Living The Dream: Buying Julia Child’s House!

Julia Childs kitchenA facebook post headline “So, I BOUGHT JULIA CHILD’S HOUSE” grabbed my attention on New Year’s day.   What came next is quite remarkable.

It was shortly before Thanksgiving that Makenna Johnston first saw an article in her Smith College Alumnae forum that Julia Child’s house in Provence, France was for sale.   It linked to a piece in the New York Times with 11 photos of her home.

Makenna said :

The home and I had love at first sight. I instantly had visions of running small intimate retreats on business/life/joy, building a culture of peace through food, and teaching women (and men too) to be courageous in the kitchen and life.

Makenna took the first step, emailing the real estate agent, but there was already an offer.  But the vision of Julia Child’s house still haunted her.

julia childs exterior

I looked at the real estate listing every single day. Without fail. I showed people photos, called documentary film makers, food network contacts, schemed and visioned.

A week later she emailed the real estate agent again.   This was shortly after the Paris attacks and people were nervous.   The agent said the first offer fell through, but there was another offer on the table.

Makenna’s dream was starting to fade, but undaunted she emailed the realtor 3 days later to find out the status.  Wow…the second offer fell through!

The asking price for the house was over $800K, so putting together a team to fund this project was MaKenna’s next task.  This wasn’t anything she could fund on her own. She lived in a cabin in Colorado and had a topsy turvy 2015!  With a list of prospective investors in hand, and many calls later, she found people as passionate as her, who wanted to fund her retreat idea.

At 4am on THANKSGIVING MORNING, I put my turkey into the oven and called France. Had the first conversation with the mortgage broker, the real estate agent, and more.

Three days later, the lead investor was on a plane to France. Two days later we put an offer in. A week later the process to close on the house started. And now we’re just managing paperwork.

julia childs patioFast tracking her retreat idea, she quickly put together packages on her website.   Who could resist signing up for a writing course, sitting on the patio and eating  in Julia Child’s Provence kitchen!  Makenna is also busy with requests from chefs to use this house to run cooking schools.

Makenna’s Takeaways:

    • I never believed no was actually possible.
    • I never thought there wasn’t a time I COULDN’T make the project work, and the project needed Julia’s house.
    • It is because of my time watching people like Kimra Luna made me believe what people told me was impossible was utterly possible.
    • Freedom?  For me it was this house.  Even if I don’t plan on living in it per se.  For me, it was the answer to my WHY.  A space that I could nourish amazing humans in.
    • And I have had my naysayers, of s**t yeah.  BUT! I told them to kindly buzz off.  And lo and behold? it F*****G HAPPENED.
    • Never say never.  Whatever you seek seeks you right back.
    • And freedom?  You make it possible.  It doesn’t just HAPPEN.  It isn’t magic.  It’s on purpose.
    • DON’T GIVE UP!

April 2016 Update From MaKenna Johnston

WHAT BECOMING KINDA OVERNIGHT FAMOUS ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE (Or Stories from the trenches of Julia Child and La Peetch).

In the past three months, I went from well-ish known coach to international-ish person of intrigue. I’m no Angelina Jolie or anything. But let me tell you…Trending on Facebook and being published about over FIVE HUNDRED times (Seriously. Five. Hundred. Blog. Articles) means you’re suddenly very very much in the limelight.

Buying Julia Child’s house was a risk. And one that is reaping A LOT of rewards. BUT, it isn’t something you do thinking overnight your life will change. (You also don’t buy a historic property to be a wallflower).

So what DOES all this actually look like?

-Working 10-16 hour days, nearly 50 days in a row because you weren’t planning on breaking the news really beyond the circles you play in until JUNE. And your weren’t really…Umm…Prepared to handle the deluge.

-Responding to nearly 100 emails a day. Many of which are reporters which means you know you’ll get MORE press, which means…More emails. 50-100 airbnb requests. Sifting through a hundred emails a day from people wanting jobs.

-Going to your fun job (ski instructing) only to have the person your teaching KNOW WHO YOU ARE. And then proceed them to grill you about everything Julia Child, while you attempt to teach them skiing. (I had to get a new name tag that says MakJo instead of Makenna Johnston)

-Eating out to dinner (despite being an accomplished chef) because you don’t have time to shop and eating out to dinner is the only way you get an hour away from all the crazy.

-Panic attacks. Worries about being seen. Fear. Joy. Elation. Crying. Screaming at the top of your lungs “VOGUE EMAILED ME!!!!! VOOOOGUE!”. Cry. Drink wine. Cry more. Laugh. Get giddy. Take a nap. Feel like an imposter. Nap again. Cry to my mastermind sisters. Get stoked.

-Sleep. Work. Eat. Repeat


-It’s all f***king temporary. My last day teaching skiing was last week. Which means, now I am back down to normal hours a day of work.

-La Peetch is BOOKED until August 2016. And already booked solid for July 2017. ‪#‎crazy‬

-The house is soon to be my home. And I get to soak it all in. I HAVEN’T EVEN SEEN THE HOUSE IN PERSON YET GUYS!

-I’m learning in a crash course manner how to be better at this. I’m in the fire. And it is marvelously glorious and scary all at the same time.

-I get to welcome people into La Peetch for the first time in THREE weeks.‪#‎colormewildlyexcited‬

-I get to model visionary leadership instead of just talk about it. Like ACTUALLY model it, and show my tribe that it is possible to do huge things.

-AND lastly…I OWN JULIA CHILD’S EM EFFING HOUSE IN PROVENCE! (That’s a pretty neat good thing wouldn’t you say?)

The moral here? Success isn’t sunshine and rainbows all the time. It’s work. It’s fun. And it has drawbacks at time. But the only way out is through.


Makenna Johnston is a coach/speaker/writer/artist from Colorado and this isn’t the only dream she has for retreats, check out her recent blog,  2015: A year of Linked Recoveries, Death, Rebirth and Healing.

Elaine Slatter is the founder of the Fabulous Fempreneurship community, author of  the book “Fabulous Fempreneurship“, a complete business startup guide and partner at XL Consulting Group, a strategy and marketing company for small business.