Anna Bibby’s adventurous French farmhouse reno

You have to wonder what goes as a result of the mind of a lady like Anna Bibby. At age 54, she sells her profitable Auckland artwork gallery and heads to France, regardless of not knowing a soul or talking a word of French.

After there, she remembers she in no way did have a present for languages, getting dyslexic. But she is sensible and hardworking, so undaunted she buys a rundown dwelling in the medieval village of Martel and embarks on the renovation herself, scaling wobbly scaffolding to paint the interior although artisans offer to antediluvian electrics and plumbing. Then, in remarkably short get, she establishes a energetic social daily life though operating the très tasteful makeover as a chambres d’hôte (bed and breakfast).

The back of Anna Bibby’s 1670 farmhouse as viewed from the road; it’s one of three farm buildings she renovated on her Bergerac property near the medieval village of Eymet in France.

Sally Tagg/NZ Household & Back garden

The again of Anna Bibby’s 1670 farmhouse as considered from the road it’s a single of three farm buildings she renovated on her Bergerac home near the medieval village of Eymet in France.

8 years later she sells it, not due to the fact she is cashing up or coming property but because she has purchased an ensemble of dilapidated farm structures 25km from Bergerac in the Bordeaux wine area. She still can barely make herself recognized and does not know anybody there.

Also, and let’s not sugar-coat this, she is 8 decades older than when she first established out on this do-up French lark. This challenge will call for even extra function and a large economical outlay for the reason that if you are heading to operate two gîtes (holiday getaway rentals), in France, you definitely do need to have a decent swimming pool. Anna admits that she is a task-driven person and believed that this 4000sqm, a few-building property would occupy her for a superior even though.

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Fortuitously, purchasing house in France with or without the need of the lingo isn’t difficult, she says. Most French actual estate brokers communicate English.

When it will come to tradies, “I attract pics.” She’s not intimidated by developing perform and claims that in her expertise, the best remedy is typically the most straightforward one particular.

Local ceramics line the mantelpiece of the large fireplace in the peasants’ cottage.

Sally Tagg/NZ Dwelling & Backyard

Local ceramics line the mantelpiece of the big hearth in the peasants’ cottage.

Anna does not have the identical anxiousness Kiwis do about acquiring a builder’s report. “If the building has been all-around due to the fact 1670, I determine it is most likely really sound.” As for spending plan, you have to make do with what you’ve got, she says.

A clairvoyant buddy in New Zealand experienced currently issued a warning. “I see a ton of h2o,” she claimed ominously. She was not completely wrong. The aged pool leaked and resulted in the season’s holiday getaway bookings remaining cancelled. So did the refurbished barn roof, while the badly put in plumbing in the cottage brought on a ceiling of plasterboard and insulation to collapse in the center of the night time, showering Anna with drinking water and dumping particles on poodle Harry’s mattress.

“Harry took a immediate hit. I laboured for hrs dragging the debris into the garden and when l last but not least arrived at Harry’s mattress I was astonished and relieved to uncover that even with his age he’d designed a mad dash into the very small laundry.”

In the two a long time Anna has owned the residence, she’s preset up the barn, which is now her household, as properly as the 1670s-era workers’ cottage, transformed the earlier mentioned-floor wine retail outlet into a two-bed room cottage and set up a new pool.

Lockdown noticed her stuck in New Zealand immediately after what was intended to be a small stop by to see loved ones. Arriving again in France in mid-May, Anna feared the holiday getaway rental industry may have taken fright. Not so – she is fully occupied catering to metropolis people from Northern Europe, England and France, desperate for a break in the countryside.

Plainly this woman is plagued by a robust perverse streak. Is this why she chose to reside in France regardless of her linguistic worries and candid admission that she is not even a Francophile? “When I was young everyone did their OE and lived abroad for a when. I in no way did, so this is my aged OE. Also I discover it interesting watching a diverse culture. I truly appreciate getting to know French people and the region is very attractive.”

Each of the three farm buildings has its own courtyard; the gardens, including the tawny Japanese maple, date from planting done 20 years ago by previous owners, a couple from England; Anna plans to work on the garden next, even though she confesses she doesn’t have a green thumb; she figures that gardening is better exercise than going to a gym.

Sally Tagg/NZ Household & Backyard

Each and every of the a few farm buildings has its personal courtyard the gardens, which include the tawny Japanese maple, day from planting carried out 20 many years ago by prior proprietors, a few from England Anna programs to work on the garden up coming, even however she confesses she doesn’t have a green thumb she figures that gardening is superior work out than going to a health and fitness center.

That is all extremely perfectly but who embarks on a second big renovation at the age of 63, on her personal, in a overseas state? In excess of the many years, Anna says she’s had trigger to query whether she is courageous or silly. “I’ve arrive to the conclusion that there is extremely minor difference.“

It allows that she consciously forges ahead without the need of on the lookout backwards. She has no truck with regret. “You just cannot imagine like that if you are likely to do a little something like this.” And she does not.


My decorating style: Is mainly determined by the architecture and creating on what‘s now there. l like very uncomplicated issues and sparse interiors, and the rule of thumb is that if l just can’t use it l won’t acquire it.

Bravest thing l did: Was to insist on digging out a big area of strong rock to enhance the stud top of the spot that grew to become the barn kitchen. The builder was not pleased.

Favourite kitchen area equipment: Call me previous-fashioned but it would have to be the egg beater that Auckland artist Gavin Hurley bought me from Milly’s Kitchen area as a likely-away current.

Favorite relatives treasure: Isn’t from my loved ones but from a good friend who also did up an historic barn and by the close of the job, considerably like myself, was relatively strapped for money. Becoming a resourceful and innovative human being she had some previous timber she located in the barn property manufactured into an sophisticated but rustic headboard which is now in my bedroom and appears to be amazing.

A estimate l use normally: Is by Oscar Wilde: “Anyone who life in just their implies suffers from a absence of creativeness.”

Anna Bibby