Renovation, restoration, inspiration; rescuing a sad village house in the Languedoc Roussillon
plus..my musings on France and all things French.
Basically we are mad (many would agree) middle aged (if your definition is loose) and looking for a new life in France.
If we can do it with limited funds and precious little spare time, then we believe that anyone can. What started for us as a bit of an adventure (because we had some spare cash and we like a project) has turned into an all-consuming uphill battle to get to to the finish line. We no longer have any cash, spare or otherwise, but we have lived and learned a lot over the last few years. Je ne regrette rien.
We bought the ugliest looking house in a beautiful, ancient untouristy village with the river Aude at the bottom of our street. We are surrounded by mountains and stunning countryside.
The house is made up of what were old animal shelters, half a barn, and a wine cave with the bits necessary to live in it just tacked on at random. It needed a total rethink and major work to make it what it should be. It’s been a big job for our silly budget.
Because we are quite, quite mad, we also bought a seaside apartment that needed a bit of work too.
A while back, my son suggested that I write a blog on our French adventure; here it is and it’s an epic saga. Compulsive, cathartic, and in places shockingly confessional this blog diary has played a big part in keeping me just about sane over the last few years. Here I tell truthful tales of just how we are renovating a seaside apartment and a village house (well, a sixties shoe box and a part-medieval hovel) in the far south of France on a bargain basement budget and I promise to tell it unvarnished.
You have been warned.
I have seen so many rose-tinted French renovation blogs and books; maybe that’s what you want to read about here? If you do, I must tell you that this is not rose-tinted and our story is no fairytale. I just tell it as it is and to encourage and inform those of us who don’t have huge resources with which to pursue their chosen path and, like us, are ploughing their own furrow. Fortunately we are way beyond worrying what others may think. I always did hear a different drum.
Ok, so who am I? Hard to say because it changes ; I am an artist, and my work has sold but the need to earn a living has taken me down different paths. I never had a structured career until one day in 2007 when a random job offer changed the path of my working life and led me into a demanding but often rewarding niche role. It’s the polar opposite of my creative endeavours and has become more of a vocation where my hard-won expertise is valued; so I will continue to juggle it with the French project as I do now.
Who knows what new fork will open up in the road tomorrow? In my experience, anything could happen, but more time to paint houses, furniture and canvases would be good.
So, back to the French story. My long suffering partner Trevor is along for the ride on the often messy but truly never boring whirlwind that scoops up and spits out my plans and schemes for this French adventure.Be assured that he is fully engaged, heart and soul.
He also changed career (at his great age!) to do something completely different and unexpected and made a success of it.
Then he retired; and drove me nuts.
Our plans change, things keep happening, both good and bad, to divert us. A whole ocean has gone under the bridge since this photo was taken right back at the start of our Languedoc adventure story, but we know that we will get there.
Early in 2017, we finally made the move here. With Brexit looming, I doubt that we could have picked a worse time; but life has a habit of strewing obstacles in our path. We are committed to making this work and we will find a way to do so, though for us it won’t be an easy ride cushioned by vast reserves of cash and fat pensions!
We have successfully renovated our own properties in the UK and are learning by trial and error ( a fair sprinkling of the latter) the skills we lack, but we don’t have a commercial property development or building background.One of the biggest hurdles to overcome in completing this project within what might be considered “reasonable” timescales has been my personal quest to create something authentic.
Blending the ancient bones of this patchwork hovel with an historic feel for French village house style and my own strong design ethic is a daily battle .
Creating a beautiful, light filled space for living in from something ugly, dark and poky has been a mammoth task. I doubt we could have picked a bigger challenge. We took on the saddest and ugliest house in the street, maybe in the whole village, and thereby hangs another tale.
We are bringing some related experience to the projects- Trevor was a Quantity Surveyor in his distant youth and worked on listed properties.
I have a lifelong passion for and involvement in historic & heritage properties, restoring and creating period & vintage style interiors and upcycling furniture. However, none of this prepared us for the realities of this big adventure we are undertaking, not least the very real practical issues inherent when having only five to six weeks a year to work on two properties over a thousand miles away.
I like to plan things out and have developed distinct control-freak tendencies in the mistaken belief that by tightly controlling the work list and the budget things would get done quickly, efficiently, economically and in the appropriate order……………………………………HA!
Unfortunately little of this grand project has gone to plan and I freely admit that it has brought out the renovation stress-witch in me, and has turned Trevor’s hair almost white ( you will note that it was still brown at the start of our journey) but if we could go back to the beginning, we would still take this path
If you are on a similar road yourself or tackling a project anywhere in the world, we would love to hear from you.Whether you have a chateau or a cottage, the problems you will encounter are much the same; read and learn what to avoid and what to embrace if you are planning a major renovation …………..or a major move.
If you would like to follow our story from the beginning, check out our archived posts; or for a quick look, type into the search box “Once upon a time in France, where our story began” for my first ever blog post and the horrendous “how bad can it be?” photo gallery.
Feel free to share your renovation related angst- I do! I can empathise, advise and listen!
I’m not an expert, but I post about a wide range of subjects drawn from our experience of buying property, sourcing and using new and reclaimed building materials, finding & employing contractors, renovation and restoration on a budget, interior & exterior design & decoration, French antique and vintage pieces, sourcing, restoring and upcycling furniture, fittings and textiles, some of the realities of life in France, culture, food, wine, the social side, registering your car, working from home etc.
One of my great passions in life is hunting for antique and vintage pieces, particularly textiles and embroidery which I have been collecting since I was at Art College. No, we really didn’t buy the French house JUST so I could indulge myself and fill it with lots of beautiful old things and good art, that was only half the reason……!
If you share my love of old stuff and other unique, chic and decorative bits with the same flavour, you may like my regular “treasures” posts. “The Thursday Three” showcases both antique and vintage pieces and new stuff with that vibe. Now a regular feature, it often does appear on a Thursday if my week hasn’t been too mad!
As my collection now overflows both our properties, we now restore and sell a carefully curated range of beautiful old stuff, restored and painted furniture and my hand made cushions, runners, throws and wall hangings made from vintage textiles sourced in France and the UK
See our Etsy shop-top right
Check out my tags-right- and click on any that interest you for posts on that topic
G & T x
Please note* I am happy for you to reference my blogs, post excerpts from it or pin/post/forward any of my pictures (do please mark a clear link to either this blog or our website as the source) However if you wish to publish my pictures or blog content on a commercial basis please get in touch for permissions.
Most photos posted are my own, those that are not have links to the site I found them on.
All my written content is original.
In addition to Blog-sur-Aude, I now write a blog post for the UK online publication “Period Living”; find me at http://www.periodliving.co.uk/join-in/blogs/Gill.Bladen
If you would like me to contribute a guest post or article for your blog, website, expat forum or other publication, please get in touch.