Renovating Our Guest House


P6800044-1024x717It was always the plan to have some form of accommodation that we could rent out for holidays when we moved to France. We had both been in the hospitality business to some degree before and we knew it was something we both thoroughly enjoyed. The pleasure of meeting new people and sharing what we had with them.

Several years later and I can honestly say it has been everything we hoped it would be and a whole lot more. We have met so many lovely people, people we can now honestly call good friends. In short, it has been amazing. There have been plenty of mishaps and we have enough amusing or eventful stories to dine out on for a year, however, that’s for another time.


What I can tell you is that like so many things in France, it wasn’t handed to us on a plate, this was no ready made meal in glossy packaging. What you see above is not how it was! It involved months of prep work, lots of renovation and plenty of hard graft. The gardens were neglected,

IMG_3533the kitchen was almost non existent, the bedroom no better and the bathroom was enough to put us off completely!


IMG_3504But there was great potential, the sitting room was large and full of possibilities.IMG_3823

It just all took a fair bit of planning, we would stand and stare at the empty rooms, scratch our heads and walk away. Later we would continue the conversation around the supper table, what should we do? How could we make the space work for the letting market? Should we create two bedrooms by moving the kitchen and making a small galley style one in the open plan living space? In the end we decided to make this high end accommodation for just two, or occasionally three people courtesy of a very comfortable camp bed that we add for children. In fact we had a family of six staying for nearly two weeks over the summer, which involved tents and much hilarity!

Our goal was that this should be a home away from home. We wanted people to really enjoy their stays to the max. We have drawn on our own experiences, things that have niggled in places we have rented ourselves we have corrected here. The idea is our guests should want for nothing, but at the same time feel they are staying somewhere authentically French. It is all about attention to detail.


And the end result, well you can judge for yourselves, but it’s been super popular for a long time now, so we must be doing something right!

IMG_7057I always wanted to keep the furnishings unique. However, comfort is the number one factor, no one wants to sit in a beautiful antique chair if it is quite disagreeable after half an hour, no matter how stunning it may look. But that didn’t mean we had to skimp on style, we have only used original signed artwork throughout and there are plenty of vintage French treasures dotted here and there.


But in keeping with a traditional French cottage we have tried to keep things authentic. In the kitchen we have used a huge slab of vintage marble which we found in the barn, it has rolled edges and was obviously once used as a counter top somewhere so it is only fitting that is has a new life once more.


A ceramic farmhouse sink and a small island unit again using vintage marble for the top complete the look.P7340548A white armoire works wonders against the opposite wall as both a pantry cupboard and a storage space for extra crockery and cooking items.P7810777In the bedroom a huge triple armoire adds a vast amount of hanging and shelf space for clothes plus the mirrored doors make the room feel bigger. It is a small and compact bedroom and space is at a premium, but this works rather well.IMG_4416IMG_4421IMG_5953

The en suite bathroom had a complete facelift!


However, the work is never over. The interior keeps organically evolving. I will find something irresistible at a brocante and know instantly that it has a new home in our gîte. An example is this mirror, which I rescued in a dismal state, it had been left outside in the rain and quite neglected. The first thing we did was to let it dry out for several weeks. Then we set to work restoring it as best we could.


It now fills what was an empty space, as seen in the photo below. All summer long it has greeted our guests as they walk in the door, another great addition.


Another mirror grabbed my attention one Sunday morning strolling around stands in a field on the edge of the village, it was soon in the boot of my car and then it found its new, permanent home, above the fireplace, a fine replacement for the plain oval which, as you can see, was here before.


Likewise this old milking stool was too good to pass up!


There is always another job which needs doing and more plans. Right now I am struggling with the kitchen tiles. Everybody it seems loves the splash of colour and the red, everyone except for one person, you see they have never sat comfortably with me.


Last winter we got to within a hairs breadth of changing them, I had endless new choices all lined up, I had searched the internet and sourced some stunning vintage pale blues and whites. But I got cold feet at the final hurdle, at that moment when my finger was hovering over the ‘pay now’ button, I turned away and the red tiles remained for another summer!

Now that familiar itch is back once more, what should I do? So I thought why not ask your advice, I know there are some really talented interior designers amongst you and I would love to know what you think and if you were to change them what you would change them for. You see I might need some heavy armour to convince the rest of the jury!


So that’s the story of the gîte so far. For the first time this winter we are offering long weekends, three nights, commencing any day of the week, it doesn’t have to be a Saturday or Sunday. Allowing people not too far away, most likely in the UK, the chance to hop over on one of the many flights to La Rochelle, Bordeaux or Poitiers or take the Channel Tunnel or the ferry and to come and indulge themselves in a sneaky little break. Enjoy some pre-Christmas shopping, load up the car with fabulous French wines, cheeses and local delicacies. Or visit in the New Year and browse the sales. Full details can be found on our website or by clicking HERE.

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71 thoughts on “Renovating Our Guest House

  1. Wow! Having stayed here several times was really interesting to see the original house!
    You did a terrific job !

  2. It looks fabulous! I could live there all year! You did a fabulous job. I think the red looks fine but is is not my favorite. I wonder if you decided to change it if you could get some vintage tiles from the market/brocante?

    Have a wonderful weekend.

  3. I think red is fine, but that’s too much red and too shiny. Mostly too shiny, so maybe a softer, more matte red tile. Maybe white, with accent tiles in reds and yellows? Or maybe go more austere, with a slab of marble like the countertop — white with a bit of gray veining. Or gray with a bit of white veining. I’d find out where the folks who redo places on the Ile de Ré go — there has to be someplace like that in La Rochelle — and see what they have on offer. Fortunately shopping is half the fun.

  4. You have made the interior so elegant, yet gentle and comforting, Susan. Superb work! You know what, I think those red tiles are fabulous. But….much as I love them, they lean towards a more rustic, Provencal type of interior. Your place is not so rustic as a typical Provencal kitchen, so if you want to change them, I think you might as well go ahead. If it were me, I would hesitate for only one reason: I found tiling the worst job of all the jobs! I renovated a cottage on our barn and did all the labour, bar some building work, myself. It took me 15 months from start to finish. The carpentry (workbenches, staircase, etc) were done by my husband. When you don’t have much money, you do need a whole lot of time! And time I had. Some jobs were fun. A lot were plain hard graft. Please pop over and have a look at my site:…/17/little-loft-house/ It is also available to rent! Have a great weekend further ❤ Jeanne X

  5. Please keep the red tiles! They are gorgeous. I am a fan of blue and white, too, but wouldn’t that be so expected. Those red tiles really have personality!

  6. So much to look at, reminescence about, smile at, and most of all, remember with delight….
    I try to tell you all and everything and you might not like it all – but that’s what friends are here for.
    I am not too keen on the red tiles in the kitchen for the sole reason that I once lived in a rental flat with exactly those tiles…. 😉 You could claim that’s not a reason to like or not like something, and you’re right. BUT…. (you saw that coming, didn’t you?) I would be very hesitant to go for white & blue, my all-time fave combination for tiles and here’s why: You have reddish/brown floor tiles, the red ticks just beautifully to this rather dark floor. 2nd: I would be very careful to come in with blue & white (and it would be stunning, no doubt about that) BUT you would also have to add quite a few rugs in the same maritime-seaside-colour and structure (cotton, washable, with strongly sticking rubber netting underneath to not let people slip – this woman knows what she’s talking about). THEN it would be a total hit.
    Next problem/or not: Those darkish, but smile-inducing red tiles take water drops and spillage kindly. You don’t see every little drop and again, believe me, on those retro blue & white you DO… they are so utterly beautiful that you think you HAVE to have them, but then comes the cleaning because you see, they are uneven on the surface. Dirt, splatters, waterdrops tend to get trapped in their uneven beauty and you’re spending more time to keep them clean and spotless.
    Should you however brush all ‘warnings’ 😉 in the wind, I got mine from Portugal and I still could cry buckets over the fact that they got sold with the house they were built-in… 😊 And I would buy them again in 30” flat… There!
    For the mirrors: I know the big one WELL and you did an incredible job with it. I wouldn’t have dared taking it on and I laud you. It has found the perfect place where it is. And now you’re going to be disappointed with me; I so much, very, very much, preferred the oval mirror above the fireplace. It’s a junky, ‘working’ fireplace and this dainty golden princess mirror should be somewhere else but not where you put it. I know you love it and because I try to be diplomatic (not with much success you’ll agree) I didn’t voice my opinion before but now I must….
    In fact, this week when we were both in Zurich, we were talking for a long time about the WHEN and HOW could we go and visit you guys again – not in winter, it’s just too cosy ‘chez nous’ and already, we’re hardly ever at home as it is. But in early spring maybe, and as long as (*) we’re still living in France?! Fingers and toes crossed and uncrossed…. AND I said to Hero Husband: You know, I have so many large and very fine mirrors, we will never be able to hang them all in a rental flat (already their weight would prevent us from even trying, with all the wood, the wooden back, the heavy old glass) – we should sell one or two to our dream-cottage-team…. Honest to God – you know me, I don’t lie! And so you go and do a tile-and-mirror-post – are we joined at the brain-matter or what? 😉
    For the experience of staying at yours (and notwithstanding the absolutely toque-worthy cooking of your Master Chef) I can only re-confirm that it’s one totally delightful, quiet, peaceful and utterly beautiful gîte and I couldn’t wish for a better bed (except it being 6x7ft large but then the equally lovely wardrobe would have to move out), the bed being largely the most important bit of furniture in any B&B/hotel – a very good quality mattress of a certain firmness is a must and it works in your place. I’m an insomniac but yours is the place where one could rest their head and just dream the hours away.
    (*) My E in-built dictionary dotted the three words (as long as) and I had NO IDEA what could have been wrong – then I found the suggestion: Consider using concise language!!!! Baff…. Bof…. The language police caught me red-handed!

    1. Good advice about the water drops, they don’t show every mark, but then I quite like things that do, because that way I can be absolutely sure everything is perfect. Maybe they will be there when you come again or maybe not!!! xx

  7. Beautiful space! The work done is lovely. I agree in changing the tile. I know the red is a pop of color but I think it is too much of a pop. I love the idea of antique tiles, blue and white.

  8. Please reconsider changing your red tiles to blue and white tiles. You can find a few really nice antique tiles and fill the rest of the space with less expensive newer and plain tiles. Or a company by the name of “Almaviva” of Paris paints fabulous tiles.
    Your guesthouse is beautiful and charming. We have had similar experiences with our guesthouse.

  9. As an Interior Designer, I say the shiny red tiles might be considered more than a POP of color. I tend to think of a POP of color as something that is moveable, an accent like a pillow or painting. Architecturally, I like to keep my walls, floors, ceiling etc ., more neutral but with texture, subtlety, that way, the décor can enhance or even POP but the elegant bare bones remain as a backdrop before even one piece of furniture or decor is added. I agree with some that you have a more soft French Blue thread going, with a hint of French Butter Yellow so maybe replace the shiny red tiles with the vintage blue & white tiles, which makes me think of the style as quintessentially French . The older tiles will have a faded blue color, enough for a subtle design but not brilliant blue that would be sharp and contrasting. The red , and particularly shiny and contemporary-looking tiles speak to me of more southern France, traditional Provencal, even Languedoc-Rousillion-Spain The soft blue and yellow and white remind me of northern and oceanic-coastal France. If you still hunger for Red as a Pop of color, some fresh flowers, a painting, pillows, maybe more so in the colder months, with a fire going, the red would give that POP and visual warmth in front of a fire. But that is just me… You need to be happy with the design choice.

  10. Susanna (above commnet) expressed much better than I have, the solution to your red tile dilemma. She is spot on with her suggestion of special blue and white French tiles.

  11. I think the red tiles are fine, but not great. They don’t really “go” with everything else, their vibe is a little different than everything else. So, they could stay, but I think something else could look REALLY GREAT. Your place is SO beautiful! Definitely keeping it on my radar if I’m ever in France again for a visit!

  12. You (that’s the inclusive you) did an amazing job with the gîte. I’d stay there in a heartbeat regardless of the color tile, but I do think that a softer color would work better with the rest of the decor. I have no opinion on the mirror. Looks fine to me, but I’m far from being a decorator of any stripe. 🙂


  13. I have been swooning over sage green glass subway tile – might be pretty to pick up the color on your shutters.

  14. Experiment with tile paint….apply with a foam roller… a good result and still washable….you.can always upgrade to more expensive tiles at a later date if not happy with the results.

  15. Bonjour Susan,
    i completely understand your concern over the red tiles, i am not crazy about red either, i much prefer the blue and white look…but……changing the tiles will be a much bigger task than you may think. i love projects too, although sometimes after starting them, we question our judgement on fixing something that is not broken, just because we want something different. also, there is the cost of buying the tiles, even though you are doing the work yourselves.
    Before i give you my suggestion, i feel i must disclose that i have red accents in my kitchen which i never change even though i wish i had done blue and white originally. Red is cheerful and it is very appealing in a kitchen.

    ok, here it goes:
    before you venture into a new project……i suggest the you:
    1) move the clock from above the sink to over the open selves, it is too dark for the area where it is now.
    2) either arrange the two small prints with the clock or not
    3) buy a painting, preferably a giclee or oil from some local artist which will hang vertically above the sink, or find something at a brocante. Must be large to fill that space. And add a burst of color. (not a watercolor)
    Must have red in the painting, lots of red accent, colorful…….like a Gaughan. (personally, i do not like Gaughan, but i think his colors are great. ) I had painted a large, vertical oil of poinsettias climbing up a stucco wall many years ago. i had no place to hang it when i painted it but i loved the subject. Now, it hangs in my son’s kitchen and looks better than i thought it would look there. He wanted it and of course i gave it to him. Ha, he was right, it looks great in his kitchen.
    The last photo on your blog today of the exterior of your gite with the flowers blooming and the sunlight touching the wall
    is actually so charming and has the red accents that it could be framed or done as a giclee to hang there. Although vertical would be better for the location.
    4) add accent tea towels with the red bands on white towels which we in america buy because we call them “french bistro” towels. You know the ones.

    I know you wanted suggestions about tiles and this may be a crazy departure but i have looked at the photos of the kitchen several times and given this much thought.
    I love both of your mirrors, just where they are now. You have done a fabulous job on the restoration of the one you
    Your Gite is just charming and cozy and looks so inviting. You should be commended on all the work put into it.
    Anyone would be very happy to stay there……Patty

    1. Patty, thank you so much, I love all of this advice, now I am picturing moving the clock and changing things around, I shall go and have a play over there this afternoon. I so appreciate that you put so much effort and thought into this, thank you again, plenty of food for thought! xx

  16. I know nothing about interior decoration, so no helpful comments from me on the placement of mirrors or accent colors. But I can tell you this: You sure know how to create an inviting space! Maybe someday my husband and I will have the privilege of renting your beautiful gîte and then we’ll have some more concrete ideas about the tile. 🙂 From this reader’s perspective, everything you touch turns into art. Beautifully done!

  17. OH HOW FUNNY!MY first thought was you need to up the GAME of the TASSELS on the ARMOIRE they need to be BIGGER and a BOLDER COLOR!SO, I was going to say Pick up THE RED of the TILES!!!!!!!However, since the TILES ARE GOING………….lets do a light Blue DUTCH tile that YOU CAN FIND at THE BROCANTE!!Different scenes would be lovely and it will give the KIDS something to LOOK for while you are all out and about on a family weekend!SO, back to those tassels maybe a yellow and Blue?Need color against that WHITE!
    BIG & BOLD!
    Now that mirror you restored is LOVELY!!!!!!!!!!!
    THAT GOLD MIRROR is Temporary………right?On the BEAUTIFUL fireplace?IT’s TO NEW and CHEAP LOOKING!!!!!!
    THAT can NOT stay FOREVER……….
    I hope I did not hurt your feelings…………I have a certain aesthetic and I’m trying to be helpful.

  18. Stunning! I love it! I like the red tiles with the blue cupboard and white walls…a subtle nod to the French flag.

  19. I think your guest house is just gorgeous, you have such great taste, and I love the little teddy bear sitting on the bed to welcome visitors!
    As for the red tiles in the kitchen, the general consensus seems to be to change
    them. They are lovely, but more suited to an older cottage I think. Look forward to hearing what your decision is! xx

  20. It’s wonderful! I would definitely change the tiles and love the idea of a pale blue or seafoam green, it will also open up the space a bit .
    Love the little bear on the bed, it is very charming and I wish I lived closer! (California)

  21. Oh my, the comments. Yes, blue tiles would be fabulous, howeve, we just changed the tiles in our kitchen, thin subway tiles in a French vanilla colour with dark grout….and it was a dusty mess….more dust than you expect.
    I can vouch for the comfort of the suite. It makes you never want to leave. Excellent job Hays family. Hope someday to return.
    Ali. Xx

  22. I agree that the clock over the sink needs to move. Look at the reflection of the kitchen in the armoire mirror. The red tile doesn’t jump out at you in that reflection. I think, it’s because there is texture to the wall above with shelving, glassware, and art. Above the sink there is too much of a white expanse. Carry on the theme of the beach that is in the two small artworks. Look for a large vintage style print or painting of beach cabanas or parasols that are striped in varying colors including the blue and red. You could also hang a large multicolored ceramic platter above the sink. Whatever you do, it needs to cover as much of the white wall as you can and be proportionate to the space.
    I love everything else you’ve done in the gîte. Had I seen your site before our trip to Bordeaux last month, I would have booked some nights with you. There is always next time.

  23. I think the red tiles make the kitchen appear more compact. I am a big fan of blue & white décor and I think if you can find a tile in these colors, that is not too busy, the kitchen would appear more airy and larger.

  24. Lovely transformation Susan. I think the red tiles are lovely but does not work with the blue and white scheme. Looks a bit dated.Tiles in blue and white will make the decor look fresh in keeping with the rest of gite. Happy pondering. Keep us posted. Best wishes

  25. I tend to agree with the others that have suggested blue and white tiles. While I like red, the red tiles look a little modern for the rest of your look. You’ve both done such a great job and I know I would enjoy staying in your cute cottage no matter what tiles were on the wall. 🙂

  26. HI Susan. I know I’m probably too late to comment and you may not see it, but I just haven’t had time..!!! Anyway, I can’t remember thinking, oh those red tiles should go, when we stayed. But if you’re hankering after change, I think blue vintage, on white, with a ‘pop’ of yellow here and there. You have blue and yellow in the living room and blue in the bedroom, so to carry that theme on would be good I think. The kitchen is not a hot room, so having a sunny yellow tile here and there would give a sunny bright feel to the room, whilst being lighter than the red. the red tiles are lovely, but maybe a little heavy and not the same style as the rest of the cottage. Just a thought…. It’s lovely anyway!!!

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