You know when you and another woman click and you like her right away. It happened for me recently when I was introduced to Fabienne, a French woman from the region of Orleans who has been living the expatriate life in L.A. for the last five years with her French husband and their children. She explained how her family now had to leave the United States and relocate to Switzerland for complicated reasons.
Only Fabienne does not want to leave. She has put down roots in California. Roots so massive that having to sever them might well break her heart.
See, Fabienne fell in love. With a house.
It was a terrible house a first, a raggedy, overly stuccoed, a jumble of rooms and successive additions that ran into each other without rime or reason. But the location was amazing, set right on Malibou Lake, a magical place that is also a well-kept secret. (Malibou and Malibu, are minutes from one another) Imagine a small lake in the mountains, but minutes from the beach, and a short driving distance from L.A. with unpretentious homes, small docks and boats, fishing and swimming, ocean air and mediterranean vegetation. Imagine this:
Fabienne, who went to Law school and translates books indifferently from French to German, Spanish or English, began to dream of a way to transform the dog of the neighborhood into something more compatible with her Shabby Chic taste, her fondness for Tudor architecture and into a proper vessel for her collection of over 10,000 books. She proceeded to collect hundreds of magazine clippings, then she dreamed, thought, planned, drew and dreamed some more. An architect was hired, plans were drawn.
Then disaster struck.
The worst kind of disaster.
Two years later, Fabienne picked herself up, and grabbed on to the momentous beast the house remodel would be. She threw herself into it with all her spirit, improvised herself as a contractor, hired capable hands and went to work. This was not a go to the spa and sign checks sort of remodel. It was the knukkle dragging, stone lifting, nail-wrecking sort. In a short (considering the extent of what was accomplished) 18 months, she poured all of her passion, imagination, love and talent into the creation of this amazing house right on Malibou Lake.
In case you think I might be exaggerating, here are some before and after pictures:Before:
The house is brand new, yet it feels as though it has been lived in for hundreds of years. It smells of wood and patina and books. Visiting the house is an adventure. There are ancient doors, and stairs that lead to hidden rooms; there are corners and discoveries everywhere, whimsical details, odd collections.
From every window, the awesome view of the lake and the mountain. Outside there is a bridge and even a moat! Not to mention a stream, stones steps and pathways, arches made of branches and twines, and an exquisite English garden.
There is a time when life insist that you must cut the cord, or leave a loved one behind. In his case, a loved house. Bonne Chance Fabienne.