18 May 2012

Le Petit Bijou, A Village House In St Remy De Provence

le petit bijou, saint remy, france, rental, house, holiday, provence, french essence, vicki archer

I took a walk down memory lane this week.

I have a new project in Saint Rémy de Provence… a tiny village house that I am about to start restoring. We bought it eighteen long months ago with the hope of having it renovated and ready this year. Not to be… the official wheels move slowly in France and especially when the house is right in the centre of an historic village. But that’s ok… If I have learned nothing else from my time in Provence… it is patience. Things happen when they are good and ready… approvals and certificates are much the same. To have a building permit in the centre of a village such as this is a laborious process… but with reason… there are many factors to consider… the most important is what could be hiding underneath your property. The area is ripe with Roman antiquities so the powers that be are very conscious to preserve anything of archaeological importance. The great news is we have our approvals and we are ready to start work… as soon as we choose les enterprises.

The reason I mentioned ‘memory lane’ is that the process of choosing the builder, the plumber, the electrician, the painter, the iron monger and others is such a sentimental one for me. I loved this process when we planned and restored our farmhouse and I can’t wait to delve right back in again. Building is different in France, or here at least and the contractors are engaged separately rather than coming under the one umbrella. In this case the architect will manage the project and the sub-contractors will be employed independently from one another. The delightful thing for me is that I am working with the same architect… Hugues Bosc is the most charming man and has impeccable taste… it was such a pleasure to be back in his bureau talking about fixtures and finishes… bedrooms and bathrooms… terracotta and stone… As we talked through the plans and he mentioned the contractors that may be available to start work on le petit bijou… (that’s the name I would like to call this house, because it really is a little jewel)… I was so happy to hear that many of them are the same enterprises that worked on our farmhouse all those years ago. Over the time that we worked together I grew so fond of these people… they were all artisans in their own right and together we created a beautiful home.

The work will hopefully start in the next few months and realistically le petit bijou will be ready for Easter next year… fingers crossed. Although the house is petite, everything must be renovated. We are changing the layout to have a kitchen and living area downstairs with two bedrooms and a small terrace upstairs. The view from the upstairs windows is adorable as it looks back towards Le Musée des Alpilles… A museum to explore for an understanding of the region and it’s history. I can’t wait to start work on this… it has been a long time coming… The only issue that could stop work is the running of the bulls in the summer… As good an excuse as any… Right?

Over the next few months I would like to document and share the project with you… from the good, the bad and the ugly… from the beginning to the end… The photograph today is for inspiration… it is not le petit bijou but another charming entranceway in Saint Rémy… and a reminder for me to safeguard the charm and the authenticity of our little village house… xv

If you would like to read my story of creating a home in France… My French Life


VA In Your Inbox

subscribe for updates from vickiarcher.com


Martine Alison

Saint Rémy est un village que j’affectionne… Fut un temps, il n’est pas loin et pas complètement révolu, je recherchais une petite maison de village à Saint Rémy. Cependant je voulais un jardin… Plus difficile.
Rien ne s’est présenté à moi… J’étais extrêmement déçue, mais comme je suis assez têtue, je ne désespère pas, peut-être qu’un jour elle se présentera cette maison de mes rêves.
Je comprends votre agacement en ce qui concerne les demandes diverses de permis ou autorisations et encore de la planification des différents corps de métiers en France et plus particulièrement dans le sud.
Lorsque j’avais ma maison à Port-Grimaud, j’avais dû faire appel à plusieurs entrepreneurs de la région Stéphanoise (SAINT-ETIENNE) pour que le travail se réalise rapidement et surtout correctement.
J’espère que votre petit bijou prendra rapidement vie, mais je suis certaine que dans un écrin comme Saint-Rémy il ne pourra que briller…
Gros bisous à vous

Linda Carswell

I look forward to your new project…..nothing nicer than a job such as this, wether it be a renovation or a new build, it is always exciting!!!!
Linda x

Helen Tilston

Good Morning Vicki

Congratulations on acquiring this petit bijou.

It is refreshing to read that you look forward to working with your craftsmen again. This speaks volumes about your professionalism, nature and understanding spirit.
I will be following with great interest your progress.

Helen xx


Oh how ridiculously exciting!!! Such a treasure that you are going to bring back to life. I can’t wait to follow your journey Vicki. I’ll be your resident stalker. A-M xx


Cant wait to travel along with you through the renovation process. I’ve enjoyed dreaming about being able to do such a thing and enjoyed re-reading On Rue Tatin several times. I’m seeing a new book in the near future.

Heather in Arles

I was practically bouncing up and down in my chair…until I got to the last sentence!…as I have photographed the same house, with the same roses myself. Regardless, I will most certainly be very eager indeed to follow along with the whole kit n’Kaboodle of your renovation process. How fantastic that you will get to use so many of the same people that you know and trust. That is saying something here where changing the door of a dryer can take 5 weeks! ;)

So glad that it is all a go!!! It is going to be amazing…

Francine gardner

Dear VickI:
That sounds divine! a fun beautiful project. What are your plans for the house afterwards, an extension of your farm as a guest house? Cannot wait to follow the process.


Wonderful news…..it will such fun following along with you as le petit bijou is brought back to life but keeps its historic roots intact. I recall the long process my brother went through in the Languedoc near Carcassonne when restoring their village house too!

The climbing rose outside the house in your photo is so beautiful – I recall the pretty buildings throughout St. Remy when I was there a few years ago. Hope to return some day and spend more time. Vicki, will you be renting le petit bijou by chance?

Have fun with this project – it must feel so good having people you trust and can rely on to do a stellar job for you.

Hugs – Mary


Should we be lucky enough to return to Provence..this is one place we want to visit.What a charming find for you..
It is so interesting to read lovely Martine~Alison’s comments also.
Very interesting..I will be happy to watch your progress..And am looking forward to seeing more photos.

Thyme (Sarah)

What a wonderful opportunity. This will be a delightful (and I know…sometimes NOT delightful) process to watch. Who doesn’t love a delicious makeover?


Oh yes, please do share. My son specialized in restoring Victorian houses in our area. I followed along with each project and enjoyed it all. While your process will be quite different, it will be so interesting. Beautiful.

Tricia Heliker

How exciting for you. I too love the process of renovation and working creatively with contractors to make the vision a reality. It is pure joy for me so I truly do understand your eager anticipation.

Lisa DeNunzio

Vicki, I can’t wait to follow the progress of your historic renovation. I too love all things old and fantasize about restoring (another) old home. We have previously restored our historic home in Coral Gables and I secretly yearn for another project. One never know……. I await your progress reports, however slowly they come…. Best, Lisa


Sounds like a fun project. Watching it come together is always the most fun! Love the entry way with potted climbing rose. Such an elegant, and fragrant, way to enter.


How wonderful! Can;t wait to see the progress on this one, But
tell me; when is a house in France anywhere NOT in an historic part?


Congratulations and we are so very lucky to be able to watch the entire process as you make your way through it all! Thank you. Noelle

Trish Murphy

Hello VIcki, I am going to really enjoy going on this journey with you whilst you are restoring your lovely village house. We are going to start building a lovely new
home by the ocean in Newport ( Sydney) and I feel excited and overwhelmed at the same time. We had a very difficult time getting our DA permit with neighbors
being very territorial and not wanting to share views!!!!!! We will start in a few months time so it will be about the time that you commence your project.
I will be so intrigued to see what you achieve with this home. I loved reading My
French Life some years ago which then led to your fabulous blog.
Reading about your new home will help keep me sane ( I hope) .XxTrish

Leslie in Little Rock

You are fixing this up so I can come stay, Noi ? Bonne!! You are sweet! (-: Really…I’m loving all things French Essence that you are sharing!!! Daily clicks, gardens, petite abodes, pretty pictures etc. You are so inspiring! You make me want to get out my Rosetta French and start studying!! (-: Merci’

Elizabeth Kirkpatrick

How Grand to have a project so dear to your heart!I look forward to the photos and updates!Who will get to stay in this petite abode?Will it be a guest house or will you rent it out?I may need to pop over to your side of the world!Please do a post on your dog!Its been awhile since we have seen a photo!!!!!!!!Have you met Heather from LOST IN ARLES?Is she as wonderful as her BLOG?Seems to me there was a comment somewhere that said I will see you soon!Off and running to water the jardin!
xxx La Contessa

Veronique Savoye

Bonjour Vicki. What wonderful news! A “maison de village” (or, in larger towns,) a “maison de ville” have always been my favorite pieces of property in France. They provide some privacy while allowing you to enjoy village/city life, and neighbors. You are brave to tackle such a project, but I have no doubt you will see it through, having already done so at your other beautiful property. Bonne chance avec les artisans et l’Administration! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Peggy Braswell

The creative process of renovating a home is so thrilling + The trades people sound divine. I will love following your progress. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com


Oh I can hardly wait for all of this…..My French LIfe – The Sequel !!!! I love this little place already. Just look how that climbing rose has flung her arm over the window so gracefully. This was meant to be V.

the paris apartment

Hi Vicki, what a project! If it’s anything like your home now it will be magical! Amazing how much there is to do. Can’t wait to see the project progress!

Shiree Segerstrom

Oh Vicki, how thrilling for you and how covenient for we readers, that you are refurbishing this charming cottage! I personally can’t wait to read about it. One thing though, I hope you will be sharing more pictures. The single image you posted just wasn’t enough! My favorite little tea pot and beautiful blue piecrust platter were purchased on my trip to St. Remy and I cherish them always. They are out, stored in plain site to be seen and enjoyed daily. Charming cottage in a wonderful town. Shiree’

Jeanne McKay Hartmann

Vicki, I’m so looking forward to taking this journey with you – thanks for taking us all along on your ride. I feel like you set me off on a meditation on patience today, something I don’t always have. Merci!


This is wonderful Vicki and I can’t wait for your installments. It will be interesting to hear how some of the decisions are made and why, quite informative really, especially when you have a stable of artisans ready and experienced!
Good Luck!


What wonderful news! I’ve been wondering since your mention of the purchase last year when your plans would reveal themselves! Now the fun of watching the restoration/renovation project unfold with your lovely photos and prose. Can’t wait!

Karen in CT

.. we can go because we’ve lived through the movie and books .. Year In Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun .. so there’s some framework to put all your adventures … best for you is that all the local workers know you and your current house, so you are an “insider” … maybe this will go quicker … the updates will be great, Peter … xo

Angela Ridge


Looks enchanting, Love the roses, they have your name written all over them! I have a couple of questions about possibly renting a house down there in the Summer, do you think that you could email me so that I could mail you back if that isn’t being too bold?

Can’t wait to follow your progress, we are working on our own renovation project here in Antwerp, Belgium!

Thanks in advance Vicki
Angela x

Kate Gumbley

What wonderful news, I will be following this process happily in my favourite Provençal Village. I know it will look stunning Vicki, and I can’t wait to return and see it. Happy renovating.

suan see Tan

We are so lucky to share this new adventure with you! Simply can’t wait ! Congrats, Vicki!

Monica Hart

In my next life….may I please come back as you?! You never cease to inspire. Can’t wait to follow along
on this leg of your journey!


Un joli projet Vicki,je vais pouvoir le suivre en vrai…je vois très bien où se trouve ce petit bijou.

Belle journée malgré ce mauvais temps.




I envy you and those of you who have commented about the “delight” you have in renovations. We have a house in the south-west of France and both my husband and I know what we want but it is taking us a long time to commit. Perhaps “lurking” in on your journey will help us begin ours. Sigh.

Sally-Ann Cottle

How charming, I do agree, it can be so tempting to over renovate, the trick is how much to leave of the old. Unfortunately I let my builder on my first ever renovation talk me into replacing things I never should have allowed in one of our dear little workers cottages on our property. I will regret it forever as it lost so much of its charm and authenticity. I will never make this mistake again! Look forward to seeing your ongoing progress. Sally-Ann x

Lisa | Renovating Italy

Ohhhh yes I’ll be reading along!!

We are on our 16th renovation and soon to start the house in Italy. An incredible property in Veravo, Liguria which needs the works. Your elegantly restored home will be a wonderful touchstone with all the months of hard slog ahead of us.

ciao lisa x

Fran Drew

You have such amazing taste Vicki, I can’t wait to share your renovating journey.
Having recently Project Managed a major renovation in the country of NSW Australia, I look forward to seeing your historic renovation in Provence.
I love my Daily “Fix” of French Essence and have promised my daughters that we will visit one day. Hopefully this beautiful home will be available for us the rent and we may truly experience village life.

Best of Luck,
Fran x


This is exciting news Vicki, I’ll be watching every bit of progress with great interest. What better way to discover the delights – and nightmares – hidden in a real French cottage than see you uncover its secrets. Recently I’ve been considering making a mini French cottage so this project of yours is particularly timely :)

Juliana Berthier Florence

Dear Vicki,

I love your blog which I have been reading for a log time.
St. Rémy touched our heart when we stayed at Nostradamus street in a 500 years old charming renovated house!!! your post brought back wonderful memories.
We plan going to St Rémy again with our kids to show them how charming everything is and may be your Petit Bijou will be the place to stay!!!
I wish you all the best in your new project!!!
Cheers from Brazil.


Im so excited for you and thank you for taking us on the journey – cant wait to see it take shape!! Xx

Slim Paley

I’m so Late to the party, but I agree with everyone- How ridiculously exciting!! Congratulations!
Can’t wait to share in the process (at least visually :) )


Virginia Kidd

Hi Vicki,
Thank you for sharing your beautiful blog , I have been following your adventures for the past 12month’s…my husband and I are both from Sydney …and are holidaying in the the South of France for 3month’s.

I am currently here in St.Remy..and would love the opportunity to meet you and perhaps..enjoy a visit to your newest project..your Petit Bijou

We are staying only 500 meters from the centre of the village…
Thank you….
Virginia and Nick

Beadboard UpCountry

This is so cute and what fun youare going to have, just read your latest blog can’t wait to se where you put everything and I love the mirror frame…….. As well as the other gems!!!!!!!! Bonnce Chance with it and enjoy!!!Maryanne xo


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

powered by chloédigital