Inside Our French Home

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When we started searching for our home we had a wish list: somewhere within 20 minutes of the coast,  a large garden, a village location, and we needed enough space for a family of seven. Sounds simple enough, except it wasn’t. Roddy found and bought the house while I remained a 9-hour plane ride away with the children. Izzi was taking her final International Baccalaureate exams and couldn’t leave. After a flurry of emails, Skype calls and endless photos and videos criss-crossing the Atlantic, he returned home with documents in hand and a house purchase finally underway in France.

I clearly remember his nerves the day we finally drove in through the gates of our home as a family. We were all excited, finally we would see inside our house for real; Roddy on the other hand was gripping the steering wheel of the car with such force his knuckles had turned white, for he was terrified; what if we didn’t like it?

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I had read the agent’s details over and over, perused all the photos, and knew it needed work (a lot of work) but what wasn’t to like?

Before I go any further I should translate some  French Estate agent phrases: ‘habitable’ means you will basically get a roof over your head, ‘needs updating’ means more of a complete renovation is required. Our house was described as a ‘comfortable family home’ which then went on to list rooms, bathrooms, the kitchen and appliances.

I suppose it was indeed habitable but the electrics alone dated back to the 1930’s in places and the plumbing left a lot to be desired as well. But as soon as I saw the gardens I was entranced. Turning back to the house I entered through “our” front door, happy but resigned to the work that needed to be done. However,  when I went upstairs I have to admit my heart sank and for a fleeting moment I thought, “OMG, what have we done?” But then I looked out of the window and saw the children already playing on the old swings and  I knew everything would be just fine.

There was a lot to be done before we would call it a ‘comfortable family home’, and it wasn’t a job for the fainthearted. We rented a gîte in a nearby village for two months,  put our business on hold, and we worked solidly on the house along with a french plumber, an electrician and Roddy’s best friend  – Howard, the best all-round builder either of us have ever known.

Eventually after two months we took up residence; it wasn’t anywhere near completed but our rental had come to an end and the owners didn’t want to continue to let their house over the winter months. So we moved in, albeit it was really ‘camping’ in our own home. We didn’t get a kitchen for another two months and had to make do with the sink in the old kitchen, and the fire in the summer kitchen for cooking. We did have a fridge and we had plumbed in the dishwasher. Somehow it didn’t matter though, it was rather like the early stages of a relationship; we were in love (with the house) and that euphoric feeling carried us through till Christmas and the end of the major work. In the evenings Roddy and Howard would collapse exhausted.

This is not a designer’s house, this is our home; I wanted it to be friendly, comfortable and welcoming with a touch of chic, the sort of home where no one is afraid to enter in their gardening clothes and where no-one stands on ceremony, where children feel able to play freely but also a home that encourages friends to linger.

The house dates back to around 1780. The kitchen was modern compared to the age of the house but left a lot to be desired!

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We took it out completely and as the room was not large enough for a big family we turned this room into a library and study.

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This was the original dining room complete with black beams and a red ceiling!

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and it became our kitchen which included changing the door for a pair of custom made French doors.

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We combined our antique furniture with simple modern white kitchen units

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and we kept the original bread oven.

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It is very much the hub of our home; the kitchen table is often where the children do their homework, where I often work at my laptop and where many of our best conversations take place during our family suppers each and every evening. We always light the candles and I always have fresh flowers on the table, it makes every meal special.

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We kept the original door which led from the attached barn into some sort of store room which we turned into the pantry.

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Upstairs took the most work, as we also replaced bathrooms. Unusually for a French home, there was wall to wall carpeting which we ripped up to reveal fabulous old wooden floors, someone had even replaced some of the boards at some stage, shame they didn’t align them!

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The bones of the house remained the same but the change was unbelievable; the room below was to be Gigi’s bedroom and I remember her crying when she saw it as it bore no resemblance to the little girl’s dream room she had imagined, but by the time we finished it was to become her favourite place in the house.

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We turned the long landing into two more bedrooms and a playroom.

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Nothing of any size could fit up the angled staircase and so most things (hot water cylinders, showers, furniture) had to be manoeuvred upstairs on the old existing pulley system, through what is known as a coffin hatch; why? because in the ‘olden days’ a person was often “Laid Out” on their bed or placed in an open coffin so that friends and family could pay their last respects. When it was time for the funeral the specially cut floorboards were removed on the landing leaving a hole through which the coffin could be lowered.

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By the time we stopped for Christmas we’d got through 280 litres of white paint, and some beams and ceilings had been replaced; the work had seemed endless.

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But the result was worth it. The sitting-room was perhaps the room in the best condition in the house, with the least amount of work required, and as you can tell this is where the previous owners seemed to have spent much of their time.

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The walls were in perfect condition, we just had to paint beams, the fireplace and ceilings.

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One day this summer, Roddy was working on the wall outside the front gates when a passing car stopped and the driver leant out of the window to talk to him. He was the cousin of the lady who had owned the house,  and he told Roddy of how they used to play in the garden, the fun they had had, and he spoke fondly of the memories he had of a house filled with laughter. He said it had always been his favourite place to visit; and then he also mentioned how happy he was to see the house belonging to a family with younger children once again.

Now when I walk in through the front door, I am enveloped in a feeling of warmth and contentment wherever I go in the house and I don’t want to leave, I know just what that delightful man had meant; houses have atmospheres and this is a happy home.

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And finally the winner of our giveaway, drawn out of a hat by the children last night, is  Joyfulhome !!!!  (I promise completely a coincidence)

If you can please send me an email with your details we can get your picture packed and shipped to you. Congratulations and thank you so much to everyone for all of your fabulous comments, they meant the world to me and I wish you could all have won x

220 thoughts on “Inside Our French Home

  • Thank you for sharing your lovely home in photos. I can see why your husband was drawn to it and the rehab results are fabulous! So beautiful staged and exudes charm, a homey feel with a comfortability that makes one want to stay and linger. Well done! ღ

  • Your home looks so charming and very welcoming. What a stunning transformation, Susan. I particularly love your your sitting room which is really elegant. Congratulations on your vision, patience and all the hard work you’ve put in. Thanks for sharing your lovely photos. xx

    • Thanks so much, it’s not always easy combining chic, elegant, comfort and loads of children, but we’ve done the best we can, it is after all their home too. So glad your eye is all better xx

  • I enjoyed your post as I always do! Your home is beautiful and has so much charm and warmth. What a happy and gorgeous place to live! I love the stone walls in the living room! Thanks for taking us on the tour. I hope that you are having a great week!!!

  • Oh wow, what a treat to finally see inside – I feel as if I have just been given a glimpse of a very well kept secret, it is so gorgeous, I’m just a little green with envy!

    • Thanks so much Shari, so glad you enjoyed it, I wish it was always this tidy!!! Alas with a tribe of children it’s sometimes a little chaotic and always noisy but always warm and welcoming xx

  • I love the sleek white units with the old furniture and bread oven. I am not a fan of the shabby chic look at all and this seems to be a much better way of keeping old and new, stylish and tasteful, well done. P.s sad I didn’t win the painting but well done to the person who did!

  • What a lovely home you have! It’s clearly been a labour of love to transform it into the elegant and chic house it is now. At its best, you could describe ours as shabby chic. Or just shabby. So I am green with envy. #AllAboutFrance

    • Ha ha I love it thank you. Most of the time you would call ours noisy and chaotic, with five children it’s a constant war against clutter and a war I mostly lose! It has indeed been a labour of love, still going on in places, there is always something to do as you know only too well, it never ends! Hope you are having a great week and that it didn’t get too cold with you, we finally had some rain but no frosts yet. xx

        • Perhaps you should see the “behind the scenes” photos!! Or the parts I haven’t shown, the laundry room for example with always piles of laundry that needs putting away and the other side of the hallway full of backpacks and shoes and coats, oh the number of shoes and coats we seem to have!!! Not much rain here, about three days so far that’s all. xx

  • Your house is beautiful but I expected nothing less! We’ve renovated a couple of places in France before building the house we’re in now and I really enjoyed all the experiences, but I’m also very happy to not have to do any “bricolage” anymore. Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance

    • Thanks so much Phoebe, I know that feeling, we were on first name terms, so happy it is over, this is our third house in France and it will certainly be a while before I am willing to do it again! Fun but a lot of hard work! xx

  • A fantastic transformation, would love to live in your house, it looks so inviting and relaxing. I don’t think I would ever leave!

    • Thank you so much Jane, this is just what we wanted, a home that everyone felt relaxed and ‘at home’ in. It does have a lovely atmosphere and we all love it, but very glad the work is over! xx

  • Fabulous renovation with just the right mix of welcoming furnishings. I love that you always light candles for dinner, and your wood stove and fireplace look so nice in the cooler weather. The photo of your hot water boiler in the coffin hatch made me laugh – it has a very apprehensive expression on its “face!”

    • Thanks so much Ellen, I love lighting the candles, we always lay the table and we always all sit together, it’s a great place to talk and listen. I thought the hot water tank had a face on it too! It’s always quite a drama having to get things upstairs but the old winch has been there for centuries, I believe it is the original one and it works perfectly. xx

  • I’ve enjoyed the story behind your beautiful home. This is my way of visiting France. As I am very claustrophobic and airplanes won’t pull over and let me get out to breathe and stretch my legs, I doubt if I will ever make it overseas. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

    • Hi Susan, I can quite understand your not wanting to fly, my father has never done so either! I loathe flying too! Besides there is a great deal to be said for armchair travel and I also think that most of us have plenty to discover about our own countries right under our noses, sometimes it is fun to play tourist at home. xx

  • What a beautiful house. Love the kitchen details, and oh! for those random-width floors — I like the misalignments, makes them more interesting. Thanks for sharing so much of it with us.

    • Hi Emm,they are misaligned everywhere, the funny thing is I had never really taken any notice of them, they were just how they were. It wasn’t until I had taken the photo (still didn’t think twice about them) then when I looked at it on the computer they leapt out at me! They will never be changed I hope, so that’s how they will stay, along with the wonky walls etc etc! xx

  • It’s all the more satisfying to redo a place completely, the way you want. Another French real estate term is “rénové,” which rarely means renovated and usually means “cache-misère”–hiding the problems. We also completely did our house, because it wasn’t a house at all when we bought it but a restaurant. Similarly, with our rental apartments, we looked at many “cache-misère” before deciding to go with a place “dans son jus,”–as is, in need of work. It’s the only way to know the work has been done correctly.

    • In fact even when we have bought a “perfect” house, we have then spent ages redoing things the way we wanted, which really is a waste of money as nothing was wrong in the first place! So doing it this way round is probably the most cost effective too and as you say at least we know everything has been done properly, we know all the electrics are up to scratch with no hidden surprises, the electrician alone was here for two months! A year later we then redid the whole process with the gite!

  • More than anything, Susan, you have transformed this house into your home. I can just imagine it filled with the children’s laughter, barking wagging tailed dogs, and lots of love. I know this was a huge labor of love, and it shows.

    • Thanks so much Lidy, you have pictured it just as it is, children laughing and talking and sometimes arguing! dogs, cats, friends, more children, busy, noisy, full of life and I wouldn’t change a thing! xxx

    • Sometimes I think we are quite mad, it’s a bit like childbirth I think, at the time one says ‘never again’ and then at some stage in the future, it all seems totally possible all over again! The children were great, they saw it as one huge adventure, they loved that they all got to camp on airbeds in one huge room, like a giant dormitory, they’re always pretty much up for anything. xx

  • Susan,
    This is a post I have long been wishing for!! And, the wait was so worth it! Love the aesthetic that you have–so comfortable for family, so welcoming for guests. Our home has that same good karma and is such a blessing for our family every day. I love your part about Gigi’s bedroom since one of our favorite activities after moving in was working with our three children on their rooms. SO empowering to them to create a space that felt just right, even if it meant my now 30 year old son’s teen room was covered with sports and entertainment posters and my 27 year old’s was like a trip to Japan. He ended up living in Japan for three wonderful years after university, proving that the child’s preference was no mere whim. Anyway, loved this peek into your home and the process you went through to get there. Definitely worth your and Roddy’s hard work. xo

    • Thank you so much Anne, I am so glad it was worth waiting for. I really believe in good karma, I remember once visiting a house that I just couldn’t get out of quick enough, it was in London, it was lovely, but it brought me out in goosebumps! I do so agree, it is vital for children to make their spaces their own, each reflects their identity and when they want to change things around, that’s good too, I encourage them to be creative. Where did you son first get his fascination with Japan from? and how fantastic that he followed through and went and lived there. Millie would love to go to Tokyo. xx

      • Oh, I hope that she can spend time in Japan! Such a terrific country and culture. As a child, my son fell in love with Japan and Japanese anime through the movies produced by Studio Ghibli. They are anime classics, especially “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” These two are so charming; some of the others are a little dark for me but our son loves them all. I cannot recommend the two I mentioned more highly if your family is not yet familiar with these films. Adults and children alike can enjoy the beautiful animation and delightful stories. After his adventure in Osaka where he taught English for three years, our son is studying law and he is applying himself with great energy having had his adventure abroad. Thanks for letting me share some of my family’s stories with you. xo

        • Thanks so much for this Anne, I have never been to Japan either and I have not seen these two films but will definitely look them out with Millie, she will be so grateful, thank you. Your son sounds as if he knows exactly what he wants, smart guy, I am sure he will make a very successful lawyer and having lived and experienced other cultures will be a huge help. I love hearing other people’s stories so thank you for sharing xx

  • A much larger renovation than ours in Italy; although we did have moments of washing dishes in the bathtub.
    You should be very proud. It is beautiful.

  • You’ve done a lovely job. Am I right in understanding that you bought the house without seeing it first? If so, my goodness, you’re incredibly brave! We also just re-did an old (tiny) house. We had to live to take out as we have no kitchen at all for a while. Not even a fridge! It was at that moment that I cursed the French for not embracing more foreign foods other than pizza!

    • Yes, we bought the house jointly, although my husband was the only one that saw the house, I trust him and his taste implicitly! There was no way I could get away, our eldest daughter was in the middle of the most important exams of her life, they were paving the way to a place at University in the UK for her. So I left it to him, thank goodness for Skype and the internet though and instant communications! I know what you mean about takeaways, it would have been so much easier if we could have ordered a take out at least a couple of times a week, but we didn’t and we got through it, fortunately the weather that autumn was really warm and dry, it certainly made life a great deal easier! Where are you in Provence, another of my absolute favourite regions in France! xx

    • I think you are so right, I am a great believer in letting the home speak to me, and so is my husband, he knew this was a family home, he knew it had been a place of great peace and contentment, we can feel it in the walls, it always welcomes us and whoever comes here. Sounds crazy but it’s true, I feel safe here, we all do. xx

  • First congratulation to the winner of the beautiful picture, And then CONGRATULATION to you and your family for the extraordinary home you have renovate and built for yourselves. To bring back a century’s old home and make it sing again is just amazing and the short period of time. BEAUTIFUL really BEAUTIFUL Thank you so much for sharing your home’s story.

    • Thank you so much Freda, it is a wonderful feeling to have brought the house back to life, I just know it is thanking us, I know this is why it feels so friendly all the time and I know that sounds quite crazy, but it’s how I feel! So happy to have shared it with you today. xx

  • Immobilière speak is a language all to itself! What you have achieved is absolutely stunning – it is so clearly a home, a real warm family home and that is exactly as it should be! Thank you for inviting us in …. it has filled me with warmth all the way over here xx

    • Thanks so much! Now I know, you of all people, know all about immobiliere talk and the photos are usually no better. I can’t even begin to count the number of houses we have looked at that are supposed to be in ‘great move in condition’ and we look at them in utter shock. I still remember our electrician walking around here, a really great young guy in his late 20’s, he walked around and every few metres he would stop and shake his head, this was illegal, that was illegal, the fuse box was from the 1930’s, he’d only ever seen once like it once before. The bathrooms had no extractor vents, the light fittings were illegal and so the list went on, and this was sold as a “comfortable family home” the agent had told Roddy “it just needs a little paint here and there!” it’s a good job Roddy knew only too well not to listen! xx

      • At least the photos are generally accurate in France …. they haven’t cottoned onto staging in our neck of the woods and it is not at all unusual to find pictures with undies adorning the furniture or last night’s dishes in the kitchen sink, unmade beds and generally the worst of someone else’s life bare naked for all to see! I’m never sure if its charming or frightening!! X

        • Very true, and they haven’t cottoned on to preparing the house for viewings either, I could have added the photos here of the bathrooms when Roddy visited but I think I might have made everyone throw up!! I couldn’t use them when we arrived, I made Roddy go out and buy a new loo seat and a ton of bleach, just so that I had somewhere to go when we worked on the house!!!

          • Ahh yes there is always a positive side, that’s why I love looking at old properties, I love envisioning what I could do to it and how we could bring a house into the 21st century whilst also keeping the character. Now you have all of this still to look forward to, let me know if you want a viewing companion! xx

          • I dream of having bottomless pockets and rescuing all those abandoned beauties and restoring them, renovating them, making them new and fresh again and housing people with no homes. Of course it is only a dream. Could only be a dream but what is life without dreams? X

          • That’s a fantastic dream to have, I would love to take all the Serbian refugees and give them a home. It’s such a shame there are so many empty houses that have just been abandoned, presumably because the upkeep was too much and a simple modern home was a much easier solution. Xx

          • It’s cheaper to build and maintain a new house than restore an old one in France but that is no obstacle to mad fools like us breathing life back into the discarded and decaying. Dreamers will always dream but from those dreams come little phoenixes from the ashes. Xx

          • Yes I know, hence all the modern bungalows next to the old farmhouses one tends to see everywhere. Plus the new ones go up so quickly, we have watched one from start to finish in the village, it has taken no time at all, on the other hand we have watched the renovation of the ancient market halls and they have taken twice as long and it’s just a roof and floor, not even any walls and the cost was three times as much. xx

          • We have eyes and ears in various places looking out for places for us and to a (wo)man they all think we are nuts not simply buying some land and building. Of course they also think we are nuts that we want land. Why not just a neat little garden so we can sit quietly in and enjoy retirement they silently ask!! Xx

          • Land is wonderful, and who wants to sit quietly, we need to keep active! I think if we had had time on our side we could have looked forever, there is always some compromise to be made, but we didn’t and thankfully so otherwise we might have missed this opportunity with our home. Some things are just meant to be! xx

          • I am secretly confident that when we are squeezed into the corner and have to find our place (Two Brains’ retirement dictates that at some level) it will magically appear like Brigadoon right where we’ve been looking but until then somehow hidden from us. What you say is so sensible – you did have a pressure to buy so you made a decision and it has delighted you all ever since. All shall be well – I know it shall. Xx

          • I think a little pressure is good, otherwise when you have all the time in the world and no urgency, you will always find a fault and you will always keep searching, believing the grass is always greener. I would be very confident the near perfect, note I do not say perfect, property miraculously become available when push comes to shove!

          • And by the way – your offer of being a house-hunting buddy is grasped with both hands 🤗 Your words are wise and I know them to be true but I have to admit to being a teeny bit impatient and a teenier bit impetuous 😉

    • Thanks so much Nadia, it was quite a job and there are, as you know, with old houses, always old things that need doing, we live with these old buildings, we nurture them and care for them and fix them when things go wrong, but we love them too and I think they make us feel warm and safe and protected in return. That’s how I look at it! xx

  • Having seen the after, it was wonderful to actually to the before pictures Susan! What an enormous undertaking but so worth it. Love the new kitchen chairs. Evie get the better of the others? 😉

    • Thanks Debra, so much hard work. No Evie did not attack the chairs, she’s, thankfully, totally over the chewing stage! We still have the other chairs too which are actually more comfortable, did you buy some? xx

  • Your home looks so delightful, cosy, beautiful and magical, we have done some renovations but not quite as big as yours in fact it seems never ending, your blog is very well written, it shows you are happy, you can look for the perfect home but you will never find it, the perfection is the blood sweat and tears and of course the love you put into it. X

    • Thank you so much Roz, renovations always seem to be never ending, but isn’t this the way with old houses? There is always something that needs fixing or something that we have to do. But it is a happy home, it feels very friendly inside and it feels very safe, we couldn’t ask for much more, plus we’re right in the middle of the village which we love, so everything we do, everybody knows about, but that’s fine it means we have got to know so many of the locals! xx

  • Susan, I love peeking inside people’s homes so thanks for letting us visit. What an adventure. My sister and her husband lived in a tent on their farm property while they built their home. Lots of work but a great feeling of satisfaction when it’s done (is it ever?) and you know you did it! Love the stone walls and what you’ve created. You mentioned once that you’ve lived in several different countries. I’m sure you’ll hate to leave this one some day. Warm hugs to you,

    • Thank you so much Pat, I love looking inside other homes too, I think it is human nature, we love knowing how her people live! I think we may have suggested living in a tent and I think I was the one that said No!! I would do it in the summer months but it was autumn and getting chilly! I hope we don’t have to leave this one, they say ‘never say never.’ but I truly hope we never move again! xx

  • Such a worthwhile job, bringing old houses back to life, despite the hard work it is so worth it. I love what you have done and even more I love that finally you have shared it with us. You talk of your gite sometimes, did you have to renovate that too? Another blogpost I say hopefully.

    • Thank you Bev, it has been an incredibly worthwhile job, there will always be work to do, that’s the way with old houses, but we love it! We did have to renovate the gite as well, the same amount of work, except it is much smaller so therefore much easier, we did that a year later. Maybe I will feature it in the New year! xx

  • Ah, I feel my girlfriend’s hot breath on my shoulder as I read this, Susan. She is demanding to know if the gite is as nicely done, and if so, we’re off to look at your booking page. If you’re open at Easter I sense an adventure in the offing. But this year we will actually do it instead of just talking about it. We promise.

    I think your efforts with your home are admirably sympathetic to my tastes, and your handiwork is very similar to what I would like to think we might do one day to an old french house, too. And as someone else has mentioned, your blend of clean white and antique in the kitchen works so well you’ve made the two of us here think aloud and plan all day. Brilliant, thank you for the little glimpse.

    • Thanks so much Simon, we think the gite is lovely! So happy to have helped you plan and dream all day long, such a fun thing to do. Hopefully we will see you over here next year and you can search for properties as much as you want! It’s great fun so long as you have an open mind! xx

  • There are so many design blogs one is spoilt for choice. But this one post of yours has topped them all. I think what I love is it is so unpretentious and yet full of ‘real’ antiques, I am guessing that lowboy in the living room with the horses on it must be Late Georgian (I studied antiques) but you don’t tell and you don’t brag, despite the fact that my trained eye can see so many genuine pieces and no reproductions. You deserve your highly successful blog.

    • Thank you so much Sheila, you are too kind but I truly think some of the design blogs are incredible and quite drool worthy, I certainly really enjoy reading them and I have learnt so much, there are a great many very talented people. This was just a necessary renovation job for us made easier by great material to work with! You are right in the fact that the lowboy is George III, around 1790, inherited family pieces, they are just a part of our lives! I really appreciate you taking the time to comment, thank you xx

  • Your home is exactly the kind of loving, warm and crazy environment children need to grow up in. Safe, secure and happy with just enough elegance to remind them to be civilized on occassion :). Having had four children, three of them boys, I remember that civility was hard to come by at times. Your home looks well-loved and lived in.

    BTW, your coffin door reminded me of when my grandmother died when I was almost 11. It happened in London in the early 1960’s and her body was laid out in my aunt’s second bedroom. No flourishes in those days. No santitized version of death. Her body was wrapped in a light blue shroud covering all but her face. After viewing her body there, I never entered that bedroom again even though my aunt lived there another 20 years. Other than the trauma of it all, my first experience of death, the most memorable aspect was the funeral wagon which came to the door. A wagon. Not a hearse. But it was an incredibly beautiful black-framed glass wagon so you could see the entire casket from all sides. It had ornamental finials on the top of all four corners and was pulled by two horses who wore with huge white feather plumes over the heads, secured in their harnesses. That was more than 50 years ago, but I remember it like yesterday.

    • Thanks Mary, this is exactly what we love most about this house, it is a fabulous family home for the children, yes they know that they cannot put glasses on the furniture without a coaster, they know not to jump on the furniture, but they also know they can scream and shout and run around! Civility is important and I can imagine it being hard with three boys!! I can quite understand why you still remember everything about the day your grandmother died as if it was yesterday, I would imagine it affected you forever and I can quite see why you never entered that bedroom again, I don’t think I would have done either. I have never felt any strange presences in the house here and I have before in another house, also in France as it happens, maybe I’ll tell that story another time, it brings me out in goosebumps. Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me all this, I always find it so interesting and every day I learn something new, I had no idea that they still used horses and wagons in the early 60’s. xxx

  • You’ve done a wonderful job with your remodeling and redecorating! And it’s all done, right? Ours is a work in progress.

    • Thanks so much, it’s been a long job but so worth it. Good luck with yours, keep positive, it will be over soon and then you will forget quite how long it all took, as I said in another comment, I think it’s rather like childbirth, at the time we say never again and then the memory fades!! xx

    • Thank you so much, it has been a long job but great fun and we all love living here. It has made a perfect family home and it is especially nice to think that we brought it back to life. xx

    • Thanks so much, the coffin hatch and the ancient winch and chain which we think has certainly been around for more than a century have certainly come in extremely useful, there is no other way to get things upstairs, it is quite precarious watching glass shower doors or large pieces of furniture slowly inching their way upwards, swinging left and right, held only by the webbing strops and the chain! xx

    • Thanks so much, it is a really happy comfortable family home which is all we could ask for, a mixture of French and English, but then it has always been owned by a family with English connections, the previous family bought it in 1936, he was a Parisian and his wife was English! So we are keeping up the tradition! xx

  • When I drove by my house, 14 years ago, I knew that was “my house.” Once inside it had such a happy feel to it and later I discovered that the original owners children had lived there – with their parents – and they called it “the honeymoon cottage.” I firmly believe that houses find you and that each occupant leaves a vibe behind. Love your home – it’s everyone’s France dream home!

    • I tend to agree with you Paula, one can really feel a happy home and this home gave off all the right vibes even though it was full of stuff and in much need of some major TLC, it still felt comforting. We all feel safe here and a great feel of contentment. So happy you love your house too and have a great end to the week xx

  • You have a lovely family home Susan and I can tell from the photos that it is a welcoming family home. Great that you have before and after pictures never thought to do that and now it is too late. I would love to live in an older house but after all the work we have just done my husband says ‘no’. I am always transported to France with your blogs and photos.

    • Thank you Virginia, the before photos are the ones that Roddy snapped away whilst viewing the house and that he emailed to me, I had to take his word for it that we would turn it into our own home! I think your husband is quite wise! Renovations take a lot of time and energy!! Have a lovely weekend, xx

    • Hi Cindy, the memories are fantastic and often we laugh at all the things we went through, leaking Windows for a start, that was quite a shock! But it would certainly take a lot of soul searching on my part before I did it again with everyone. Xx

  • Wonderful Post Susane. You’ve made your house into a beautiful French home. Well done! And Congratulations to joyfulhome for winning the beautiful painting by your mother-in-law! Juli

    • Hi Marty, I have no idea why that is, I have not heard of anyone else having problems. Have you tried closing down your computer and restarting and then hopefully everything will reload? Let me know if you continue to have problems. Susan xx

  • Renovations are long and often brutal, but yours is such a success. The before and after pictures are a nice, informative touch. I always think it is nice to come home and feel that “aaahhh, I’m here at last” feeling. Making a home is a gift, I think and you definitely have it.

    • They are long, we start out with such enthusiasm, but it’s the niggly last jobs that seem to take forever, that last push to get everything finished is by far the hardest. I love coming home, the minute I drive through the gates I feel at peace, it is a very good feeling. Have a lovely weekend xx

  • Been a long time lurker here. But can’t resist to comment this time. Thank you so much for giving us a peek inside. I’ve always wondered how it looks inside. Your home looks so inviting. And I always love your beautiful photos. I’ve always dreamed of seeing France. And thanks to you, I am transported to that beautiful place without spending a single dinero. One can always dream, hmm? Greetings from the Far East (Manila) – Jenneth

    • Hi Jenneth, thank you so much! I am so glad you commented, it is great to “meet” you, and I am sure I have never had a comment from Manila before! There is a huge amount to be said for armchair travel, it costs nothing and is totally relaxing! Have a wonderful weekend in your beautiful part of the world. Xx

  • Having lived through similar chaos, but with only two of us, I can just imagine what it must have been like with small children and how exhausting. But you have created a beautiful home, so stylish and warm and I can fully understand why you don’t want to leave. Here’s to all yours and Roddy’s hard work and thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    • Hi Marian, there is nothing easy about renovating! And as you so rightly imagine it is so much harder with a family in tow, they still need to do homework, have friends round etc., I remember the kitchen was finally installed a day before Hetty’s birthday, it was a real celebration, it felt like th e biggest luxury in the world, I just wanted to run my hands over the units and counter tops again and again, having lived with painters tables with wire baskets underneath for two months! There is always something to do, but that’s old houses! Have a great weekend xx

  • I know that it takes a LOT of courage to share the interiors of your home on a blog. So an extra big thank you and this was just an amazing story and a true delight to take in. It is a really exceptional renovation that you have all done together! I know what that entails in France (at least from an outsiders point of view) but now you have a true home that is a beauty to boot. Féliciatations…
    xo

    • Thanks so much Heather, you are so right, I was even more nervous than when I pressed publish for the very first time with the very first post, somehow this felt so personal, I was sharing a part of myself for the first time. There was so much work, the electrician alone was here for 2 months, I got to know exactly how he liked his coffee and his horrendous taste in music!! I also have a vast French vocabulary of building terms and bizarre words that I will never need to use again, I hope! Xxx

  • A labor of love, for sure! Beautiful and filled with love. I’ve always enjoyed seeing pictures of your lovely home and family. I don’t know how you do it all, kids look happy, flowers are in bloom, home cooked food, and you write a lovely blog. what’s the secret – I’m going with the happier we are, the more we can do. Very inspiring!

    • Thanks so much Judi, some of it is true, kids are happy, home cooked food always but as for the flowers in bloom, at the moment the garden looks like a complete disaster, there are so many fallen leaves, you can scarcely seen a blade of grass! But I do think the happier we are the more we can achieve, that is very true, we find a hidden energy that keeps us going because what we do is such fun, does that make sense? I hope so, somehow I seem to fit a vast amount into each day but I do go to bed, happy and content and quite exhausted!! Xx

  • Wow, you’ve worked some miracles there! Goodness, I don’t need to imagine just how much hard work that’s been but it’s now a truly beautiful, cosy family home. Well done indeed!

    • Thanks so much Jessica, yes a lot of work, but it has been worthwhile. Of course, as with any old house, there are always things that need doing, we live with them and we look after them, dealing with each problem as it comes along!! Have a lovely weekend xx

  • I can empathize with your feelings about purchasing a house you’ve never seen. We were living overseas when my husband purchased our home and he was extremely nervous that I wouldn’t like it and that he had made a terrible mistake. He didn’t, of course, and we’re still in that house and hope to stay here for a long while.
    You’ve created a beautiful, comfortable home for your family. I do love those stone walls in the living room.

    • Hi Lorrie, so glad someone else has done this too! Of course I trusted him implicitly, he knew what would be right for the family but as you know, it doesn’t stop our respective husband’s from being extremely nervous! Have a lovely weekend xx

  • We have the same MIXER in the KITCHEN!
    YOUR HOME IS LOVELY………….JOB WELL DONE!
    However, I don’t think I could have painted the STONE Fireplace!!!!!
    IT LOOKS GREAT WHITE don’t get me wrong……..I just do not think I could have done it!
    I love how YOU BRITISH put curtains at the FRONT DOOR!!!!!!!!!
    I want to do that on my french doors headed to the garden from the KITCHEN but THAT ITALIAN will have no PART of that and I need him to DO IT!!!!!!
    I have a LIST of THINGS that will happen GOD FOR BID if he goes FIRST!!!!!!
    I have GORGEOUS IRON GATES with a K on them.Our last name is a K word!
    The measurements are perfect for the stone walled entrance!!!!!!!!
    HE willNOT put them up…………..says GATES are un inviting!
    NEVER MIND you could step right through them……..hard to explain BUT SO SO CHARMING.
    SO, here they sit in my office.
    LOVED THIS PEEK INTO YOUR HOME!
    XX

    • I should have explained, the fireplace was already painted, the sand colour in the photo my husband took when he viewed the house, is not the colour of the original stone, they had painted it the sandy colour and the paint job wasn’t great! Actually the fireplace is quite new, apparently they took out the existing one on the wall in between the kitchen and sitting room and replaced it with this one in the 1970s. We only added the curtains to the front door last winter, the doors are so draughty when it is cold and the curtains are both lined and blanket interlinked so they really do keep the draughts out! We absolutely did not want to change the doors so we had to live with the cold! Your gates sound beautiful, the French as you know, put up large gates, very often quite solid, so one cannot see through them at all, at the entrance to their homes, privacy is always important here! Xx

  • Hi Susan, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful home with us. It really is very lovely and it seems like the renovations were more than worth it to create such a sanctuary for your family. #AllAboutFrance

  • Sounds so familiar, your story closely resembles our own. We bought our first house here in the south in 2010, sold it in 2013 because it did not have enough land for six horses and bought our current house in 2015. Lots and lots and lots of work to be done still. We took a break in the summer, but when I look at your gorgeous pictures, I feel inspired to get going again!

    • It think it is a similar story for many people who buy old houses, there is always so much to do and even once it is all done there is the upkeep which is never ending really, we live with old houses, fixing them as and when they need it! We still have things to do, there is always something! So happy to have inspired you! Have a great weekend, it’s raining here which is a good thing as we needed it, but I still prefer the sun! xx

  • I never got that post in my in-box – so I will have a lot to read over the coming days…..
    This is – in many ways – a similar love-story-for-a-house to ours; only, we paid a heck of a lot for an incredible number of hidden vices. Every single one of our French friends told us to sue the sellers but we would never have done that because our lives were poisonned enough by making good all the damage (and thus throwing a lot of money we didn’t really have, into the ‘bargain’)….
    Your home had one very important aspect in good condition: The walls (and w/your mentionning it, the roof I guess). If the ‘bones’ of a building are OK, the rest can be modifies and bettered over time. We had periods of having to pee first in our garden and then in a hurryedly bought camping toilet for four months because we were being lied to regarding the toilets plumbing and décharge… We were flooded within the first 10 days of our move because the roof (oh, it’s practically new, some 15yrs or so….. when it was clearly the first and only roof since 1920) literally overflowed on all sides and water entered along the doors, walls and mounted through the floors downstairs. The roof couldn’t be viewed from anywhere and we had no access whatsoever…. And so on!
    You made a stunning home of yours and if ever you err towards my region, I’d be absolutely delighted to receive you (and your kids and pets) because NOW, our house also is sort of a home. I say ‘sort of’ because a home without a dog is just a house, but it can’t be changed for the time being where I travel so much.
    Love from Ile de France, Kiki

    • I wonder why this never arrived in your inbox. Maybe you should subscribe again, to be sure, in case for some reason the old one got deleted, strange things happen in cyber world, way out of our control! It sounds as if you had a nightmare time and I truly sympathise. Our roof was and is good, however the windows were another matter. I remember the first real rain after several months, suddenly we had to find buckets to put under velux windows and shut shutters on others, the water poured in! Thank you so so much for the invitation, be careful, we might take you up on it!! However, likewise if you are down on the coast please do let me know, would love to meet you, a chaotic house though it is, there is always room for extra people around our table. have a lovely weekend, it’s raining here, but oh well, it is November! xx

    • Thank you so much Yvonne, knowing how gorgeous your home is and how incredible your website is I really do appreciate your comment. Hopefully one day you will come over the pond and visit. xx

  • I just have to ask for you use the word often…. what is a gite???!!!
    Your home is so lovely and no doubt even more perfect because of the hard sweat and tears you’ve put in to it! We built our home 31 yrs ago and I’m still as madly in love with it as I was back then. My kids often ask why I don’t update more ( which I know means..fix it up before we inherit and have to pay for it ourselves! Hahaha I’ve got their number!!!). But I just can’t change. It’s where my babies were last raised and grew up. I’m replacing counters next week and it’s killing me because my boys sat on those kitchen counters every afternoon after school and while I cooked telling me about their lives…….so many memories…..sigh***!
    Don’t you also have a rental? Or B&B?? Would love to stay on there now after hearing your stories!!! Pics of the that plz????

    • Hi Janey, first of all a gîte is a French word that seems to have gained full acceptance into the English language, it is a furnished rental, it used to relate to smaller farm type cottages in more rural locations but now pretty much covers any holiday rental in France! I have sent you a separate email with details, at some stage in the future I shall feature it too! Love your comment about your children! But most of all I love your sentimentality, that you don’t want to change the counters, because they used to sit on them whilst you cooked, I can just picture it, so so sweet. Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

  • It turned out beautifully!! I knew your gardens were charming, but I was always curious about the inside of your home. It is pretty much as I had imagined! It has your touch of warmth and comfort. That was a LOT of white paint you went through. Justin White. I REALLY get it now. Thank you for the lovely tour! xoxo, Nancy

    • Thanks so much Nancy, so glad you now fully understand Justin White! Most importantly of all it is a happy home, but we miss your bottom crafting drawer, the children still talk about it. Have a lovely weekend xx

  • I loved the tour of your home. If you were trying to achieve a warm, comfortable place that would feel welcoming, I would say you clearly achieved that goal!!
    Not many people have the ability to see the potential in an old rundown building needing love. Even fewer can actually make that transformation happen. You and your husband clearly have that ability. Renovations like this are not for the faint-of-heart.
    As the former black and red ceiling beams in the dining room demonstrate, it is amazing what a coat (or several) of white paint can achieve!!

    • Thanks so much Joanne, I am far from any form of designer, but I have always been able to envision what things are capable of looking like, with a lot of hard work! This sort of renovation was certainly not for the faint hearted but it was so worthwhile, it has made a lovely comfortable family home, most of all a happy home which we all love. Hope you are having a lovely weekend xx

    • Thanks Fiona, I don’t know what we would have done without the coffin hatch, It’s quite a procedure, mostly because it all becomes highly dangerous and once it is open we have to make sure no one falls down it, and then make sure that things don’t swing too much and smash the front door glass. But every item larger than a chair that has come up and down the stairs has done so via the ancient chain and pulley! Hope you are having a lovely weekend, raining here and forecast to be the same tomorrow, but the sun is meant to return on Monday! xx

  • Thanks for following my blog and introducing me to yours! I’ve read a lot of Peter Maylene books and “Under the Tuscan Sun” and the thought of living in rural France or Italy is very appealing.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and I really look forward to you following along. I too am passionate about people living the best life they can, although for me this is a hobby, I write the blog in the hope that I can inspire a few people, this relatively simple way of life is extremely rewarding and our five children are proof of that, they love it! I loved Under the Tuscan Sun! If you come to France let me know and hope we can “chat” further. Susan xx

  • Having been through multiple renovation and building projects (including with small children), I can imagine with vivid, excruciating detail what you must have gone through. But you succeeded in creating exactly the kind of home that you wanted–inviting, warm, full of life, and beautiful. Funny isn’t it, how certain places and houses seem to carry good feelings with them? It could be visual more than anything–some satisfying arrangement of angles and space that evoke comfort and safety. But it’s lovely to imagine that houses could be imbued with lingering happiness or love from previous residents. Your beams and stonework speak to the care and artistry of the builders and you also know that the house was filled with laughter. Sweet contentment. Finally, I love the dogs next to the fireplace.

    • Thanks so much Brenda, I totally agree with you, I really do think that houses retain atmospheres. As you obviously known only too well, there is nothing quick or simple about renovating a house, doing it in a foreign language with children too just makes it all the more challenging, but then the end result is worth it! There will always be work to do, but by far the most important is that it is a family home. Have a lovely peaceful Sunday xx

  • Susan your home is a celebration of joy, beauty and comfort! I feel a sense of loss when I see carefully curated and styled interiors — they seem to lack evidence of LIFE…no sign of happy moments. I think having children and pets in a home does a lot towards that patina of a loved, lived-in home. I grew up in a farmhouse with six siblings……there was no way my mother could have kept a museum style house. I knew our house was not fancy so I always marvelled at how people loved it when they came to visit – only later as a home maker myself did it dawn on me, that if a home is furnished with love, it is the most welcome place for any person to be! ❤ Bon Dimance, Jeanne

    • Jeanne; AMEN to that – so true – thank you. Feel the same and am sure so does Susan 🙂 (sorry to hijack your blog Susan, just got back from Paris and am so glad to be ‘chez moi’ in peace, quiet and warmth. Kiki

      • Hi Kiki, you lucky girl! My son feels the same when he comes home from university…..calls home his personal sanctuary 🙂 (sorry about dropping my ‘h’ in Dimanche yesterday) A happy week to you all XX

      • Hijack all you want Kiki, I love seeing everyone interact. This is exactly how a home should be. I was out all day yesterday at a tennis tournament with our youngest daughter and Millie came too to watch. We were two hours away on the edge of the Loire and the Vienne. When we got home it was dark, around 7.30pm, the fire was alight, there was the smell of roast chicken coming from the oven. Our neighbour’s son was at our house (he frequently is, which is just fine by me), it felt great to be home, welcoming, friendly, warm just as it should be, the kitchen was messy, the hallway was littered with shoes, everyone was chatting at once – a true family happy home! xx

    • Hi Jeanne, our home is definitely not a museum style house, it is quite often chaotic and far too often the hallway is littered with school bags and the kitchen table with papers, but it is always warm and welcoming and people linger, that to me is what matters most, that it is a happy home where our children want to invite their fiends and where their friends want to come and play. I so agree with everything you say. Had a fabulous Sunday but out all day from 7am until 8pm, hence I am only just getting to comments now! Hope you had a lovely weekend too xxx

  • HI there,
    I have been following your blog for some time, and being a complete francophile, I love everything about your life in France. What a beautiful house. I have really enjoyed reading how you renovated it.
    I am a French teacher in the NW of England. I don’t know if you are aware but Languages are now compulsory in KS2 [ages 7-11] . So people like me are trying our very best to promote French in schools. I visit 4 primary schools per week.
    I have to say that on the whole the children are really receptive to learning another language at this stage. They love hearing about the lives of French children of the same age. We have recently been studying shops, and they have been fascinated by the Boulangerie. To this end, and with your permission I would love to show them the pictures of the Boulangerie in your village. Similarly they were also really surprised at the type of school meals available to French school children. I have told them about the school menus you featured some weeks ago.
    Hope it is ok to show the pictures.
    A Bientot
    Jayne

    • Hi Jayne, great to ‘meet’ you. I think it is excellent that languages are compulsory, they are here too. Once they get to middle school 11 years old, they are given the opportunity to study a second foreign language as well, Hetty has just started German as well on top of English which is compulsory to all children and obviously not a lesson at all to her! The eldest ones do English and Spanish as well as French. Many do Chinese which is also an option along with the English! Please feel free to share the photos, you are most welcome. Perhaps we could also do something else to help, maybe Gigi and Hetty, being 10 and 11 could do a short video message or something that you could share with your classes, about hoe they learnt French or what French schools are like. If you are interested send me an email susanourfrenchoasis@gmail.com and we can chat more and hopefully do something. I am all for encouraging children as much as possible. Have a lovely week xx

    • Hi Sheila, I think we all go through ups and downs when it comes to renovating. I know we certainly did, we got to the stage where it was nearly finished and it was really hard to make that final push to do the last things, which always seem to take twice as long. Keep going, it will be worth it! Hope you have a lovely week, finally the sun is shining here again! xx

  • Your home is stunning! The extensive renovations proved to be well worth the work as you now have a comfortable home filled with love and laughter. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks so much, it was a lot of hard work but well worth it to make a happy family home where the children can grow up with great memories. Hope you are feeling better, have a lovely week xx

  • Awesome job remodeling! I love it!! You and Roddy both have an excellent eye to see the diamond in the rough. The transformation of the sitting room is gorgeous. Love your posts and stories, I enjoy living vicariously thorough you.

    • Thank you so much Laura, it is rather fun to imagine how things could be with lots of hard work. It is a lovely family home and that to me is the most important thing. Hope you have had a lovely sunday xx

  • I am so excited about reading your blog! I just returned from France in September and I would
    Really love to live there! Your home is so enchanting and lovely! Thanks for the details of your French life!

    • Thank you so much Ann, fantastic to have you following along and thank you for taking the time to comment. Where did you visit in September when you were here? I hope you get a chance to return and explore different areas, there are so many fabulous varied places to see. Hope you have a lovely week. Susan xx

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