21st century schizoid plans

I had a brilliant trip to Toulouse on Thursday with bride-to-be Bev#1  (who loves fabric and old stuff as much as I do)  and Welsh Bev#2 ( who comes from the same South Welsh valleys as my Mother’s family). There are photos of this event which I may yet post.

Down an alley way (with the above treasure of a balcony on one side) one finds the fabulous fabric and sewing stuff chain “Toto”which is a veritable treasure trove of needful things. I bought some embroidered  cream cotton for curtains and ribbon for some cushion covers I am making which will be at least 50% antique,  vintage or recycled fabrics ( mainly French) and hopefully on etsy by tomorrow evening.

They might have been finished today , but I randomly ended up doing the following:-

  • Making up some Magic Mix to attach a scallop shell moulding
  • Writing the last chapter of my debut book aimed at 9-14 year olds and set here in Occitanie, much of which was once known as Septimanie https://www.britannica.com/place/Septimania
  • Sewing a door curtain for the terrace bedroom from natural cotton/linen canvas and grape crushed taffeta. Yes it’s one of  my refined rustic juxtapositions. If you beg I will take photos……….. but for now here are the unfinished cushion covers
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The Terrace Bedroom- La Chambre Terrasse

Never let anyone tell you that you can do nothing with a room 2.3 metres wide and five metres long, except perhaps turning it into a bathroom.

Remember this painted door from an earlier post? That’s on the other side of this room-left and below


The wall above -before photo- is now virtually all glass with French doors to terrace.

The placing of the 110 year old light fitting and slightly younger (but not much) glass shade took Trevor longer to mount successfuly yesterday that it took me to mount the canopy and drape the Chinese faux silk satin panels

Source book- Panels- vintage buy from 1) The Pier and 2) ebay (seven years apart)

Canopy- kitchen batterie de cuisine painted

Wall sconce- bought from Campagne-sur-Aude vide-grenier from stall being hosted by our Mayor.

Circular embroideries worked on the same basic transfer design in 1920’s and 1930’s, but in totally different styles and shades 1) ebay and 2) junk shop (eight years apart).

Florentine miniature flower paintings- inexpensive souvenir stuff, basically, but they are proudly signed and rather lovely.

1920’s Barbola mirror – charity shop in UK










Difficult to sleep in here until the novelty wears off; i.e.novelty of light fitting being connected and novelty of one of our rooms at the French village house actually looking nice (in parts)

I lie awake admiring it.

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Episode 157 – In which I think that I may have pushed my vision more than a tad further than anyone would deem standard French house restoration

Nothing here is straight, or straightforward.

We knew that in principle, but in practice the reality is that sometimes even more creativity and lateral thinking is required when finishing off our projects.

Because I will not let Trevor demolish or board over any wonky walls that can be saved, or refinish any old lime plaster we can preserve,  he is having to balance the straight, neat, level predictable outcome way he prefers to do this stuff with  my vision and a stubborn old French hovel.

Whilst this shower room wall is new -above and below left- The doorway to the right is 17thc and completely wonky. We believe it was the door to the original  open ladder staircase at the front of this building. New plasterboarding over the new wall is having to be laboriously matched in, piece by piece to the remains of old walls. Then there is the door issue.

We first attempted to hang this door two summers ago when the family were imminent. Trying to put the door frame straight into the old  wood surround was a mistake. So Trev has had to start again by shaping and adapting the recycled door frame and setting it so that IT is straight within a very un-straight opening.

Am I making ANY sense?


Eagle eyed viewers  will notice that I have changed the handles and locks from 2015 post to more authentic ones. Trev is not keen. I don’t think he loves my paint job either. After showing an acquaintance around whose eyes were so glazed by what I am doing here that she couldn’t even find a polite platitude to stutter out  has confirmed my conviction that I am right out there now. But back to the saga..

Apart from the necessary shaping at the bottom to accommodate the original floor,   this door is now, believe it or not, straight . But I did make Trev use declassified wood with knots, splits and damaged areas without planing it back to perfection so that the door still feels old.

I am also making him insert a walnut fretwork panel in the new wall -above left-which will be backed in glass to keep the light levels high in a dark bedroom.

I really am the Renovation Stress-Witch. If you have followed me from way back you might get it. If you have just picked up this blog you will be wondering what  I am doing, why I am doing it this way and how long this process is going to take.

Right now, I can’t give you an answer to any of the above. And I don’t know anyone this crazy, even Poshbirdy who comes close with her quest …….

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Lovely building for sale in Limoux

Here is a business opportunity (G & D?)

Lovely stone building with historic bones and large two storey space atop a former restaurant/cafe on the corner of the beautiful main square in Limoux, Occitanie, France.

I cannot confirm if it is being sold as one building, the restaurant may have been sublet or separated; but it’s a private sale and worth a look.

Home? business? holiday lets?


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Episode 156 part two – waxing a painted door

So, by popular request (at least THREE readers) here is how we roll when we refinish doors here at the French house. This technique is based on our finishes developed for our  painted furniture and gives a far tougher surface to the doors than matte paint alone, whilst looking soft and in keeping with older spaces.

Start with a clear wax. We like Rustoleum’s clear paste wax, but it is hard to get in France and postage online is at least 18 euros which is, quite simply, ridiculous.

So, start with your choice of wax; we used Liberon Black Bison “incolore” on the bedroom doors above   and we like it a lot. It does very slightly change the base colour of the paint beneath, which all so called “clear” waxes do, in our opinion, even Annie Sloan white wax, but we like that slight hint of age and softness on any paint shade we use. Then sort out your cloths; we use a synthetic cleaning cloth, available in lots of lurid colours in any French supermarket or DIY chain. To apply the antique wax & for final finishing & polishing, an old, much washed cotton teatowel is ideal. New cloths can leave fluff behind that you really don’t want.

So, you have your painted doors, see here  for details re mouldings used. Apply a thin coat of clear wax with a medium sized soft brush. Buff. You will never need arm exercises if you wax regularly! Don’t forget the frame

Start applying soft antiquing wax (we use Annie Sloan) using the corners of your cotton cloth, concentrating on edges, and corners of panelling and both low relief and deeper areas of your decorative panel if you have one.

At this point you may well recoil in horror at what appears, at this stage, to be antiquing wax overkill. Don’t panic!


Take your synthetic cloth and wipe over the waxed areas vigorously, concentrating on the deeper carved areas and working in from the merely clear waxed parts of the door toward the antique waxed bits. This will soften everything down. Now go away and leave the door for 24 hours during which the wax will start to harden.

Come back to it with the cotton cloth and concentrate on panel edges and the mouldings; slide two fingers inside the cloth and spread them so that you are rubbing back adjoining raised areas at the same time. then buff over the whole door to blend. See? Panic over, it looks fine. And that angle at the base of the door is there to go over my wonky floors









*You might wonder why I don’t use a small brush for the antique wax. Although easier to apply that way, I simply find that brush use in this context can easily lead to overkill in the hand of the inexperienced and/or unwary. Cloth is fiddlier but you will have way more control. Antiquing wax is the very devil if you overdo it; you don’t want your door looking like a bad prop in a cheap theme park now do you!?

*Will this add a sheen to my lovely matte paintwork ? You all KNOW that I love my matte walls, but I have had to admit that very low sheen satiny polished finish is more practical and gives better protection to paintwork, particularly doors and floors. We aren’t talking glossy, I promise. And the slight sheen will dull with time.

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First furniture piece from the French studio

Here we have the first furniture rescue project since we installed ourselves in France. This little console table has been sitting around waiting for repair and tlc for a few years but kept being sidelined for major house projects.

More details in our ChiqenAude etsy shop (see top right of blog)

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I Troc therefore I am- Carcassonne

It is true. I love to Troc. We were driving around the industrial estate behind Casino supermarket in Carcassonne looking for the Orange Boutique. Googlemaps said that we were virtually sitting in it; then Trev suddenly remembered that Phil had said it was inside the red gallery. Anway, on our third sweep we drove past a Troc. Probably just as well I wasn’t driving because I would have just done an emergency stop; instead I shrieked out the usual three expletives/commands/directions-

“TREV! TROC! STOP!” so he did, sensibly and without alarming other road users 

Great shop, packed with French gems too numerous to photograph; though I was a little bemused by this entire section right of what was obviously dark polished wood 30’s furniture all stripped back to raw? mmmm…

I thought of my fellow restoration  blog-nuts

Look at this achingly ancient and charming corner cupboard (I thought of JP’s authentic house )

Or this bed, which I imagined Osyth finding house room for whilst writing short but deeply layered  stories set in a snowy Moscow winter






But I think that Piece of the Day prize must go to this Chinoiserie cabinet that I could see in Poshbirdy’s Maison des Oiseaux


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