What It’s like to Renovate a Gorgeous French Farmhouse
So, how often do you dream of running away to a French countryside? Because after burning-out on the demands of simultaneously owning a storefront in Salt Lake City and frequently jet-setting to India for her handmade jewelry line, Ida James actually followed through on that vision in 2017. Thanks to leisurely summer trips she’d taken, she knew La Croisille-sur-Briance in the Limousin region was just the place for her to slow things waaay down with her husband Adam and pre-teen twins. Their first undertaking: renovating a hundreds-year-old stone house and studio, which, Ida admits, wasn’t the most relaxing way to spend their first year. But, hey, that’s all part of the adventure.
“We were living a very fast-paced life, working constantly and trying to raise a family. We decided that we would like a different pace, and the idea of living internationally felt exciting. Limousin is known for its farming community and is dotted with lakes and rolling hills. I was in love with the culture and food and felt that I’d found my artistic hub. It’s a perfect escape for artists seeking refuge from the distractions of modern life.”
“I start each day by going for a walk or bike ride, rain or shine. I like to study French and then get to work in the studio until my kids get home from school. Most of our family time is spent outside picking fruit and going for walks. Dinner time is sacred to us, and we try to sit down together every evening. When the sun starts to set, I water my plants and take another walk around the property so that I connect to nature morning and night. This is a perfect place to feel the rhythms of the seasons and to notice the smell of the air and what time the birds sing. The drastic change has been difficult in some ways, but I really love the life we have created here.”
“There are four separate buildings on our property. My favorite is the traditional stone farmhouse that was built in the 1700s and has been essentially untouched over the last 200 years. It has the original stone stove, adjoining bread oven, and cobblestone pebble floors. We’re currently renovating, so soon it will be used as my studio space. Most of my production for my line is done in India, so the studio will be used for drawing, painting, and office work."
“The renovation has been a loooong haul and really frustrating at times, but, in a way, it has allowed me to be quite thoughtful about the details. We sandblasted the space first, removing all of the black soot that had accumulated from the wood stove. It revealed so many hidden details and completely restored the space to its original state. The cobblestone floors were buried under two inches of compact dirt!”
THE PERMANENT HOME
“Our home was built in 1960 and is a traditional modern farmhouse with four levels. It’s a simple, humble home that is beautiful in its imperfections. I love how the stone walls and mosaic-tiled floors keep it cool throughout the summer. I really love the original details like the windows and radiators. It’s really just the overall simplicity and understated nature of our house that feels so special. I try to find as much of our decor and hardware as possible at vide greniers (flea markets) and second-hand stores. There are incredible vintage lights to be found in Paris. All of our hall lights were the original lighting from the Bordeaux library.”