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The Next Supergite?

Court

Image by Supergites via Flickr

Have you ever looked for a house and found one that was so grand that, even though it was way over your capabilities, you just had to see the inside? It happened to us with this ‘Ferme Des Dames’ near Reims.

Accidentally we ran into this object online. Hugo send me the url and asked me what I would do with this Farm and Chapel. I fell instantly in love with the view, the stones and the atmosphere. These combined form this unique peaceful place to unwind. I could see myself gardening a little in the early morning overlooking the dewy valley. Or sit in the courtyard sipping wine made from the grapes over the terrace. Meanwhile the kids of our friends are running around with a ball. But *G* Continue reading

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Goat for Rent

Do you recognize this problem? You got a beautiful garden but there’s this one corner that is always a bit of a mess. It’s just too rocky, too weedy or too damp. As a good gardener you’re just about able to hide it behind the roses or some bush. But it’s there to irritate you every time you take that better look in your green paradise.

We have this problem too. It’s 4,000 m2 ūüôā

We own this enormous field. Walk out of the kitchen, through the orchard and pass through the flower garden, climb the dyke and there it is… one acre of weed. *Gosh* what to do with it? We cut it the first summer, tried to poison it the second but this year we lost the energy to even look at it until now. We have the perfect solution: Let’s Rent a Goat. This is the official call to our fellow¬†denizen:

Chers amis de Tourteron,

Nous¬†avons¬†4,000¬†m√®tre carr√©¬†qui est inutilis√©.¬†Il est plein¬†de¬†mauvaises herbes.Connaissez-vous quelqu’un¬†qui¬†a¬†une¬†ch√®vre¬†qui a besoin de¬†plus¬†d’espace?Nous¬†aimerions¬†apporter¬†notre¬†territoire¬†de placer¬†la¬†ch√®vre.¬†Elle¬†peut¬†mangertoutes les¬†mauvaises herbes¬†gratuitement.

Marco et Hugo

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Looking for a super g√ģte?

Check out our official website at supergites.nl.

A g√ģte ¬†is a French holiday home that is available for rent. G√ģtes are usually fully furnished and equipped for self-catering. Many owners choose to handle their own rentals, and you can find these by searching online on the multitude of listing sites or by checking with the local tourist information office. [wikipedia]

A g√ģte is generally an old farmworkers’ cottage or converted outbuilding. This type of holiday accommodation is sometimes regarded as ‘basic’ in terms of facilities; however, some g√ģtes will have excellent facilities. Now that called a super g√ģte.

This blog tells the story behind the first Superg√ģte; on how we got there and how we’re doing today. Happy reading.

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The Lavital Pictures

Lavital, the luxury brand of our box spring beds, selected the water mill as the décor for this years collection of promotional pictures. Last weekend they organized their photo shoot. We arrived one day later to find a complete make over of the mill. Everything was turned upside down but the result was astonishing.

It’s just amazing what a good stylist can do.¬†The new pictures for the 2010/2011 brochure had to match the colours of the new Lavital ‘a deeper luxury’ campaign. The selection of natural materials, bed covers, side tables and ceramic cups that Caroline Pluym made, added the right atmosphere to the house and beds. It just lifted the complete set to a whole new international level. In all the pictures the Lavital beds look like a dream come true with a WOW factor that just pushes your eagerness.

And it’s not just the styling that did the job. Marc Dorleijn, the photographer has also the right eye to capture the space and the perfect patience to wait for that natural light. We knew the mill has interesting chances of light. The sun really turns from early morning sparkles on one side to a full blast on the other side of the mill. Till now we’ve not seen anybody being able to catch that in a picture. All the pictures are so vividly breathing that sun. The mill looks ten times as beautiful as the real deal.

I hope to life up those new expectations of the Supergites … I trust the facts: “seeing is believing” ūüôā

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First Renters @ Supergites

Le d√©but des locataires .. finally .. Judgement day was there. The first renters have finished the first holiday in the very first Supergites. Now we’re left with so many questions. What did they do? How do they think about the mill? Where did they go shopping? Did they sleep well?

I’ve send the registered renter a small questionnaire to gather some information. He replied the same day with some minor comments we agree upon immediately. They LOVED the mill and made some great work. OMG .. we cannot explain how relieved we are. To thank us they’ve send us some small sketches of the mill and Tourteron ūüôā

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A first Super night in our own G√ģte

After 11 months of hard work, miles of traveling to and from France, laboring the garden and sanding the wood it was finally the moment that the beds arrived. We worked double shifts in the last weeks to get everything ready to install the beds immediately at their final place. The beds are huge and heavy, 100% natural material and fairtrade produced .. besides that they are gorgeous looking …

We had to wait all this time not because of the production but because of our own delay. The whole renovation took more time than estimated due to several reasons. You can read about them in the blog.

But this was THE day .. the day followed by the first night in our own Supergite, sleeping in our brand new beds.  Continue reading

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Sustainable Sleeping in CAPS

NEW YORK - JULY 08:  Drivers wait in traffic d...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

We drive a car ‚Äďgross modo‚Äď 2 hours a day and sleep between 6 to 8 hours a day. Yet we are willing to spend five times as much on a car than on a bed. Do you get it? Maybe your car gives space to the whole family and brings you to far off places. Maybe a new car gives you status or is a subject of reliability (disregarding Toyota). Maybe a new car is less polluting when we’re all in traffic going to work. Or maybe you don’t care about a good sleep …

Continue reading

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10 Tips for People Who Want to Buy French Property

As you know from reading this blog, we’ve been through a lot of stuff to buy our French mill. I thought it was nice to turn some of our experiences into tips. If you’re interested in a little French place to spend the next level in your life at, read these carefully…and then do as you please. ūüôā

1. Target wisely.
France is HUGE. Compared to the Netherlands or Belgium or even other European countries, France is simply enormous. So be very specific about where you’d like your home. This sounds logical but-‚Äďtrust me‚Äď-a distance that feels a bit far away the first time does NOT get any closer. Use a pair of compasses to divine a range.

2. Check distance.
Calculate whether you could drive the distance on your own. Your partner might not come with you every time and you might need to drive to and from in one day or overnight. Four to six hours is OK. Over six to eight hours is stretching it. Over eight hours is crazy. You can fly, but you never know how expensive that might become in the future.

3. Check route.
Some places, even within the logical distance, take much longer to drive to. For instance: passing Antwerp on a Friday means one hour extra. Also, yet of a different order, check whether there are more ways to get there. Driving by Charleroi is NO fun. It’s an ugly town and the route is not the most pleasant. (We prefer to drive by Namur; this means green landscape until our front porch.) The route should be relaxing. You drive there when you need some extra peace, not¬†to arrive stressed because the traffic kills you.

4. Make up your mind.
What kind of house are you looking for? What will you use it for? Do you plan to share it with friends and relatives¬†or just use it yourselves? There’s a large variety within types of houses to buy. Make a checklist of things you like to do in and around your house. Do you feel like doing nothing at all for the next 10 years? Then buy a small house without a lot of land. Do you want to entertain friends at your place? Buy something with an extra room, and make sure there’s some sightseeing within a 50-km drive.

5. Seek out peace (in yourself).
If you’d like to find peace in France, make sure the house offers it. A sweet, hidden place in the forest might look serene, but it’s remote and available for anybody–meaning unwelcome strangers–to pay a visit. There’s nobody to check. We preferred a place that is within walking distance from a town. Why?¬† Because everybody knows the property and will know you and your car. The French do check who drives into¬†and out of their village. This neighbor patrol might be unwanted by some,¬†but it’s also keeping an eye on what’s happening when you’re NOT there. Your French house should give you peace, not fear and worry.

6. Go there more than once.
The French and the real estate people want you to decide quickly. “Listen, you are the first to see.¬†I have other people waiting. Blah blah.” Don’t buy it–it’s just a way to pressure you. If it’s true, then bad luck for you, but most of the time it’s bullocks. Try to lengthen your decision period. Going there more than once gives you a better insight of the house, the sounds, the town, the light. You don’t want to wake up next to a railway that you really can’t see but definitely can hear (at night).

7. Spend money on advice.
I guess this goes for everyone buying property. If you’re not a regular buyer of properties, ask someone to come and check your future house. Ask an independent and impartial¬†French/English speaker to help you negotiate. This person should not have any chauvinistic feelings towards the French, nor should they¬†have a¬†relationship with any of the other participants. It can be a building constructor with an eye for the construction or just a businessman with a nose for saving you money. Everybody will tell you a different story. You need him/her to get the message straight.

8. Do not agree on any price before you’re sure.
The French really don’t like you to come back on a deal. Nobody likes to hear: “Wait a minute, we’d like to renegotiate.” Sometimes it’s inevitable, like when we discovered our land floods twice a year. They forgot to tell us: yeah right. So back to the table. We got 10% off in the end, but we surely didn’t make any friends. Also, you could make a wish list of what you like and be so direct to add that list¬†to the requirements for the deal. We added the permission for a tennis court and swimming pool. Granted.

9) Ask around.
We found a chambre d’hote in the area where many people with the same mission stayed over. That helps BIG time for multiple aspects. A) During dinner you can ask who’s who in the area, B) find property for sale that’s not being listed yet, C) make friends close to your property who are dealing with the same issues.
It also doesn’t hurt to have some information on the property itself that does not come from the owners. They–including attorney, agent, and whoever else¬†is involved‚Äď-will not tell you everything. We used our French advisor to call the mayor and some neighbors to get the full picture.

10) Follow your heart.
If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. Stones do have a vibe.

Off the record: Learn French! ūüėÄ

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First Act

First Act

First Act

Every play has its First Act: the part with the first signs of the story line. It unfolds what we have tasted in the Prelude. For our adventure of the Super G√ģtes that First Act was today.

The previous owners started renovating the kitchen–but stopped right when they finished the ceiling. You can see the electricity points where they wanted to hang the lights. They came no further than a light bulb. That IS convenient, but not pretty. The ceiling was OK and yet we opened it, smashed it with a hammer.

I consider this to be the First Act. The demolition of what is there. All you have seen of the interior will be gone soon, coated with a thin layer of white dust. Dead electricity wires sticking out of the stone walls and no sewer to release your daily pressure. This division of the ‘show’ will reveal the death of an old house and take around¬†one ¬†month (I hope).

We will tear down the kitchen, the bathroom, the ceiling of chambre 2, the sewer system, the electricity plan, the walls of chambre 3, and the roof of the right wing. Then we’ll¬†make holes in the roof of the living room. Uff! When¬†I think about it I feel my heart pounding. The first act is a dangerous spectacle of dust and stones…debris is the magic word. It will be messy.

From the dust it will rise: the best holiday home you can imagine. ūüôā

And the kitchen ceiling? We know now it can contain the extraction hood.

You can see what’s there now here and what will be there then there.

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The Start of a Dream

Entrance

How ¬†do dreams start, you wonder? Well, this one started at the ancient monastery of Belval Bois des Dames in the heart of the Lorraine.¬†As we walked¬†through the half-demolished house, all kind of visions passed through our minds. We were completely fascinated by the atmosphere of the ancient building and the peaceful green valley. Hidden in a dark forest surrounded by fields of cows owned by¬†the only farmer of the valley–who also happened to be the mayor of Belval (population: 80).

Priory and Chapel The monastery used to be much bigger than the current barn (left), priory (center) and chapel (right). The priory is 16th century, the chapel dating a few centuries older. The whole complex was protected by large wall of which you can still see the foundations in the field around the buildings.

From the outside the house looks more or less undamaged. It still has its proud, religious stature. The symmetric facade of the priory carved in the yellow sand stone is magnificent. The chapel to the right had been in use until the late ’50s. The mayor even went there for ceremonies.

First floorThe inside is a different story. Everything was torn down, with rubbish and debris everywhere. Yet this is where the dream started! We were drawing a picture of these rooms in minimal design with just a few local wooden artifacts that matched the exterior. You don’t need much if the building has this feel: a simple H√§stens bed, good light design, a rain-style shower, stone walls with limestone floors, a wooden cross or a statue of some saint. Perfect. The old abbey would live again for people¬†who are looking for tranquility with quality.

And so it happened. The Super Gite concept was born.

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