It 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,
the kitchen was almost non existent, the bedroom no better and the bathroom was enough to put us off completely!
But there was great potential, the sitting room was large and full of possibilities.
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!
I 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.A white armoire works wonders against the opposite wall as both a pantry cupboard and a storage space for extra crockery and cooking items.In 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.
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 www.ourfrenchlifstyle.com or by clicking HERE.