Episode 121- Whispering words of wisdom, let it be

a view to a hillPlease don’t sue me L & M, but that particular lyric is very appropriate.

I could also call this “bedroom before” photo – left- “a view to a hill”.

OK, OK, I’m getting carried away now. This post is about our considered perspective on the final look for this project  of renovating/restoring/remodelling/rejigging  & rescuing one particular French village house.

I am determined, as you know, to keep as much as possible of the good stuff in the house that works, even if we relocate it like the terrazzo skirting from the tulip room and the cave door. I can see no point in ripping out & replacing something that works, or can be made to work.

The old shower on the second floor is, unusually, lined with great slabs of granite in a blue/grey colour with chips of sparkly quartz in it. If I can get it cleaner, it will look beautiful; why would I tile over that?

I am also keeping the good ceramic tray- it has a chip or two, but hey in this place who is going to be expecting perfect? Even Trevor is really coming around to the concept that not everything has to be crisp and perfect and straight. Not that he has a choice with me in tow.shower france

I didn’t want to distract from the granite or the simple decor in here. The accessories will  funk it up and I have a serious  statement basin. So, after years of searching and consideration of many options, I dropped on these tumbled natural stone tiles that are shaped like flattened fingers.

The shower is set into an alcove I can only describe as rhomboidesque, and the ledges around the shower were totally flat, a design no-no as this encouraged water to gather and seep down the join where the granite  slabs meet. They taper off too, with the exception of the front area.

So I made my decision on how to deal with that by sloping the new tiling downward and fixing and grouting with the same heavy-duty waterproof floor tile adhesive. The grout has actually dried almost the same shade of grey as the tiles, but this quick shot was taken after five people showered in a very short time frame so it looks darker. Trev was unusually complimentary & I am happy. What he thought may have been a leak with the new plumbing runs was in fact the water built up and seeping through, as per, my theory above, then collecting on the new outlet pipe.

All I need now is an effective DIY cleaner for limescaley grubby granite which has been in situ for at least sixty to seventy years.



Episode 120 – Hang on in there… progress update #1

websI don’t think the spiders wanted us back at the house this month. It’s only been a few weeks since I removed the egg sacs behind the bedroom shutters , so in retaliation they attempted to barricade us out.

Not too clear in this picture, but basically they criss-crossed multiple webs right down the cave door. If they had been a little brighter they might have recreated this scene from “Arachnophobia” behind the main FRONT door.

We almost completed two major tasks and lots of little niggling ones, including putting up these aged metal coat hooks in hall cupboard ( it won’t have a door on & still needs the wiring boxing in and the frame fixing but I was FED UP with not being able to hang anything up! coat hooks)


If you have a theory as to the purpose of this giant button/siren thing at the bottom of the stairs  we would like to hear it.

French Electrician thinks air-raid siren for the whole village.


Warning- This Is A Rant

This is the wartsandall blog, so I must tell it how it is and vent my frustrations. Hence this open letter to the guest(s) at the Argeles apartment who, jointly or severally, pushed me to the limit this week.

” To whom it may concern,

You have had a lovely stay at our stylishly presented little seaside place, into which we have thoughtfully put everything we could possibly think of for your convenience, comfort and enjoyment. All at a very modest price.

It was good enough to get the highest possible tourist star rating for one bed self-catering accommodation in France on it’s last assessment and we have had many happy and enthusiastic guests enjoying it’s cute vintage vibe.

So why did one or more of you out there who stayed this summer decide that it was acceptable to:-

  1. Get a DVD stuck in the DVD tray and then attempt to hack it out with one of our table knives?
  2. Block up the filter on my expensive Bosch dishwasher with chicken bones?
  3. Yank the flush handle off the toilet cistern (for which no spare parts are available) ?

To add insult to injury, you have  failed to admit to these acts and therefore, as you haven’t ‘fessed up, I cannot withhold your security deposit or bill you for the new TV/DVD, dishwasher  or toilet as there is more than one possible candidate out there.

More stuff to sort out and more time-consuming post guest checks for my wonderful change-over lady, and her husband who had to drop an important  job to rush across the Pyrenees-Orientales and do a temporary fix so that the very nice and understanding guests currently in there right now can flush the toilet at least; though they will be washing their dishes by hand and have no chance of relaxing and enjoying a film later in the evening.  

Of course I have reduced their bill because I am a nice person & so are they, but boy are you pushing my buttons right now.

You put a dampener and a big delay on enjoying our last family day together as my daughter discovered these issues during her short break with her sick husband. You messed up plans and caused Trev & I major grief.On the hottest day of the summer. None of us needed this right now. 

Karma comes around.

Gill “

Emotional rescue

The Languedoc is dotted with quirky properties in various stages of benign and active neglect: just waiting for some mad and optimistic adventurer to spot and save them.
Properly save them I mean. Not get someone else in to board over all the character, paint everything white and fit lkea kitchens and boring bathrooms.
Two more brave souls have just taken that monumental first step and can now look forward to endless critical design decisions,  sleepless nights, broken fingernails and dwindling savings.. but it will all be worth it.

We did indeed rescue the saddest looking village house in the Aude, but it rescued us too.

If you have this dream then do what your piece of French history deserves and put your whole heart into it.

Two more gems below, one neglected, one loved
( Imagine having your very own bell tower!)




Carcassonne castle, “Le Cite”( e accented but won’t work on this damn notsosmartphone)
Is a stunning early medieval fortified city in the Languedoc  and not far north of the village house.

A UNESCO world heritage site, there is so much info on the net just look it up.
This was our day out.
Wandering around the ramparts marvelling at the history and architecture and checking out  the many great little shops.
Then we all went to see an amazing and hilarious Chevaliers spectacular with a good plot and lots of Knights fighting over beautiful maidens, some of whom kicked a little ass themselves.



The Thursday Three – les cocottes


Actually five today
These gorgeous little Le Creuset style lidded iron dishes came from the vide-grenier up the road at Alet-les-Bains.
Briefly home to Nostradamus and to a local boy who grew up to be chef to the last Tsar Nicholas (of all the Russias) then came home and built a very beautiful house.
Alet has some great architecture including a 9thc abbey .
I can see these little gems bubbling with pommes dauphinoise





A little light lunch


This was a little light lunch at the village cafe.
I had what looked like a five egg omelette ( I managed two thirds).
Trev had a monster duck breast. Both meals came with the usual fresh crusty bread and the not so usual wedge of camembert as a sort of bonus extra course. The tomatoes were five inches across.
They load the plates to the point where it isn’t easy to find a spot to manipulate the cutlery.
The rose was crisp, toffee coloured and off-dry……..
Don’t worry wbfm, we are working off all these carbs

Decorating a French house

The time has come.

We can no longer procrastinate and put off decisions about the detail. Clear plans must be made now as we move forward with the last of the hidden work that will underpin the final look.

Although I have been rolling ideas around in my head for a very long time, this year we have to confront the remaining quandaries head on, or we will never finish this project.

I am probably about to alienate half my followers, but here goes-

I always knew that I did not want either the luridly bright and over fussy concept of French country  I see on American sites,  OR the homogenous everything ethereally white and pale grey and all scalloped and monogrammed and completely impractical  look popular in many of the French interior magazines.

I have been looking and looking at semi-rural homes, not just in France but everywhere for a coherent design that speaks to me and have found only these three in which all  the elements really appeal.

So what do they have in common? the rough & the raw  juxtaposed with smooth & contemporary, soft artists’s colours, genuinely old & timeworn textiles (though I won’t be wriggling on a rough sacking covered chair!) ancient plaster work with real patina, strong statement pieces, a hint of luxurious texture, no dark varnish, no dead white walls, no fuss, no frills, no tiny flower prints

Whilst not an exact blueprint for what I’m doing at Campagne, maybe these will go some way toward explaining the route I have chosen.

I just need to get Mr neat and clean and everything  tidily finished  on board; but this house is changing him too.raw walls

right-from  http://www.lushome.com/modern-redesign-old-country-home-antique-stone-walls-exposed-ceiling-beams/126238

below left –from http://inspiracionline.blogspot.co.uk/

below right- from http://bohemianhomes.tumblr.com/

Escalier-entree_carrousel_gallery_ispiraciononline blogspotjuxtaposition of old and new

salle de bain

Le salle de bain part 2- Perfect Plumbing- where? how? why?

sept13 130What does “bathroom” mean to you? even amongst English speaking nations, the meaning is slightly different. Generally I take it to mean a room with a bath, a basin and a toilet.

The French are keen on hiding their toilets in odd corners, some seem to think that one is enough for an entire household however large. A salle de bain  need not contain one at all.

Then there is  the question of what to call a shower room in French, salle d’eau? salle de douche?

And what do you call a room with a basin and toilet and maybe a washing machine? cloakroom maybe? utility? IKEA showroom?glass basin



However you decide to label these spaces, almost all of you consider this kind of plumbing absolutely essential for 21st century life. It’s all relative.  We have endured a number of “facilities” during our epic renovation:- flushing toilet behind  front door, off grid toilet (with a bucket to flush), ditto with temporary  plastic plumbing, new toilet in shower room (hooray!!!) basins with and without warm water, showers attached and not attached to any water supply, bathing by pouring heated water over oneself whilst standing in a large plastic box while your partner howls with laughter… okay, okay, enough.

The point I am trying to make is that you will  save time and much angst by deciding early on  exactly what YOU want in the end product; not the neighbours, not the possibly opinionated friends, not the family, not even the plumber, who will all have their own idea of  what YOU should have. Don’t go down the easy road if you are going to regret it later. Listen to me and save a load of grief .

What do I want? (1) a toilet on at least two of the three floors, including one right by our bedroom

I screamed a bit when we achieved that.DSC02796 (2) a slipper bath to soak in and (3) a shower off the bedroom and (4) separate facilities for guests. So we have a plan, and we are working on it.

Le bain, le baignoir, le salle de bain, le salle d’eau, le salle de douche.





Episode 119- Le salle de bain? bathrooms Part 1

only WC in French house 2006!

Le bain
le baignoir, le salle de bain, le salle d’eau, le salle de douche.

Long term readers will be familiar with our original “bathroom ” facilities at the French village house.

Originally, we had top left- this lovely toilet, set handily right behind the front door.It was set at a drunken angle, it wasn’t attached to the floor, and the only hand washing facility was the bucket hanging off the single cold tap in what was the garage opposite. I think the only reason that there was a tap in there is that the garage was the kitchen until about seventy years ago. This toilet was “off grid” for two years whilst we wrestled with plumbing and room layouts.shower room before

On the second floor, we had a sort of shower room- right- which was about 22 feet long and maybe four feet wide. The view above shows the “business” end, with a washbasin and (hidden) an alcove with a shower in it.

The basin has always been connected, one way or another, but the shower was off grid for a year , then cold water only for a further three (YES I KNOW! WE WERE MAD!)

The only window was set right at the other end,hence the stygian gloom. Over the shower dangled a bulb on bare wire…. To avoid boring you all rigid, here are  a few links to earlier posts  showing  partial development of these two areas.

The long process of sorting plumbing,  and the right spaces for it has given Trevor more angst than all the lack of lighting and sockets, the constant dust and debris, wondering about windows, walls, doorways and major structural projects we have endured put together.

Having survived these privations, anything is a bonus, so I was amused when I read the latest post from my fellow blogger https://poshbirdyblog.wordpress.com/ who is about to complete purchase of  a beautiful mammoth project of a house just down the Aude road from ourselves. She speculates whether the toilet will work.

For the sake of your sanity and your marriage  m’dear, I truly hope it does.







Episode 118- Waxing Lyrical

grey waxesIn my road to restoration and renovation perfection I have picked up a few liquid and paste waxes to finish floors, wood, walls  and furniture at the French house.


This selection of greys will be well used. tinted lime plaster

I have already started finishing the few crumbly areas on our very old lime plaster with a little of the Gris Marmotte #3 – which has sealed and protected these areas and adds to the soft finish of these walls.

I like the fact that these waxes are billed as “intemporelle” (timeless) & “hier pour demaine” (yesterday for tomorrow) how very appropriate. The Grise Mercure looks bright blue here,  but is a very soft cloudy blue/grey sky colour on application. I will be using it to protect and soften the colour I mixed for the lower bit of the hall and staircase walls. A light coating in certain areas does not affect the breathability of the lime plaster that we are preserving wherever possible in the house.

So far I have finished the terrace bedroom floor by cleaning with a plastic scourer and French liquid wood soap. Then I let it dry (for nine months !) and then  finished  on my knees with a cloth and a tin of Liberon Liming Wax. (not recommended if your room is any bigger than the 112 square feet of floor space we have in that particular room)

The effect however is dramatically lighter and  brighter and the grain of the wood is enhanced. I was inspired by the lightening effect on the floor of the ingrained rubble from the demolition phase in here! All evidence of the screaming orangey-brown stain applied in the 50’s has gone and it is a lovely soft silvery grey.

Although the wax I used is not specifically designed for floors, I must point out that the finish I applied has now been in place for four years and has survived roof leaks over one winter due to slipping canal tiles in the worst storm in decades, so I would say it was fit for purpose.

terrace bedroom mid demolition lime waxed bedroom floor

The Thursday Three- Vintage whitework bed linen

DSC03146You can’t beat a bit of provenance and a little story behind your antique or vintage pieces.

I am a fan of the old textile companies which flourished in the the north west of England on the back of the Lancashire cotton mills.

Lots of pieces from the mid 1800s to late 1930’s are still around and in very good and usable condition. I have just picked up a thick white cotton sheet with a decorative double hem from one of my favourite hunting grounds, a charity shop in what was once a very  posh village on the outskirts of Birmingham.

The fact that it is conveniently down the road from my daughter’s house means that I can be found in there rummaging at least once a week!

This week’s trip yielded this Dorma sheet. Dorma are a textile company started by two brothers who started weaving cotton in 1841 and later set up the Dorma bed linen company in 1920. In the 20thc Dorma were one of the first companies to produce printed bed linens in the UK.


Although my working class Lancashire family did not work in the mills (my mother retained the aspirations of grandeur from her wealthy middle class Welsh relations) I grew up in a terraced house in a steep cobbled street in darkest Blackburn, and it was dark, thanks to the mills and other smoke producing industry in our part of East Lancs. My honorary aunt Rosie and uncle Fred did work in the mills and in the case of Rosie, was as deaf as a post from a lifetime spent shouting over the weaving looms. Any extended conversation with her resulted in a sore throat!

This sheet would have been one of the earliest produced by Dorma and is still in fantastic condition with years of wear still left.  I have a couple of other vintage pieces, including a pair of long discontinued cotton curtains by this company which are to be modified for the cave in France.

Lurking close to the sheet I found this pair of vintage Laura Ashley pillowcases with bows to tie on the back and an array of white work- ladder work, bridge work etc.

I may well do a post dedicated to white work (needlework in white on white fabric) soon



Episode 117- Re-purposing old original doors


I have been obsessing for ages about what to do with the old cave door-below –cave door


It doesn’t fit, the wind blows around and through it and there is insufficient light coming through the two dinky little panes. But it is very old,  very charming and very French and must be re-purposed somewhere. I have come up with a few ideas, most of which have made the ever patient Trevor roll his eyes; but now..EUREKAKAKA!…. I have it.

We will re-purpose as sliding “barn door” style access to wash room in the cave. This is a tight space and a regular opening door was never practical there as right by the front door in a small entrance area. This old cave door has sub layers of lead paint so cannot sand, will use a paint stripping gel that holds the flecks of lead paint within and see how it looks after that. Won’t be perfect but that would be boring anyway. Not at all inappropriate; our neighbour across the way had one on his garage/workshop doorway till he renovated his pretty house.

I just need to find a preferably old slide assembly. It will go great with our other old iron/metal elements at the village house. I will replace the glass with mirror, also old if I can find it; so will bounce extra light around in this restricted space.

I can hear the house  shouting “Yes! Yes! Yes!” from the other side of La Manche.

See some wonderful antique, vintage and modern examples here:-atelier barn doors



The Thursday Three- Maps, whales, butterflies

DSC02538#1-Here is my antique map of the Languedoc. Posted before but it is so precious and beautiful & evocative that I thought I would share it with newer followers.

I can date it to somewhere between 1648 and 1659, when the Treaty of the Pyrenees changed the French/Spanish border and ceded the city of Perpignan  to France, note the way the border used to skirt around Perpignan (Perpinya) close to the coast in the detailed photo. So our seaside place was originally in Spain.

DSC03136The Languedoc region is a different shape today, but many place names are still identifiable. I am looking for the right vintage frame .

# 2-I have this great copy of a whaling log also destined for France, because the colours will work!

and #3 this pretty 20’s/30’s amber pressed glass dressing table set

DSC01509 - Copy



Bonus post- Parler comme une française

Old bridge Campagne sur AudeThis is the beautiful and ancient bridge that gives access to our French village.

Talking of bridges, my aim this year is to master conversational French without stuttering, mumbling or frightening the neighbours! To assist with this mammoth task, I have been subscribing to Geraldine Lepere’s excellent “Comme une  française” site & her weekly youtube presentations, link below.

Geraldine posts  very amusing and informative  video-articles of French life, language, culture and with a contemporary slant: real people speaking real French!

I love her fresh, informal and very honest approach. I recommend her.

Today I was honoured to chat to Geraldine herself about her very accessible and very useful on-line courses.

Visit her now at:-photo


The Thursday Three- two new & one old

1920's silk thread embroidery on linen

1920’s silk thread embroidery on linen

Loyal readers will recognise this circular 1920’s silk thread embroidery on natural linen that I posted a while back. You may also know that I was looking for a second one to create a semi-symmetrical display in terrace bedroom.

Well I found one on ebay eventually, same embroidery transfer design but slightly different frame & executed in chain rather than satin stitch. Still perfect for what I want.

Even before I found gorgeous picture #2 I was hunting for a larger but still circular chinoiserie style 20’s/30’s transfer printed mirror to mount between these over the bed.

After five years I have admitted defeat, then this week I found a contemporary version, see below top left,

Though it doesn’t look like  a mirror in that photo





Unfortunately- see also above link, I also found this irresistable silk cushion substantially reduced in the store. I was not quite sure, the bright pink nylon bobbles put me off. I walked around Debenhams for about half an hour clutching said cushion and arguing with myself (Do I need it? do I want it ? will it look right with the vintage textiles such as the 20’s pyjama case ?)

As you know I love my passementerie but not the synthetic stuff. Sorry Matthew Williamson! They had to go to suit the as-yet-unmade window seat in the terrace bedroom at My French House

So what did you do this afternoon Gill? Well, I sat snipping synthetic bobbles off a brand new cushion

The pen is mightier than the sword- Bonus Post

plan-campagne-audeFurther to my last post, here are some links to older posts referring to our village, Campagne-sur-Aude’s history as a Preceptory of the Knights Templar . The village has the only completely enclosed central fort of this type in Europe.

Sources suggest that the earliest documented reference to the village was in 814 AD, though we have traces of Roman and Visigoth settlement there.



This is the best link, if you can get the English language version  up, or you have excellent French. I don’t normally recommend Google Translate but it’s an option



My older posts







The pen is mightier than the sword- and considerably easier to write with

Thus said Marty Feldman, and he was right.

When I write my little story on Campagne sur Aude, our French village of choice, I will be doing so as an incomer, but with the most honourable of intentions.

I have found no evidence to date that anyone else has done this and someone really should. I am in the fortunate position of being able to do my own illustrations too! I would love to write it longhand, with a quill  made from a fallen feather dropped by a griffin vulture; but my writing is illegible, even to me .

Campagne sur Audeplan-campagne-aude







The photo above is my own, showing the 12 sided shape of the fort at the centre of the village from the north east, flip it to study this plan-right- from  http://www.templiers.org/campagne-sur-aude.php

The main entrance on the south wall is shown on my photo –below- and right is the view from inside.

Note the sword sharpening marks to the left!

20140728_111622campagne sur aude templar fort entrance

campagne sur aude templar fort entrance

Then we noticed similar sword marks on the walls of our little courtyard. Were the Knights twelve feet tall? or does this just prove my theory that there was a substantial  roof on the arched passage (leading from what is now part of front cave doorway ) to the back of our house and someone stood cave doorthere to sharpen something?- call me Sherlock……………..DSC01715











Kitchen lighting- a concession to the contemporary

julian+wass+white+kitchen+school+house+milk+glass+chrome+pendant+light+island+butcher+block+double+door+refrigerator+subway+tile+backsplashAS you may recall, I am mixing it up at the French village house and adding a few classic contemporary pieces to the antique and vintage mix. This is the chrome & enamel fitting that will be installed over the dining table in kitchen and this image was found on :-  http://www.julianwassphoto.com/

This was sourced in M. Bricolage (yet again) and I’m glad I bought it three years before we need it as has now been discontinued. There is a newer version in stock,see below, but it is not quite as big, heavy or funky as mine.

So you see, it does pay to think ahead and BUY IT WHEN YOU SEE IT


An early & expanded Thursday Three – Vintage lighting

DSC01595 - Copy (2)DSC02194As my regular Thursday Three slot has been thrown into chaos lately, I put forth this bonus post showcasing some of the lighting I have picked up  over the last few years with  the French house in mind. Some works there, some won’t, you will have to wait for the big reveal to see what went in and where.. I will admit the rustic wooden set won’t work but it is beautifully made and would look perfect in a ski chalet in the Pyrenees.

Here are some links to earlier posts featuring vintage lighting- https://coteetcampagne.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/the-thursday-three-any-old-iron-some-scrap-it-some-give-it-house-room/







DSC01787 - Copy



DSC01672 - Copy (3)DSC01673 - Copy

DSC01669 - CopyDSC01789 - Copy

dan and ann 017

Vintage wedding on a sunny day

dan and ann 024Sorry no posts for days, but organising (and making ) two buffets and hosting an afternoon  garden party does kind of distract you a bit.

The theme was vintage seaside and the bride had silver starfish clips in her bohemian plait up-do, a vintage style gown in a dusty pastel sea green colour made from fortuny pleated net over satin, customised with swarovski stars and pearl decorated waistband. She made her own bouquet from tightly packed silk roses trimmed with strings of old faux pearls & a selection of antique and vintage  brooches with seaside themes.

She looked beautiful. My son sported his first suit in ten years and starfish and shell motif tie.


Best man had on his boating blazer and stripy espadrille beach shoes. His wife rocked a vintage vibe frock with a French Riviera print. Kirsten wore a short 70’s style frock and necklace. My  outfit was new except for  my black & orange burlesque mini-top hat with net and feathers that took ages to arrive from some dodgy “eastern” location.

The ex- husband behaved very well, the sun shone, the priory venue and gardens were beautiful (no guys, that’s not my back garden, which this morning looked like a dodgy pub- garden after last orders ) and there were no punch-ups  at the cheesy disco later where the buffet included, of course, a few French delicacies like chèvre chauds.

So all in all it went very well…….photos by Trevor (in the Hawaiian beach shirt, and a couple by the bride’s father, Phil)

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Episode 116- back on the paper trail again

Yes, I am back pondering about wallpaper once more.

This is odd, I haven’t included wallpaper in any of my decorative schemes for many years; paint is my go-to solution . France and this house are clearly steering my thoughts into new, uncharted territory.

In an earlier post-


I was musing on what appealed to me about the one decent wallpaper we inherited  with the French village house, the eponymously named tulip room wallpaper . Well, I liked the fact that it looked like it had been laboriously hand printed and had a pearlescent sheen- the single wall we will be papering behind the bed in that bedroom  will get a modern take on that vibe.

Meanwhile, I have been considering using paper in the cave. The end wall and one long (30 foot) wall have exposed stone which I will be cleaning and keeping apparent. This leaves us with the other 30 foot insulated & plasterboarded  wall, plus two small walls enclosing the wash room.

As  I keep repeating, the cave is long and dark and lit only from each end,   so something pale and light reflective is critical. I tracked down this traditional looking wallpaper (Chinoise by Arthouse) which I love.

As usual I found it at varying prices , from modest to 75 dollars a roll in the USA, but as usual the best price & service is via http://www.wallpaperdirect.com/products/arthouse/chinoise-yellow/102846

They have sent me a nice big sample, but trying to get an accurate photo of the subtle colours is proving impossible. I am posting these, but it is actually a softer pale yellow reminiscent of 18thc  pigments and the finely drawn birds & boughs have a faded sepia ink tint rather than the grey seen here.

DSC03130chinoise wallpaper



It goes fabulously well with both the new and antique textiles I have bought for this guest room

The Thursday Three- square French style pillow covers/cases

French style pillow coversFound these three in charity shop in UK, maybe the missing fourth suffered a terrible stain related accident?

Large, heavy,  soft white cotton with cotton/linen centre panels with woven double squares in a natural/gold colour . Probably for the cave bedroom (although there will be subtle neutrals in every room) ideal to introduce a little texture on the bed.

Pretty sure that I would have paid more than £1.50 GBP (all three!) in a brocante or specialist antique textile shop.


If you are reading this Lorraine, I might reveal my sources for a small fee

Label is faded and tells me nothing- they look very French country rustic.

British cushion covers are generally smaller , and of course our native pillow cases are oblong.




For those of you unwilling to trawl through my archives, I have just posted the following historical ( and hysterical) piece on the Period Living magazine website. It’s good to remind ourselves that,  actually, we HAVE achieved some stuff , though how we have survived thus far without serious injury is a mystery.


The cave, otherwise known as "the black hole"

The cave, otherwise known as “the black hole”


Now you see him , now you don’t



Although we are some way off “completion” at the French village house (which I think may be an abstract concept anyway) I cannot resist looking at lighting for the near finished terrace room and salon.

I spotted this great lamp, inspired by the classic anglepoise, in M. Bricolage’s lighting department.

This place is not to be sniffed at, I found a great shade for the dining area there also.

The floor standing lamp is made from a grey washed hardwood, with chunky and functional little “tap” type angle adjustors and featuring  vintage style fabric covered   cord and a heavy marble base to keep it stable. The shade is patinated  zinc. I love it so I took  a photo, then a second one milliseconds later in which  Trevor had stealthily materialised ! I always suspected he  has mysterious and preternatural talents.

He has the spooky ability to find me WHEREVER I am, and no matter how obscure a place. We don’t even bother agreeing rendez-vous becuse he just has this homing beacon. Example-he was working in Worthing (Sussex) once, and said he would join me for lunch at a specific time & I went off sight seeing.

Worthing is a fair sized town. At the appointed hour he just materialised behind me. He does that.

My daughter finds it very amusing and says it’s a kind of affectionate stalking.











What struck me about the lamp photos is how old we are looking. 20150522_122005I put up the first pictures in the salon last month, including a hard pastel of Trev on Ingres paper I sketched not long after we met in 1994.

I drew this as an experiment in fading light and always felt I captured him better than in any sketch since.

This was pre mid-life-crisis beard and pre grey hair .

We are getting old

The Thursday Three- Shake your boutis, baby

Most French textile fans will know what I mean by a “boutis”.

The word “boutis”is generally used as a blanket (haha gedit?!) term for French cotton quilts , particularly those hailing from or in the spirit of Provence. Sources differ in definition, but here is mine-

The simpler quilts consisting of two layers of fabric with a cotton wadding sandwiched between, and stitched together, are probably better labelled as piqués.

A boutis was originally a quilt made using a traditional technique whereby intricately stitched motifs are stuffed, piece by piece with cotton or wool wadding inserted at the back, via a tiny hole, which is later stitched up. Incredibly labour intensive, these were often painstakingly made up as wedding quilts, usually in white.

I would say that my latest vintage textile find, below, is a piqué; I found this huge heavy thing in a UK charity shop and was initially put off by the fussy floral patchwork design, then I turned it over and..voila!.. a typically French ticking stripe in soft, authentic colours on the reverse revealed itself. That’s the side I will have on show. Proper cotton wadding and part hand made it is a suprise find .

Two pillow cases came with it, un-quilted on the striped side.

It has authentic scalloped borders and, serendipitously,  at last makes sense of a pair of large pillows (see bottom of pile) picked up years ago whose colourway and style  did not quite gel with anything else I had. They look great with this quilt and are now destined for tulip bedroom. On top is my latest delivery from ebay, three metres of hand made crochet lace in undyed cotton

boutis cotton quilt

Episode 115- The end of an era

20150521_180122My old Kia Sportage ( 18 years old so virtually vintage) was used as a workhorse in the early days of our French renovation project.

Every spring we would load her up, see earlier posts, and bring her over to France until late September. Although very comfortable, this was always a costly exercise as she runs on petrol (dearer in France) and is not very economical on fuel.In Spring 2012, we sorted out a new MOT and a Certificate of Conformity (essential if registering a UK car in France) with the intention of doing just that. All we needed was some LHD headlights to get a Control Technique sorted.20150521_180326


Then my father went from not very well to really, really  sick and we had to stay close to home for months, so plans went awry yet again and after he died in October 2012 I was not in the best shape for working on the house, or anything for that matter.

Then Trevor got sick so he couldn’t get the stuff done on the Kia which we’d planned so she sat on the Mayor’s car park for three years, going nowhere fast and and below left-is an idea of what happens if you leave your car outside in full sunshine here for that period of time. i.e. it simply strips off the paint!


So….what to do?

We had bought a French car in UK, re-registered in France , with miserly diesel fuel consumption and good capacity and this was far and away the most sensible option and I finally had to admit that I had held onto the idea of keeping the Kia for sentimental reasons.

This car and I have been through a lot together and  it was hard to say goodbye, but when a local gardener made us an offer we had to look at the practicalities, the new lights, battery, windscreen wipers, cost of CT and registration etc all came to more than she was worth on paper.


So we had to move my big heavy hand made Spanish ceramic sink out of the back which had languished there for three years and say goodbye. It was the sensible thing , but I still miss the old girl.

Everything has changed since we started this project, Some of it for the better, some not so. What we thought we wanted and needed has shifted seismically.

It really is the end of an era.

À Mon Seul Désir

DSC02321I have two framed woolwork needlepoint tapestries for the tulip bedroom. Mille-fleurs,  mythic animals, unicorns, symbolism

These simplified but still very evocative pictures were inspired by the six tapestries woven around 1500 and now restored and displayed at the Musée national du Moyen Âge (former Musée de Cluny) in Paris.

I was aware of these iconic images and they have been used and referenced many times. For a simple overview see- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lady_and_the_Unicorn. The first five tapestries are titled Taste, Hearing,Sight, Smell  & Touch

I have “Taste” (naturally!) and “Hearing” (which is more than Trev is demonstrating at present) and I picked up these in the early days of picking a palette for the tulip bedroom.

The sixth tapestry ” À Mon Seul Désir” has had a number of interpretations including, “my heart or soul’s only desire” . As my sole desire right now is to finish the b****y French house, it is very apt.

The blue reminds me of a Campagne sky, fading to turquoise on the horizon- as pictures on the photo wallpaper behind this blog. The red is soft carmine. Both colours are quintessentially French to me.

Originally made from cochineal, this is a light shade of the red known as crimson lake and found on every art student’s palette until the late 20th century (don’t get me started on the general dumbing down of Art  College courses).

In a principally very plain “old white” room I will have a single accent wall behind the bed in this wallpaper under a deep area of exposed original stone. Parts of this room are 14th century

shoppingsept13 108









The paper has a soft hand printed look and references the  “tree of life” image found in many ancient cultures and a classic tapestry/embroidery motif

Crown Paradise Bird Flamenco RED Floral Feature Wallpaper M0738 | eBay

In red on an creamy white ground,  I have a smaller “toile” version of this classic motif on the big heavy hand made curtains posted recently which I have painstakingly divided for the little window in this bedroom https://coteetcampagne.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/the-thursday-three-toile-de-jouy-and-vintage-frames/

Wallpaper is called “Paradise” how apt; to each his own …………………………….

Why water is key for me

le riviere AudeI like to watch water, even if it isn’t doing a lot.

I have always felt a strong affinity with rivers and lakes particularly . We are a long way from the sea here in the UK, the furthest “inland” I have ever lived, and I am not happy about it.We do have some pretty canal walks that keep me just about sane, but proximity to “proper” water was certainly  the second biggest plus point for the French house.

The ancient riverside village of Campagne-sur-Aude maintains many of the important waterside buildings and direct access to the Aude and the strategic choice to start a settlement in this location is crystal clear. I love the way that this river made this place work, & I love the fact that we have it a few steps away and can hear it in it’s many moods from  gently ambling along to dramatic mountain meltwater fury in early spring









The juxtaposition of moody Scottish skies, an iconic building and deeply mysterious water inspired my painting of the Cameron House Hotel on Loch Lomond, a gift for my niece who held her wedding reception there on  a (meteorologically) temperamental July day in 2005.

I am looking at picking a spot on the river Aude to paint another homage to water, stone and sky.


Episode 114 – It’s all in the detail, SSSWC- skip, strip, sand, wax, curse a bit ….

SSSWC, SSSWC, that’s my new exercise programme.

Is it effective? on me and on the French house?…yes

Again these are phone photos, so not great but I want to show you the fruits of some of our labours.

STRIP- Newly revealed stone around window; SAND- the oak window ledge, miraculously surviving mass renovation with barely a scratch. SKIP – chuck out the old faux chrome and plastic and fit new lovely chunky handles to unify our collection of windows and handles throughout the house (no two are the same)

Talking of details, was Trev impressed when he unwrapped our spanking smart shiny new shower assembly and found out that the fixed header rail is designed for short people only? We are a tall family,

whaddya think? I think probably CURSE!


stone surround


new iron handles




oak window ledge

The Thursday Three- Toile de Jouy and vintage frames

DSC03115I know my Thursday Three has been rather neglected lately, so, to compensate, I bring you, on tuesday, this stunning curtain.

In a Chinoiserie influenced toile, lined and backed in a a more conventional country pattern of little vignettes framed in a diamond trellis design.

Classic madder (soft red) on off-white colourway, this piece has a simple sewn on  valance, large metal rings to hang  and undyed natural cotton heavy tassel fringing.

DSC03116I like this for a number of reasons; it’s beautifully made, will keep out the cold in winter and will look the part in the French village house. I have to decide whether to divide it into two curtains for tulip room window or swathe it dramatically to one side..hmmm

I have also been working again on the what is now known as the bordello mirror (thanks bizzyella at French Country) see


I am finally happy with the painted finish….also started a  collection of suitable old frames  for  artwork. Our rented cottage in UK is now stacked with stuff earmarked for serious editing.

You may glimpse a few canvases..yes I am finally thinking about painting again.







Dream French escape of the day; hand-picked for you

20150523_160355So, halfway between Argeles- sur-Mer and Campagne- sur-Aude we often stop at Maury.

This is a beautiful and very French village in the heart of the Roussillon  wine growing region . With brilliant links to mountains, Mediterranean  and Perpignan city it is a sunny mix of French, Catalonian and a bit of Spanish culture in gob-smackingly gorgeous surroundings.



We sat at the bar and had a glass of rose and I spotted this house with a hand-painted “A Vendre ” (for sale) sign.

At first I thought it was a typical one room wide village house. I got up for a look and what a gem!










Double fronted, on a pretty street that leads up into the foothills of the mountains. Great cafe/bar across the street with excellent French Catalan cuisine. Another award wining restaurant across the road. Views to die for. On the top floor is a pretty little loggia so you can watch the world go by in complete privacy.

From the little stone bridge alongside you can see the wide rear facade with a charming large wrought-iron balcony to fill with charming chairs and pots. Permission to open up those pretty windows shouldn’t be a problem. You have a little annexe to store bikes etc.

Underneath is what looks like a natural spring that feeds into a little culvert below, so the gentle sound of trickling water will accompany your aperitifs!












A hidden gem; and no, I am not on commission!! Somebody buy this please

Centre for wine tasting and vineyard tours (all accessable on foot) scenery, walking, cycling , half an hour to hot and happening Perpignan, an hour to Spain.

Enjoy castles , culture, live music, food.

Enjoy as a holiday home, would let to tourists EASILY; or just go and live in it.

I imagine it would be around 130,000 euros

Four images of the Aude region, South of France

A selection of shots of our area; each one quintessential Aude


Below left- A shutter in Campagne -sur- Aude village-Right little house by the old bridge in Campagne (is that an external interrogation chair??) the two little huts are aviaries

Shop in Carcassonne (Ville Basse) – Right- Mural at Carcassonne station

The chap on the right is one of the cleaners, he is almost 7 feet tall and looks exactly like Roald Dahl’s BFG . I couldn’t get a better shot without it looking like I was stalking him


Shutter French village house




Carcassonne center


Carcassonne station

A blast from the past- demolition diary entry DIY gets Dan-Ger-Ous

You may find my latest (toned down) post on the Period Living site- link below-amusing.

I am running a few years behind on this, unlike Blog-sur-Aude which is now contemporaneous. If you want the unvarnished and unedited version, you will just have to read ALL my archive posts and find it

We were mad



Episode 113- recognisable renovation progress

First of all, apologies for quality of these shots and the last two posts from France. My phone camera is not focusing properly (they looked fine on my tiny screen)

Shame as we achieved quite  a lot in the salon.

Chalky washes over rough lime plaster & hints of stone behind- shades of soft straw, ceiling pale straw so no line between it and walls (my own mixes) pelmet Liberon lime-waxed. First art work up

I’ll take my good camera next month… still before & after (pretty obvious)

sept13 120(2)


French pelmet

Trevor wondering why!

salon french country

salon french country

It’s salon..g way home

Trust me this is progress.
French salon all painted now, including skirtings; apart from front wall (undercoated only)
Trevor hates rollers so both parts of ceiling done with brush.
Don’t think he will be waving his arms in the air for a few days now…


Above you can  see vile sapele doors.  These are  concealing a deep inset cupboard with terrazzo shelves and original lime plaster. Although these doors have protected our wardrobe come pantry come  linen store from builders and rubble and dust they are coming off very soon .
Apart from being vile they interfere with main door to stairs!
We have a beautiful reclaimed wooden Georgian frame to mount here that came off a near identical original inset cupboard in  the West Country. Trev will make the slight adjustments and this will set off our open cupboard perfectly.
Can’t wait


From France- one corner looking ok


A little snippet of a snap showing one corner of our rapidly improving French salon.
The eclectic mix of objects captured here says quite a lot about us.
The “temporary” music centre Trev bought THE MINUTE we completed on the house so he could play his music collection. ( he is now looking at some small but powerful and expensive wireless  thing)
A can of fixative (for pencil and pastel)
An empty bottle of what was the most incredible vodka from Russian guest at apartment (he also gave us a caviar bowl and spoon)
Matches for candles ( still no working wall lights in here)

You can see a little of old stone half fireplace, check out earlier posts & one of the many terrazzo shelves we have uncovered throughout the house

The Thursday Three – little tapestry style mats and vintage themed bedlinen

DSC03113I have just acquired these little heraldic themed mats in coloured silk with the look of medieval tapestries and  edged in a gimp braid with fine old gilt wire woven in. All hand sewn

I will look for a vintage frame, or pair of frames to suit.

Then I picked up two sets of this bedding with a great print and colourway for the  Argeles-sur-Mer apartment; lovely silky smooth high thread count cotton

Half price from Sainsbury’s home sale