sept13 garage

Episode 100- UK v France renovation materials costs comparison#1

OK , I can’t speak for other countries but I can certainly give a bit of guidance on what to buy in France  and what you might want to bring over from the UK for your renovation/restoration project.

Let’s start by debunking a persistent myth; that French paint is poorer quality and there is less in every tin.  This may have been true years ago but I can safely say the contemporary French paint ranges are fine. You can buy brands such as Dulux in most “retail park” type DIY superstores but it is more expensive here in France.DSC02761

What is a problem is finding specialist period or heritage shades. These haven’t quite hit La France Profonde yet. If you want these, bring them with you

We have experimented extensively, to the point that we can construct impromptu coffee tables, but to save you the trouble and expense of this we present our best find- a trade white “1er” emulsion  with great  coverage at a tiny price (under 15 euros for 5 litres) from Mr.Bricolage chain

1er paintGlimpsed here -right- this is a great base to add colouriser liquid pigments also available at most DIY stores in France.

Be brave (I am) and I have mixed up some great shades; just keep a jar for touch ups!

Quality  wood & metal paint is easily available, reasonably priced and in some great colours. Some products are specifically made to resist strong sun fade and damage, a big problem in the South here, such as “lasure” which sinks into the wood for a tough matte finish and out-performs varnish in my opinion

Wood treatments and finishes are competitively and comparatively priced and you will find virtually everything you might want, even specialist antiquing and limewaxing products such as the excellent French brand Liberon.,445,495.html


More on the contentious curtains conversation

I am having my usual ongoing debate with myself re curtains, even though I would be better employed…

1) Earning enough money to pay for the final work at French village house

2) Thinking about filling, plastering and painting (ditto)

3) Implementing my much needed new fitness regime (which should involve more than my usual flying off the handle, jumping to conclusions, running myself ragged  and skipping other important stuff )

Even after whittling down I now have more textiles/curtains than windows & french doors, including two alternatives for the salon, which is the only room in the house with features that will credibly support any style other than “rough-luxe”. I now add a third option, palest natural gold slightly crushed velvet puddled light enhancing-A251P_SP258_02_25TD4m Remember 17thc Musketeer style?

These right  would SO look  good with thin muslins underneath edged with-


Happy birthday to me

20150224_142521Yes, it is my birthday today, and a chronologically significant one at that, the big 60!

I have a had a number of pleasant suprises today; top of the list at the moment is this huge slab of tiramisu flavoured patisserie which Trevor has just dropped off here between job calls. Yum.

A close second is an email from a French friend saying they can’t wait to see us in March ( we go back 14/03) How heartwarming is that?

February is always a significant month for us,Trev’s birthday on 20th, mine 24th and we completed on French house on 23rd.

It always seems to be the month when the big opportunities happen too.

This is the birthday card I gave Trevor. It just about sums up how we both feel! My daughter usually has to buy a personalised card because the grandson calls Trev “Papi”, but he loved the sentiments on the “grandad” card  behind and chose it accordingly20150221_095003

More silver linings in a grey  winter. My son and his lovely girlfriend are getting married on the 4th July 2015, so no doubt a bit more on that soon……………

A little note on ninety nine


For those of you out there who haven’t followed us for a while (and think I do nothing but moan!)

The fact is that we have only been able to spend 6 weeks a year in France until recently, and for two of those years we couldn’t do much as we were recovering from surgery. Add on to that the year and a half of my life I completely lost taking care of family matters,  and that instantly halves the amount of time this has taken! And explains some of the the timescales. Life happens20140727_175726


We will never regret this road we have taken

Our Languedoc life is everything we thought it could be (hiccups and all) and the house WILL be fab-u-lous (Thanks bizzyella!!!!!)

Episode 99 – Project mis-management

???????????????????????????????Renovation, restoration, prevarication

If you are thinking of trying to mastermind a property project from another country, which you can only visit to oversee about six times a year (for a few days) using guys who don’t speak your native tongue who don’t really “do” emails my considered advice is DON’T!

Don’t get me wrong.My artisans/workmen  at French house are beyond reproach and are doing a good job; but there will be times when they come up against an issue where their bit of the work comes up against another trade’s who isn’t on site at that point so everything grinds to a halt.


I cannot afford a dedicated Project Manager so please don’t ask;  My wonderful Builder is keeping “an eye” but he is not charging for this and he is not omniscient

Whilst you will find contractors with a broad range of trade’s or multi-skilled  on call in other countries, you are very unlikely to find this in rural village France. Here, folk have a trade and they will not step outside and tread on another trade’s toes.

All my guys are acknowledged and experienced experts in their own areas, that’s fine & I trust them to get on with it as and when they can.

They all know that I am a control freak, so if they are not sure what I want they STOP! Quite right too.

Here is an example of why we keep hitting delays on our project. We knocked a doorway through massive spine wall from terrace bedroom to what will be jackandjill shower room. We co-ordinated installation of new roof lights, demolition of another stupidly sited wall (that split the tulip bedroom in  half) created two brand new access doorways, got the centuries old lead pipe replaced with new stuff, plumbed in the WC, prepped for new basin, built a new wall and tiled the floor etc etc. 20140426_174401Unfortunately  when M.Plombier unwrapped my state of the art eco friendly miserly fuel consumption chrome towel rail/radiator that will warm this room and which feeds off my new all singing all dancing eco-boiler he realised that this towel rad also incorporates a facility which allows it to be switched to electric heating element   when central heating isn’t on. So he stopped.

We just need to arrange a date  for sparky and gasman to get together   in our house at the same time on the same day and converse…….I have every faith in them

Episode 98: renovation, restoration, insulation


Well, there’s a striking ceiling treatment

Thank you…

What do they do in the winter?  where is the insulation?

Combining the original,  the beautiful, and the practical is a whole art form in itself.


Whilst I would love to treat the second storey bedroom ceilings this way, I cannot see how we could use the rooms in winter. The internet is stacked with images of beautiful but completely impractical French ceilings like this. We are  leaving the beams and ceiling joists exposed and either limewaxed or   white washed to a silvery shade, but have no choice but insulate and board between.

Layers of carbon neutral lagging spun from recycled bottles.20150203_160139

Will be an improvement on ceilings in our rented cottage in UK with hideous textured artex and faux beams.

Aha, so that’s what the mad woman looks like with no slap on….

Pass the passementerie, I think I am addicted

???????????????????????????????Well here we are again

Doctor, doctor, my mind flips to trimmings at the most inappropriate times”

I keep picking up “the odd pair”

Left, modern cotton with black metal bases

Right-vintage faded silk with beads

Below- Big raw flax with intricate knotting (weigh a ton)











Here lies the extent of my obsession, I am watching the TV series “The Musketeers” (mainly for interior design inspiration) set in 17th c France but filmed mainly in unspoilt parts of the Czech Republic.

One of the heroes (I forget which, but wasn’t Aramis a 1970’s aftershave?) was peeling off his slightly Jean-Paul Gaultier inspired leather jacket to buckle his swash  with a painfully corseted lady and what am I focussing on?? The muslin drapes artfully swathed behind him, edged in pom-pom fringing!!

Painting furniture, paint recipes?

???????????????????????????????So what paint is best? well it depends of course on the purpose and position

wood,metal, inside, outside, used daily etc etc

These get left outside on the terrace for most of the summer and are going to need a new coat of paint  soon.

I have been considering with what???????????????????..





I plan to paint my dining table, four Bergere style chairs and large bench ( as yet unsourced) in dining area. I also have wardrobes, bedside tables, vintage light fittings  and other stuff and need to decide on whether we go for perfect matte finish,  a bit of wax (clear or antique) some “distressing”, though you may know that I generally prefer genuine time-worn  patina to some of the ill-judged attempts at “shabby chic” that I have seen!

20150205_151211Anyway, I digress, I found this guy painting a bedroom suite in French pearl grey for sale in a new shop at my local shopping centre in his own, interesting recipe developed as a cheaper alternative to the very popular Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

He is using a mix of acrylic matte emulsion, PVA glue and icing sugar!

Apparently it is so tough you can’t even distress it so perfect for a perfect, long lasting, tough finish. As a veteran experimenter in paint, I love the idea of this mix

The Thursday Three- Get a handle on it !

DSC02095I am back to considering the details; today it’s handles

Possibly  a touch premature? But what the hell, details are important.

There is still so much good, affordable vintage architectural hardware out there that it’s easy to find the perfect pieces for your project.

These 19thc Arts & Crafts handles -left- were found on ebay

These Gothic style beaten metal handles -right-  adorn a beautiful dressing table and won’t be prised off to decorate another piece 20150205_104255

These ornate little treasures -below - currently sit on an unattractive and clumsy set of drawers and they will be coming off! I bought the piece purely for these lovely handles.

I think, perhaps, they will be used to unify a pretty but mis-matched pair of bedside tables at the French village house


Episode 97- This post’s a bit blue for you

GarageRenovation, restoration, colourisation

It started in the “garage” of the French village house (or rather, the “atelier” now, if you don’t mind) around the door frames-left

It crept up the stairs as a painted skirting (base) board (!?) ???????????????????????????????



I tried to paint it out-right.

On no, it wasn’t having any of that covering up lark and still glows through in a good light.

sept13 129






It holds out for a hero to save it post-renovation when the critical decisions are made-left???????????????????????????????

It creeps insiduously up the second staircase and lies in thick layers on the bedroom windows

sept13 118



It even peeps at you whilst framing the mad nutter in the atticsept13 152(2)

It clashes with the soft, matte  “Bleu lavande” we picked for the shutters which is, of course now discontinued ….HA…the story of my renovating life- see link below

I like blue, but this tin of bright, brassy, treacle thick, high gloss, laced with what looks like gloopy shellac varnish and slapped on with a yardbrush blue seems to have crept around the house like fungus.

According to this useful chart from , it’s French name is “Bleu Toile”  , and in English “Dodger blue”which sounds more like it if you substitute the er in the middle for a y.

So, if you are standing in the shop or poring over paint charts straining your brain trying to decide on critical wall and woodwork colours, you now know what this inherited one looks like everywhere.


I like colour, but I have subtler shades in mind

Episode 96- Will France work? Will I work in France?

???????????????????????????????Renovation, restoration, distraction

My view here from my home office in the UK is somewhat marred by the industrial units on the far horizon

So, will I even be able to work in the French village house without being distracted every time I look up and out (left & below)?


The safest place to work from would be a corner of the  dining table because all I can see from there is a pretty house ( not mine!)

Maybe if I avoid the terrace level I will avoid being irresistably compelled to gaze at thisIMG_0328………..

sept13 114




Or this…

DSC01344maybe not

The Thursday Three

DSC03076I am not an expert on ceramics, too much out there and too many collectors to compete with, but if I see a piece with great shape or colours at a bargain basement price, well it’s tempting.

Like my antique and vintage linens though, I do like pieces to be practical as well as decorative – “beautiful and useful” like Mr Morris said.

This 1894 milk jug and sugar bowl will definitely be on the breakfast and tea table, and the large jug would be perfect for milk or home made lemonade or ginger beer etc. Thick enough to keep wine cool too….???????????????????????????????

It’s fer,ff,fer,fer, freezing

???????????????????????????????With the UK experiencing the coldest night of the winter so far, I thought I would share my latest slow-cooker recipe.

We are big fans of the slow-cooker.

We have Trev’s old late 1970’s glazed pottery version at the French house and here in UK we have a modern version that does essentially the same job, but quicker.


For this  I used lamb neck, but shoulder would have worked equally well;. Trimmed of skin, sinew and excess fat then diced and dry fried to brown it. Tip into slow cooker with three handfuls of chopped tomatoes, a couple of chopped carrots and parsnips, two diced shallots, handful of puy or red lentils, small handful of sultanas,  one each diced pear  and apple, sea salt and black pepper and a level teaspoon of mixed spice.

We served with basmati rice flavoured with leaf coriander and juice of a small lime to balance the sweet, almost tagine like flavours of the lamb mix. Delish………..

A big thank you to Mark the Mechanic who went above and beyond the call of duty today fixing my car in sub-zero temperatures


Stone Love – A little village in the South of France

Campagne%20sur%20Aude%20llll[1]2Renovation, Restoration, Triangulation

Ok, so here we have the village of Campagne-sur-Aude. Unique in it’s central 11th century fort, housing the church, the Templar Knights’ quarters, Masters House, smithy, armoury and stables.

Around this circular structure, 20140728_111622what is now the Promenade du Chateau Fort was once a moat with a single main entrance to the church (The door you see above is a later addition)-Right- Originally you would have entered here and followed the narrow curved path (just wide enough for a laden Knight) around and upward to the original entrance-Left

20140728_111445These little houses that form the fort walls are still inhabited. Love the casually sited air-con unit sitting in front of the blocked up doorway!

So which of these little stone French gems is ours? Well, the red arrow in the header photo shows our double roof…

The line of trees behind us edge the river Aude.

The Thursday Three- In which my faith in human nature is restored

20140727_175345The “Thursday Three” is usually a snapshot of my vintage and antique pieces and home decor bargains, but today I am taking a different perspective.

Following a tough & challenging couple of weeks for many people (and I include all  of us in that- no sides) I have been really touched on a personal level by three incredibly kind acts by three incredibly generous people.



These guys, two English, one French, have not only helped me out- each in their own inimitable way- in what is proving to be a very sticky patch financially but have restored our faith that our particular French dream  will move forward.

It is good to know that the light at the end of the French renovation tunnel is still flickering on ……….

Episode 95- Misadventures in restoration- some facts for those of you thinking about it

27-12-2013 17;54;25garage3Oh, the glamour! the romance! the fun of renovating and restoring your very own French hovel!

Why do those romanticised tales of property developing in books and on TV never show the reality?

When we walked into our newly purchased French village house this was our sole toilet facility (unless you count the gutter in the courtyard that fulfilled that function for 600 years or more)

Positioned RIGHT behind the front door (and only accessable if that was closed) was this cupboard with this very dodgy and unstable (it wasn’t even fixed to the floor) WC.

When we lost the dodgy door and turned the front bit into a cloaks cupboard we flipped the toilet to face into the cave. Unfortunately we did not make it clear to the plumber that we would like the water supply reattaching so we didn’t have to flush with a bucketsept13 130 until we could fit the new bathroom out-left-The Throne Room.

We had a choice of two hand wash basins. The bucket and single cold tap in the garage directly opposite right-Garage 2








Alternatively, up two flights of stairs on the top floor we had a real wash basin where one could stand, ankle deep in part demolished walls, under the bare light bulb on the lethal antique wiring  (mandatory even in daylight as no window in here)-below



The grimy curtain to the right concealed the shower that was not attached to the mains water for three years………………………

We were mad

The Thursday Three- sackcloth and stashes

burlap-sack-coffee-bag-upholstered-seat-cushion-fI am currently thinking of reupholstering the seats of my old dining chairs in France with vintage coffee sacks

I like the juxtaposition of raw stencilled fabric with a pretty painted chair

There are a few things to consider with this option-

1) They need a really good wash first as the coffee aroma will be pretty ingrained- a cold wash will do it, but you may lose a little of the color intensity, although that’s no bad thing for an artfully aged look.

2) The weave needs to be reasonably tight or the covers will catch and fall into holes very quickly

3) The fabric must be soft enough to sit on comfortably without itchy bits. “that’s a terrible rash you have there, is it catching?”

4) They will need a good lining fabric to give body and make the fabric sit right.

This is still just a possibility, I have already, stashed away, two other options  for these chairs,

DSC03070 a new stripe heavy linen fabric and a vintage  fifties fabric with French luggage labels printed on it.

I have so many textiles in my French house stash now that it is getting silly. I need to curb my magpie tendencies.

Decisions, decisions, this option-right- would be a talking point.

And, yes, I know it’s not Thursday yet….


old guys rule

Old Guys Rule- La règle de vieux mecs

My old guy has just gone off to his last computer trouble shoot of 2014. On his way home tonight he will pick up some logs (it’s very, very cold here) and try and track down a bottle of Blanquette de Limoux for a low key toast  to 2015 later.

This is the sparkling Languedoc wine very similar to Champagne (and created before it’s much more famous brother if the legend is true) old guys rule 2There is a Blanquette winemaker in our French village, but I doubt we will find a bottle here in the UK for the 5 or 6 euros we usually pay there!

We usually alternate between hosting  some friends or popping corks at their place, but this year I feel curiously disinclined to socialise and perhaps, after the hell of 2014, we need to quietly let go of this year and look toward the future together.

We will need to dig deep to get our double French project up and running once more and we are in our worst position financially for twenty years.

What will happen next?…I just don’t know.

My daughter bought this t shirt for Trevor from the “Old Guys Rule”shop

(who knew? what a USP that is !) and on the back it has  a picture of  a flagon of cider and the caption “one of my five a day” which created much amusement on Christmas day.

A Happy New Year to all of you.

The Old Guy and I will see what happens now. Bonne fin d’année

Christmas leftovers with a distinctly French twist

???????????????????????????????Not the prettiest looking plate ( I am no food stylist) but the second best dinner this festive season.

The answer to the question “what do we make with all these left-overs? I can barely shut the fridge door?!”  is to throw some chicken into the slow cooker, along with the Chantenay carrots and French beans that the hungry hordes couldn’t quite manage on the day. To this add my pork, pear, apple,thyme & rice stuffing (Trev is coeliac)


Cover with probably the best turkey gravy I have ever created & leave to bubble away for five hours .???????????????????????????????

A splash of white wine, French sea salt and black pepper, a heap of sweet potato mash et voila!

Comfort food …mmmmmmmmmmm……………..Just add a baguette

Now where’s that bottle of wine we stashed so the party punters wouldn’t find it?

Joyeux Noel & Happy Christmas

DSC03058Well, what are you all doing today?

Celebrating quietly? Partying noisily? In an over-indulged stupor in front of the tv?

For me, this Christmas has come at the end of a year of life-changing shocks and tough, tough times; tougher even than my years as a struggling single mother and there were a few dark times then.

Everything is in the melting pot for 2015 and I have, for the first time in  my adult life, absolutely no idea what happens next…………

For now I celebrate the most important things, that I still have my partner and my son-in-law here fighting over the roast potatoes. DSC03060

We will just have to see what’s next. Right now I am off to pick up my daughter-in-law who is delivering Christmas babies in Sutton.








I wish you all what I wish for myself ,

a hopeful Christmas and a brave New Yearx

The Thursday Three- beyond the candelabra


Mmmm……..maybe should have dusted first?

Housework way down on list again; note to self, must do some before Christmas.

I bought these 19th c patinated metal candelabra for French village house because they are going into quite a simple and pared back dining area and need to be unfussy- see photos above & below

Art deco frame has barbola work decoration. I have a couple more barbola framed mirrors packed for France.

We will not be taking this large glass fronted book case/cabinet or it’s accompanying dining table and chairs (see below) because they will not work at our simple French house.Table extends to eight easily has brass footed claw feet on central pedestal. There are four chairs, plus two carvers with arms.

Hard to part with because I do love them & I really hope someone else will !

Maybe in  more formal dining room? (Weirdly,  they look perfect here in UK  )

Anyone out there who would be interested in giving a new home to these slightly well worn but character pieces please contact me for more photos & dimensions….

Dining area

Dining area

Detail of  restored and reupholstered chairs

Detail of restored and reupholstered chairs

Episode 94- Hidden historic details #2- Beams and roof timbers

DSC01734Regular readers  will recall that half our house (the bit that isn’t the barn) is supported by three huge beams,which clearly received only the most cursory attention between being trees and holding our hybrid hovel up.

1) The rather beautiful one we exposed in the tulip bedroom when we took down the vile insulation tiles and the framework knocked up from aging palettes to hold them in place.This needs the least work, a clean and a clear wax.sept13 108


2) The mysterious hidden beam in the salon, boxed in with old lime plaster. Yes I really should leave this one alone as this is very nearly a smartish room (with the sort of coherent features other French house owners have everywhere that allows them to date their spaces and decorate accordingly  ………ha!)

A bit of pargetting maybe ?

sept13 1193) The BIG WORMY BEAM in the workshop/studio, roughest and rawest of all with an outer layer of hyperactive woodworm activity;  two inches in and they apparently gave up as wood too hard and moved on to timbers new. sept13 135No aesthetic qualities whatsoever. I’ll paint it




Roof timbers all in very good condition, despite benign and active neglect and leaks. Now dried out we will just clean and wax prior to plasterboarding and insulating between. We couldn’t do very much in the tulip bedroom till the martins found somewhere else to raise their fledgelings other than behind the very old shutters on the window ledge in there.

It’s not easy to impact on the collective unconscious habits of an entire bird species. sept13 112They are still having difficulty getting their heads around the fact that we have now put a roof terrace on their flypath.

Aging/antiquing fabrics – l’aspect des tissus anciens

If, like me, you have been searching for something specific for your house for AGES and either you can’t get the colours you want, or the price of a genuine period piece would pay one of your utility bills…………..there are options.

You all know how much I love my antique textiles but the perfect original, French, affordable, antique piqué  “quilted” cushion covers , or some authentic matelassé fabric to make some up are proving elusive. So, I have bought some new ones and set about losing their crisp, new , whiteness and slightly naff germolene pink shades and creating something softer to set next to my really old pieces.

Here is my “secret” technique for aging new cotton or linen fabrics. Don’t try it on anything else, it won’t work!

For small pieces (if you want to try  eight foot long portière curtains in the bath , go ahead, but they will weigh a ton) put 3-4 inches of  hot water in your sink and dissolve two tea bags and four heaped teaspoonfuls of instant coffee thoroughly.

Put in your fabric, swirl it around and immerse fully, even if that means loading it down with something weighty. Leave for an hour NO MORE or any stitching will stain darker than the rest and look odd.

Don’t rinse, just take out and put straight into washing machine into which you have already sprinkled a large handful of salt. wash on the shortest,coldest cycle. Dry naturally. Done.

The salt will fix the tint   and make your piece washable and therefore more practical than something antique and irreplaceable. see below left- “before and right- “after”


The Thursday Three- Rocking a bit of Rococo in the round

???????????????????????????????There is something about round frames that appeals to me . Maybe because they evoke period interiors with fading fabrics, family treasures  and hand carved furniture.

Another place and another time.

I bought this French Rococo inspired frame on ebay intending to use it for another antique textile from  my collection, then I discovered that the tapestry   within was French, older than I had thought it was and in perfect accent colours.



Our grandest room at the French village house is the sitting room. I base this on the fact that it is the only room in house with (1) an inset window and a decorative oak window ledge and (2) The rustic tree-beam holding up the room above is boxed in here.

However, “grand salon” it is not.

So, can we get away with making a feature of this huge, dramatic (three feet in diameter) piece in a fairly low key room? Why not….?

My tastes are shifting, would not even think of hanging tapestries in UK

Below, two more reasons why I like to rock the round on my walls

Antique mirror

Antique mirror

1920's silk thread embroidery on linen

1920’s silk thread embroidery on linen

The Thursday Three- satin and dragons

???????????????????????????????How about these chic oriental lounging pyjamas and fluffy trimmed slippers?

All in silk satin with dragon embroidery; and they pack away into a little satin suitcase!

I would happily wear these if I could get into them, obviously designed for a very small person’s trousseau….DSC01587 - Copy (2)





Floods in South East France

Just heard about terrible floods in North West and South East France.
Our thoughts are with anyone affected by this and if anyone out there needs emergency accommodation please get in touch, if we can help we will.
Gill & Trevor


Post Script. Have managed to get in touch with some friends in Argeles (ankle deep in water & mud but have survived, thank any deity who might be listening!) but others haven’t got back to me to say if they are safe.

Very hard to work with this worry ongoing. See my Twitter feed right for photos link

The Thursday Three- HOW much is TOO much?

DSC01851 - Copy (3)I have quite a few of these 19thc cotton tablecloths & table mats with lace and drawn thread work and was planning to hang a couple of small ones on the shower room doors to preserve the modesty of the occupants. Remember this room opens into the two bedrooms on the second floor?

You may recall, or care to visit archive post for November 2013-The Doors Part II (the revenge?) In which Trevor objected to my wish for glass panels in the shower room doors.


I did not want to lose all the light we have gained up there from the roof windows but he raised one of his very occasionally voiced doubts at my bright idea .???????????????????????????????

In fact he put on his  best, scowly,  closed, stubborn face,  and I was sorely tempted to readjust said face with the hammer in my back pocket but refrained because I don’t want to stain the limewaxed floor-left & sept13 105please note, door is straight, it is walls that are not!-

Anyway, grumpy men with limited vision aside, I soon realised that the fabric on the cloth above was too opaque to let much light through, also  too elaborate and decoratively  dramatic (overkill alert!) for our house  so I went on a three year hunt for some antique or vintage panels with a lighter weave. I found some in France but the old ones were fragile and damaged  & the authentic looking new versions were silly prices.???????????????????????????????

Most modern reproductions are nasty polyester but I have just found these half price at and they are perfect for purpose, very fine cotton lawn with embroidery and cut work details, insert cotton lace and pin tucks.

Made in India but classically French in style

I am impressed with the deep double stitched borders and little tab holding the removable tassles, Really beautifully made and exactly what a good repro piece should be.

Just in case you are wondering why I am so obsessed with retaining the light we have introduced to the interiors at the French village house, I provide -below right-the pre-velux, pre-doorway, pre-decor “before photo” of the -top left- view up the terrace room above.



“I would like to thank ………………………”

liebster-blog-award-1“…………… many many people that I have never met, but have amused, inspired, advised and empathised with me over the last year or two via my blog.

Graham of A year in Perigord has kindly nominated me  for a “Liebster” award.

This is awarded by bloggers to bloggers as recognition of this thing we all do, so thank you Graham, we will have that dinner date one day. We may even let Trevor and Damon come along!

NOTE*I know that receiving one of these “nominations” isn’t always appreciated in the blogosphere , so if I have offended anyone out there with my nominations, I’m sorry; but once I got over my initial reservations I really enjoyed  doing this and setting my questions was fun !

The best thing about it is that some of my followers have found great new blogs to follow via this and that’s a very positive thing.

My part in this as a nominee is to answer  11 questions,with a notably French theme, posed by my nominator (is that actually a word?) and then to nominate 11 favourite bloggers  (with under 200 followers ) who I think also deserve a Liebster award and give a little picture of why I think you might want to swing by their blogs sometime.

Here are MY nominees, they have all cheered me up one way or another this  grey autumn so here we go

(Links via my blog rolls “Some blogs I like” and “Even more great blogs” see right)

French country (bizzyella) a very astute lady architect restoring a beautiful Beaux-Arts house in the Vendee whilst retaining her rapier wit and sense of proportion against all odds

Wherever you go there you are musing on expat life and striking a real chord with those of us who are braving life in an another country (also expert balcony gardener and purveyer of fine range cookers!)

lapetitemaisonbijoux creating beautiful hand crafted jewellery in a little house in a French wood!

osyth writer, adventurer and fellow fan of village life in La France Profonde

myfrenchhaven blog diary about creating a B&B in France with entertaining musical sub-titles

Lechicenrose Traveller, Francophile, and  a lovely, positive soul

ourlittlehouseinfrance French home owner and eclectic blogger

vanishingpirates  struggling manfully with the four “D’s”(digging, drilling, dust and dirt) and making a little music in deepest Belgium

notewords music teacher, writer and keeping tatting alive as an art form whilst being nibbled to death by ducks………..

Eugenie Street homemaker and serial renovator, creating beautiful interiors

The French Medley French home-makers blog-with full instructions

If any of you above have more than 200 followers, apologies, but I cannot always work that out!

*Here are the guidelines if any of  you would like to  accept a “Liebster” award :

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog to your post
  • Answer 11 questions they have asked you
  • Nominate 11 bloggers who have 200 followers or fewer for the award
  • Ask 11 questions of those bloggers
  • Let your nominees know you nominated them
  • Add the Liebster Award logo to your blog

Guys! it’s COMPLETELY optional – but I have had good fun with my nominations & questions- If you do decide to give it a go, here are my questions for you :-

1. What is the best thing about blogging, for you?

2. Do you  ever read your old posts and cringe? (no, that’s just me then..)

3. If money was no object, where would you live and why?

4. What book can you read over and over again and still love it?

5. What was the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you? and

6. Did you follow it?

7. What was your favourite lesson at school

8. Who is your best friend?

9. What is the best gift you ever received?

10. Coast or Country?

11. Now or later?


This is the heavily French-loaded set of devilishly incisive questions put to me by Mr Year In  Perigord:-

  • What inspired you to blog?

My son, so blame him

  • How much time do you spend on your blog?

Too much, when I should really be earning a living

  • Where do you write your blog posts?

At my office desk (where I should really be earning a living)

  • Where did you go on your first holiday abroad without your parents?

France, bien sûr!

  • Share a mistake you remember making when trying to speak a foreign language.

OMG, which one?? How about using the verb “introduire” when introducing my son-in-law to a neighbour, not realising at that time that particular verb means “introducing” in the sense of “inserting”

  • What’s your favourite French film of all time, and why?

Jacques Tati- Mon Oncle- too silly for words

  • If you could spend an hour with any French person – real or fictional, past or present – who would it be?

Jacques De Molay, “Last” Grand master of the Knights Templar , so I can ask him about the facts behind the fiction

  • Do you have a favourite drink you like to relax with at the end of a hard day?

Old vines Carignan red wine from the foothills of the Pyrenees in the sun-baked Languedoc “steeped in history and bathed in class” ( perfect quote from )

  • Starter or dessert?

Both, and to hell with the diet

  • If you were going to eat your last-ever meal tonight, what would you have?

Scallops, wild mushrooms, crispy airdried ham, cherry tomatoes and freshly made pasta tossed in home made pistou

  • If you were president of France for a day, what would you change?

I would reduce tax & social charges to give both native French businesses and overseas investment a  sorely needed boost


The Thursday Three- the clocks are ticking (again)

???????????????????????????????The clocks are ticking………………..again

is this it? I don’t know, but I will, literally, keep you all posted.

Left & Right- Little ceramic clock. Very reproduction, but screamingly suitable for my take on French Country style. (note, those letter could also spell out the current status of our project ( F***** Chaos)

Please don’t be offended, if I knew a worse swear word  I would probably be rolling that around my tongue right now.???????????????????????????????




It’s a sign of how chaotic my house is when there is more dust on my dining table than there is on my daughter’s.

She has almost as severe an allergy to housework as Trev has to gardening, which is really saying something. ???????????????????????????????Left- Very large French tapestry, and -Right-??????????????????????????????? three metres of cotton lawn with lace inset and edging.








This was designed to use as a mantlepiece trim- see below-. The French use them along their fireplaces or cooker hoods to deflect the smoke up the chimney.(?!?)20-11-2014 11;33;52

I don’t think I will be utilising this one in the traditional manner. I like a little adventure now and then, but would prefer not to burn the French village hovel to the ground just yet.


Mort dans l’âme- heartsick

???????????????????????????????I feel “découragé” today.

All the “di’s ” and a quite a few of the “de’s” also- discouraged, despondent, dejected, depressed, disheartened, dispirited.

We are  five months away from a very significant date. i.e. ten years exactly from the inception of our ten-year-plan and when we finally stopped talking about  finding and restoring and moving to an old house in a sunny corner of France and actually started the ball rolling. The ball has stopped and is slowly deflating from numerous punctures, maybe one too many this time .

In short, our ten year plan is not so much derailed as rusting in a siding with weeds growing over it . Enough of the metaphors and a few reasons for today’s mood.

* The weather is relentlessly grey in UK and so dark it could be dusk

* We are skint because Trevor lost months of overtime pay whilst he was ill.

* France is sliding into another recession and the powers that be seem to think that the only way to bail themselves out is by increasing taxes, including those on second home owners still resident in UK!

* I have not heard a positive ” we moved to France and it’s fine” story for months, apart from a few celebrities and some lucky folk with resources already in place to keep them solvent in retirement.

* So far this year I have almost loss my partner and my son-in-law to critical illness  and , although they would never stand in our way, my daughter and grandson  want me here in the UK , not a thousand miles away.

* Although my French is much, much better, I am still floored by fast-speaking natives

* Trevor is probably about to be made redundant, and we cannot run three properties on my income.

* I haven’t see our French hovel for two  months and probably won’t get back there till next spring and I miss it like crazy. I have never been so emotionally attached to a building (site)!

* Someone that I thought was a good friend is blanking me and I know not why.


Sorry guys, but this is the wartsandall blog, and this is just how I feel today…………

The Thursday Three- Passementerie

???????????????????????????????Now you all know how much I love my textiles, and I love the complementary fine art of passementerie too. “Passement” comes from a French word and is generally taken to mean decorative trimmings, tassels and edgings made from silk or cotton or occasionally wool, Some older tassels were constructed around a wooden base and newer quality ones still are.

The French “Passementiers” honing this art form from the 16th century onward were, quite justifiably, regarded as the experts in this craft which is enjoying a bit of a renaissance at present .???????????????????????????????




With a sound place in French interior design history, I should consider using a few appropriate braids or tassels in my fixer upper.




And why not? even in a simple scheme there is a place  for these mini works of art like the elaborate silk tie backs above and a simple, modern cotton version- right.

I am now addicted to bobble fringing-left -and seriously need to restrain myself or my bedroom will become bobblefest…


Episode 93- Hidden historic details #1-Terrazzo finishes

vloer0 OK, our Maison  may not be as grand and glamourous as this one on , but  we have old terrazzo staircases and we have discovered that under layers of dust, dirt and caked on cement, we do have some terrazzo skirtings (base boards) upstairs  that I have finally started sorting and cleaning.

Shock horror! these are rather gorgeous! Now I have found out that terrazzo as a building material was more commonly used in the South of France than I thought, I have researched it a bit more.

Used for floors, stairs and fireplace surrounds, this is a combination of marble, granite, quartz and later glass pieces bedded into cement or resin and then ground & polished for a smooth and shiny surface. Originally, clay was the  base. When machinery was developed in 1920 to speed up the process, it became even more popular  as a tough and easy to clean flooring with a cool feel perfect for warmer climes.

We have two colourways that will be cleaned, recut and re-used. The chic grey/silver/lilac colourway with fragments of mother of pearl and abalone shells will go back into the modified and re-designed shower room.IMG_0075

Photos do  not do these justice, will post some of it fully restored and in situ soon.


The one we found in the tulip bedroom is very pale pink with chips of black marble and silvery shell fragments again.

The colours of both suggest the early 20th century( as above) and I am pretty sure that is the period when they were fitted , so nearly a century old!

When we first viewed the house, it wasn’t one of those raw gems of a project stacked floor-to-ceiling  with obvious historic features  and original period details. It was a mis-matched  dark, brown box with  50’s wallpaper and formica everywhere. When we started  taking things down and moving things round, we were  pleasantly suprised at what had been hidden above false ceilings and  behind cupboards

Like the three ancient beams that hold half the house up,the rough undressed stone and giant river pebbles that make up the walls and the traces of medieval timber framework, the house is emerging from it’s ugly duckling aspect into  something even better than we ever thought it could be.

The bargain first foothold in France might just be the last project. Who knew?

The Thursday Three- vintage accessories

???????????????????????????????Decorative pieces   of a different kind today, although these three will be on display in a bedroom at the French village house.

From the age of fourteen, I have been been picking up vintage clothes and accessories. Many have been worn and enjoyed for a while, then moved on to new owners, but a few outstanding ones have been kept.

In my teens and twenties, I dressed almost entirely in antique and vintage clothes, and pieces I made myself using old fabrics and trimmings. The only new stuff I bought was footwear and jeans. Then, when it stopped looking cute on me (inevitably!), I reduced the textile museum vibe to the odd scarf, vintage jacket or bag.



Left- 1920’s beadwork and embroidery bag- Right- sequins, paste jewels and peacock feathers.

Below- silk crepe hand painted scarf???????????????????????????????

Episode 92- Be careful what you wish for

20140719_073412-1Renovation, restoration, speculation..September 2014


Ah, the impenetrable mysteries of life in France’s small villages.

I was pondering this exact subject when I looked out of our kitchen window this September .

A mixed bunch of village children (three to thirteen) had been playing the French version of “hopscotch” outside. I am not sure why, above the last box (ciel) they wrote “we love uncle”(tonton) .

Answers please, from those in the know, are welcome.

The mini hopscotch grid behind is our neighbours’ four year old’s rather cute version. DSC00214

The pretty house over the street is closed down for the winter, whilst other neighbours are returning from sojourns at their seaside properties and the shutters are being thrown open to let in a little fresh air-Right- a guilty looking cat!- though it’s not the even more  guilty looking one that jumped in through our first floor dining room window, using Trevor’s workbench in the courtyard as a springboard (about 25 feet!!). Maybe the one in the photo was thinking of  making the similar leap across the street and into our kitchen.

Even the cats here seem especially enigmatic.

20140727_175012I used to look at the closed shutters in little French streets like this and wonder what, if anything was happening behind ( I am insatiably curious). Of course you just cannot tell whether a house is occupied or not  as some occupants rarely open their shutters fully in any season.???????????????????????????????







Old and neglected or newly finished and crisp, I longed to look in and see how these village houses were decorated and furnished. Not just for ideas for our hovel , but because I have spent a lifetime looking at other people’s rooms if the opportunity presents itself! 20140728_111725

I used to dream of owning one of these  typically French shuttered stone village homes and discovering the mysteries within012









Be careful what you wish for, dear reader, you just might get it.

And boy, did we get it……………..!

The Thursday three- “Rough luxe” embroidery, vintage shop display, something new.. but just right

???????????????????????????????Ok, what is rough luxe”?

Apart from being a hot new buzz word in interior design ( which doesn’t really matter to me,as you may have deduced from my random style) it seeks to epitomise the spirit of “authenticity of the old” i.e. rough and raw juxtaposed with something smooth and lustrous with a luxurious edge .

I wasn’t aware that the feel and style we are tentatively settling on at the French village house had a name, but it has now! This large piece of embroidery-left- was another bargain because I could see how beautiful it could be despite the state it came to me in.

It had clearly been stored somewhere slightly damp for  decades and had the worse sort of old, musty, smoky smell emanating from it in pungent waves. The previous “keeper” had been nervous about washing it due to the apparent fragility and the colour runs here and there caused by being  folded away in a musty cupboard.

I have posted before about rescuing vintage textiles;as preserving a deteriorating piece without cleaning it is pointless (unless it will be behind glass), I did my usual small pieces treatment and placed it into the gentlest 40 degree , “no or low” spin  machine wash with two of my restoration miracle workers, the “colour catcher”sheets available in every supermarket ( Tesco’s are very good)

The result is perfect, all traces of colour run gone, the satin stitch embroidery silks are clear and bright and the humble coarse unbleached linen fabric ground is clean and characterful again…. now one of my very favourite pieces.???????????????????????????????

Right- we have this ex-shop display and storage box for “Sylko” threads. Each drawer is the perfect size to hold 36 wooden bobbins of sewing thread.

The shabby patina is genuinely time-worn, and I have NOT been anywhere near it with the sandpaper!



Last , we have this cotton bed linen, which is new  but looks old and faded (like me in the mirror this morning) in perfect terrace bedroom colours

The faded plaster period pink/grey lilac colours are just what I like, maybe they reflect Ms Reger’s lingerie design heritage.

Chinoiserie theme creeping in again.


Argeles apartment vue

Why buy in the Languedoc Roussillon?- Part two,living by the sea

IMG_0325Ten true reasons why we bought a little piece of seaside life in the Pyrenées Orientales in Southern France.

1) Because the dramatic mix of snow topped mountains, lush greenery, turquoise sea and sunshine  never fails to make us smile.

2) The skies are blue, even in winter, and when “La Tremontane” ( north west wind ) whips up the palm trees and the sand into  a wild flurry.

3) Because the awesome sight of Mount Canigou rising majestically above  the Boulevard de la Méditerranée behind our apartment block is something to behold.DSCF0091

4) The longest beach in the Pyrenées Orientales is two minutes stroll away. It feels like a holiday every day.

5) Between September and May when the tourists who swell Argeles-sur-Mer from a population of 10,000 to ten times that number  are gone, we have this magical 7km strip of sand to ourselves.


6) There are beach bars, cafes, tea rooms, restaurants and markets. Fresh fish, charcuterie and patisserie,amazing salads and vegetables dishes, dessert wines from Rivesaltes, rich red wines from Maury,  characterful aperitif wines from Banyuls.

7) You can cycle everywhere (it’s flat!) along the promenade, or into old Argeles Village with it’s iconic church & tall, narrow village houses  and escape the crowds in hidden squares where time is stilled.  Argeles_sur_Mer_Rue_de_la_Fraternité_ou_rue_Vermeille

8) When the sun-baked beach is too much, take a book and read on the old benches shaded by umbrella pines.apartment6

9) Because on our doorstep we have music festivals in the grounds of beautiful Chateau Valmy, built in the heart of it’s own vineyard. Or visit art exhibitions & concerts every week from May to September  that reflect the melting pot of French, Spanish and Catalonian culture here.

10) Sitting on the balcony watching a pink sunset reflect off the clouds20140915_204727

The Thursday Three- “un peu tôt”

???????????????????????????????There  is an interesting rapport réciproque” or mutually beneficial exchange of antique and vintage pieces between the UK and France that is enjoying another surge in popularity right now.

Nostalgic fabrics, textiles and homewares with a vintage French feel are everywhere in the UK and in France, one of my favourite affordable French shops has been making an English cottage style armchair in a range of linen covers for a couple of seasons.

I noticed last year that they are running British vintage style themed features in their catalogues and French buyers are looking for quintessential pieces to create that English country cottage or 19thc gentlemen’s club ambience.

A number of recent French interiors mags have featured these vintage English circular white cotton crochet cushions-above- which are still easily found in the UK and  look great in any period interior.???????????????????????????????

Genuine faded French vintage textiles like these square pillowcases -left- are much sought after by Brits.Unfortunately this is pushing prices up on both sides of the channel , so I am now widening my searches in France and the UK to include vintage clothing with great prints  that I can use for cushion covers and pillows, like this painterly linen-below.



I love the idea of  French chic finding it’s way to Britain and British vintage finding it’s way into stylish French homes .

So, those of you renovating and/or restoring rooms  on both sides of “La Manche” keep looking for those perfect home pieces that make the difference between so-so and sensational.

Vive l’entente cordiale!