Curb Appeal

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‘Curb appeal’ is a term I first became aware of in the States many years ago. Recently a very dear friend from the USA came to stay with us here, and I will never forget her shock at how so many of our village houses are right on the edge of the road. Many have no front gardens, despite the fact they are not in a town but in the country. I had never really given it much thought, as it is something that is quite normal in both France and the UK. Cottages and houses that were built alongside tiny tracks centuries ago might have once had some grass in the foreground, but as roads were widened to take modern-day traffic, so the tarmac has crept ever closer to their front doors. Read more

Town or Country ?

24059214_761930727335667_1180675717313672991_nWhich sets your heart beating a little faster? A rural home so beautiful yet bought for a price that will make city dwellers cry or an elegant pad overflowing with period features near the shops and the buzz of urban life where you can pretty much get anything you want in a jiffy? Read more

The Story of How We Bought Our Home

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The phone suddenly burst into life with a jolt of energy, and picking it up, I heard a distant voice asking, “Susan? Susan?  Is that you? I think I may have found something………”and my heart gave a lurch of excitement; the dread I had been feeling for a week lifting tantalisingly off my chest. There were more words on the other end of the line, but I was already gone, drifting back to France and the sound of cicadas. Read more

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.

A VERY FRENCH ENTRANCE

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I have blogged about (and photographed) gates, secret gardens, many houses and also châteaux, but I’ve never exclusively concentrated on front-doors.  Here in France there are so many styles, colours, choices and different patinas showing wear and tear that it becomes quite a choice when it’s time to find a door – does one go for modern technology and all its advantages or do you choose a very heavy antique door that has lasted for centuries and doubtless will continue to do so for many more to come?  I think my choice becomes apparent fairly quickly……

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With very old doors come very old keys; huge, heavy keys, which are antiques in their own right. They don’t fit very neatly in a pocket but on the other hand they are much harder to lose and they always add a certain je ne sais quoi.

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First and foremost one has to remember that the front door has normally been built as the main entrance to a house, even if many of us actually use a back door, a side door, perhaps the garage or the boot-room instead!  Usually the very first thing we see when arriving at someone’s home is the front door, and it creates that all important first impression, giving us a hint as to what the rest of the house may be like.

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But the front door has to play many other roles too – it must deter uninvited guests, it must keep out the cold and quite often it needs to let in some light to the entrance hall itself.

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Everyone knows what our front door looks like, it’s  a door that is delightful but not immediately practical for it can be a little drafty. Fortunately we have shutters, typical of French houses and so for added security and to keep out the very cold nights we can shut the shutters and keep what is outside, out!

 

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I wonder what would be your choice, if you were able to choose?  Would you stick with a very old plain door that has been a part of the house for decades?

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Even better if they have a small leaded window above

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Or would you paint it a bright colour?

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Perhaps a little bit of cottage style?

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And what about plants, do you like them around the door or would you cut them back?

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So many choices, so many decisions.  I think unless a door is very ugly I would do just as we have done and live with it as part of the history of the house. It sets the character of the home right from the start and defines a style quite perfectly.