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

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- 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

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







Sort-out Sunday

DSC03105No, we haven’t got a date to make the big move.

No, we haven’t won the lottery.

I still don’t know what happens next, but the urge to edit and sort out our stuff/lives/aims/objectives and the rest just keeps getting stronger and stronger.



I was retrieving a selection of knights, soldiers and random Lego from under one of the beds in the guest room (mainly occupied by the grandson in case you think we have some odd friends) and I found this mirror which I have been in two minds about taking to France.

It was a bit bright and gilt-y and glarey (if that’s a word) but I love the shape and the mouldings and general Frenchness of it.

So I got out some sandpaper and knocked it back pretty thoroughly . I’m happier with it now.


Then I took a couple of photos for you guys and realised I was channelling my mother.

She used to stand with her feet like this. And if she was still here she would put a bomb under us and tell us to get on with it.

She would also tell me to vacuum under the bed………………..


Ten things I wish someone had told me about letting a holiday home

sejour argeles apartment (1)To wrap up the Argeles apartment posts for now, here are ten handy hints if you are thinking of letting any space, small or large.

Some we learned the hard way, so you get the heads up right here-

1) Make sure electrical items, TV’s,  music systems etc are tough, sturdy, fool proof and not overtly expensive. Accidents will happen.

2) Make sure that everything possible can be washed; not just the obvious like cushions and bedding but curtains, throws & rugs too.

3)Slip cover all seating. I use fitted linen sheets on day bed.

4) All white bed linen looks great but won’t last as the tiniest discolouration or stain will spoil it. Crisp prints on a white ground work really well.


sept13 044sept13 049

5) Buy quality bed linen and towels, hit the sales. The good stuff stands up  to bad treatment and will last season after season.

6) Equip your kitchen well. Even a tiny “coin cuisine” like ours needs good basics- hob, oven, the biggest fridge-freezer you can reasonably squeeze in, dish washer & washing machine (your guests will really appreciate the last two). Some might go out for lunch and dinner every day, but if you have great local shops & markets they will want to cook. French guests certainly will!

7) Accept and budget for buying the following new every year- mattress and pillow protectors, kitchen equipment like pans, (see above) glasses, cups and anything breakable.

8) Buy simple crockery (white ceramic or ribbed glass , easy to match up with inevitable casualties)


sept13 052c9) All floors should be easy clean, tiles are simply the best to clean efficiently and hygienically . Avoid fitted carpets or wood finishes that won’t stand up to spilled drinks, stiletto heels or sand/mud etc

10) Treasure and value your change-over team, cleaning lady, handyman- priceless

Episode 112- Argeles apartment, part 2

eclectic style argeles apartmentThere is still stuff to do at the Argeles apartment, but just minor things like boxing in a run of pipework and losing the textured wall covering in the bedroom. Oh, and the shower room tiles, though in good condition reference the decade that taste forgot,the 1980’s!


This is a completely different place, space and aspect to the French village house and we have treated it accordingly. Simple, easy to clean (some guests do the weirdest stuff) with a restricted palette and lots of white to open it up (Like I said, very different to village house style)DSC00960 sejour argeles apartment (2)








Lots of linen, some Moroccan textiles, understated brown/black metal framed furniture, mid-century modern beech beds, a touch of glass and rattan.

This is how it was-Below left- this is how it is-Below right

What? we didn’t keep the shrunken curtains or the bulky MDF furniture?

apartment3sept13 058bedroom argelessept13 balcony, balcone argeles apartment















Episode 112- Compact and bijou, a little pied–à–terre, part 1

sept13 Boulevard ArgelesI don’t post much about the seaside apartment, as the village house tends to be all-consuming, but to save you wading back through this INTERMINABLE diary of mine, here are a few facts and a few photos.vue appartement Argeles a louer


Our apartment is situated on Boulevard de la Méditerranée, Argelès-sur-Mer (66700)-above- in the Pyrénées-Orientales region of the Languedoc Roussillon at the very southernmost point in France  and  a few kilometers  from the Spanish border as it cuts across the peaks of the Pyrénées.argeles plage That’s the curiously symmetrical Mount Canigou rising behind.



Until 1659, when the Treaty of the Pyrenees ceded French Catalonia back to France, this was Spanish territory and the feel and climate of the area, right up as far as the Aude border,  is strongly Catalonian, with place signs in both languages and one of our favourite restaurants has the full menu in Catalan. Left- the 7 km beach and promenade- above- our view across the red roofs and pines toward the sea gives a little taste  of Argeles-Plage, purpose built in the mid 20thc as a tourist destination and critical to the local economy. Although only about an hour and a half’s scenic drive south from the village house , it has a completely different feel, with it’s own seaside charm.

Below right- Our apartment is centre of photo ( and, of course, the only one with a turquoise balcony wall!)

argeles loggia balconyargeles apartment block


belated Thursday Three and a sad goodbye to some textile treasures

DSC03101It’s  always hard to part with pieces that I have collected over the years , but our French renovation project is all about paring back  and downsizing and living simply and economically with less stuff. That doesn’t mean that I won’t have beautiful things around me, I could not live happily in any environment that  did not please me aesthetically but I can’t take everything so the serious life and stuff edit starts now.

The delicate gold threadwork bedspread/wall hanging above and right does not suit any of our French spaces so that DSC03103….

and the embroidered runner-top & below– and linen cross stitch pyjama case below are on ebay right now .

If you would like a quick look, there is an ebay link button on the “services ” page of our website- which you can access  top right of my blog home page



Episode 111 Bowled over-Les lavabos part 2 a COMPLETE contrast to the Chinese basin I posted last, here is my bowl and stand for the en-suite to cave bedroom. My bowl is actually perfectly plain apart from subtle ribbing, whereas the one –left- has a raised design

I have an original Art Deco black bevelled glass splashback with mirror and chrome fittings very like this one to fit behind itblack art deco splashback







The two work together really well considering the ninety-odd year age gap as simple clean lines and crisp styling like this never go of of fashion.

Good design is good design




The roll top slipper bath from

will go into the actual bedroom (at some distant future date) my French plumber is struggling with this concept.

He likes the basin & stand though….

Episode 111 Bowled over – Les lavabos Part 1

httpsfrenchinspiredliving-wordpress-comhow-to-getAlthough we are still a way off, I thought you might like to see some bathroom fittings. I loathe the basin in our shower room and can’t wait to get rid

I like these simple French campaign style wash stands and bowls and have been looking for a modern version with drainage and at the right height for us. No luck

Then I found this wrought iron stand at last year’s Vide-Grenier (5 euros) HA -right-We can adapt this back from plant stand to basin stand, it is very solidDSC02982

Then I had a whim to top with a real antique Chinese basin like this one –left


but apart from the prohibitive prices it would be a criminal act to drill a drain hole in one of those! So I hunted  down a UK company importing hand painted chinoiserie style basins and bought this lovely thing for under 50 GBP -Below right-???????????????????????????????

Sadly this company is no more, but in the interests  of renovation brother and sisterhood, I have found you a link to a company who will send you something very similar, albeit more expensive|124580959

The Thursday Three- Antique Indian cushion covers

Jacobean "tree of life" panels

Jacobean “tree of life” panels

So,  I’m looking for just two more large 25″ x 25″ cushions for the sofas and another smaller one to set off all that off white ground vintage linen with Jacobean embroidery  which is being sewn onto plain cushion covers (eventually) –left-

So I see these on ebay-below– and it looked like they might be just right, and they just might clean up OK


“Why would the renovation stress-witch give hard-won house room to those skanky stained things?  you ask

Because they arrived this morning and have washed, with my old faithful “colour-catcher “sheets,  without disintegrating. Stop hyperventilating you nervous textile conservationists

They are REALLY old, proper antique, not “Fairtrade” imports from Oxfam etcDSC03098

Now spanking clean and a nice faded, raw contrast to halt any hint of an over-pretty or fussy cushion collection ……………..rough luxe again..

One cotton kantha quilt cushion cover and two wool and cotton kilim  weave

They are now  fabulous- the shading effect on the lower gold one is just  a trick of the light

Episode 110- The squirrel made me do it….

4ip06rnjI have finally found the critical nearly white and neutrals for ceilings, walls, panelling and  painted furniture at the French village house.

It has only taken several years to source this.The kitchen/diner has so many nearly white paint samples, tried and rejected, that I could just join them up and call it a style statement.

paint sample France kitchen

I went about it the right way. The 30 foot tongue & groove wall seemed the best testing area. So I painted a stripe right  by the front window (aspect south west) the rear window (aspect next door’s barn wall) and right in the middle to check out effect in different lights. This colour is “sesame”-right- and I thought it was right but when we returned last month it was WRONG…..damn.

Last year we bought a neutral mid tone warm taupey colour called “gris marmotte”for end walls of this long, narrow room. With very light side walls, this will visually trick the eye into perceiving better proportions here.

Then last time we waltzed into M.Bricolage, this seemed to be the “couleur du jour”and they had a palette of five lighter versions of gris marmotte.Some almost white– EUREKA!!!!


Left- three of the options

I now know a marmotte is a big squirrel,also known as a woodchuck or groundhog, and finding this damn elusive colour has been my own groundhog day.

sept13 123

Above- The endless Wall of Worry-Now I can concentrate on some other decorating dilemna

We have plenty. Well, I do because Trev is leaving it all to me. Yes, who sleeps at night?

For more amusing marmotte pictures see

Episode 109- Grotty French wallpapers I have had to to strip off…

wallpaper layers kitchenCareful with that punctuation Eugene..Only five layers in the dining area (formerly bedroom 3!) as only converted from barn about seventy years ago.

In order-

Rather nice French vintage subtle floral, then Screaming Sixties orange, brown and yellow daisies, dodgy grey and beige motifs, what looks like brown paper  with lines  all topped off with horrible pink textured “blown vinyl”(also featured in terrace room)


???????????????????????????????Some extends to kitchen end of room. Unfortunately I have no decent shots of hunting wallpaper in here. You aren’t missing much unless you favour gory pictorial images of dogs ripping foxes apart.

Then we had the older part of the house with even more layers. You have seen the vile paper in salon, and this creeps about two thirds of way upstairs, then changes, mystifyingly ??????????????????????????????? into last shower room wallpaper featuring  appallingly badly drawn ethereal ladies with doves,including an image sourced directly from a painting by:-

P.S. Krøyer (Peder Severin)

see link – ???????????????????????????????

tulip room wallpaper

One of the “Skagen” painters, who I love, so fairly criminal in my book.We will lose all of this historical wallpaper soon.

Will I miss any of it? No I b****y well won’t.

Yes Nicky, you found it charming , but that was after several glasses of Blanquette……

Episode 108- at last, some clues to support my ideas on paint effects and the answer to a vexatious question

Have a look at this link, number four “French country decor for walls”-

I have seen this decorative paint treatment before, generally in French country interiors and specifically atchambre-rose this beautiful renovation job which has featured in numerous French, American & UK magazines-see link-

Basically, there are two shades used, lighter above and darker below, and sometimes a contrast narrow band of paint separates the two . I had already tentatively marked out our little entrance hall and the first stairway with what seems to be the typical  line of around about 1/3rd wall height, but have hung back a little over  adding the narrow border in case it looks too much chez nous. I have also wrestled with myself over whether using broken paint effects is in the spirit of the place.

20150318_151317I have been in a quandary about whether or not to fit skirting/base boards in salon. I am not convinced that they will work in here and certainly not on the stairwells, though Trev struggles to envisage any space without them.

The answer to all three dilemmas appeared when I stripped this bit of the front salon wall back through seven layers of wallpaper to the original lime plaster from early 1800’s.

There, clearly, are remnants of a broken paint effect in two shades of blue and off-white, with a carmine red/bronzy shade at floor level, around 10″ deep. You can just about see a trace of the narrow dividing border between the two colours. (Right hand side has dried out ) At last, justification ( I know, why do I need it this time in France when I haven’t in previous projects?) that a painted skirting will work at this height in here and I can go ahead with my layered paint/wax  effects with the decorative strip .20150318_150301

Blue/grey too cold in here for me so will go ahead with straw and bronzy/pinky/red/taupe at base. Another colour that exists only in my fevered brain!

I am so taken with this raw area under the window that I just might keep it as a reminder of an earlier layer of history here.

‘Ere be ( French) dragons………

20150315_195631My grandson has lent me this carefully selected dragon “so if I am ever lonely or sad or frightened” I can look at it and think of him.

Apparently, rubbing it’s tummy also attracts luck.

No, I haven’t gone completely soft, but I decided to hedge my bets in case it really is a lucky dragon & took it to France with us. Of course I got randomly selected at Stansted airport for a hand  luggage check.

Their faces when they unpacked this item were priceless

Nels says this is a French dragon, so he was right at home in our scruffy hovel, which despite progress still reminds me of the kind of dives I lived in as an Art Student in the seventies and during my gipsy/bohemian/living on the fringes period in Cornwall;

which was well before I became this sensible person.Sort of. 20150315_195453

We are reduced to candlelight in the salon as not all the new electrics are connected. Though we have a good rug & sofa in place, further furnishings currently include an old sideboard, vintage Lloyd Loom chair from the kitchen  and a Moroccan table/lamp. Temporary curtains and board on buckets coffee table complete the look. I am wearing some very boho pyjama pants, a paint spattered vest and a pair of my daughter’s old fluffy bed socks. There is mop bucket on the stairs to catch mystery drip from (new !) plumbing

We are drinking toffee coloured rose for the pain.

Yes, it takes me right back…………….


Episode 107- Why would anyone buy this house ?

Trevor wondering why!Renovation, Restoration, Explanation..

Here is The Man (wondering why) all those years ago when we bought our bargain basement hovel.

I never liked that decor, it had all the vintage charm of orange moquette carpet or fake brick wallpaper. It was all over salon and up the stairs too.

So, what did we achieve in our 14 days in France?

Right-We obliterated the last traces of wallpaper in the salon.

20150327_153834OK , you are struggling to grasp the significance of the fact that we have got as far as priming this wall. So may I present below before, during, and after. Any real renovator /restorer knows that it is the underpinnings that are the hard bit. Any fool can paint.

We will next time


sept13 120(2)20150321_105844



Les grandes inondations en France..

20150328_102536A diversion from our renovation and restoration woes now-

I blogged this last winter about terrible flooding on the French  Mediterranean coast and inland & about frantically trying to contact friends in the area to see if they were safe.

Well, they were but many others have really suffered. There were  still many of the little roads down to the beach area at Argeles Plage closed down after more rain last week and the car park/ garden around the apartment building showed clear signs of recent flooding again. The mobile home parks and camp sites are devastated.


Inland has suffered too, the village is  ok, and we have managed to get by with only a little water seepage under the workshop doors, but the river Aude is higher than I have ever seen it- we even have a new eyesore flood warning siren on the 11th century church tower!

Frankly if it is ever needed and saves lives, stuff the way it looks…

Many of the little businesses that should now be setting up for Easter trade are either still cleaning up or clearing out. Insurance won’t cover it and no-one will want to lease or buy a property with recent flood history.

The French are in the grip of real economic and political crisis right now. It’s not just the weak euro, businesses are being forced to drop their prices to survive .

I feel deeply for the small enterprises we know personally in the Aude  and at those at  Argeles that are now probably looking at their last season, if they can open at all. Think about this when you spend your holiday euros; I will be respectfully asking all my guests this season  to spend at the little local independent shops, bars and restaurants. Many of these have been in the same families for sixty years and won’t be sustainable much longer.

see it for yourself below-

Episode 106 – Tapis time, a rug for all seasons

20150317_115519For those of you who might actually care, I present proof that Trev has recovered sufficiently to climb ladders in France. I am aware that this photo suggests that he is striking a pose , but in fact he is wrestling with the  fourth and fifth phase of boxing in the new pipework & electrics in the front salon wall.

I have also been (bizarrely) bombarded with confirmation  that I picked the right rug for this room. Firstly , it was gazing at me from front cover of this magazine-right 20150329_145520





Then it popped up on Google, left-though I have now lost the source site, so apologies if I am infringing any permissions image18[1]





The style on the magazine is a little sugary for our house. Who lives with off- white linen upholstery? it wouldn’t last five minutes chez nous. The style  with the two great mirrors is much more me.

Rug is wool kilim and was vintage IKEA, years ago. I am pretty instinctive and usually fairly confident  in my choices, but setting a style and decorating this unusual mish-mash of a building that is now our French house has been my toughest challenge.

The nearly Thursday Three


Likely to be busy tomorrow so here we are “mecredi”.

You can catch a glimpse of terrace bedroom paint effect above, plus I have decided to use the terrazzo skirting reclaimed  from tulip bedroom in here. It has little chips of abalone pearl shells against shell pink with a little black to keep it from being too sugary.


The enamelled iron hook and long aqua voiles with a subtle oriental blossom print both found in UK.

Episode 105 – Quelle couleurs?


The question of colours and finishes has bugged me right from the start of our extended project.
How do you bring one sad village house in the lovely Languedoc back to life without spoiling it’s character, particularly as much of it has been ripped out of one half and the other half was half a barn?

Above I have posted a photo of our favourite restaurant in Limoux. Here La Belle Epoque still reigns supreme with chemise pink walls and palest pinky grey white mouldings.

The walls are lined with huge hundred and twentyish year old mirrors whose frames have been painted pale duck egg , with a hand painted frieze of grape vines executed in blue/greens, lavender and pink.
One look and I knew I had to get this palette into our village house and I have,  in the terrace bedroom, and it works just as well there..even though the historical period is different


Love the vignette of the two French “ouvriers” trying to work out their smartphones!

The Thursday Three – Stucco & carved oak.


Today’s thursday three are a 16thc carved bog oak panel, a vintage suitcase from local Vide-grenier and a page from a back copy of “Campagne Decoration” magazine.
The latter is especially for my reno blog buddy Bizzyella, who is thinking of paint effects.
I know this is 18thc stucco and she has 19thc ceilings but the airy, cloudy sky vibe is the same.

At the risk of straying off-piste into 1980’s paint effects overkill ( think peach ragrolling-yuk!) I have started on some effects and they work.
And for all those restorers, renovators and remodellers out there remember, the only way is up

oh, and the disintegrating paint stained Birkenstocks are a bonus..

Episode 104- Campagne March 2015


Just rolled out of bed decadently late and grabbed this shot from the tulip bedroom.
Look at that sky!

For the restoration fans, the lethally lead painted shutters held together with string are going. They are so warped and sagging that they no longer shut. And that is just about the point  n’est ce pas?

Off to stir my slow-cooker chilli and fill some plasterboard joints and other sundry holes.

We have plenty of those

Episode 103 – rough luxe life


Well it has finally come to pass that Gill is getting fed up with roughing it in  French hovels.

I NEED to get another few spaces closer to the finish line. Unfortunately I cannot pick up my paintbrush until M. Trevor Priest has finished  plasterboarding and boxing in pipes.

Unfortunately he hurt his back this afternoon , lifting v heavy battery out of my old 4×4 (SUV)  so we could bring it back here to recharge it.

He is currently tottering around groaning. No sign of drilling or batons going up right now.
We juggled a couple of weeks plus over here to push on with some serious work at last. …..sodding hell.

The Thursday Three- On time and on thursday, wow!

May I present, for your delectation, and possible envy, bargain of the year.???????????????????????????????

I am unlikely to top this. £4.99 off ebay and no-one else bid!!!!!!!!!!!!! (over two feet wide)

Probably 19th century (I think, but may be 18thc-gasp!) bead work embroidery on silk panel in original frame . Something very similar in near identical style frame is at auction right now in America.

This shockingly gorgeous and obviously antique piece came to me in a bit of corrugated cardboard, wrapped in a bin bag. I am delighted but gobsmacked.

Below- we have two faience lilas ceramic and rusty metal hooks. Just what I have been looking for (for YEARS!) to hang up our bathrobes in terrace bedroom in France.

Is this the shape of things to come? I don’t know, ask me on the 15th March