How to say "fixer-upper" in French?

Tulette: A fortified village (c) Kristin Espinasse

Are you looking for a little nest of your own in the South of France? Imagine this being the wall of your village! Read about a unique little fixer-upper located in the village next-door to ours, here in the Vaucluse! And, if you know of anyone who dreams of relocating to a charming village in France... be sure to forward this post!


For today's word, we are using a reverse-dictionary English to French approach as there is no direct (read: neat and simple) French word equivalent.


    : une maison à retaper, à renover ou à refaire
    : un bien immobilier qui nécessite des travaux ou une rénovation 

 Audio file:

    => Listen to Jean-Marc read the definition for "fixer-upper":
            Download MP3 or Wav file 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

So often it is the French who have come up with a charming word or phrase (think amuse-bouche, or mouth teaser", and again grasse matinée, or "a sleep in"....  

But what about our English terms? Take, par exemple, today's word:"fixer-upper". Isn't it fun to say? Fixer-upper, fixer-upper, fixer-upper!

If I were French, I just know "fixer-upper" would be a favorite English word—this, along with "elbow grease" (come to think of it, the two go well together! Only difference is: there is no direct translation for the first... whereas the second has an easy equivalent: elbow grease = l'huile de coude).

Though the French have plenty of charming terms related to real estate (pied-à-terre and the beloved "bercail" come to mind), they do not seem to be able to give a word-for-word translation for "fixer-upper", though you'll find a definition: fixer-upper = une maison à renover).

The fact remains, there are plenty of fixer-uppers on the French market to keep us house-lovers or nesters or casaniers dreaming! Have a look at this historical abode, in our neighboring town of Tulette.... 

Ancient four

I've driven past this home (middle unit, comprising two doors on the ground level and three windows above) weekly, on my way back from the horse stables where our daughter rides. The road in front will take you to Nyons, and to the scenic villages of Villedieu, Mirabel-aux-Baronnies, and Vaison-la-Romaine, to name a few.

Question: how would you gussy up the façade, or front, of this house? With flower pots? A little chair next to the door? Maybe a grape-vine trellis? Share an idea here, in the comments box.

Ancient four2

 This bien, or property, is historic for its antique communal four, or oven. Once upon a time, villagers came here to bake their own loaves of bread! 

Question: how would you renovate and decorate this room if you were to buy this fixer-upper? How would you "mettre en valeur" or bring out the goodness of this gorgeous ancient oven? Would it serve as a backdrop to a dramatic living room or kitchen? Or would you make this room your fiery bedroom? And what about those poutres, or beams, along the ceiling? Do you think they need painting? Or do you love them tel quel, or as is? Share your tips here, in the comments box.


 Here is the stairway inside... and the patina of a past life. How would you cover the floors (in terre cuite or en bois?) and what would you do with these walls and doors? Do you like the iron railing? Would you paint it? And, ah, I see this particular poutre has been painted white. Your thoughts and ideas are welcome here, in the comments box.



A melody of rooftops and the église from this view... on the opposite side of the village home, where more doors and windows give onto the village's interior. I've strolled past this coin many times, taking photos of the municipal pétanque court just up the way...

Advantages of living in this village home include:

  1. Proximity to the weekly farmers' market: walk out your door... and into rows and rows of flowers and vegetables!
  2. Smack in the middle of wine country with fresh air à gogo!
  3. Wonderful neighbors (click here to meet one of them).
  4. Steps away from the fleuriste, the post office, le coiffeur, the café where my Mom chatted up the locals while I hid behind my book, the mini-market, the pharmacist, the librairie... 

For those who are interested in this property,  I will forward your request to my friend Patrick, the realtor. I leave you with the ad for this maison à vendre:

Ancienne Boulangerie de village à rénover, authentique four de boulanger et terrasse avec vue sur l'église, surface exploitable 200 m² travaux à prévoir. prix 89000 euros.

Former village bakery to renovate, authentic baker's oven and balcony with view of the church. Total size of 200 m², work needed. price 89000 euros ($115,000)

...Now, how to say "finder's fee" in French?... :-)


Le Coin Commentaires

Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box.

Selected French Vocabulary (fill in the missing definitions, in the comments box)

un amuse-bouche = 

la grasse matinée = a sleep in
    faire la grasse matinée = to sleep in 

par exemple = for example

l'huile de coude = 

le pied-à-terre = second home

le casanier, la casanière = homebody

le bercail = 

    rentrer au bercail = to return to the fold

le bien

le four = oven

mettre en valeur =

la poutre = beam (ceiling)

tel quel = 

la terre cuite =

en bois = 




Our home was a fixer-upper too. There were no stairs there.. and no wall (or sleeping dogs) for that matter! We broke through the mur to connect the two rooms. Don't miss the before picture (or midway picture!)... click here.


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