This is how it happened … an English family move to France, part 13. Before-and-after photos.
A few before-and-after photos …
This room is on the top floor of the building and became Jake’s bedroom. The entire top floor was full of old rubbish – mostly mattresses and those French sausage-pillows, thick with dust and bird droppings. The property, although classified as a “Chateau” was a working farm and a wine-producer, so there were lots of working implements stored up here, usually smaller things like frog-spears, fishing nets, also several interesting items which are now on display – some scales, a copper boat propellor, ancient saws etc. The acrow-prop supports a beam in the roof. There were several doors propped up against a wall, clearly intended for use on that floor: we assembled them ourselves, along with the frames, and placed them where they had been destined to go 200 years earlier!
a flax crusher, used for making rope. The one we found is slightly larger and dates to the 1600s or so. The one in the picture is a modern replica. Almost all households had one, and the poorer households would share one between several houses. In the days before wires and nylon, rope was crucial.
The silly thing is that I just cannot work out which room this is! The window and the door both seem in the wrong place for all the rooms. I think this must be what became William’s room, though I’d have said the gap between door and window is larger. Throughout the top floor, the floor boards were badly perished, and had given way totally in several places. It was not level either, so Bruce laid spacers out to get it level and then batons. The pipes and wires went in and then chipboard on top. It remained as chip board for several years till we were able to afford carpet. I wanted to paint the chipboard with bright gloss coloured varnish, to give it a wooden-coloured hue. I have seen this done and it is a good idea for children’s rooms, but fitted carpet worked out considerably cheaper, so carpet it was. It was also quicker.
In this picture (above) you can also see the magnificent beams; we’d have loved to incorporate them in to the ceilings, but it would not have been in keeping with the style of the rooms and it would also have been an incredible amount of extra work. To top it, the higher the ceiling, the more heat is needed, and the place was difficult enough to heat as it is.
Sky-light in the upper stair well. To this day it is difficult to clean! The roof was odd in that the front and two sides were slate (unusual in this area and typical more of smarter old properties) and the back was local tiles. When we re-roofed the property a few years later we did the lot in slate as the original architect intended.
Part of the living-room. I love the arched windows, which are the smallest windows in the house. The ceilings are likewise relatively low, I assume for economy of heat. Some bright button has started to paint some of the beams alternate green and orange in the 60s. I tried stripping it off but it was terribly hard work and as the ceiling was low anyway, the best solution was to paint the beams white.
The property was dirty and dark, both inside and out. This exterior picture shows the outside after we had cleared away the trees and bushes that has sprouted up everywhere. I can just see me – I think it is me – to the left, wearing shorts, so this was summer time. We had bought the house in the December, so this would have been at least 6 months later.
Rusty old balconies. Painting balcony railings is exceptionally tedious, let me tell you! The diamond-shaped bits of glass you can see there are stained glass, really pretty, probably 1900s.
Bruce erected a crane from the top balcony hatch (railings right at the top of the photo) in the roof and with that was able to lift materials up to the first and second floors.
This became our bedroom – I know simply because of the ceiling rose! Otherwise I wouldn’t recognize it.
The exterior of the house today. The window shutters are fixed permanently in the open position, and we removed the balcony shutters altogether. The drive is now lined with cyprus trees, re-planted after the old ones came down in a big storm.
This is part of the entrance hall. We had dreadful difficulty with those floor tiles. Along with the stone stair case, much of this floor is part of the first property, which was double the size and burnt down during the French Revolution. Every time I swore at the floor I’d try to remind myself that it was hundreds of years old!
Outside the back door. You can see an old-fashioned pump on the left (painted green), which extracted water from the well. When we bought the place this was the only water, along with three other wells dotted about the property.
One of the spare rooms. Those huge cupboards (there is another at the other side of the room) were full of old photos, newspaper cuttings, vases, copper pots, spiders, mice, and dust.
another spare room. Those beds are called “lits bateaux” and, traditionally, were in the living room where it was warm. There are three of them in the property, two of which we found abandoned there and the third one we bought for a song years ago. One can still get them very cheaply in poor condition; renovated ones tend to be pricey. They are too bulky for most houses, so they don’t sell well.
The upper stair well – very difficult to know what to do with it because it is such “dead” space; but we hung plants there and some day we’ll get the roof light lead-lighted with stained glass.
Interested in France ? Book your holiday near the famous port of La Rochelle. Go to www.seasidefrance.com or e-mail Sarah [email protected], tel 07840161831