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


Episode 102- Where do I begin? the cave story- part 1

cave doorOk, so you may not want to trawl the archives for the full saga so I have decided to post some bite-sized summaries on progress in French house to date.

Left- we have one end of the cave. On purchase this was a ground floor junk room housing the boiler in it’s giant burnt out cupboard. There had clearly been a major fire in here as we had blackened &  melted ceiling tiles, above which were blackened joists.


The boiler was not connected to the flue  and we had a rough floor with the (concreted over ) village well in the corner.









A quick glance at our  thick stone walls –Right- may indicate why we did not undertake to widen the 18 inch wide doorway to the rear courtyard ourselves.

House Courtyard Door

We have removed ceiling tiles, demolished boiler cupboard, levelled floor, fitted new, hardwood French doors and shutters  at this end. Behind where boiler cupboard sat-Below- we have a new opening and door in the massive spine wall (under the stairs to first floor) to access the cave from the workshop/garage. It will be our guest bedroom.

The alcove under the stairs will house mini kitchenette for guest with wine, beer & milk fridge  & coffee/tea making stuff. (it’s a long way to the kitchen if you are sitting in the courtyard!)SAMSUNG

So the new layout in this half of cave is a major, major improvement.

To the left are stacked the carefully cut components for our new staircase to second floor, the existing one is  amusing , but potentially lethal

The Thursday Three- In which I actually make a critical curtain decision

20140719_073555Yes I know, I am obsessed. In my defence, having survived years of dust, dirt, demolition, rubble & squalor in our French village hovel , I think I am entitled to think about lovely fabrics and finishes.

Longer term visitors to this blog will know that most of my textiles collected  for the village house are antique or vintage, but I have strayed off-piste for a second new buy for the salon curtains.

There was a short list of three:-

1 White and taupe linen (too white) 2 Upcycling an Indian silk thread bedspread, 3 New velvet.


Well I have taken delivery of the velvet today. Looks like old silk velvet, but is practical synthetic mix   and drapes like a dream. Slightly crushed and battered look to the pile (will suit me then). 20150304_103435

A perfect neutral with merest hint of washed out gold.


Excuse me whilst I go and stroke these lovingly……………




Episode 101-UK v France renovation materials costs comparison#2

DSC01714France v UK prices & products

Tools? Trevor, who likes to spend hours comparing prices and performance of these says that Mr. Bricolage & the Weldoms  chain both have their own power tool range at rock bottom prices. Just as good as the brands but usually half the price in France. Look for the plain brown packaging/boxes on your next visit.

He says they work; and they last & we certainly needed our big 850v hammer drill as we burnt out two of Trev’s regular drills on our literally rock hard two foot thick stone walls.

Insulation? We bought our carbon zero, fireproof, high performance insulation from homebase in UK We paid under £5 a roll in their seasonal sale284014_R_Z001, so wait for that!

Could not find exact equivalent in France, this is made from recycled bottles and is effective heat and sound insulation.

One of our very best buys.

Boilers We cannot compare like for like prices as our new one is by Frisquet Our baby beast is economical and efficient and one of the best on the European market. The proof is in the performance, and it does.  France wins

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 outside the major cities. 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 10 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 overwhelms 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 this blue in principal, but this tin of bright, brassy, treacle thick, high gloss, laced with what looks like gloopy shellac varnish and slapped on with a yardbrush 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”.

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 slightly subtler, matter shades in mind for the French house and will use it sparingly and a bit differently

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.