An enigmatic Spanish lady

img_20161018_105102Is she Spanish? I can’t say for certain, but that’s my feeling.

Painted in gouache in a frame that suggests it’s original because it is of the same vintage as her dress. Properly made gilt frame with the red underpainting which should always be applied to make the gold glow.

Yes the velvet and passementerie on display  appeal to me, the old textile fan (of course !) But I like to weave stories around her enigmatic expression and her history.

Trevor & I did speculate that we could pass her off as an ancestor, maybe my Welsh great, great, grandmother?  She has my mother’s colouring, the pale skinned, dark haired Celtic type . What do you think?


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The best laid plans of mice and men and French country village house restorers gang aft astray. They do.

When I bought this heavily carved buffet de cuisine it was always intended to be the dramatic focal point of the kitchen diner. I thought we had done enough planning and measuring to accommodate it in the centre of that room but no.

First of all we wipe it down (it has been in the cave for nine years). Then we take it apart into three sections (cue Trev tearing his hair out) then we fetch the base upstairs.

And I find woodworm holes….

There is no other woodworm activity evident in the cave, probably because we spray every scrap of new or old wood that comes into the house. So are they historic? It looks like it, but why did I not notice this when I bought it?

Then we note that the damage, particularly to the six doors is quite bad;obviously allowed historically to get damp and it has separated the veneer (the doors aren’t solid wood like the rest) but the cave is not damp so it’s historic.


So we put it back together upstairs, put in the back section and lift the top cupboard  into place. Call me Superwoman.

Then we find that we have a grave issue. Someone has knocked this piece about and put it back together very badly. It looked fine in the brocante but it was obviously cleverly staged. Now I recollect, the vendor was unwilling to remove all the junk on and around it on the basis she was on her own and couldn’t manage it. And she intimated that we couldn’t help due to health and safety issues.

Then it was delivered in two sections and chucked in cave under a tarpaulin.

Caveat emptor. wp-image-20368716jpg.jpg

Now don’t get me wrong. I have bought and sold old stuff for decades and there is always a risk but this buffet is not quite the  reasonably sturdy piece that I thought I was getting.

Basically to fit it back together properly we are going to have to partly remake it and fit it to the wall at six points for stability.

Plus fitting it between the plug sockets and light switches had been a juggling act ( I know. I decided where these would go… )


Of equal concern is that, although the wood is of medium tone, it is adversely affecting the balance of light right at the centre of this long room


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Episode 147 part two- in which we show why we blew the b****y doors off


So, there were two of these horrible doors.We took them off and removed the chipboard lower shelves.wp-image-1366087786jpg.jpg


We put up these carved and gilded fruitwood panels that came from a Georgian house in the UK (1817) not as deep as our cupboard so Trev made footing pieces from 90 year old oak.

Not a great photo sorry . We finished by mounting this pair of oak “wings” and an old scallop shell motif found in a brocante.wp-image-472336123jpg.jpg





A little wax and a polish and voila!

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I’m not saying my partner is displaying a degree of ocd, but…..

Its weird. Trev is happy to exist in the necessary chaos around us in France but I am reaching the end of my patience with this project now.

I want clean. I want to go look for something in it’s proper place and find it. I am tired of dust and obstacle courses to access the cave.

I have been relaxed about all this for a decade, but some switch has been flipped  this week.wp-image-105035696jpg.jpg

Back to Trev, who has always been the one displaying ocd tendencies; maybe they’ve just been diluted by project endless slog. Anyway, after I had a hissy fit about the mess and wanting the kitchen done he put up this shelf , which was in the house when we came, over the oak former sideboard which is my first piece of clean storage ever in the kitchen.


Then he put up the utensil rack. Copying exactly the layout in the box. Then he said he was keeping the box to show my daughter where to put stuff when she tidies up, because once she’s emptied the dishwasher we can never find anything. Then I realised he was joking.

Or maybe not, this is how he lines up the chilli sauce on his toasted cheese.

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Finishing a table top.

wp-image-879635134jpg.jpgIt’s a real pain when you find that , once you have laboriously taken bits of grotty  old varnish off your dining table, the stain once used on this piece has soaked right down into it and it’s STILL DIRTY ORANGE!

Ok, I could sand off half an inch and see if that does it. No, that will reduce it to silly thickness and compromise it’s ancient construction big time . So I did this .

Even Trevor likes it.

How did I achieve this?

If you don’t want the boring detail, skip the bit below!

First I cleaned it thoroughly with vinegar , this raises the grain very slightly, but is nowhere near as destructive as chemical options. Also, as I will be waxing  this will help get that into the grain really well .wp-image-1039249798jpg.jpg

Then, once dry I apply a thin coat of white liming wax with a cloth and rub it in really, really well.

Biceps bonus workout.


Then I take a 1.5 inch brush with good, long bristles and paint on a thicker layer of the liming wax, following each plank of wood along the grain , working it particularly into the knots, dinks, scars and around the old nails hammered in to hold it together a very long time ago.


Let it dry for half an hour only, then polish, hard (more workout!)

Then, with the cloth again, go over the top rubbing very  hard where you want to knock the wax back to achieve that old, worn effect. I can’t tell you how to do this, but I always concentrate my rubbing off where the knots, dinks, cracks and nails are . And the edges at each end; Plus anywhere the grain is particularly characterful. wp-image-1431023776jpg.jpg

Polish in broad circular movements, then along the grain. Let it cure overnight. Polish again. Done… and so are my arm muscles!

Posted in Antique and Vintage finds, Renovation and restoration diary- France, What we did, how we did it and what we used | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

The mirrors are coming out.. 


The mirrors are being unpacked.wp-image-1404531714jpg.jpg

No, we are nowhere near finishing. But my mirrors are important in the great scheme of things and will manipulate the light in each space.


Coincidentally, the first two out of their box are elongated octagons.

The one above was a b***h to hang and would have resulted in divorce if Trev and I were  actually married.

It is very big and heavy.

This one has a brass frame with a very French scallop shell motif and the most amazing patina which I will not be messing with. The last time it saw daylight was nearly twenty years ago, in my little Georgian cottage. None of our intermediates houses were suitable for it’s wavy old glass and 18thc charms.

The big Venetian copper coloured glass one was up in our mid-century house and, funnily enough, it worked there although the house was about twenty to  thirty years younger than the mirror.

My wall paint is not that yellow by the way, it’s a trick of the light. And sorry about all the mug-shots but only way I could capture the mirrors.

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Episode 147 – in which we finally blow the b****y doors off!


I hate these sapele sixties doors. They were everywhere in the house when we acquired it. They are no use for repurposing any place and we can’t chop them up and throw them in the wood burner, so they’ll have to go to the dump.

They have done the job of protecting stuff from the builder’s dust and rubble for several years but the first floor is mostly muck-free  now so they can GO!

Behind them is a deep old cupboard inset into the two foot thick walls. Lined in ancient lime plaster it has some nice terrazzo inset shelves we will keep, plus two vile chipboard ones which will be joining the grotty doors at the dump.wp-image-1369763075jpg.jpg

These doors never closed properly so we held them together with this old stirring stick. I am almost nostalgic about this bit of rubbish; shall we give it a Viking funeral on the river?


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