Well you buy a place, you plan your renovation, you argue, you draw it out merticulously on graph paper with little paper shapes denoting cupboards and chairs and even rope your electrician friend in, to stop you getting electrocuted by the decidedly dodgy French electrics.
You then realize the dresser will not fit unless you enter the kitchen crab like, sideways. There are too many doors, and the doors are small. You have bumped your head too many times and the words cute or quaint are replaced by four letter expletives.
On the gallery next to our hallway was a large box like structure on the floor. We had no idea what it was. But ugly comes to mind. Then with a bit of orientation it transpires it’s a staircase to the kitchen, but closed in. By opening it we bring light to the stairs, allow communication directly between the kitchen and gallery and I can call for a cuppa when sitting on the sofa! The French it appears love gloom and behind those closed shutters there is a bad taste in wallpaper going on, doors that lead to no where and tiles with no grout. The box has to go.
The bedroom. Hiding something? It looks inoffensive enough but the back wall isn’t solid and the room seems a bit small.
Then today, trying to take the earth cable out of the kitchen, the little hole that we thought passed through a very thick stone wall, turned out to be a false wall. For some obscure reason or maybe 1980 interior design, the chimney and a pretty recessed cupboard had been covered behind some nasty artex skimmed boarding.
So a quick two week renovation is now a month. Having found the whole side wall is not the real wall, with great excitement, we are taking it all down and even knocking a door through to give access to our cellar kitchen. With possibly two fireplaces discovered, we can open these up and install wood burners. Relying on central heating was not one of our ambitions.
The entrance to the cellar is beneath a terracotta roofed extension, overlooking the garden. With the addition of pretty French doors, a wood floor and a couple of range cookers, we have effectively doubled our kitchen size and autumn preserving will now be a breeze. The cellar steps descend down from the far corner, so no more dashing out in the rain to grab some French plonk. It’s all getting civilized.
The whole house is topsy turvy. The kitchen was used as the front entrance. There are no doors to the rear. The gallery was left as just a corridor to a bedroom and no utility area.
That is a very small window. Soon to be a pair of French doors.
The gallery. With a bed? There is a huge bedroom on the right up a small flight of stairs. That will be a guest suite. It’s large enough to accommodate beds, sofa and a table with a pretty view to the fields through the rooftop window.
The dark 80’s ceiling needs painting and the stairs are going too. Dangerously narrow and steep, my big size 7 feet just can’t cope.
And this concrete wall outside the kitchen! Absolutely pointless. It cuts the house in half, makes access into the kitchen difficult and has dangerously slippery tiles that make it a skid pan in wet weather! In England we use rough non-slip tiles for flooring. In Europe it seems anything goes. Safety isn’t on the agenda. God knows how we will take this down. So far in France concrete is excessively hard. Floors, garden walls, pointing are all made with ridiculously strong concrete. But funnily when they build a house, you can almost dig out the jointing with your fingers. More sand than cement or as in one room, almost made with tile grout!
And talking of grout. Look at the bathroom! The tiles will not be staying, but the old bath and basin are really good. I think I can do something to mitigate the pinkiness.
Those dangerous slippery tiles are everywhere, so it’s all coming up. The patio at the front needs relaying and we found a dog grave! Yes, three skeletons mummified in rags in a tomb like structure. Well a decent burial required to put those poor things back to earth and peace.
And we had baby bats behind the shutters. The tell tale bat poop pile below was a surprise. In UK I believe we have to report. In France you just leave them if you want them. Grown, they have now flown. But maybe next year they will settle in the barn outbuilding instead. Hopefully.
We opened up the huge shutter doors at the far end of the building. Voila! The future hallway. A large space that has a doorway to a spare garage, or as it will be, a utility and dog/ boot room.
At the back a long colonial type terrace is being added. We have tonnes of timber and tiles dumped here, so it will cost very little to build. A new opening from the gallery will bring much needed light upstairs and a fire escape. There was absolutely no way of leaving the upstairs if a fire took the rooms below.
And finally the hangar at the rear, which houses a beautiful hay cart, is to be our summer house. The cart will be renovated and lights and flowers hung from the roof. A huge pile of oak will make a very long table and from the Brocante we will seek out a higgledy piggledy collection of chairs; all those odd ones without a home. From the terrace a pathway under rambling roses and vines will lead you to the summer house and long views up through our orchard and walnut trees.
I think I have found my heaven at last. The house needs some rearranging and putting the Frenchness back and it will be a home. I just need to get that wall down first!