One of the saving graces for having a small one bedroom village house is the amount of space that needs to be managed and maintained. Petite is our new “normal.” For many of the older generations, and for people like us who desire
maison secondaire, small is desired. Not only it is easy to “lock and leave” but the simplicity of the size and design makes it easier to adjust to a different rhythm.
In most of the village homes, presumably
designed in medieval times, the kitchen is found on the ground floor together with the main dining area. The ground floor location is significant because of the regular visits to the market. One does not have to go the upper floors dragging a basket
of meat and vegetables (particularly potatoes) every day or every other day. And eating at the same level is preferred for easy serving. Form follows function as my architect friends would say. Often, the salle de bain (shower
or bathing room) and a separate toilet are also found on the ground floor near the kitchen. This allows for more efficient and cost effective plumbing. Ours includes a toilet and, amazingly, a large hot water tank.
floor (called first floor in Europe) is the salon or the living area where one finds a place to sit and watch TV. The sofa easily turns into a bed. It’s not much of a sofa but looks and functions more like a futon. First daughter uses
this as the girls’ room with the attendant clutter that comes with territoriality. The upper floor contains the only bedroom and a full shower and toilet. I claim this but, with a generous heart, I share with my husband.
Because of the intimate layout, cleaning the place is pretty straightforward. We start at the top with the bathroom then the bedroom and move floor by floor. With the three of us at work, it takes less than a day. First daughter
has become an expert on bathrooms while second daughter has mastered sweeping and finishing floors– with brooms, mops or cleaning wipes. If they were being paid, it may be considered child labor; but in this part of the world, they understand and
assume their roles in keeping house.
This collaboration extends to kitchen work. We all contribute to having a good meal. The girls are usually involved in food shopping whether it is the grocery in the next village or the
weekly markets. I truly believe they take their food more seriously here than back in the U.S. And because they need and want to eat well, they are active in cleaning up. Doing dishes, washing pots, wiping counters, taking out trash
and recycling etc are all part of the home dining experience.
There are challenges, I must admit. With one full bathroom and a teenager in the house, stealing mirror time has been a source of arguments. We agree on the chronological
order of showering to make sure that all have a chance at the hot water. And thank goodness for two toilets (or w.c. meaning water closet). When I first was looking at homes for sale, I often wondered why a two or three bedroom house would only
have one w.c. and one shower/bath. A real estate agent once informed me that, for an ancient village house, I would be lucky to find one that has w.c. inside the house. I see.
There is an appalling lack of storage space.
We have been reduced to utilizing every nook and cranny. Our household’s tools are located under the corner of the circular stairway as well as our makeshift wine cellar containing domaine du vin finds. The salon has a caisse d’armoire
(or closet structure) shielded by curtains and which is full of the girls clothes and linens (in huge plastic containers). And we have several “under the bed” storage units. This constraint has made us realize the relative value of
material possessions and to act upon it. Thus, the many trips to Emmaus which is the Goodwill equivalent of France.
A greater discomfort, however, is the limited privacy afforded to each one of us. With each room in each floor
serving a major function, there is no escape other than going outside for some private time. In a separate, stressful world, this may be a problem. Not here and not now. We take pleasure in our esprit de corps and we, consciously, unite
towards a common pursuit of joie de vivre. C’est la vie indeed!