My Mazamet

Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho

The Complicated Case of Villa Ermo (Mazamet’s Grey Gardens)

Edie Bouvier Beale at Grey Gardens

No news yet on Villa Ermo near the Villa de Mazamet, and my hopes that someone would take it on are beginning to fade. To be honest, I’m not surprised. We were interested in it in early 2013 but we found the price the owners wanted didn’t take into account the state of the place. Good bones just are not enough to justify the price.

Already in 2013 the interiors needed a complete do over. The near decade that has passed has not helped. Imagine that we’ve only been at Number 42 since 2015 and floors have had to have old oxidised wax removed and new wax applied. Rooms have had to be repainted, light fixtures changed or repaired. None of that has been happening at Villa Ermo for a very long time. When one walks in, one feels it. There’s the distinct musty air of Grey Gardens.

But even before one goes in, alarm bells start ringing because the garden looks abandoned. The driveway is hidden under moss and weeds and there are serious cracks around the building. Then before one enters the main doors one is greeted by terrazzo floors so deformed they’re going to have to be broken into with a jackhammer. Then entirely redone.

Once inside one is immediately confronted by a stairlift which makes the stairs seem terribly cramped. Digging that out of the walls will be no easy feat. The paint on the Tudor style panelling in the hall is more than tired, it’s exhausted. Sanding in those crevices will not be fun. Trust the voice of experience! Been there, done that.

The grand living room has beautiful proportions but that’s badly hindered by the broken shutters over the fireplace, chandeliers that are too small and furniture that doesn’t fit the room. Things don’t get better in the dining room. Seventies faux silk textured wallpaper with marks of where paintings once hung, a lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. Textured velvet curtains that would — well, that wouldn’t and shouldn’t. The feeling of a room that hasn’t seen laughter in quite a while. What comes next is what I think is the end of the visit for most, the scullery/wc/kitchen were not created for use by the owners of the house. The kitchen is in an extension far, far away, at the end of a corridor. From the times when we really didn’t care how hard staff had to work. It’s big and cold and north-facing. And that’s just the ground floor.

The bedrooms equally need all sorts of refurbishment, ditto the bathroom(s). For anyone to take the place on, they’ll have to fall madly in love with it and have a lot of time on their hands and money in their pockets. I can easily see the costs of the reforms going into the many hundreds of thousands of euros. Perhaps even more than the price of the house. Fitting a kitchen of that size alone could set you back over sixty thousand euros. And when all the major works are done you have to consider the interiors. Wallpaper, curtains — 12/15 metres of fabric per bedroom. Chandeliers. And the garden, well, I’ve completely lost count of the small fortune we’ve spent on plants.

Anyway, I hope the right people do come along, though I imagine it won’t be easy. I think it’s been on the market since Blair and Chirac were in power.

29 comments on “The Complicated Case of Villa Ermo (Mazamet’s Grey Gardens)

  1. Bizzy
    March 29, 2022

    More, more! What do they want for the place? Do the owners — I imagine they are heirs — know what shape,the place is in? Sounds like there is structural damage and replacing terrazzo, yikes. Roof, foundation? I fell hard for my house and even so, if the roof were shot or the foundation crumbling, I’d have walked away. The buyer is looking at at least a mil to make it habitable in the way a house like that deserves to be habitable. Think total replumbing, rewiring, new heating system, insulation… A lot of money is hidden in the walls.

    Maybe there is one crazy heir holding everything up. Who lived there? Was the place in Grey Gardens condition back then? How does terrazzo fall apart, anyway? We need at least another post here, preferably with photos. Or maybe I’m just nerding out, I don’t know. But I’d love to know more.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      March 30, 2022

      You can actually see it here: https://www.groupe-mercure.fr/acheter/maisons-de-caractere-tarn-393140-8573ts.html The agent has done that appalling thing many agents do which is to hide the problems entirely while also playing with colours and lighting to create an allure that isn’t there once we walk in.
      Like you I also thought this was an inheritance case, but apparently not. The couple bought the house and simply never really proceeded to a proper restoration. The bedrooms and bathrooms were all very much Grey Gardens both then and now. Stacks of books, magazines and clutter and the general air of abandonment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bizzy
        April 3, 2022

        Yeah, they staged it, though they at least knew better than to use that green chesterfield from the catalog, and retouched the photos like crazy. New roof or is that retouched, too? No floor plan, so no way to see the kitchen issues you pointed out. Not much garden, for the size of the house. A house like that wants ensuite bathrooms, big money there. At least a million five, all in, if not two mil or more, worse if Monuments Historiques steps in. It would be difficult, maybe impossible, to get a loan on an uninhabitable house.

        You would have to be cashing in on the sale of something else, or have drug or oligarch money, that kind of thing. Plus you’d have to just love the house. Surely there are better deals out there.

        I’m a sucker for those old-fashioned conservatories, have been ever since I watched “The Big Sleep.” Even knowing what I do about the costs, if I were in the market, I’d want want to at least take a look at the place.

        Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      March 30, 2022

      And I don’t know what went on with the terrazzo, but there’s something like a very large bump you have to step over or avoid. An accident waiting to happen. And yes, absolutely on what’s hiding in the walls, lead pipes to be changed, wiring, all new boiler and heating system and they’ll have to rethink how to do it because the place currently has an ancient oil fired heating system and those are prohibited now; they’ll either have to connect to mains gas or go with something like those pellet affairs which cost a fortune.
      P.S. The picture is the floorless conservatory, to give you an idea of the reality.

      Like

  2. john zande
    March 29, 2022

    Good for murder mystery dinner nights. Or raves.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. karenjane
    March 30, 2022

    It’s sad when once beautiful houses are abandoned for so long.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      March 30, 2022

      It really is! Especially because the longer no work is done on a place the harder it becomes to bring it back to life. Just like with fabric when you don’t remove a stain soon it becomes harder and harder. In their case even the external property walls are encrusted in moss and 120 years of street pollution.

      Like

  4. makagutu
    March 30, 2022

    If there was something called un-marketing, this post is the to go to example. It gives details why, unless one is blind and wealthy, they should reconsider their investment.Good post, Pink.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      March 30, 2022

      A little bit of realism is a good thing. Those property shows on television try to make it all look easy and cheap, and the reality is very different. These houses are a lifetime commitment. They require knowledge and research and time and money. Some people think they can just move in and make do and leave things as they are, and that’s not true at all. You have to have a plan and budget and estimates before you even make the offer. Otherwise it’s insanity.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Helen Devries
    March 30, 2022

    Not to be touched with a bargepole. Our last place in France was like that when we found it – but then we had the energy – and the experienced building team – to put it to rights. The trouble with this place – apart from the alarming details you give about bulges in the floor – is the initial cost of buying it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      March 30, 2022

      That’s precisely it. Starting at 440, by the time the notary fees and taxes are in we’re not very far from 500. Then start adding the repairs, and boom, anything goes wrong and tubes need to be dug up in the garden and it turns into a tragedy.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Steve Ruis
    March 30, 2022

    Once you got to replacing terrazzo, you left my realm of possibility. What a lovely project, were I rich. It would be one of those “pay it forward” projects because you wouldn’t get your money back out through resale, so you’d have to live there for a long time, or just take pleasure in restoring beauty so it can be enjoyed many decades into the future, well, If Putin doesn’t invade southern France.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      March 30, 2022

      It’s a wonderful project. Someone will get to reconfigure it and adapt it to our times. It just has to be the right person.
      France is a nuclear state, so I think we’re somewhat safe 🙂

      Like

    • acflory
      March 30, 2022

      Exactly.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. acflory
    March 30, 2022

    I feel so sad for this house. I know that’s a ridiculous thing to say, but it reminds me of my Mum and Dad’s old house. It was vacant for ten years and vandalised by the local lads before we fell in love with it. Dad had the skills to renovate, but we never had the money to do it justice. Thank they sold it to people who had decent taste and oodles of money. Now it looks glorious. A house that’s loved feels…warm and happy somehow. Don’t laugh. 😦
    I really hope someone like you and Mike comes along and gives the house a new beginning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      March 31, 2022

      Hopefully now that the market is booming someone will be brave enough! What year was your place from? This house was built i 1901

      Liked by 1 person

      • acflory
        March 31, 2022

        Not sure of the exact year but late 1880’s we think. It’s what’s called a Federation Edwardian. Mum and Dad bought it in the 60’s when everyone wanted ‘new’ not old. Fingers crossed someone will fall in love with that Mazamet house too.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Bela Johnson
    April 8, 2022

    Always tempted. Always. We have the skills, and are huge architecture fans. Chris actually made Architectural Digest years ago. But another overseas move? The last one was too stressful. And we might be able to purchase it, but not enough to renovate and live a good life. I think this has always been the case with us! Taste just a bit beyond budget. Ah, well. We are in a beautiful if uber remote location. Guess we’ll have to draw others to Us this time. 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      April 10, 2022

      I think the story of humanity is we always want just a little bit more 🙂 I think you choose magnificent, unique locations of exceptional natural beauty!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bela Johnson
        April 10, 2022

        Thanks. Realizing this more and more. How freaking lucky we are. 🙏❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: The Difficulties with Villa Ermo Pt. 2 | My Mazamet

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This entry was posted on March 29, 2022 by in Mazamet and tagged , , , , , , .
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