Dreaming of The Perfect French House

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I promised you I’d start a new series of articles this year, and one of the subjects I want to cover in that series will be property renovation. Right now I am meeting people who have renovated their homes and talking to them about the challenges involved; hopefully we will have some fabulous ‘before and after’ photographs to drool over, from both local French people and expats. Many people assume that the French always build new houses and that it is the foreigners who come in and buy up the old houses and renovate them, but this is certainly not the case; many French people do just the same and the DIY market in France is huge – hence the number of ‘bricolage’ shops and super-stores.

I am still going to be continuing with lots of posts about the family, the children, the garden and the animals as so many of you have told me how much you enjoy hearing about our adventures, but to be honest right now the weather is dull, the ground is soggy underfoot and we haven’t done anything remotely exciting since the New Year!

So I’m back to day dreaming a little! Having created our perfect French village, I thought we should create the perfect French house – before we meet ‘real’ people and their own homes. There are always pros and cons to owning a traditional old property; we live with them, we carefully see to their needs and we constantly do the maintenance work. However, I also know some people who would like to build a new house in an old mature setting; and indeed we have friends who are considering retiring at some stage in the next few years and who are in that very same quandary – do they build something from scratch or renovate an old stone property?

However, for the sake of this post I am going to assume we all want to renovate an old French house; it might be a complete ruin that is worth little more than the land it stands on and the old stones that remain

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or it might be a neglected unloved house that has not been inhabited for decades but that is just waiting for someone to bring it back to life

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Or you might have your mind set on a tiny country cottage; a little bolthole for the weekend

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or a village house?

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maybe you would like a farmhouse?

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or perhaps an important local house of some standing?

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or a town house?

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or a Maison de Maître?

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or perhaps something with far more grandeur?

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and maybe it is already for sale?

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Once you have found your perfect house (and there are so many styles to choose from in France), let’s just spend a few minutes thinking about the interior. Would you take it all apart, down to the bare beams and add a new modern interior – or would you keep as much of the character as possible, sometimes having to duck to go through low, centuries old, doorways, and except the fact that nothing will ever be perfect but it oozes charm and history?

For me one of the most important rooms in the house is the kitchen. It is the hub of the house; it is the focal point where we all meet, and being a large family it must therefore be of a reasonable size. At any one time there can be someone cooking, someone doing their homework, a dog pretending to be asleep and ever hopeful of a crumb on the floor, and other people will be coming and going; it’s a busy room! It has to be functional but would you stick to a traditional style which might compromise workspace and practicality? Or would you choose sleek and modern whilst integrating some older elements of the building?

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a fabulous big range is vital for me

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and an old farmhouse table for family meals and kitchen suppers.

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I would also want a walk in pantry for storing all my home-made preserves and a big separate laundry room for with five children there is an endless stream of washing!

There has to be a fabulously cosy sitting room which can combine being a family room and also a space where we can entertain friends

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the choices are endless, wooden floors or tiled floors?  Traditional with dark oak beams

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totally open plan with a splash of colour?

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Or neutral colours with a slightly minimalist feel?

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or a mixture of the two

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I don’t need huge bedrooms but I do like some character and I love old French beds.

Of course there are many more rooms and I am sure many more requirements for the perfect house whether it’s a one bedroom cottage or a ten bedroom manoir.  But no matter how big or small, for me character and a wood-burning fire are right at the very top of my list.

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Let me know your thoughts, your absolute ‘must-haves’ and how you would envisage the perfect house.

30 thoughts on “Dreaming of The Perfect French House

  • I love this topic! For me it would be a village house. Wood burning fireplace(s), hardwood floors, good size kitchen with the required farm table. Traditional, comfy, partially open, with modern amenities in kitchen and bath, and yes color. Looking forward to your series.
    Nina in Michigan

    • Hi Nina, I totally agree with you and there is certainly something lovely about living in a village house, it’s nice to be included in daily life! Have a lovely weekend and stay warm!

    • Hi, I couldn’t agree more, the summer kitchen is absolutely vital for me too, but I didn’t include it as technically that is outdoor and in the garden and I was just thinking about the actual house and inside. Now if we were to expand into gardens, outbuildings, land, etc the list would go on and on!!! Have a great weekend x

  • January hasn’t proved to be the best for most of us, I am thinking, so a little dreaming is a nice antidote. Preferences: a cottage with thick walls, a lovely warm eat-in kitchen (aga-type stove required), wood burning fireplace in living room with comfy chairs/ottomans and good light for reading, cozy bedrooms and a little garden patio space outside for when the weather is nice.

    • Sounds quite charming. I love an Aga in the kitchen, grew up with them and am totally addicted. Sadly here it would be turned off for six months of the year as it is too hot in the summer so it would be a complete waste. Still we have a woodburner in the kitchen instead so it is toasty warm all the time – quite vital I agree!

  • Oh, the joy of a farmhouse would be perfect! As I spend this time looking out at the frozen world that is mine, I am planning a new potager. It is so easy to build this in my head and on paper! The perfect farmhouse has a large sitting porch outside the kitchen that overlooks the potager. This is where I sit on my antique rocking chair and sort picked green beans, string them and wait for the tomatoes to ripen. I agree that the kitchen must be the focus of my home, an eat-in area, a fireplace, a large pantry and a butlers pantry are also on the list. I do not want a museum, I want a home. I prefer large square rooms, a square dining table as well. Try to find a square table! Lots of windows with wide sills for plants and bric-a-brac. Oh my, I could go on and on. I will stop here. Thanks for the opportunity to dream design, I look forward to the series.

    • Hi Lucy, Now I think about it, you are quite right, you don’t see many square tables, always round or rectangular! I am sitting at my kitchen table looking out at a very cold frosty morning but brilliant sunshine and the promise of a gorgeous, albeit cold, day. Stay warm, sounds as if you are somewhere very cold and dream a little! Have a lovely weekend.

  • The kitchen and pantry would be the most important for me. While staying in the Limousin countryside, I had the great fortune to stay at Chateau de Sannat. Incredible chateau, barn and outbuildings owned by a wonderful French family. Huge kitchen with walk-in fireplace, amazing stone pantry filled with vinegars, cheeses and vegetables. A working farm and the most wonderful fountain out back and fabulous herb garden. Ahh, a daydream for me.

  • This is my favourite game. Strangely, I would move our house to the French Country side. Close enough to a village to be able to get a baguette and some cheese. I would change our cedar siding to stone and our fir flooring to old tiles that have a lot of patina. I would add a fireplace with an old stone surround to the bedroom and lots of vintage linen sheets for our bed.

    The rest of the furnishings would be bought from the Brocants around the area. The garden would be moved as is….but adding an area for pétanque to keep my husband happy. Oh, I forgot the stone court yard with the fountain bordered by olive trees.

    Yes…..

    Ali

    • Hi Ali, we have often said we would pick up one house we loved in particular and move it. It sounds as if you have the perfect house in Canada which could become an equally perfect home here!

  • Strangely, I would move our house to the South of France….near a village so that we could pick up cheese and a baguette. The cedar siding would be replaced by stone and the fir floors to old tiles with lots of patina. There would be a fireplace in the bedroom with a antique stone surround. The bed would be covered in vintage linen. The rest of the furnishing would be bought from Brocants around the area.

    The garden would be moved as is….but with an area for playing pétanque to keep my husband happy. Oh, I forgot the stone courtyard with the fountain surrounded by olive trees.

    I forgot the La Cornue stove in black in the kitchen…..sigh….

    • Now a girl after my own heart, the Le Cornue for sure, definitely the olive trees and pétanque and definitely in a village! The list goes on and on, but it’s always good to have dreams!

    • The one in the kitchen above is a LaCanche and it looks exactly like mine–even same color. I love it! One oven is electric/warming and the other is gas.

  • Love this topic – now if we are dreaming I’d go a tradional manor house on a hill, 2 to 3 stories (floors) high in natural sandstone with blue shutters, (similar to you townhouse picture). Large tradional kitchen with large butlers pantry, flag stone floors on the ground level & wide timber floor boards on the upper 2 levels. Must have a large french country style stone fireplace. Every bedroom to be large with French doors leading out onto a Juliet balcony with it’s own ensuite with claw bathtub. The house would be decorated in neutral colours with the minimalist look and feel to it, simple. I would live on the edge on a country village with lavender fields all around me and a big old tree out the back to eat under during summer. It would have a long ta ble to seat around 20 + guests. Manicured gardens, hedges around the house & beautiful colorful flowers. Can this be arranged for me please? ?? LOL

    • Hi Joanne, of course it can be arranged, fly over and look around at the weekend and of course you will need a housekeeper and a gardener too to keep the gardens perfect! In a dream world this sounds perfect and the house would never be untidy, the children would never leave things living around – I’m dreaming of that house too! Have a lovely weekend

  • How fun to daydream! If budget wasn’t a limitation, then a La Canche or a La Cornue range, stone fireplace surround, stone walls with lots of patina, and board & batten shutters like those found in the French countryside since they seem to do them better than anyone else in the world.

    • Hi, I totally agree with you about the range and the fireplace and stone walls, they would all make such a fabulous kitchen. Shutters are very much a part of life here, we close them to keep the heat in and to keep the heat out, and they look fantastic too! Have a great weekend

  • Ah Susan, the perfect French house! The same would apply to the perfect English house, or house anywhere I suspect! Like you, my list would have to contain a lovely kitchen, somewhere that is a joy to work in alone, and that embraces family, either daily or visiting. Also a lovely solid wood table that can cater for varying numbers. Having a log burner for the first time, I don’t ever want to be without one again! Love them. Character for me is important, my home has to have some soul and some colour, not too bland, but not fussy. I don’t need large bedrooms or bathrooms, but they have to ‘work’. A lovely living room to relax in and I would also love another room, a snug or study say, to escape to with a book while others might want to watch the television or listen to music etc. We had that before, but sacrificed it for our little cottage!! There are always compromises! Finally, a pretty country cottage garden, whether small as in a cottage or large as in a manoir, beautiful blowsy country flowers are a must, along with a potager to provide us with vegetables & fruit. And hens….There are so many styles of property, as you say, that would meet these criterea and as long as the house had character I could adapt accordingly!! I’m looking forward to your posts about the people you talk to, and how lovely for you to be starting this new adventure. I wish you lots of happy times!

    On 14 January 2016 at 13:23, OUR FRENCH OASIS wrote:

    > ourfrenchoasis posted: ” I promised you I’d start a new series of articles > this year, and one of the subjects I want to cover in that series will be > property renovation. Right now I am meeting people who have renovated their > homes and talking to them about the challenges involv” >

    • Hi Marian, you are so right there are always compromises. I love English country cottages, always have done and always will do and I love manor houses too, it depends so much on the area, the garden, the whole package. We added a woodburner to our kitchen this autumn and every day this winter we all say how fantastic it is, the kitchen is so warm and toasty all the time it has totally changed our lives! Stay warm and enjoy the rest of the weekend. Susan x

      • Me too, so let me know your thoughts. I have a Godin which is great but the oven is way too tiny for me. It came with the house and looks gorgeous but just not practical with my cooking lessons. Used to have a Viking that I adored it but not readily available in France and VERY expensive here.

      • Will look forward to your report. I like the LaCanche simply for the look of it over the La Cornue, but haven’t cooked on either. 🙂

  • The fireplace, the slipcovered furniture, the wood beams, herb garden with little blue garden set, roses growing up the stone….large or small , in the country or in a village…..I’m adaptable! I stayed in a friends cottage in Mollans last spring and fell in love.

    • Everything you have mentioned are indeed the key ingredients to a perfect French home, there is so much charm in these old stone buildings it’s hard not to fall in love! Have a lovely week

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