(CNN) – On a rainy day in France, stranded triathlete Jeremy arranged to view some properties in the quaint neighborhood he was staying in.
Originally from Wales, the father-of-two lived in Paris for a few years, but after suffering a separation, he was inspired by the idea of moving to the French countryside.
He realized he had stumbled upon gold when he was given a house tour in Courjan, a city located in the Île-de-France region, about 45 minutes from the French capital.
However, not only the house filled him with excitement. It was a stunning but heavily neglected pool.
The renovation process took about 12 months, but Jeremy is delighted with the end result.
Despite the fact that the pool fell into disrepair, it was clear that it was once an impressive structure and could become one again – with a lot of effort.
“I was completely blown away,” Jeremy, who asked not to be identified by his full name, tells CNN Travel. “Because the opportunity to remodel the pool and create an exceptional project is everything I could imagine. I just thought, “This is the right place.”
Jeremy, who has worked in real estate for many years, soon discovered that the house once belonged to French actress Danielle Darier, who starred in over 100 films during her eighty-year career in the 1950s.
After speaking with locals, he learned that the pool, believed to have been built in 1938, was once a popular meeting place, and many recalled being taught to swim there.
Some even sent him pictures of Daria, who died in 2017 at the age of 100 while swimming in the pool during her stay at the house.
Darier, who starred opposite Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the 1938 Hollywood film The Fury of Paris, is believed to have lived there for over a decade.
“It made me even more motivated to participate in the project,” he admits. “This place has a history. He has a history.”
Notable former owner
The pool is said to have once belonged to French actress Danielle Darier, who died in 2017.
John Springer Collection / Corbis Historical / Getty Images
After weighing everything, Jeremy says he carefully made an offer that was “about 30 or 40% less than the asking price” and waited for what he believed would be an inevitable rejection.
“I didn’t think he [the owner] I was going to agree,” he admits. But, to my surprise, he agreed.
Although Jeremy has worked on the refurbishment of several hotels, this will be his first swimming pool. The project also cost about five times its original budget.
“It hadn’t been used in over 35 years, so it was a wreck,” he explains. “I had to start from scratch.”
When it became clear that the cost of restoring the pool would not necessarily be economically justified in terms of increasing the value of the house, Jeremy began to look for other ways to recoup some of the repair costs.
Noting that there was no such pool in the area, he decided that he would rent it out for a few days a week, and leave it for personal use the rest of the time.
Jeremy says he was able to convince the owner to let him start work on the pool before the sale was completed.
Determined to get the wheels in motion as quickly as possible, Jeremy did his best to convince the owner to let him start work on the pool before the deal was finalized.
He then began negotiating deals with various companies to begin work on restructuring, including with a specialized swimming company to turn it into “the most beautiful heated lagoon in France”.
Jeremy signed contracts in September 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. He says that by the time he officially took over in February 2021, almost four months of work on the pool had already been completed.
When it came to design, Jeremy decided to go the extra mile to the best of his ability.
Some of the locals who first swam in the pool when it belonged to Daria stopped by to admire its transformation.
“I wanted high cliffs, LED lights, a full package,” he says.
The project included the creation of new infrastructure to provide electricity, gas and water (previously water came directly from a nearby river), as well as the installation of new electrical wiring, rock formation and the installation of pipes, evacuations and feeders under the pool.
Jeremy says the entire renovation process took about 12 months and cost 500,000 euros (about $500,000), of which about 330,000 euros was spent on the pool and the rest on exterior work, including infrastructure, plants and terraces. He says he’s delighted with the end result.
“It really feels like you’re in a natural lagoon, except you’re an hour away from France’s largest city,” he adds. “There are waterfalls, and you can jump from the rocks from two meters high. It doesn’t feel like you’re in a pool.”
Jeremy was stunned to discover during renovations an old stone-paved walkway leading from the lagoon to a nearby river, with a fountain in the center.
“It was a complete revelation. I think I can say that I’m the only person in Paris who has a private island,” he jokes, adding that he plans to renovate the walkway within the next year.
While the pool, 24 meters long and nine meters wide with a depth of more than two meters, is undoubtedly the main attraction, Jeremy is delighted with his new home, which thankfully needed little to no repairs before he moved into it.
He has since imported and refurbished a 1974 American Airstream caravan overlooking the lagoon.
After moving to Courgent, which has a population of about 400, Jeremy says he settled in relatively easily and gets great feedback from locals about the pool.
In fact, some of the villagers who first swam there when it belonged to Daria stopped by to ask if they could take a look at its transformation.
Daria was associated with the city for a long time and apparently returned to the area at a later age, living only a few kilometers from her former home.
Although Jeremy says he’s received a lot of support from the mayor’s office since moving to Courgent, he tries his best not to “tread on anyone’s toes.”
“You have to be careful,” he explains. “You don’t want to make too much noise or build too much [going on]. But it worked pretty well.
The triathlete says he still feels overwhelmed when he swims in the pool at night.
“One of the neighbors came to me a little excited because she heard that I was planning to have parties, and someone said that we were going to put a DJ in the trees.
“I told her, ‘Not this week, but ask me next week.'”
Seeking to maximize his 1.5 acres of land, Jeremy decided to import and refurbish a 1974 American Airstream lagoon-view caravan, also available for hire.
When he isn’t using the pool himself, isn’t hosting his daughters’ friends, or isn’t attending the local school, he rents it out for around €250 for two hours, or up to €3,000 per day.
While he gets rave reviews from customers as well as viewers who occasionally pop in to ask if they can take a closer look, Jeremy is keen to add a few more special touches.
He plans to run a power line to light up some of the trees and add a rose tunnel over the bridge and an outdoor kitchen.
“I will only be satisfied when all the details are ready,” admits Jeremy, explaining that it will likely be another year or two before the pool is fully completed.
In the meantime, it makes the most of a beautiful pool or lagoon with such a rich history.
“Even now I am still stunned when I swim at night,” he says. “When it is completely dark, you can see the moon and the stars, and there is only you, nature and water.
“I always say it’s like being in Costa Rica without airfare.”