Renovating Le Phare de Morillon

One day in 2009 I went skiing from Morillon village with a good friend. As I walked from the car park to the telecabine I noticed a large farmhouse with a sign ‘A vendre’ or for sale. Little did I realise that most of the next decade of my life was going to be tied up with the challenges of this building.

The old farmhouse

Over the next few months, I negotiated a reasonable deal and took possession of what was a building that needed a significant renovation. My original idea was to convert the building into 4 apartments. My plans got nowhere. Nothing seemed to work until I decided that it should be a single building. Then everything started to come together; a master carpenter, a builder, an electrician, a heating and plumbing engineer all appeared to execute the new plan.

The plan was not without challenges. I discovered that there was little of the old building that was without problems. I soon had a skeleton of a farmhouse and a problem with the roof.

Skeleton farmhouse

Somedays it felt like the farmhouse was being held up by a tiny thread.

Not much to hold up a very heavy roof

Slowly the external walls were renovated and the farmhouse became more solid.

The internal structure was created by a master carpenter out of huge oak beams. I started to recognise the size and complexity of the project.

The oak frame takes shape

Slowly the rooms began to take shape. The precision of the master carpenter was a joy to watch.

Kitchen beams

Then there was a new and expensive challenge, the need to replace the roof. As the roof came off the building seemed to release an old energy as if it was able to breath again. This was more time and expense but it felt like the right thing to do.

Renovating the roof

Soon the farmhouse became a home, a yoga studio, an Executive workshop centre and a ‘home from home’ for winter skiing and summer vacations.

The inside of the chalet really took shape and traditional Haute Savoie oak beams with a galleried mezzanine added a real ‘wow’ factor.

Living and Dining area

What happens when you complete the renovation project that you have  been working on for several years?  As always a few more challenges. Perhaps they are best thought of as a few ‘more rocks in the rucksack of life’.

Tonnes of rocks, mud, gravel and concrete to shift by hand

All that was left to do was to sort out the gardens and to write some books including one about the experiences of creating Le Phare de Morillon or ‘The Lighthouse of Morillon’. The gardens and the new books took a few years of work but I never had any doubts that they would be co-created with others (see

A book about the challenges of life and renovation

The gardens? Well that is another story of co-creating something beautiful with the help of a master carpenter.

Creating gardens and permaculture in the Haute Savoie

The inspiration for the gardens combined the simplicity of the monastic herb garden of the Abbey of Cluny with the scared geometry of the Gayatri mandala and Bali.

The Gayatri mandala herb garden – a lighthouse in the Haute Savoie

What did I learn? The harder the challenge the more satisfying it is to create something that is traditional, peaceful, inspiring and beautiful. We hope that you will enjoy this ‘home from home’ in the Haute Savoie and the opportunity to use this peaceful place to expand creatively in your life and in your own way.

The renovated Le Phare and gardens

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