Property: If you could live anywhere

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The Independent Culture
Louis de Bernieres Novelist Lives in a flat above a junk shop

in London with his partner and a cat

LOCATION: Between Toulouse and the Pyrenees in the hilly area called the Ariege where there are lots of very old towns made of stone. I'd like to be near a town, but not actually in one. In Ariege you get the same lovely weather as Provence but more rainfall, so it is a great place to grow vegetables and peaches.

ESSENTIAL LOCAL AMENITIES: Rivers and lakes, a golf course, cafes, junk shops and second-hand book shops: most of my research material comes from second-hand books.

CHARACTER OF THE BUILDING: A French bourgeois house made of stone, with lots of outhouses. It should be 19th century. Queen Elizabeth must not have slept here - though I wouldn't mind a Russian tsar.

CONSTRUCTION: Idiosyncratic. I don't like houses to have neat straight boxy lines. It would be lovely if the house had a tower on one corner but not on the other.

BEDROOMS: Ten, so my friends and family could stay. I'd want a couple for storing all the rubbish I pick up in junk shops and car boot sales. I like absolute crap.

BATHROOMS: Two. Baths with claw feet would be nice, but they would have to be big enough for two. I'd have the taps in a place where your head couldn't catch on them when you're trying to read - perhaps on the side.

RECEPTION ROOMS: Two, for watching the telly in and taking up all the furniture that we don't know what to do with.

ESSENTIAL KITCHEN FEATURES: A big wooden table and a tiled floor because it would be easy to clean. We have a carpet in the kitchen at the moment and it ends up a gummy mess - even the cat sticks to it.

DECORATIVE STYLE: White walls and ceilings, wooden furniture, unidentifiable objects, heaps of books. I don't like things to match.

LUXURIES: A washing machine - I'm fed up with going to the launderette.

ANY SPECIAL OUTBUILDINGS: A garage with a pit so I could work on my cars - I used to be a car mechanic. And a carpentry shop: I am a fanatical carpenter and DIY-er. A music room: I need to be able to play Beethoven at a million decibels. An art studio for the Maharani (my partner, who is half-Asian).

SIZE OF GARDEN: Stupendous. I used to be a landscape gardener so I'd do it all myself. There would be a big vegetable patch, a large pond for fish, a mass of lilies, a coppice full of bluebells and a nine-hole golf course.


MOTTO OVER THE DOOR: In this house there lives a very fine cat indeed.

WHAT IT WOULD COST: Louis de Bernieres could find his dream home near a town such as Castillon-en-Couserans. According to the property company Headland Overseas, it would cost pounds 200,000 - although if the vendor wanted a quick sale he might only have to spend pounds 175,000. The saving would pay for refurbishing the outbuildings.

Louis de Bernieres' latest book, 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin', is published by Secker & Warburg at pounds 14.99.

(Photograph omitted)