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.