Five years ago I lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York. Access to everything the world could offer from cigarettes to Greek food delivered at 3 AM. Four years ago I lived in Santa Barbara, California. Access to everything Southern California could offer from chia seeds to peach smoothies. For the past three years, I have lived in Paris, France. Access to everything the City of Light could offer from Époisses cheese to vintage Valentino.
And now, here I am, living in Provence for exactly 4 days and all I can think is, “What the fuck have I done?”
I started to have a wee panic attack when I realized that I am currently living smack dab in the middle of nowhere without a neighbor in sight, surrounded by fields...And nature!
But isn’t this exactly what I wanted? In Paris, I was so close to my neighbors that I knew their entire lives through the window. In Paris, the beautiful garden next door to me only had a stitch of grass that you weren’t allowed to walk on. In Paris, we had to drive to nature. And now here I am in Provence surrounded by everything that I wanted, needed and craved and I feel a bit lost.
And I miss my Gracie. I have called her about 3000 times and have already bought her a train ticket to come for a visit on Wednesday. Being away from Gracie will be the hardest part.
In Paris, I had my routine so perfectly calculated. My apartment was in the middle of the city, easy access for everyone to visit. Afternoon tea with friends at a moment’s notice. The market, the pharmacy, the restaurants were all just steps from my door. The nurses arrived at exactly 10 AM for a bath, the kinesiologist arrived at noon for stretching, the masseuse arrived at 3 PM on Wednesday for a massage, food was delivered within 30 minutes, Internet connection was fast and Uber was readily available. Not so fast in Provence. I need to re-create my team, my routine and my habits down here but it’s going to take some time and adjustments.
It’s going to take some energy and patience getting used to living in Provence. Four words: Slow down, city girl. I know that and I know that I need to give myself some time to adjust and to familiarize myself with my new surroundings. I honestly feel like I have landed on Mars and I have to learn how to adjust to the customs of the Martians.
Moving to a new planet can be daunting but I decided I’m going to take the horse by the reigns because this life in Provence is exactly what I wished for. This environment is actually who I am… Country, nature, barbecues, pools, sunshine, straw hats but I haven’t been exposed to this in quite a while so it’s going to take some time for Stella to get her groove back.
I am not complaining, I am just explaining.
I thought I would just be my typical open book self and tell you everything from the good to the bad. Let’s be honest, the bad isn’t really so bad. I’m just a brat.
Our house is in a village called Saint-Étienne-du-Grès… I think. The real estate agency hasn’t given us an official address so I’m not even sure how I will get mail. The house is surrounded by open fields and we are the only ones on the entire street. Or should I say road. A one lane road. The good news is that the fields are sunflower fields so the summer is going to be gorgeous but for now, it’s dirt fields and for some reason a farmer has decided to take the night shift to plow the fields at 3 o’clock in the morning next to my bedroom window. I don’t even know who to call to complain about that.
The closest village to our house is called Tarascon. It’s kind of ghetto. I told my husband that was our first and last trip to Tarascon. I don’t care if we have to drive an extra five minutes to the next town to get a baguette. I’m going to pretend that Tarascon doesn’t exist. The village in the opposite direction of our house is called Saint-Rémy and it is absolutely darling. Couldn’t be more charming. This will be where I will shop for everything… Tomatoes, olives, cheese, wine, baguettes, and hopefully my favorite Chanel “505 Particuliere” nail polish but I am not holding my breath for that one.
Good. Front Gate.
Good. Front of house.
Good. Pool house.
Good. Gray shutters.
Good. Anduze pots.
Good. Pool house statue.
Okay, now let’s go inside. Let’s start with living room because that’s the best room in the house. Tall beamed ceilings, dropdead gorgeous Provençal typical terra-cotta floors, ancient fireplace with mustard yellow walls. So far so good. The dining room is big and I honestly don’t know what to do with it. I need to work that out. The dining room has beamed ceilings as well. This is kind of where the loveliness stops.
Good. Living room beamed ceiling.
Good. Mustard yellow walls.
Good. Old terracotta tile floors.
Good. Interesting pictures that will stay.
Good. Dining room beamed ceiling.
Good. Living room fireplace.
The kitchen is a disaster. It looks like the owner was going for a very Provençal look with blue and yellow Monet tiles. But actually the tiles are nearly purple and fluorescent yellow. Nothing a good can of primer and white paint cannot solve. That is next week’s project. Don’t tell the owner. The next huge problem are the floors. The gorgeous living room floors stop at the living room and then suddenly the dining room, kitchen and bedroom floors looks like they were done from the bathroom section of Home Depot. Ceramic Square Tiles. What is wrong with people! I have two choices with these floors. Either cover them with seagrass or paint them. Either way, the owner will not recognize her house when she gets it back one day. You’re welcome.
Bad. Gorgeous living room floors that lead to shit dining room Home Depot ceramic toilet floors. And then to add that mosaic emblem or whatever it's called. Jesus!!!
Bad. From bad to worse. The dining room floors to the kitchen floors.
Bad. Faux Monet kitchen tiles.
Next, I need to deal with the chandeliers, sconces and curtain rods. This will either be done through the magic of IKEA or finding vintage chandeliers at flea markets.
I spent the first two days at our new house clearing out the owner’s furniture. I realize that the house came furnished but it’s too ugly to bear so I have moved most of it out to the pool house for the owner to pick up. This is why the people in Provence hate Parisians but it is their fault for having bad taste. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look…
This is the pool house where we have stacked 99% of the owner's furniture. However, the pool house is fantastic. I will show you pictures when all of this crap is removed.
The bedrooms are disasters. The owner took it upon herself to paint one of the walls in my bedroom blue. Who does that! I hate accent walls as much as I hate Pier One and Pottery Barn. Another can of white paint necessary. The second bedroom had a complete blindingly ugly shabby chic bedroom set. No one should ever buy a bedroom set, ever. This particular bedroom set had a heart carved into the woodwork, the distressed whitewashed woodwork. That was swiftly dismantled by day 2 and shoved into the pool house out of my sight.
Bad. Blue accent wall. WTF.
Bad. Distressed white oak bedroom set.
So, I will be busy the next couple of months getting this house up to snuff. It will be a true test of my interior design skills because I have a budget of exactly 3 dollars.
The first thing that I decided to focus on is a color theme. I decided that the base is just going to be white linen and I will mix in some patterns and a hint of color. I don’t want the house to look choppy. I started to hang my beautiful antique Rouen platter collection in the dining room. I had to wait until my husband went back to Paris to do this because he just loves loves loves when I put nails in freshly painted walls. Take a look...
Good and bad. Organizing the placement of the platters. Don't even look at those floors.
Good. It's best to label the platters so you don't forget where they need to go on the wall.
My caregivers, now design assistants, Joel and Wilson, hanging the platters.
I needed more plate hangers so I sent my husband to the hardware store on a Tuesday at 1 o’clock… And it was closed. WTF. This is the part of Provence that will take some getting used to. I needed plate hangers and I needed them now! Guess I will have to wait. Patience is not a virtue that this Aries girl comprehends but I’m trying and once I have those platters hung, I’ll be happy. I think they will look great, don’t you? Don’t worry, I haven’t hogged them all… There are a few sets still available in my shop for sale.
So, this is where you’ll find me. Painting, hammering, decorating, cursing and feeling lucky that I have these kind of problems. Thinking of how to solve an ugly floor crisis deters me from remembering that I have ALS and this is just what the doctor ordered. Provence and I are going to make our relationship work, even if it kills us. I’m going to just have to accept the fact that the hardware store will not be open all day, that I will have to search high and low for coconut water, that there is no Uber or midnight Chinese food delivery. But it’s okay, I have the sunshine and I need to just shut the fuck up.
Welcome to Provence!