How green are these valleys?

Languedoc Aude valleysI feel like a tranquil post today.

I love how the layers of the last foothills of the Pyrenees change colour as we drive away from the Pyrenees-Orientales up toward the greens and blues of the beautiful Aude valleys.

The Languedoc climate is basically Mediterranean, growing windier toward Carcassonne and wetter toward old Aquitaine in the west.Higher up the winters are crisp and cold

We have a micro climate in the village, with long, hot summers & mild autumns dropping to very cold in January and February. Spring can vary wildly between calm, warm & sunny to wet and cooler, but the average temperatures between March and November are consistently around 8 to 10 degrees higher than in the UK. In summer, it seems to rain mainly at night, or maybe a short sharp downfall in the middle of the day.. how very civilised!

Rainfall means it stays green, even after the hottest summer (see above)  but the valleys create their own local variations, even within a relatively short distance. For example, we can feel the cooler air as the road rises through Quillan and up to Axat & the mountains proper. I have no idea what Trevor is doing in this photo- suggestions welcome20151006_135732Quillan

Posted in Art and inspiration blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Flipping French Floors #2 – floor envy

Frederic-Leon Ducout photoI have had floor envy for a while now.

Investigations have not turned up any charming original tiled floors in the French house which we could have lovingly restored. There is a small area of tomettes on the first floor that we will keep, but that’s it.

I yearn to replicate one of these beautiful floors in a mix of pale, small tiles  in natural colours such as these found on


Tiled v wood floors? both look authentic and appropriate but in some ways I am glad that our main living/dining/cooking/sleeping  areas are on the first & second floors and have wood floors, which I love and like to walk on barefoot. Crucially, wooden floors are warm too & with the odd rug are perfectly fine in winter.

The cave presents a different dilemna. We have “lived with it” for a few years and mulled over whether to extend the central heating down there and/or connect up a vintage log burner but practicality, economy & comfort have won out. Tiles are cold, be warned. Great in summer, no bloody fun in winter!!!

We will install the excellent  Warmup ( ) under floor electric wire system that we put into our ground floor shower room and breakfast room in UK in our mid-century house.Readily available in France too.

It was efficient and inexpensive to run & hopefully we can, as we did in UK, lay it ourselves, with our electrician testing and connecting it finally. Over that I have finally found the right tiles, which we will buy next trip in case these get discontinued ( story of my life on this damn project!)The FLOOR the FLOOR! The small travertine tiles I have found in Tridome are actually wall tiles but are thick and tough and will do the job beautifully. In shades of pale terracotta, pearly off-grey, light stone and creamy white the look will replicate those in this photo -Right-  found on:-



Posted in Renovation and restoration diary- France | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Thursday Three – Venetian style hand engraved mirrored sconces

engraved venetian glass sconcesI only wanted two, so the third one is a bonus.

Each side of my black Venetian glass mirror

Three words- Cave, candles, bathtub…..


Posted in Antique and Vintage finds | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Flipping French Floors #1

Tulip room

Tulip room

Builder’s debris, strong cleaners, constant sweeping and damp dusting, strong sunlight & no protection, years of benign neglect; no wonder My French Floors have had enough.

Seeing the way the thirsty floor in the terrace bedroom soaked up the lime wax like an ancient sponge ( and needs more!) brought it home to me just how much my poor, dessicated wooden floors have suffered.

So yes, this is a perfect example of one of those areas where I am letting the house dictate to me what needs to be done.

In the tulip bedroom, with the oldest and most naturally beautiful floor in the house, it will look like I have interfered very little- but I will still have to get off the odd patch of squidgy black stuff (?) treat the resulting black marks with oxalic acid, use my pine oil paint stripper  ( see earlier post) to get the spots of blue & green paint off (NOT me) and then clean and wax to keep the amazing patina.

There will be NO destructive sanding and NO nasty shiny varnishes in here.They won’t suit our house.raw white wood floor

In the kitchen-diner we are laying sheets of natural coconut fibre insulation over the existing unattractively modern (but level) floor. Then we will lay thick new local pine boards across to visually widen the room (it is already QUITE long enough at 30 feet!)

These will be treated with this amazing stuff

Although made from natural oils ( such as sunflower, soyabean & thistle oils), and waxes( caranauba, candelilla waxes etc) it is tough, microporous, highly liquid resistant, exceeds current  fire resistence standards  and is apparently safe if animals or small children lick it

This is exactly the slightly raw looking but smooth feeling light, white-ish finish I want.

We are going down this route because we want the house to BREATHE.

Hopefully application will be less labour intensive than hand rubbing lime wax onto terrace bedroom floor. I’ll let you know

Posted in Renovation and restoration diary- France | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Terrible times in France

PoppiesI am following this latest news from Paris. I truly feel like I have been attacked personally

Words fail me, except – à tous les peuples français, soyez assurés de notre amitié et de notre soutien

Posted in Renovation and restoration diary- France | 1 Comment

French style made simple- another humble house

Chambre French countryThinking about rough French country decor again; (always)

Look at this for inspiration. Not grand at all, but a sweeping statement of personality and good taste.

Such simplicity, such style, such authenticity, such a successful re-imagining of an old house.

Then right over the top in the bathroom/art gallery! … and why the hell not?

Those colours- yellow ochre, terre cuite,  soft green, pale lilac; that elusive and insouciant French style

This shouts “minimal intervention” to me. Deciding what to tweak and what to leave alone is such a necessary skill for  a truly successful project anywhere. I think that it takes years to do this properly.

A true artist’s eye- unmistakableSalle-de-bain_ French

Posted in Art and inspiration blog, Renovation and restoration diary- France | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Episode 127- so we kiss goodbye to the plank and bucket table

Shocking- we have a coffee table with a large surface area and capacious shelf beneath.

OK, it needs work, but if you have been on any of this journey with me you will be nearly as excited as I am.

The French house salon is beginning to resemble a Nice Room. Sounds crazy, but we are finding the visible progress beginning to manifest itself really weird. I feel obliged to tidy up now for a start

French salon before French salon after

Posted in Renovation and restoration diary- France | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments