The other day my husband and I were walking in the Achterhoek, an area in the East of the Netherlands. It’s very green there with many woods and fields. At one point we reached a little open spot in the middle of the woods with a house tucked away in the corner. The house had the best views of sloping maddows, a bit of a hill and off course the woods. It was for sale.
We are not looking to move anytime soon but one can have dreams right? I poked my hubby in the side and said “wouldn’t that make a dream home?” He shrugged a bit and said the house looked a bit too boring. Granted; the house is not spectacular, but I was hoping he could look past that and spot the potential. We argued a bit as I am really bad with people not agreeing with my taste and I pointed out a few of the possibilities. You can paint the house white, add a porch, redo the garden, maybe even add a conservatory. Somehow he was not convinced.
I thought I’d try to show him, and others among you who might not be able to see through things, what magic a lick of paint and a few personal touches here and there can do.
Let’s take this rather dull house for example.
On the market for ‘just’ € 472.500, andlocated in the very heart of the Netherlands, in Wilnis. This small town is a mere 15 minutes drive from our capitol Amsterdam and about the same distance from another large city; Utrecht. It has wonderful views to both the back and front, a large and deep garden, a garage and plenty of room for extensions to both the front and the back of the house. As it is there are three bedrooms, one downstairs, a wash room, a large and sunny living room, a kitchen, a garage and plenty of storage. But we’ll start with the exterior.
Let’s see what happens when we paint the brick walls white, the woodwork black or dark blue, add a porch, a dormer and make it spring (God bless Microsoft’s Paint tools!) We need to get rid of those ugly wintergreen trees and bushes. They are by no means indigenous to the area and look out of tone in this anything but woodland surroundings.
My photo editing skills are limited, but I’d say this is a dramatic change. Don’t you agree?
This could do magic if you want to flip the house too!
It would be such a great challenge to actually do this in real live. I am going to try to redo the back of th house too and show the results here. Maybe I’ll even have a go at the garden!
Here the back and the garden as they are now. Let me think what you would do or change!
I think two classical double doors would make a good start. Maybe a conservatory?
This is the garden as seen from right by the end of the garage. It has so much potential!
*Sigh* one day……….
UPDATE: To see altered photographs of the back, check here!
When we were in France last, which was for our honeymoon, we decided that if we keep doing well in our jobs, we would like to buy a second home in France. Nothing fancy obviously, just a nice hideaway ideally within a 5 or 6 hour drive. Since we have a dog it needs to have a garden. Also, we want to be able to entertain so we need at least one extra bedroom, but preferably two. We don’t need a pool, but if it is close to somewhere to swim I especially would be thrilled to bits.
I start my search looking for homes in the Champagne, Normandy, Ardennes, Somme, Picardy, and Pas de Calais areas. I have always felt that the last area, Pas de Calais, is suffering from the fact that people know it from the boring roads to either the tunnel or the ferry ports. However, the capital, Arras, alone is well worth the visit to this underestimated part of France. The countryside is equally surprising as these pictures show.
The first site I am giving a try is called Green-acres.com. That sounds like they might understand our needs.
I look for houses anywhere in the Northern departements within a price bracket of 0 to 100.000 euro, minimum of 2 bedrooms and a garden. The site comes back with many houses, a lot of them town houses, horrible flats in Metz or terraced suburban houses. But one house between the first couple of hits strikes me as a charmer.
It’s in Bourbonne les Bains which is about an hour from Nancy.
The property is a huge U shaped building with lots of space of which 190m2 is currently inhabitable. The french standard for inhabitable differs from ours, as the pictures reveal, but still. The roof was recently done up, and it has a huge garden in the back. All this for a small 43.000 euro!
There must be a catch… But the website doesn’t mention anything apart from the need of renovation. To be fair, that is always more than one anticipates, but we are talking holiday home here. If there’s a kitchen with running water and a stove, a shower and toilet and a roof, I call it home. Besides, it might be fun to go there for a few weeks and get real sweaty and do bits myself. It looks like a bucket, soap, broom, vacuum cleaner and lots and lots of bin liners will make for a great start.
But let’s see what else is on offer here.
Near the same town, also about 6 hours driving from Amsterdam is this house in the town of Melay. It’s location is not as rural, and the price is a bit higher, but it looks immaculate. It just needs a bit of paint maybe. The garden in the back looks big enough for entertaining and a barbecue.
Imagine that fence and those shutters in off white, pale blue or maybe even dark blue or black. Then put some ivy on the fence in the backyard to obstruct the neighbours from watching in. Put up a wrought iron lantern or two and voila, instant Paradise! This house is for sale for 93.000 euro.
Again in the same area (is this a nuclear test site maybe?) a more modern type property for 68.000. It’s all done up and ready to be moved in to but just doesn’t really offer that French charm we are looking for. So let’s explore other, greener acres and leave green-acres.com for now.
The next site is called French-property.com. It immediately lives up to it’s name as it opens with a page full of offers and also a small article about housing prices in Nord Pas de Calais. Apparently the Brits have already discovered the convenient closeness to their home country so prices have gone up, to over the roof in some parts. I decide to look in the entire North of France again. I enter the same search details as before.
The very first hit is a barn that has yet to be converted. Again, this property is located near Bourbonne les Bains. I guess this is where one can still find cheap real estate. In this case it requires extensive restoration and conversion. Mind you, the barn only costs 16.500 euro’s so that should leave plenty of financial room for a great job in those departments. The structure itself looks rather shaky here and there. But it looks solid in most parts. Hopefully filling up the The roof is in obvious need of work, and there is no way to live there yet. But with patience, love, some cash and determination this barn could be reshaped into a true gem of a holiday home. The orchard that comes with the property make it worth a closer look.
I will see if I can find any examples of converted French barns to show.
As you can see just a quick scan of the options already made for three wonderful prospect holiday homes. With a bit more knowledge of the different areas, patience and time, one should be able to find a lovely house for well under 100.000 euro within a half day drive of Amsterdam. I wish we could already start looking for ours, but let’s see if we need cash to get that balcony in first.