We split to spend Christmas with our families. Quentin stayed in Avignon and Hellen went to Toulouse. After Christmas Hellen went to Ariege. He met Jean-Louis, who works for the city of Ax-les-Thermes, and asked him if he knew interesting houses for our project. He was THE man to talk to. He brought Hellen to one of his friend’s house in Merrens d’en Haut, a small village on the way to Andorra. Two brothers and one sister of the Vives’s family were living there. Not too long ago Merrens was quite populated. Nowadays only a dozen of families live there. Most of the houses are either abandoned or secondary houses for the ski season.
There are three different levels. The bottom one used to be a barn. At the first one there were the bedrooms, living room and kitchen. The attic was only used as storage for the crops. Nowadays there are no animals anymore so they transformed the barn into two bedrooms and a small kitchen. Because the house is half underground there is two ways to get in, one door in the ground floor and a second one on the first floor from the East facade.
What is interesting there is that they transformed the old hayloft into a living room but they still spend most of their time into the kitchen. Back then, the fireplace heat this small room which was the smallest of the house. Nowadays they use a small stove which is also very efficient. They kind of kept the same way of living than before even if the rooms have changed. They stay in the kitchen, the smallest room, because that’s the warmest of the house so easy and cheaper to heat. The living room is only used a few times a year for celebration or family events. The staircase has been moved during the renovation, from the kitchen to the living room.
When we get into ground floor of the house, we first step into a small hall. This hall leads to the two bedrooms and the small kitchen. In the first floor, a small room leads to the bathroom, the kitchen and one bedroom. From the kitchen we have access to the old hayloft which is now the living room. From the living room, a door leads to the outside, to the garden on the East facade. The attic stayed a storage room. They still use it to store the few crops they have and to dry the cured ham.