lived in half a house, like an apartment, during the winter, and during the summer, opened up the lower half and used that as well. The bedrooms were consequently tiny where they could have been spacious, because the house certainly didn't lack metres²! To reach this part, they had to go out via the front door and walk round as there was no connecting staircase.

The other feature of houses here is that nothing is where you expect it to be, and nothing is where any sane person would put it. Bedrooms are down in dark basements while living quarters are upstairs, and sometimes you even have to go up a set of steps to get to the front door which is on the first floor!

One of houses had been converted, but it looked like the living room was a former utility room/workshop because it was long and narrow, and the back kitchen dining room was previously the garage. Most odd. The pool had been built out of grey stone - granite probably - but was tiled in a similar grey blue and resembled more a chilly Scottish loch than a warm inviting corner of paradise on a hot southern France day.

The lunatic has a lot to answer for because in this day and age when you compare these hellholes to modern construction, the difference is extreme, much more extreme than comparing age old stone houses with today's buildings. Then, they liked to keep it simple, had no delusions of rental potential, and preferred to use the entire house as a cosy home.

It's not as though you can pick up a bargain here either. Prices reflect the location rather than the quality or degree of design. You pay to live here, but it's a high price considering the crap you're obliged to buy for the privilege. You get these dreadful brown floor tiles which are so depressing you reach for the valium as soon as you step through the door. Then there is the fireplace which is heavy and ugly and usually dominates the room. The outside is plastered in super thick crepy and is often dirty from lack of maintenance, while the windows and shutters are painted dark brown making the whole place look dingy and old.

They have not aged well and really, it would be saner just to pull the whole lot down and start again.

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