Stephanie and Ben Brubaker first discovered Beynac-et-Cazenac — a charming village in southwestern France — after reading about it in a Rick Steve’s guidebook. Intrigued, they booked a trip to visit in 2008.
Little did they know, however, that during their week-long stay, they’d be purchasing a cottage as a souvenir.
“We looked at all available homes in the village — three at the time — mostly out of curiosity,” Stephanie told TODAY.com. “At the time, my husband was involved in commercial real estate development, so checking out local properties wasn’t a far-fetched idea. Although we’d talked about purchasing property stateside, we never had a conversation about buying a home abroad.”
But they fell in love with a small cottage situated between a steep hillside and a medieval castle.
“It needed a lot of work, but in the end it felt like it was meant to be,” she said. “We placed an offer that same week, just before leaving the area.”
It took four months to close on the home, which is considered a fast close in France. The next day, they began a nine-month renovation process. With the help of artisans in the area, they restored and refurbished the cottage, which they named “La Maisonnette du Coteau.”
Projects included sandblasting the ancient stone, installing a gourmet kitchen complete with stainless steel appliances and a Lacanche gas stove, as well as creating a romantic master suite.
“We placed a claw foot tub right under two tiny windows that overlook the valley,” she says of her favorite part of the house, the master bath. “The views are exquisite, regardless of the time of year. The space feels like a sanctuary to me.”
Of course, it was a lot of work, too, especially as they navigated the renovations in a foreign land.
“In France, there are many holidays, as well as a capped workweek of 35 hours,” she explained. “So it was often challenging to convince local workers to not only show up, but to stay a full day. Most evenings we put our three young children to bed around 7:30 and then worked well into the night trying to finish up projects ourselves.”
They also discovered a vast discrepancy between the cost of tools in the U.S. and tools in France.
“While one could procure an exquisite croissant for a fraction of the price as one in the US, one had to pay three times as much for tools in France,” she said. Needless to say, they brought their tools from home using a savvy packing system due to the 50-pound weight limit the airline gave them.
But even with all the effort and quirky struggles they experienced with this home, Stephanie says she has no regrets about the project.
“We adore this little house,” she said.
The family is currently based in Seattle but return to the village and property once a year for about a month.
And when they’re not in the home, La Maisonnette is available to rent via VRBO.
You can find out more about the home and renovation on Stephanie's lifestyle blog, Stephmodo.