Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chalet Goo Gaw

There are no words to describe the chalet we looked at yesterday.  Even the realtor was speechless and realtors have pretty much seen everything.  I’m at a loss where to begin so I will just start with the owner.

Picture a Hoarding, Crazy-Cat-Lady who looks exactly like Zsa Zsa Gabor in a velour track suit.  Her hair was tall.  Her makeup was thick.  And she was VERY, VERY proud of her decorating skills.  She fancied herself to be quite the “artiste”, which explained the craziness that we encountered at every turn.  
My ZSA ZSA on a hunger strike on TV!

First, I have to explain that there are really only two normal ways to go when decorating a chalet:  contemporary/modern or traditional.  By traditional, I mean chunky wood furniture, comfy sofas, mountain-type accents, etc.  Well, Zsa Zsa was having none of that.  This place was decorated like it was Versailles and the Sun King himself was expected for tea.  I’m sure she thought our mouths were hanging open because we were in awe of the majesty we were beholding all around us.   Y’all, we couldn’t even look at one another for fear of collapsing into helpless laughter.

Crazy began in the driveway.  Yes, that structure you see to your right is indeed a two-car garage but, sorry, no one is allowed to go in because it is my “studio” and it is full of my things.  Little did we know that this was only Room Number One which we wouldn’t be allowed to see.  On top of the garage, (remember, this is March), was perched a life-sized sled and a 4-foot wire reindeer.

The outdoor patio wall was covered with one of her handpainted murals.  We were ushered into the kitchen door because the front door AND ALL OTHER DOORS AND WINDOWS in the chalet were barricaded with giant, custom-made iron gates.  To keep out the massive hordes of burglars and rapists just waiting to come attack Zsa Zsa.  This is where my eyebrows went up into my forehead where they remained for the duration.  This is a very rural chalet.  The neighbors on either side are farmers.  The village itself, I’m sure, has never experienced Crime One, but this place was prepared should Hannibal decide to return to the French Alps for a rematch.

So, into the kitchen we troop after Madame.  My eye is immediately drawn to the La Cornue stove which almost makes me swoon.  After having a moment of severe oven-envy, my gaze broadens to include the rest of the room.   Every cabinet door, every backsplash and every wall was covered with more of her artwork.  You know those old oil paintings of dead rabbits and pheasants hanging upside down?  That was her motif of choice in the kitchen.  A different dead animal painted directly on each individual cabinet door.  Scary!

  In the middle of the kitchen was a huge glass-topped dining table completely set up with service for 8.  Oh, I thought, this house must not have a dining room.  Why else would she pack this mammoth table into the kitchen?  We had to turn sideways to skirt around it to get to the next room.

Did I say the next room?  I meant the next room that Zsa Zsa would allow us to go in.  She would point out a door and say “and that is a pantry. . .and that leads to the cave. . .and this is another bedroom. . .BUT YOU CAN”T GO IN THERE because it is either a) my studio or b) full of my things.  After the fourth mystery room, Mr. Big had had enough of Zsa Zsa’s censorship.  He was 4th in the single file line after Zsa Zsa, the realtor and me.  I heard him behind me crack open a forbidden door.  Y’all.

It wouldn’t open more than six inches.  I quickly ran back to peer inside.  You could just make out a stone fireplace on the far wall and ANOTHER door leading somewhere beyond that but there was so much CRAP piled up in the space, it was impossible to tell where it lead to.

Later, over coffee at a café downtown, we estimated that there were at least 5 rooms that we weren’t allowed to see.  Hence the reason Zsa Zsa’s chalet has been on the market for over 18 months and while the others in the area sell in a matter of days.  On a brighter note, I had, by this time, christened the funhouse “Chalet Goo Gaw” and even the realtor, who hails from the UK and didn’t even know what a “goo gaw” was,  was calling it that.

I was so scared of Zsa Zsa that I didn’t even take any photos because I thought she might bite me or something.  You will have to be content with pictures from the realtor’s website which have blocked out most of the craziness, unfortunately.  You do get a feel for the over-the-top decorating, however.  There were places where she had three, four and five rugs laid out one on top of the other.  And there IS an official dining room, again set for a complete dinner service.  Perhaps for her imaginary friends, I don’t know.

Yet, in spite of the craziness, we were intrigued by the bones of the chalet.  It would sort of be like buying one of those “mystery grab bags” where you just make a leap of faith and take your chances.  Even the landscaping was adding to the mysterious allure.  It was overgrown to the point where you could only see the peak of part of the roofline from the street, so I really don’t even know what the outside looks like.  The hedge along the front was at least 10 feet tall and there was a massive pine tree dead center in front of the house blocking over 50% of the view.

Perhaps we will make an offer contingent upon actually being able to see the WHOLE house, (imagine her horror!), and then I will be brave enough to take pictures right in front of her to send to y’all.  I will get her to pose next to the 6-foot leopard painting she did in the living room.  Anyway, little does she know, that she had me at the La Cornue.  Mr. Big, however, is another kettle of fish entirely.  Leap of faith is not even in his vocabulary.

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