Competition time- spot the odd addition



OK, I am fresh back from France and just spoke French to the bemused woman at the petrol station- habit.

But even I, mad as a box of greenish bug-eyed hopping amphibians,  cannot work this one out.

What exactly is going down on this renovation below? There will be a prize 20151002_131624

Penultimate day in France..and we block the street yet again


We go back to UK tomorrow.
The weather gods are teasing me with glorious blue skies and sunshine. Trev would like you all to know that it’s 33° on the terrace
We have just taken delivery of the bulk of our remaining stuff for the house here and I am posting this perched on the first dining chair the French house has seen for a decade.
Of course the van had “fun” reversing down the street, it took five of us several minutes to catch my neighbour’s cat which was determined to get under the wheels and generally in the way.
Even Madame S flapping her apron at it did not assist.

We see maybe two cars coming down rue de la plage on a  busy day and, of course, both turned up whilst we still had a street full of furniture


Sunday lunch at Cases de Pene.Restaurant L’Egrappoir



Running late en route to Argeles (nothing new there) we have stopped for lunch in a small village on the D117 north of Perpignan.
I am having calamari a la Romaine. Trev is having the house duck dish.
This restaurant is so low key from outside and barely signposted, but is very civil, beautifully and sparsely decorated and service and food and wine is worthy of several stars.
The chef , a real Anglophile, has just come out to say hello and chat to us.

The Thursday Three- Introducing metal elements

suspension fer forgeYou know I love my old wrought iron pieces-example left- and see my earlier post:-

I have been searching for vintage doors to either replace some nasty mid-fifties ones or to fit into the newly opened up doorways. This is SO HARD.

If you find an old door first, there may be some chance  of creating the opening to fit, but as for fitting to existing doorways, it’s a complete headache.

So, in this and in other areas I have long since climbed down from the everything authentic ( and impossible) stance.


The two new shower room doors had to be constructed from scratch so the key, as always, was that they had to be practical, good to look at, and with a proper nod to the vernacular style.

The proportions, the glazed panels, the wrought iron decorative grilles used on both exterior and interior doors here is what I like. There are examples of these already in the house. So Trev made up the doors and we glazed them and I sourced decorative (and privacy providing) hand made grilles which we will fit

languedocienne style doorsdecorative metal grilles








Other metal elements we will be introducing  are copper splashbacks and zinc work surfaces in kitchen

metal-splashback-bastille-metal-works-kitchen www.appliancist.comzinc top table

church furniture

Episode 125- Farewell my lovelies, à très bientôt

furniture for franceLast week we waved goodbye to a pile of stuff destined for the French house as it started it’s epic journey to the far Aude valleys.

We will all be reunited  very soon; and if I can get the junk in the French garage off to the dump, we will actually have room to receive these gems.

I will photograph and post at the other end. Most of this is old and destined for upcycling/restoration etc, apart from the thing in the foreground that looks like a stranded creature.  This is a large  hand made Indian bench in whitewashed hardwood, upholstered in Kantha quilt. (Kantha quilts are those with the quilt layers held together with decorative running stitch) An ancient technique and many are made from recycled fabrics, mine is.

Apart from a few ugly duckling pieces which will metamorphosise into beautiful statement swans, you can also see two from my collection of antique rugs,and  a box of scrolled wrought iron panels.

At the front is my coffee table for salon, heavy solid wood with a bergere split cane base (very French) and a lovely inlaid top with a scallop shell carving on the apron and beautiful little legs. Top will be sanded back and grey waxed to highlight grain. Apron and legs will be painted in a light neutral matte and waxed to bring out carving and detail.  It will be unrecognisable, as will my four big bergere backed dining chairs (two with arms) Again these will be finished in matte pale paint and waxed to show their great shape and detail.

Bergere backs will be left exactly as they are, unpainted and with worn down original clear finish. These will marry up with my long dining table and the bench Trev will make to fit one wall of dining area perfectly. I found the exact shape of arms for bench to complement the chairs-right-but our bench will have storage beneath. Storage is key, boring but true…

Left below- the big table rescued from a Black Country chapel. This furniture  would have ended up at the dump but for my brother in law’s intervention. This and it’s currently separate top will be repurposed as freestanding kitchen units. Trev’s list gets longer

church furniture

Linen bench Homesense

More musings on colours and designs for the French house

French coloursLook at these colours- found on Pinterest, link below

Similar to the colours that I am using in the salon. The doors are a little bright for me but I do like softer turquoises.

Note the painted lines punctuating the room at dado and picture rail height.

I have already blogged about painted skirtings and the tradition of picking out other details in paint rather than wood trim. see posts :-


Evidence of painted detail exists in several of our rooms at the French village house, and we are recreating similar detail where we have the appropriate room height-in the salon,the terrace bedroom and both staircases.

It’s somehow less grand than equivalent trims and mouldings, and as you know, I worked out a while back that this house has no pretensions to be grand.

I have noted that, unlike the picture above, our house reveals only one painted trim per room. I will humour it, I have so far…………..& I’m quite sure we are doing the right thing.painted skirtings

Episode 124- Pest Control Chez Nous

dragonfliesInspired by some new FFRs (Fellow French Renovators) I decided that a post about bugs and their management was long overdue.

Hanging light voiles and lace at the windows to keep the big summer bugs out (yes WBFM, there IS a reason why I buy this stuff!) is ESSENTIAL unless you enjoy fighting off winged things whilst you eat, sleep or just try to read quietly

Long term followers will have read about our historical and sometimes hysterical attempts to beat the little blighters. See:-

Let me just raise a Very Important Fact right here, French houses have a very high proportion of wood in their construction. In some it is the main material. You need to look at this issue at the earliest possible stage of your project.

Damp & rot also need addressing STRAIGHT AWAY; Forget the decorative flourishes, the gorgeous furniture or the tempting paint charts for now. Of course I could not resist “considering” any of those.

After  some battles with our 18thc cottage in the UK , in which tenants allowed rot organisms to flourish, this was an early preoccupation when we bought the French house (also tenanted on occasion before our time). After years of benign and active neglect, a bargain property will have some infestation to contend with. It makes sense to deal with this whilst the place is being stripped back for major workbedroom beam French house

We decided that it would be sensible  to strip everything back and let the place breathe to start with. This shows up any serious damp (as opposed to condensation) issues.

Damp/rot-We were fortunate- apart from the obvious (missing/slipped roof tiles) doors not shutting properly, effluorescence under stairs (cured by opening up a doorway in a dank corner) our issues were obvious and easy to fix, if not cheap.

Wood boring beetles- Woodworm was rife in the garage (see thebigwormybeam link above) but at least we didn’t have termites ( blessedly a standard French house purchase check in the South !) Mostly inactive now, apart from a popular plank on the salon floor (?!), the ancient joists had been augmented and supported in the early 20thC and the beam that holds the house up is still rock solid within, though it looks alarming-Below

Big wormy (and burnt) beam

Big wormy (and burnt) beam

Fortunately, when we exposed what we think is a chestnut beam on the top floor, it was absolutely sound. Spiders don’t like it either (they just lay their eggs elsewhere when we aren’t there!) We treated by soaking every bit of exposed wood in the house with Xylophene

Effective against the “larves xylophages -Lyctus, Vrillettes, Capricornes”, they sound so cute in French.

Every new bit of wood we expose or add in, including wooden furniture, trims etc is also treated to future proof us.

I have recently read an expat article stating with confidence, that exposing  beetle infested  wood to light and air will fix any problem. I’m sorry, it won’t, modern chemicals are required and they are not, by their nature “safe”, so wear masks and gloves.

The “old ” remedies included painting furniture and floors to deter these little critters was, for many centuries, the ONLY defense (hence painted furniture and floors!) but it was all that was available back then. Get real and buy something that works.


The Thursday Three- Passementerie, rings and heraldic motifs

cross stitch linenAll vintage today.

Substantial cotton bobble fringing.

Old but very clean metal curtain rings- I have been looking for a quantity of these for a while as I want to hang as many curtains as possible on traditional French style fittings.

These may well be utilised with bamboo curtain poles in the tulip room and hallway.


I haven’t settled on  a purpose yet for this huge, heavy linen tablecloth, expertly embroidered in cross stitch with classical and heraldic motifs. The shades of pale grey, stone and taupe brown will work well in either the cave or the dining area. Possibly seat cushions for the bench Trevor is making to sit opposite my bergere backed, soon to be painted and waxed, dining chairs.

The foams on these have been crushed due to storage and I hope they will recover in warmer climes.

I find that I do.

Episode 123 – more on the door

Punch?It’s not as easy as 123, by the way…

And, yes, this is probably Most Bizarre Photo Of 2015.

What’s going on with the end of his nose?

Who needs a Punch & Judy show? Trev still had a sense of humour at this point, although later we were both certainly ready to punch something.

Surrounded by pre-clearout detritus in tulip bedroom and a clear shot of my temporary wardrobe, “Joint à l’ancienne”(old style grout) and The Kneeling Cushion which The Man refuses to use (creak, groan, curse)

As we have had the panels for this door cut for a very long time and as we could not expect family to use an open plan bathroom at the French house , we decided to get the new door on. HA!

I refuse to part with the 17thc door frame in here so Trev had to work around that, which means that the new, straight door reveal set in there so door has something to close against does not line up with original doorway. It fits at the bottom but not at the top. Even Carpenter Greg was scratching his head.

We certainly couldn’t put the glass in, and we cracked a floor tile , so overall not best project of 2015 so far..

Basically we have had to leave it until next trip. Trev made up this door using biscuit rather than peg joints so was a bit of an experiment anyway.chiselling out

Trev did find latches he was happy with and chiselled out the frames on both doors out of shower room to accommodate these. He has inset them deep enough to cover with a thin slip of wood and will be filled, sanded and painted to conceal within the reveal.

door lock latchdoor handle metal











Once both doors are finished and painted they will have their pretty, decorative metal grills attached  over the glazed sections to preserve the user’s privacy

The Thursday Three- Recent Brocante finds

vintage white work square pillowHere are some of this summer’s Brocante finds.

Left- white work cotton cushion with self-embroidery, ladder work, & cut work.

Right – Pair of hand made curtain panelsFrench curtain panels





Below- stunning silk (?) embroidered cushion

The star of the show, but sadly does not fit with any of my colour schemes  so, regrettably sitting on ebay right now with some little friends.

To see what’s on offer as we downsize, follow my link and select “Services” page at top of website- my ebay  icon is half way down page- just click on it.

As we approach the big move, I will be listing some great items from my collection as I am taking only the stuff that is perfect for the French house. So reap the benefits of my mercurial collector’s mind and my finely honed instinct for picking up treasures over the last ten years! This will be the third collection I have sold off and I find that I am fine with that, it’s all part of the new Master Plan

Vinatge French silk cushion

How not to treat 18thc woolwork embroidery

18thc woolwork cleaningAnother  piece from that well known internet auction sight.

I was looking for a vintage piece with similar colours and dimensions to one I already own to balance out the main picture wall in the terrace bedroom.

I am aiming for a little more symmetry and visual balance  in the French village house to counteract the simple fact that there simply isn’t a single symmetrical architectural feature anywhere . More on that later.

Anyway, I found this framed piece for peanuts and collected it. Call me crazy but I expected that it would have been glazed to protect the piece?

No, it had been left to accumulate muck for a very long time20150907_114928.

There were hints of typically 18thc pastel colours under the stains, some of which had been caused by the curious orange sticky paper holding it into the frame; oh , and the rusty nails that had been driven through the actual embroidery itself. Anything of this nature is always a gamble.

First I carefully got off as much sticky paper as possible. Then I removed the nails, trying hard not to make the attendant holes any bigger.

Once prised from it’s frame. I tried a soak in old fashioned soap. It shifted the muck not a jot….though the remaining glue came off (mostly).

So, do I take a punt? Come on, this is me, of course I do. So I put it into a mesh bag (the sort you wash tights & undies in) and put it through a no-spin delicate wash with baby detergent. I laid it flat outside to dry gently

antique woolwork embroideryFirst though, I sewed up the more obvious holes to stop the rot spreading any further. It has come out great and I love the rough hemp canvas background so much I am going to keep that visible and hang as is (no frame)

I always use a transparent filament “thread” to repair such pieces, that way, if they prove to be priceless, the mending is distinct on the back and can be easily removed. The nature of the transparent thread means no further dyes or discolouration will leak onto the original work and my restoration won’t mess it up further. A great old piece now

Episode 122- August achievements, and some bad impressions given

what a messWith almost three weeks in France, we got lots of  niggling small jobs done.These might not seem madly significant to those undertaking Grand Designs, but they gave us a great deal of satisfaction.

  1. Putting up coat hooks in hall- until now coats, jackets etc were just slung over the backs of chairs or used to decorate the ironing board. (ironing board,?in our hovel? ha!)
  2. Replacing broken glass in salon door- put on the back burner for years as we could not decide whether to keep this door or not. Cleaned and waxed with a new handle it is vastly improved. It used to depress me every time I came up the stairs and saw it. Someone’s dog had scratched  the mouldings so decided to repair rather than replace. This is our new creed, and it saves money.
  3. Bought a fridge to augment the 30 euro one in kitchen that goes “kerklunk” regularly. We can’t put a big fridge in here until we replace the floor- Trev’s next big job- but won’t go to waste as will be moved to the alcove under the stairs in the cave for drinks etc – Big impact as August and milk and water and cold drinks and food and ice cream etc and five people using the kerklunk fridge with no door on freezer compartment was getting STRESSFUL.
  4. Trev finally finished replacing all handles on all windows with the black metal ones. What a difference this small thing makes.
  5. Finally got a door on the tulip bedroom/shower room access. Coming off again in September as not an unqualified success- more in next post.
  6. After seven years finally worked out best layout for terrace furniture. Hurray!
  7. The imminent arrival of family made me clear up the tulip room. It is very easy to lapse into laziness when the work is still ongoing- By the time I carried the fifth bag of rubble down the stairs, it was getting much easier.
  8. Found the new dechetterie (dump/tip) location- extremely critical

Many of the above jobs were prompted by the chaos visible in the photo above. We can’t keep living this way.

Some friends with a nice neat modern villa with spanking double glazing, new kitchen and bathrooms all finished picked the most chaotic moment of our entire stay to visit us. God knows what they thought.

I also ran late to tidy myself up a bit (having gone a bit “native”) and picked up some other  new acquaintances looking like a rough, mad-haired bag lady with no slap on.

I guess if they really like us, we might see them again……………………

Episode 121- Whispering words of wisdom, let it be

a view to a hillPlease don’t sue me L & M, but that particular lyric is very appropriate.

I could also call this “bedroom before” photo – left- “a view to a hill”.

OK, OK, I’m getting carried away now. This post is about our considered perspective on the final look for this project  of renovating/restoring/remodelling/rejigging  & rescuing one particular French village house.

I am determined, as you know, to keep as much as possible of the good stuff in the house that works, even if we relocate it like the terrazzo skirting from the tulip room and the cave door. I can see no point in ripping out & replacing something that works, or can be made to work.

The old shower on the second floor is, unusually, lined with great slabs of granite in a blue/grey colour with chips of sparkly quartz in it. If I can get it cleaner, it will look beautiful; why would I tile over that?

I am also keeping the good ceramic tray- it has a chip or two, but hey in this place who is going to be expecting perfect? Even Trevor is really coming around to the concept that not everything has to be crisp and perfect and straight. Not that he has a choice with me in tow.shower france

I didn’t want to distract from the granite or the simple decor in here. The accessories will  funk it up and I have a serious  statement basin. So, after years of searching and consideration of many options, I dropped on these tumbled natural stone tiles that are shaped like flattened fingers.

The shower is set into an alcove I can only describe as rhomboidesque, and the ledges around the shower were totally flat, a design no-no as this encouraged water to gather and seep down the join where the granite  slabs meet. They taper off too, with the exception of the front area.

So I made my decision on how to deal with that by sloping the new tiling downward and fixing and grouting with the same heavy-duty waterproof floor tile adhesive. The grout has actually dried almost the same shade of grey as the tiles, but this quick shot was taken after five people showered in a very short time frame so it looks darker. Trev was unusually complimentary & I am happy. What he thought may have been a leak with the new plumbing runs was in fact the water built up and seeping through, as per, my theory above, then collecting on the new outlet pipe.

All I need now is an effective DIY cleaner for limescaley grubby granite which has been in situ for at least sixty to seventy years.



Episode 120 – Hang on in there… progress update #1

websI don’t think the spiders wanted us back at the house this month. It’s only been a few weeks since I removed the egg sacs behind the bedroom shutters , so in retaliation they attempted to barricade us out.

Not too clear in this picture, but basically they criss-crossed multiple webs right down the cave door. If they had been a little brighter they might have recreated this scene from “Arachnophobia” behind the main FRONT door.

We almost completed two major tasks and lots of little niggling ones, including putting up these aged metal coat hooks in hall cupboard ( it won’t have a door on & still needs the wiring boxing in and the frame fixing but I was FED UP with not being able to hang anything up! coat hooks)


If you have a theory as to the purpose of this giant button/siren thing at the bottom of the stairs  we would like to hear it.

French Electrician thinks air-raid siren for the whole village.


Warning- This Is A Rant

This is the wartsandall blog, so I must tell it how it is and vent my frustrations. Hence this open letter to the guest(s) at the Argeles apartment who, jointly or severally, pushed me to the limit this week.

” To whom it may concern,

You have had a lovely stay at our stylishly presented little seaside place, into which we have thoughtfully put everything we could possibly think of for your convenience, comfort and enjoyment. All at a very modest price.

It was good enough to get the highest possible tourist star rating for one bed self-catering accommodation in France on it’s last assessment and we have had many happy and enthusiastic guests enjoying it’s cute vintage vibe.

So why did one or more of you out there who stayed this summer decide that it was acceptable to:-

  1. Get a DVD stuck in the DVD tray and then attempt to hack it out with one of our table knives?
  2. Block up the filter on my expensive Bosch dishwasher with chicken bones?
  3. Yank the flush handle off the toilet cistern (for which no spare parts are available) ?

To add insult to injury, you have  failed to admit to these acts and therefore, as you haven’t ‘fessed up, I cannot withhold your security deposit or bill you for the new TV/DVD, dishwasher  or toilet as there is more than one possible candidate out there.

More stuff to sort out and more time-consuming post guest checks for my wonderful change-over lady, and her husband who had to drop an important  job to rush across the Pyrenees-Orientales and do a temporary fix so that the very nice and understanding guests currently in there right now can flush the toilet at least; though they will be washing their dishes by hand and have no chance of relaxing and enjoying a film later in the evening.  

Of course I have reduced their bill because I am a nice person & so are they, but boy are you pushing my buttons right now.

You put a dampener and a big delay on enjoying our last family day together as my daughter discovered these issues during her short break with her sick husband. You messed up plans and caused Trev & I major grief.On the hottest day of the summer. None of us needed this right now. 

Karma comes around.

Gill “

Emotional rescue

The Languedoc is dotted with quirky properties in various stages of benign and active neglect: just waiting for some mad and optimistic adventurer to spot and save them.
Properly save them I mean. Not get someone else in to board over all the character, paint everything white and fit lkea kitchens and boring bathrooms.
Two more brave souls have just taken that monumental first step and can now look forward to endless critical design decisions,  sleepless nights, broken fingernails and dwindling savings.. but it will all be worth it.

We did indeed rescue the saddest looking village house in the Aude, but it rescued us too.

If you have this dream then do what your piece of French history deserves and put your whole heart into it.

Two more gems below, one neglected, one loved
( Imagine having your very own bell tower!)




Carcassonne castle, “Le Cite”( e accented but won’t work on this damn notsosmartphone)
Is a stunning early medieval fortified city in the Languedoc  and not far north of the village house.

A UNESCO world heritage site, there is so much info on the net just look it up.
This was our day out.
Wandering around the ramparts marvelling at the history and architecture and checking out  the many great little shops.
Then we all went to see an amazing and hilarious Chevaliers spectacular with a good plot and lots of Knights fighting over beautiful maidens, some of whom kicked a little ass themselves.



The Thursday Three – les cocottes


Actually five today
These gorgeous little Le Creuset style lidded iron dishes came from the vide-grenier up the road at Alet-les-Bains.
Briefly home to Nostradamus and to a local boy who grew up to be chef to the last Tsar Nicholas (of all the Russias) then came home and built a very beautiful house.
Alet has some great architecture including a 9thc abbey .
I can see these little gems bubbling with pommes dauphinoise





A little light lunch


This was a little light lunch at the village cafe.
I had what looked like a five egg omelette ( I managed two thirds).
Trev had a monster duck breast. Both meals came with the usual fresh crusty bread and the not so usual wedge of camembert as a sort of bonus extra course. The tomatoes were five inches across.
They load the plates to the point where it isn’t easy to find a spot to manipulate the cutlery.
The rose was crisp, toffee coloured and off-dry……..
Don’t worry wbfm, we are working off all these carbs

Decorating a French house

The time has come.

We can no longer procrastinate and put off decisions about the detail. Clear plans must be made now as we move forward with the last of the hidden work that will underpin the final look.

Although I have been rolling ideas around in my head for a very long time, this year we have to confront the remaining quandaries head on, or we will never finish this project.

I am probably about to alienate half my followers, but here goes-

I always knew that I did not want either the luridly bright and over fussy concept of French country  I see on American sites,  OR the homogenous everything ethereally white and pale grey and all scalloped and monogrammed and completely impractical  look popular in many of the French interior magazines.

I have been looking and looking at semi-rural homes, not just in France but everywhere for a coherent design that speaks to me and have found only these three in which all  the elements really appeal.

So what do they have in common? the rough & the raw  juxtaposed with smooth & contemporary, soft artists’s colours, genuinely old & timeworn textiles (though I won’t be wriggling on a rough sacking covered chair!) ancient plaster work with real patina, strong statement pieces, a hint of luxurious texture, no dark varnish, no dead white walls, no fuss, no frills, no tiny flower prints

Whilst not an exact blueprint for what I’m doing at Campagne, maybe these will go some way toward explaining the route I have chosen.

I just need to get Mr neat and clean and everything  tidily finished  on board; but this house is changing him too.raw walls


below left –from

below right- from

Escalier-entree_carrousel_gallery_ispiraciononline blogspotjuxtaposition of old and new

salle de bain

Le salle de bain part 2- Perfect Plumbing- where? how? why?

sept13 130What does “bathroom” mean to you? even amongst English speaking nations, the meaning is slightly different. Generally I take it to mean a room with a bath, a basin and a toilet.

The French are keen on hiding their toilets in odd corners, some seem to think that one is enough for an entire household however large. A salle de bain  need not contain one at all.

Then there is  the question of what to call a shower room in French, salle d’eau? salle de douche?

And what do you call a room with a basin and toilet and maybe a washing machine? cloakroom maybe? utility? IKEA showroom?glass basin



However you decide to label these spaces, almost all of you consider this kind of plumbing absolutely essential for 21st century life. It’s all relative.  We have endured a number of “facilities” during our epic renovation:- flushing toilet behind  front door, off grid toilet (with a bucket to flush), ditto with temporary  plastic plumbing, new toilet in shower room (hooray!!!) basins with and without warm water, showers attached and not attached to any water supply, bathing by pouring heated water over oneself whilst standing in a large plastic box while your partner howls with laughter… okay, okay, enough.

The point I am trying to make is that you will  save time and much angst by deciding early on  exactly what YOU want in the end product; not the neighbours, not the possibly opinionated friends, not the family, not even the plumber, who will all have their own idea of  what YOU should have. Don’t go down the easy road if you are going to regret it later. Listen to me and save a load of grief .

What do I want? (1) a toilet on at least two of the three floors, including one right by our bedroom

I screamed a bit when we achieved that.DSC02796 (2) a slipper bath to soak in and (3) a shower off the bedroom and (4) separate facilities for guests. So we have a plan, and we are working on it.

Le bain, la baignoire, le salle de bain, le salle d’eau, le salle de douche.


Episode 119- Le salle de bain? bathrooms Part 1

only WC in French house 2006!

Le bain
la baignoire, le salle de bain, le salle d’eau, le salle de douche.

Long term readers will be familiar with our original “bathroom ” facilities at the French village house.

Originally, we had top left- this lovely toilet, set handily right behind the front door.It was set at a drunken angle, it wasn’t attached to the floor, and the only hand washing facility was the bucket hanging off the single cold tap in what was the garage opposite. I think the only reason that there was a tap in there is that the garage was the kitchen until about seventy years ago. This toilet was “off grid” for two years whilst we wrestled with plumbing and room layouts.shower room before

On the second floor, we had a sort of shower room- right- which was about 22 feet long and maybe four feet wide. The view above shows the “business” end, with a washbasin and (hidden) an alcove with a shower in it.

The basin has always been connected, one way or another, but the shower was off grid for a year , then cold water only for a further three (YES I KNOW! WE WERE MAD!)

The only window was set right at the other end,hence the stygian gloom. Over the shower dangled a bulb on bare wire…. To avoid boring you all rigid, here are  a few links to earlier posts  showing  partial development of these two areas.

The long process of sorting plumbing,  and the right spaces for it has given Trevor more angst than all the lack of lighting and sockets, the constant dust and debris, wondering about windows, walls, doorways and major structural projects we have endured put together.

Having survived these privations, anything is a bonus, so I was amused when I read the latest post from my fellow blogger who is about to complete purchase of  a beautiful mammoth project of a house just down the Aude road from ourselves. She speculates whether the toilet will work.

For the sake of your sanity and your marriage  m’dear, I truly hope it does.

Episode 118- Waxing Lyrical

grey waxesIn my road to restoration and renovation perfection I have picked up a few liquid and paste waxes to finish floors, wood, walls  and furniture at the French house.


This selection of greys will be well used. tinted lime plaster

I have already started finishing the few crumbly areas on our very old lime plaster with a little of the Gris Marmotte #3 – which has sealed and protected these areas and adds to the soft finish of these walls.

I like the fact that these waxes are billed as “intemporelle” (timeless) & “hier pour demaine” (yesterday for tomorrow) how very appropriate. The Grise Mercure looks bright blue here,  but is a very soft cloudy blue/grey sky colour on application. I will be using it to protect and soften the colour I mixed for the lower bit of the hall and staircase walls. A light coating in certain areas does not affect the breathability of the lime plaster that we are preserving wherever possible in the house.

So far I have finished the terrace bedroom floor by cleaning with a plastic scourer and French liquid wood soap. Then I let it dry (for nine months !) and then  finished  on my knees with a cloth and a tin of Liberon Liming Wax. (not recommended if your room is any bigger than the 112 square feet of floor space we have in that particular room)

The effect however is dramatically lighter and  brighter and the grain of the wood is enhanced. I was inspired by the lightening effect on the floor of the ingrained rubble from the demolition phase in here! All evidence of the screaming orangey-brown stain applied in the 50’s has gone and it is a lovely soft silvery grey.

Although the wax I used is not specifically designed for floors, I must point out that the finish I applied has now been in place for four years and has survived roof leaks over one winter due to slipping canal tiles in the worst storm in decades, so I would say it was fit for purpose.

terrace bedroom mid demolition lime waxed bedroom floor

The Thursday Three- Vintage whitework bed linen

DSC03146You can’t beat a bit of provenance and a little story behind your antique or vintage pieces.

I am a fan of the old textile companies which flourished in the the north west of England on the back of the Lancashire cotton mills.

Lots of pieces from the mid 1800s to late 1930’s are still around and in very good and usable condition. I have just picked up a thick white cotton sheet with a decorative double hem from one of my favourite hunting grounds, a charity shop in what was once a very  posh village on the outskirts of Birmingham.

The fact that it is conveniently down the road from my daughter’s house means that I can be found in there rummaging at least once a week!

This week’s trip yielded this Dorma sheet. Dorma are a textile company started by two brothers who started weaving cotton in 1841 and later set up the Dorma bed linen company in 1920. In the 20thc Dorma were one of the first companies to produce printed bed linens in the UK.

Although my working class Lancashire family did not work in the mills (my mother retained the aspirations of grandeur from her wealthy middle class Welsh relations) I grew up in a terraced house in a steep cobbled street in darkest Blackburn, and it was dark, thanks to the mills and other smoke producing industry in our part of East Lancs. My honorary aunt Rosie and uncle Fred did work in the mills and in the case of Rosie, was as deaf as a post from a lifetime spent shouting over the weaving looms. Any extended conversation with her resulted in a sore throat!

This sheet would have been one of the earliest produced by Dorma and is still in fantastic condition with years of wear still left.  I have a couple of other vintage pieces, including a pair of long discontinued cotton curtains by this company which are to be modified for the cave in France.

Lurking close to the sheet I found this pair of vintage Laura Ashley pillowcases with bows to tie on the back and an array of white work- ladder work, bridge work etc.

I may well do a post dedicated to white work (needlework in white on white fabric) soon



Episode 117- Re-purposing old original doors


I have been obsessing for ages about what to do with the old cave door-below –cave door

It doesn’t fit, the wind blows around and through it and there is insufficient light coming through the two dinky little panes. But it is very old,  very charming and very French and must be re-purposed somewhere. I have come up with a few ideas, most of which have made the ever patient Trevor roll his eyes; but now..EUREKAKAKA!…. I have it.

We will re-purpose as sliding “barn door” style access to wash room in the cave. This is a tight space and a regular opening door was never practical there as right by the front door in a small entrance area. This old cave door has sub layers of lead paint so cannot sand, will use a paint stripping gel that holds the flecks of lead paint within and see how it looks after that. Won’t be perfect but that would be boring anyway. Not at all inappropriate; our neighbour across the way had one on his garage/workshop doorway till he renovated his pretty house.

I just need to find a preferably old slide assembly. It will go great with our other old iron/metal elements at the village house. I will replace the glass with mirror, also old if I can find it; so will bounce extra light around in this restricted space.

I can hear the house  shouting “Yes! Yes! Yes!” from the other side of La Manche.

See some wonderful antique, vintage and modern examples here:-atelier barn doors


The Thursday Three- Maps, whales, butterflies

DSC02538#1-Here is my antique map of the Languedoc. Posted before but it is so precious and beautiful & evocative that I thought I would share it with newer followers.

I can date it to somewhere between 1648 and 1659, when the Treaty of the Pyrenees changed the French/Spanish border and ceded the city of Perpignan  to France, note the way the border used to skirt around Perpignan (Perpinya) close to the coast in the detailed photo. So our seaside place was originally in Spain.

DSC03136The Languedoc region is a different shape today, but many place names are still identifiable. I am looking for the right vintage frame .

# 2-I have this great copy of a whaling log also destined for France, because the colours will work!

and #3 this pretty 20’s/30’s amber pressed glass dressing table set

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Bonus post- Parler comme une française

Old bridge Campagne sur AudeThis is the beautiful and ancient bridge that gives access to our French village.

Talking of bridges, my aim this year is to master conversational French without stuttering, mumbling or frightening the neighbours! To assist with this mammoth task, I have been subscribing to Geraldine Lepere’s excellent “Comme une  française” site & her weekly youtube presentations, link below.

Geraldine posts  very amusing and informative  video-articles of French life, language, culture and with a contemporary slant: real people speaking real French!

I love her fresh, informal and very honest approach. I recommend her.

Today I was honoured to chat to Geraldine herself about her very accessible and very useful on-line courses.

Visit her now at:-photo

The Thursday Three- two new & one old

1920's silk thread embroidery on linen

1920’s silk thread embroidery on linen

Loyal readers will recognise this circular 1920’s silk thread embroidery on natural linen that I posted a while back. You may also know that I was looking for a second one to create a semi-symmetrical display in terrace bedroom.

Well I found one on ebay eventually, same embroidery transfer design but slightly different frame & executed in chain rather than satin stitch. Still perfect for what I want.

Even before I found gorgeous picture #2 I was hunting for a larger but still circular chinoiserie style 20’s/30’s transfer printed mirror to mount between these over the bed.

After five years I have admitted defeat, then this week I found a contemporary version, see below top left,

Though it doesn’t look like  a mirror in that photo




Unfortunately- see also above link, I also found this irresistable silk cushion substantially reduced in the store. I was not quite sure, the bright pink nylon bobbles put me off. I walked around Debenhams for about half an hour clutching said cushion and arguing with myself (Do I need it? do I want it ? will it look right with the vintage textiles such as the 20’s pyjama case ?)

As you know I love my passementerie but not the synthetic stuff. Sorry Matthew Williamson! They had to go to suit the as-yet-unmade window seat in the terrace bedroom at My French House

So what did you do this afternoon Gill? Well, I sat snipping synthetic bobbles off a brand new cushion

The pen is mightier than the sword- Bonus Post

plan-campagne-audeFurther to my last post, here are some links to older posts referring to our village, Campagne-sur-Aude’s history as a Preceptory of the Knights Templar . The village has the only completely enclosed central fort of this type in Europe.

Sources suggest that the earliest documented reference to the village was in 814 AD, though we have traces of Roman and Visigoth settlement there.



This is the best link, if you can get the English language version  up, or you have excellent French. I don’t normally recommend Google Translate but it’s an option


My older posts

The pen is mightier than the sword- and considerably easier to write with

Thus said Marty Feldman, and he was right.

When I write my little story on Campagne sur Aude, our French village of choice, I will be doing so as an incomer, but with the most honourable of intentions.

I have found no evidence to date that anyone else has done this and someone really should. I am in the fortunate position of being able to do my own illustrations too! I would love to write it longhand, with a quill  made from a fallen feather dropped by a griffin vulture; but my writing is illegible, even to me .

Campagne sur Audeplan-campagne-aude







The photo above is my own, showing the 12 sided shape of the fort at the centre of the village from the north east, flip it to study this plan-right- from

The main entrance on the south wall is shown on my photo –below- and right is the view from inside.

Note the sword sharpening marks to the left!

20140728_111622campagne sur aude templar fort entrance

campagne sur aude templar fort entrance

Then we noticed similar sword marks on the walls of our little courtyard. Were the Knights twelve feet tall? or does this just prove my theory that there was a substantial  roof on the arched passage (leading from what is now part of front cave doorway ) to the back of our house and someone stood cave doorthere to sharpen something?- call me Sherlock……………..DSC01715











Kitchen lighting- a concession to the contemporary

julian+wass+white+kitchen+school+house+milk+glass+chrome+pendant+light+island+butcher+block+double+door+refrigerator+subway+tile+backsplashAS you may recall, I am mixing it up at the French village house and adding a few classic contemporary pieces to the antique and vintage mix. This is the chrome & enamel fitting that will be installed over the dining table in kitchen and this image was found on :-

This was sourced in M. Bricolage (yet again) and I’m glad I bought it three years before we need it as has now been discontinued. There is a newer version in stock,see below, but it is not quite as big, heavy or funky as mine.

So you see, it does pay to think ahead and BUY IT WHEN YOU SEE IT


An early & expanded Thursday Three – Vintage lighting

DSC01595 - Copy (2)DSC02194As my regular Thursday Three slot has been thrown into chaos lately, I put forth this bonus post showcasing some of the lighting I have picked up  over the last few years with  the French house in mind. Some works there, some won’t, you will have to wait for the big reveal to see what went in and where.. I will admit the rustic wooden set won’t work but it is beautifully made and would look perfect in a ski chalet in the Pyrenees.

Here are some links to earlier posts featuring vintage lighting-




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dan and ann 017

Vintage wedding on a sunny day

dan and ann 024Sorry no posts for days, but organising (and making ) two buffets and hosting an afternoon  garden party does kind of distract you a bit.

The theme was vintage seaside and the bride had silver starfish clips in her bohemian plait up-do, a vintage style gown in a dusty pastel sea green colour made from fortuny pleated net over satin, customised with swarovski stars and pearl decorated waistband. She made her own bouquet from tightly packed silk roses trimmed with strings of old faux pearls & a selection of antique and vintage  brooches with seaside themes.

She looked beautiful. My son sported his first suit in ten years and starfish and shell motif tie.


Best man had on his boating blazer and stripy espadrille beach shoes. His wife rocked a vintage vibe frock with a French Riviera print. Kirsten wore a short 70’s style frock and necklace. My  outfit was new except for  my black & orange burlesque mini-top hat with net and feathers that took ages to arrive from some dodgy “eastern” location.

The ex- husband behaved very well, the sun shone, the priory venue and gardens were beautiful (no guys, that’s not my back garden, which this morning looked like a dodgy pub- garden after last orders ) and there were no punch-ups  at the cheesy disco later where the buffet included, of course, a few French delicacies like chèvre chauds.

So all in all it went very well…….photos by Trevor (in the Hawaiian beach shirt, and a couple by the bride’s father, Phil)

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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