Christmas project-part one


At last, some time to work on our house!!

Our kitchen and sitting room are on the first floor.

Not unusual in village houses here, but it limits flooring options when your room is thirty feet (9.14 mtrs) long and old and your floor flexes slightly!!

We had tried tiling this three metre square area; where we are building traditional, simple open cabinetry and installing our built in oven and induction hob as a concession to 21st century life.

Tiles did not work, as there is minor movement in this floor. They developed hairline cracks!

To the right of this space we are keeping the basic block built sink cabinet, but will be losing the vile Formica and wrapping in painted wood panelling.

Blocks will be built-up to tall human worktop height ( we are tall family!) Topped with recycled wooden worktops and a new, ceramic sink from Spain.

We took up the tiles and laid this two cm deep pine floor, running at right angles to rest of the wood floor in the room.

Most of our old wooden floors, with the exception of the tulip room floor, are pine.

Being a detail freak, I picked out pine with some interesting knots and colour variation and texture to keep things interesting.

Fixed down with steel screws.

A skinny, bevelled wooden trim was pinned on with air gun nailer to finish between the two floors.

1.First , I washed the floor with diluted paint/water, 75%/25% mix.
Applied evenly with smooth strokes.
I used a flat one inch brush.

Nocturnal, Nordic blue and Denim shades of Vintage chalk paint.

Do not be alarmed at this stage , this is only the base colour!!

2. Then I made up a 50/50 mix of diluted chalk paint in Cement colour.

I painted this on, starting at the edge of the boards, in sections approximately 30cm long at a time.
Then I quickly wiped off each section with kitchen paper, leaving a subtle wash of this neutralising light grey behind.

3. Once dry, I went over each section of board individually and, using the Cement shade, I washed certain areas of the boards again; concentrating on the ends, the edges, any knots, areas of texture , and where the colour variations of the original wood still show through.

As in stage 2, I wiped off most of the paint with paper as I moved along.

Stage 4 will be three coats of floor varnish.

Watch out for final result post here.

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House of Joë Bousquet, Carcassonne, painted beams.

I have to do this in the cave….

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Log store

Trev built us a log store

The only new wood purchased were the battens.

Rest recycled from house junk and our friend’s old shutters.

Part of our plan to turn front of workshop into boot room and entry space.

Current tiny hall will be five or six times bigger.

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Cool Jerk

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At last we have a washing machine

Perfect temperatures this afternoon (40°) to manhandle your new A+++ washing machine into your newly refurbished utility cupboard right by your south west facing front door.

( which was actually going to be the cloaks cupboard)

Suffice to say that, if Trev and I were actually married, one of us would now be filing for divorce…..

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Gorgeous morning, but I really should have styled the terrace a bit better for this blog!

Culinary plants now include baby fig tree, avocado plant, lavender, chillies, sweet peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, sage, mint, rosemary, chives, basil, parsley and beets.


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The Thursday Three – The Lustre of Faerie

Yes, it is many moons since I did one of these posts…

But it is Thursday, and here are three things that I never, in my wildest dreams, expected to find in the Troc in Carcassonne.

I have been looking for a set of these for forty years.

OK, there are three and not five, but, even so, it’s a hell of a find.

Could they be more perfect for my terrace bedroom, stylistically pitched as it is between 1890 and 1930?

Carltonware Fantasia fairy lustre jugs.

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Comfortable but pig-ugly chairs.

Wine Dralon seats.

If you are familiar with that fabric, you will be sticking your fingers down your throat right now.

After 13 years, paint colour and 19thc French fabric chosen.


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Hot Dog

It’s exhausting for a poor dog, watching the humans working on the roof terrace in this heat….

Metal arch now mounted for climbing plants.

This old cast iron wall lantern, needing a little repair over exposed wires, goes up next…

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Wax on….Wax off

Clock case has been waxed and polished, inside and out.

Although the two doors require minor attention to stabilise them and their glass reputtied, I could not resist getting some glassware in to confirm the validity of this repurposing project.

Lead crystal wine goblets from Tuscany, Bohemia crystal flutes, two French carafes ( one etched, one hand painted) one early 20th century Schweppes soda syphon.

Eclectic? Moi?

My biceps are throbbing and have had to be soothed by coffee and madeleines.

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Dusty Miller

Dusty Miller is this beautiful, very pale blue with a subtle grey undertone.

One of those nuanced colours that seems to straddle more than one chromatic range.

And, though I have only just noticed this, it matches the inside of my Linea china coffee cups.

Made by Autentico in a range that includes natural chalk paint, velvet matte wall paint, wood and metal paints, beautiful lime paint finishes and more.

Now available in France from our shop

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Post Paint View

Kitchen ceiling finished, this wall almost finished.

Brackets to mount under the little white painted wall cabinet

Trolley needs new feet to line up with other surfaces

Art Nouveau tiled splashback to go up

Smaller cupboard to paint

Inside of clock case to paint.

Everything will disappear from surfaces once other wall is finished.

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I never thought that I would see the day, but we are close to running out of wood stocks, both new and reycled!

Last offcuts of the floor boards we bought for the kitchen diner are being trimmed down for shelves in the clock case.

No one, but no one, could possible say that we haven’t put absolutely everything into this house…..

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The clock case

So, now Trev has finished panelling in the new wiring in the kitchen, I can fill, paint and finish this wall and the ceiling.

My Unfitted French Kitchen story continues on this, the Wall of Worry ( put that into search box for a laugh!) with the addition of this long case comtoise clock case

Like my dining table, hand made and unfinished, but you all know that the look and the speculative back story is why I give these random pieces house room.

I have a very specific plan for this as critical, but decorative, storage in here.

The clock will have to come off again so I can paint, but at least all fixing points are set now and it will be stable for the first time since we bought it for very, very silly money at the Troc in Carcassonne .

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Twiddly bits

So here is Trev, up a ladder once more, panelling in new electric feeds and junction box.

He only has to cut the 1 cm plywood to fit around the differently shaped beams, all with different sized spaces between.

And find a way of fixing the panels down around the tangle of wires.

How hard can that be????

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Terrifying here in the village.

I never thought we would have to barricade ourselves against floods in our street.

The river Aude is now 20 feet away from our door, with a strong possibility of water levels rising a further two-three metres today.

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It has taken me over a decade, but I have now resolved my last issue with our hovel.

I have never been happy with our ridiculously tiny entrance hall, photo 1. If we had a cat, there would be no room to swing it anyway.

So, taking a position with your back to the middle front door (we have three entrances) looking right we have the workshop. With a wide doorway into it.

If we run a new wall across under the “Big Wormy Beam “(put this into search box on right and laugh) you can see in photo 2, top left, and put in a large window in that for natural daylight from the front of the house and a new door sharp left into the remaining space, Trev will have a workshop sized as photo 3.

Perfectly adequate.

And I get 8-9 square metres of new entrance hall/boot and dog lead and coat store/indoor log store.

So, Trev will build all this. Well, he will when he has fully absorbed my latest mad plan.

Then I have to decorate and buy another vintage light fitting, some decorative doors to cover the new electric meters, a bench seat to sit on whilst we put on our dog-walking boots……. What a shame , I am forced to do MORE shopping for more old stuff to fill this unexpected new space.

So, why didn’t we think of this before?

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Nearly there

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Stuck with minimal space for a basin, I was rather pleased with this very clean lined 30’s style corner lavabo from Mr Bricolage .

The guys were less pleased with the fact that facilitating it’s release from the mould during the manufacturing process meant that the angle at the back was NOT 90 degrees; further, the bracket supplied did not permit stable fitting. So, new brackets had to be made.

Happy with how it looks in the space. Simple tap works well.

The grout is taking ages to dry and lighten. Lack of ventilation maybe…

Fitting my waterfall shower is giving the guys multiple headaches and minor tantrums on Trev’s part.

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Further news on the wet room

Back on the ground floor wet room project again.

We had a slightly anxious night waiting for the floor grout to go off, not only because it did not look anything like the carefully chosen grey shade on the packet but, also, we had one tile right by the shower drain that was rocking slightly.

Obviously an air pocket in the adhesive, but Justin was so careful to get the floor perfect, not least when there has to be a teeny slope off in order to drain the shower.

Grout has dried the correct shade and applying a looser mix to flow under the problem tile has fixed it.

All stable and looking good now

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More work in wet room

So, we have tanking fabric smoothed and bonded to walls, the drains and floor tiles are in, but not grouted.

One and a half walls tiled and a functional toilet. Boxing in for corner basin and shower assembly started.

12 years of assorted accumulated project materials mostly cleared out of cave so we could get a bed in there.

Floor tiles M. Bricolage

Plain pale, pearly grey, very slightly irregular wall tiles from Brico-Depot

All this achieved by Trev and Justin, who worked until almost midnight two days in a row so my poorly son-in-law would have his own private space.

The following day Justin messaged me to say he would be over to fit the basin before the family arrived.

I said no, you two guys need a rest!

Work starts again in earnest next month.

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Black hole – mid way point wet room

Wednesday-Floor levels are being built up and we seem to be using a lot of this fibrous cement

Floor smoothed and skimmed with bed of cement, rubberised film with integral drain glued smooth, then more layers of the fibrous stuff to create appropriate drainage slope.

Boxing in of evacuation pipes ( marine ply) from shower room two floors up and connection to new toilet. Justin has put in what will be a tiled seat for the old and infirm to perch on in future years when we cannot drag ourselves up the stairs.

plastic water pipes crimped and finished with brass ring compression connectors×210-colle-1039749

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Looking slightly less like a hovel

I now treat you to an image viewed many times before by long suffering followers; the front of our French house in 2006.

Although we still have some tidying up work to do and the walls to paint, it is much improved from the original.

At least we no longer have the random pipework and loops of electric cable draped across the frontage.

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Black hole

This is the smallest space in our French house.

I took a couple of photos, and, windowless, it really is dark in there; the further photos are flash – assisted. But you get the picture? The external shot shows the new plasterboard box on two walls, just to get some idea of the layout in context. The other two walls are, probably, 14th century stone and a bit of old plasterwork. Justin is working on getting these flat. You can’t tile lumps and bumps. This means building up thin layers of “screed” , because thick stuff will just fall out

1.59 x 1.36 metres in size (yes, you read that right) we have arrived by dint of much discussion (most of it internal dialogue on my part) to the only sensible solution for getting a toilet, wash basin and shower in the cave. So, it will be a wet room with toilet and basin, basically.

My family arrive in eight days…..two of them are using this “guest room”….. one of them actually needs this separate space due to medical issues!!!

The bath will sit in the cave itself. You really need the back story to this. Enter “cave” in the search box right there on the right of this page and gasp….

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After the feast

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Every picture tells a story

It does.

We will start with my new green high tech outdoor wood paint. Lighter and softer than it looks on my twilight photo.

Excellent stuff.

Stack of my roof tiles on neighbours ridge. Why? Are the French builders coming back?

Your guess is as good as mine.

My tubbed cherry tomatoes are happy.

The sky and moon are very pretty.

We have a fuzzy shot of thelizardwhocomesouteverynight.

Trev is playing Pink Floyd’s “dark side of the moon” for first time: he is not one of the trillions who bought it. He is not impressed.

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A lovely, if rather warm day at Rennes-les-Bains in Occitanie.

Our good friend Jeannie too, and “the kids” in wedding anniversary mode.

Privileged to have the company of the writer, Henry Lincoln, whose erudite and informed and very interesting tour of the graveyard here was particularly enjoyed by Dan. Bit of hero worship going on as far as my son is concerned.

Look up Henry, it’s too long a tale for this blog.

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The flower of my dismay


Do you recall a post from a couple of years ago when we arrived to find a mystery black spot on the dining room ceiling?

If you have been concentrating, you may recall that this is the ceiling directly under the terrace.

Well photo three is how it looks now.I have only waited two years for builder action. Or, at least, promised action.

Such a pretty shape, this ragged black hole, kind of like a passion flower ..

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Medieval house paintings

Wow. Just wow.

I’ll start one tomorrow…

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The house project has been allowed to drift.

This is due to a number of factors, not least a creative/business project  that I started last September and a second project here in our village. img_20190506_104014925607886.jpgAlso, Trevor’s blood thinning drugs had turned him into a permanently tired and grumpy (we call it drug rage around here) old man with a foggy brain who bled profusely from the slightest scratch!

Do not tell me these pernicious drugs do not have mental as well as physical effects.

Anyway, today is gloriously sunny so Bronte and I had great early walk by the river . All the delicate spring flowers are out and in full bloom. The lavender coloured one is a wild clematis that I have successfully taken a cutting from and which is now adorning the terrace.

I know that these wild flowers look better in situ, but I only ever take one or two from strong, proliferous plants and they look good Chez Nous too.

img_20190506_103845964708308.jpgI noticed that these photos have a bit of a shrine vibe. Not intentional I assure you, and some of the family members above are still with us…………….

I have also noticed that one of the many toys that we have bought Bronte, none of which she wants to play with,  has crept into frame.

This one has been christened  “Road Kill Baby” as it is furry, completely flat and without substance.

She has indicated slight interest in this horrible looking creature , so we persist.


Right, back to work on the house now or I might go mad.

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Odd things to do in Argeles -sur-Mer

It’s a glorious morning in Argeles and the birds are singing like crazy in the trees outside.

Bronte and Trevor are eating porridge. I am on apartment snag-list patrol.

Long time followers will remember some of my previous rants about what guests do to holiday lets.

The latest? I spotted serious asymmetry to my long faux taffeta curtains in the living room. Up the ladder, I worked out that, at some point last season, someone climbed up and rehung the curtains with more hooks to one side than the other.

And over the curtain rail in one corner, a plastic tag.

And they’ve paid to stay in a nice apartment by the sea.


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A symphony in red

I love the back streets of Carcassonne.

I love the red Caunes-Minervois marble set into the pavements.

These buildings coordinate rather well with it’s terracotta-ish hue.

I did not know that this marble also existed in grey. One new thing that I learned on Saturday.

I also learned that the bones of our church pre-date the Templar knights who brought it fame.

And there are two ancient holy water half bowls in grey CM marble by the door…. V interesting

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Spring sprung a while back in the high valleys of the Aude.

If you were butting up to a French mustard coloured house what would you do?

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Details Details 2

I know I need to take these shots with a decent camera, but mine is under a pile of assorted stuff and the mobile phone is handy.

Trev has returned to the tulip room ceiling project to start on the details. These include edging each section of panelling between the joists and beams with a large, quarter round profile moulding. It looks great.

Quite a fiddly job in places, Then he is moving onto the panelling and edging around the old door frame (which has caused most of the headaches in this room- see previous post) and the detailing around my antique insert fretwork panel.

Click on the photos to see how great his finishing work is going to be.

Quite a big investment in this room. A LOT of wood (kilometers it seems) had to be bought and more will be needed before we are done. However, we are saving on the roof window. I had concerns re fitting a much bigger velux style window to replace the 50’s tabatiere horrible thingy, because I thought we needed more light in this small-windowed room; but, I was also concerned re the amount of sun this room gets, which meant that a larger window would end up being shaded all day for months of the year. Rendering a bigger window pretty pointless.

HOWEVER, EUREKA! the newly proposed insertion of a glazed panel over the shower room door brings in lots of light into the dark bit. So a new roof window to replace what we have in a similar size will do just fine.

The ideas for the area above the plaster board at picture rail height have now changed. This is mostly due to my acceptrance of the fact that only the back wall is  beautiful, ancient stone and a piece of history worth exposing.

The side wall is a melange of stone from various periods and blockwork near the roof.

So the boys will panel above the plastered walls up into the apex of the roof with the same  boarding as used between the beams/joists, leaving a very large aperture above the bed head with a glazed panel to reveal a section of our beautiful old wall.

Around said panel will be fitted a huge, carved and gilded  picture frame which I thought was 19thc but it may be 18th…..



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Paris Hip




A “work trip” to Paris this month yielded new ideas and design inspiration both work and house renovation-wise.

Paris really is another country, when compared to Deepest Aude; but the first thing that struck me is that there, ” up North”, I can understand virtually everything said to me in French and everyone understands me!!

Is it the slower speed of speech or the less extreme accents?

Anyhow, we stayed near Montmartre, my travelling companion’s favourite spot.

We chanced on a very good Ibis hotel in highly entertaining Pigalle, with a charming guy who plied The Bride with whisky and anecdotes about living in Birmingham. Grear bar virtually next door ( just the other side of the sex shop with the oddest window display) the only sour note was the sans-abri on the corner . I didn’t have a problem with him per se, life happens, but with the way he was treating his dog. Including, we think, drugging it.

The guy in the Pharmacie was watching him too and, as dog had disappeared on our last morning, we hope some kind animal charity bod had come along and “rescued” said dog. I hope..

Having Montmartre right there, with The Bride’s favourite restaurant right at the top we did a lot of step climbing. Then there was the Metrohopping and cobble walking as we pounded the streets looking at fabric shops, merceries and flea markets.

We also took in a trade fair where, critically, the wholesale section had been dropped due to lack of exhibitors! That was pretty annoying, even more so for some Australian friends who had come to Paris just to meet up and visit this fair!

Anyway we still had a riotous time with much fun and food and wine and Di got to see her first cracking view of the Eiffel Tower, well judged and set up by Bev.

The net result of all this being a new condition that I refer to as Paris Hip.

Our return car to the airport took us through central Paris on a gorgeous, sunny day.

Christo style wrapped buildings under renovation and posh shops. Many, sadly, falling victim to riots, fire and looting just days later.
Que peut-on dire?

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Here comes the sun (derdernderder)

img_20190226_115424333387842.jpgSo, the sun came over the roofscape this morning and I, Wolf Princess, was waiting

Optimum Basking Position


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“Lights go out, walls come tumbling down”

Style Council

My wall has been condemned.

In any battle to preserve the old, there will be casualties.

I love this old door frame. I refused to part with it, so Trevor hand built this door to fit the aperture in 2017. It is, at least, fixed to the similarly aged wooden floor in the tulip room. Probably 18th century. We think it was the doorway at the top of the old stairs that we believe were once here to access the loft.

The rogue wall around it is not fixed to anything, not even the ceiling. We know that now.

The guys carefully boarded around and above it on the marathon ceiling panelling project. Then Justin raised concerns regarding the safety of said wall. In the spirit of necessary investigation, he removed the section above the door. It is unstable in the extreme. The rest is coming down in controlled fashion tomorrow before Justin’s prophecy that it will fall on someone actually comes to pass. Always best we find these things out before we go further. If you don’t like shocks, suprises or big curve-balls, do not buy an old house.

Justin says that there are no problems, only solutions. Trev thinks that there are just problems, some without solutions. I have gone from “poor old wall” to “just save my doorway” to “EUREKA!!!!” ; we can now have a framed, glazed panel over doorway instead of (not) solid wall. Look how this formerly dark corner has been lit up by the new gaping hole!




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Ceiling progress

img_20190107_1518361427390450.jpgNot a great photo, sorry, but I thought you might like to see how the tulip room ceiling is going.

Any concerns regarding the guys’ decision to lay the wood lengthwise have evaporated; it looks great.

There has been much discussion regarding the position of the copper fan/light fitting to avoid clashing with either the big beam or the bed drapes.

The revolting little metal roof window will be replaced with a bigger roof window with a sunshade, as this room gets lots and lots of sun.

It feels totally different in character here to the the terrace bedroom. This side of the house does not even feel as if it is in the same time zone as the barn side.

We have to decide how the stone wall above the plastered sections will be finished too.

I had the romantic idea of just cleaning and stabilising the stone work. No, not practical.

Justin has come up with the idea of pointing modestly with a gritty sand mixed in with the lime mortar. This will give a flinty character to the pointing. Authentic rustique chic .

My house does not entertain fuss, frills or twiddly bits. I think it’s probably right. I’m getting a bit that way myself


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Strange days

It’s an odd few days.

I just read somewhere that within the hinterland twixt Boxing Day and December 30th you are not entirely sure who you are, where you are or what you are supposed to be doing.

There is some truth in this.

Of course it depends how you are spending this time. I have children both arriving and departing tomorrow (similar times but different airports …….aargghh!!!) so that is slightly discombobulating also

This space between always makes me look back toward wasted opportunities and I dig into deep analysis of stuff that I might have done better or handled more astutely.

Then I look ahead and search my soul for how best to move forward into this new and challenging year with the tools that I have.

The choices are wider than usual. I have more than one creative project simmering away, but my energy is being sapped by annoying domestic stuff and the uncertainty of Brexit is a constant backstory.

In truth, I feel the same as I did in June 2016. The future is, more than ever, uncertain: what is far worse is that this time there is nothing that I, personally, can do to change this.

If I’m honest, I’m angry.

I am thinking of the lyrics to “Telling stories” by Tracy Chapman. If my unfinished stories are ever siezed upon by a film or tv company I would insist that this be the theme song .

There is fiction in the space between. But there are also many valuable truths.

What are you up to out there?

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Panneaux de plafond-The last ceilings go up

At last, the two unfinished ceilings in the tulip bedroom and the adjoining second floor shower room are being addressed.

Unfinished might be an understatement. Since we took down the weird, tiled, low faux ceiling in 2008, these two rooms have been open to the underside of the roof.

Trev and Justin have developed a pad, plinth, panneau technique here. Basically, they have cut and fixed small pads of wood (9 mm x 28mm wide x 4cm long) at regular intervals along the joists.

To these are nailed (nail gun) across long, slim  pieces of wood (same thickness) that fulfill two purposes (a) to hold up the insulation and (b) act as a frame for the final fix, being sections of 10mm wide, thick  lambris panelling  laid lengthways. bottom photo.

This panelling is unclassified pine board.

We have chosen to use this material before. The “imperfections” merely add character  to our rooms and have a very authentic look and feel. Perfect, machine planed timber, so smooth and neat it looks like laminate flooring is not a look I want here.

I was sceptical about their decision not to lay the panelling across at right angles to the joists, but having seen the section they have done in the shower room, I am happy with this from both visual and practical points of view.

The insulation is the last of the carbon zero stuff we bought in the UK, made from reycled bottles.  (Do a search on “carbon zero” for an earlier post on this material).

It still requires care in use  (masks, goggles etc) but it is effective for sound and heat insulation and is  fireproof; important as will be butted up to stove outlet as it goes up through the roof.

And, what could be more eco- friendly than using what we already have?

No waste, no need to purchase more “stuff” .

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