Ara (short for Arabella) is a retired American teacher living in a small village outside of Carcassonne, France. Several years ago she fell in love with and purchased her "Little House" of only 50 square meters, with a small courtyard and a substantial open shelter at the back of the lot. "Houses of this size are often referred to as a Maison de Poupee, a Doll's house," she told Green Seniors. Ara generously sent Green Seniors some photographs and her personal narrative of living in her small home.
That's Ara's front door outlined in red and just above, the shuttered window of a bedroom.
Ara talks about her street and neighbors:
"The house is on a quiet street where several related families have their houses. I feel safe in a clan-like neighborhood where the women sweep the streets and pick up dog poop if necessary. They take care of stray cats and have flower boxes. Best of all, my little house is between two other stone village houses which provide insulation and protection from the famous winds that drive people crazy in this area."
"My idea was to live simply in a house that reminded me of a summer house on a Greek island."
Ara explained the floor plan:
"The house has two small bedrooms on the top floor. The bottom floor has the entrance, a tiny airplane-sized bathroom with a shower under the stairs, and a lovely kitchen with a fireplace. My small rooms are very cozy and have doors that can be shut to conserve heat. The kitchen and top floor bedroom/office have windows that look out onto the lovely south-facing courtyard which provides beautiful light and extends the sense of the house. The courtyard is like another room. The southern view from the top floor window looks toward a sea of tiled roofs."
Of course there were some challenges:
"I had no idea what problems one would encounter when moving into a 300 year old house. I needed to ground the electricity (!) and rewire the house. Next I needed a new roof. Recently I had two double paned windows installed. The window surrounds literally had to be sculpted to fit the standard sized windows. I wanted to replace the front and back doors but I realized the openings are not a standard size, where I can just go out and buy a new door. At the moment I can't face that. Also I can't face the cracks in the ceiling on the top floor which indicate the ceiling might just cave in and need to be replaced. I am assured that won't happen for a few years."
"We (Ken my savior handyman) and I just finished painting the kitchen yellow and blue a la Monet's Giverney kitchen. We took out an old stone sink which was a mess and bought a unit with a stainless steel sink, which I love. (I never thought I would love a sink!) We reconfigured the work surfaces and storage, and installed a washing machine. Washing machines are quite usual for a French kitchen."
"Since I really hate to cook, all I have is a microwave/convection oven and an electric kettle. The gas burner for friends who like to cook will be outside in the shed, which will be a summer kitchen.
"I can comfortably entertain three or four guests in my kitchen. Once the courtyard is ready I can entertain about eight people. For larger parties I will plan picnics in beautiful places."
"After living in the little house for a while I am becoming aware that it would be difficult for me to live here with another person. It's a house for just one person. Having a guest here for more than four days would be a problem. Even a large man might take up too much space. This brings me to another awareness: most French women over 55 do not want a man in the house!"
Probably Ara's beloved house cat Lulu would agree with that.
Thank you, Ara for sharing your home with us. We can see that in such a small space you can't own very much beyond what is essential for your needs. Your ecological footprint must be quite small. It's also apparent that you take great pleasure in your charming dwelling and find life there filled with beauty and meaning.