mid century moderniser and friends with a chateau


Old stuff but not THAT old

I love mid -century modern furniture. Although, to be honest, I didn’t even know what that was until a few years ago. You may not know what it is. In short, if you are my age (27 -haha!) its the stuff your parents probably had in their starter homes and threw out when you were about six or seven in favour of ‘nice new stuff’ My parents used to have an amazing massive glass lamp stand with a huge bright orange linen shade which I remember thinking looked a bit odd at the time. They also had a scratchy brown wool sofa with wooden feet that again I hated on the grounds that a)it was brown and b) it was scratchy but looking back it was all deeply cool. So much so, I have essentially recreated the look to go in my kids sitting room in france only the sofa isn’t scratchy or brown. (see above)

The best place to buy mid century modern furniture is of course ebay using searches like G Plan, Eames, danish, or retro. Sadly people these days are very aware that people like me want this old stuff so they charge a premium but if you use plenty of different search terms and DON’T search for mid century modern (cos really only those in the know would use this term – Gladys throwing out her old sideboard in Penge would never refer to it as such!) you can still get some bargains – thanks Gladys!


We have a sideboard just like this in London

Or, even better, you do what we did and you find a sofa lying on the road… this is the story of the yellow G Plan sofa in the picture at the top….

A couple of years ago, I was on my way to our local station to go to work. And on the way there I passed a tired, broken, ripped up old sofa. It was G Plan style and just the sort of thing I love. But the cushions were dirty and torn and it looked terribly sad. And it had been dumped on the street unloved and unwanted. So I did what any sane person would do – I phoned my husband and told him to come down the road and get it. Carry it home on his back and find it a home. He told me to bugger off. He had a point. So I went off up West to work and forgot about the sofa.

A few months later as the tennants were being thrown out of the house we would later buy -which I forgot to mention in earlier blog post is actually six doors down from where we were living – and as part of their clearout they had dumped a sofa on our street outside the house. MY SOFA! It had manage to move closer to where i lived all by itself. Like the Littlest Hobo. Or those cats that cross continents to be reunited with previous owners who moved away without taking them.

So Peter had to go and get it now. The furniture gods had spoken. And so we brought it home and then drove it down to France. And in the meantime we bought an upholstery gun and some staples and a retro fabric from John Lewis who do a great range in 1950/60/70s fabrics called Atomic.


John Lewis fabrics with a retro feel

And I got my sewing machine out and made some new cushion covers for it – with zips no less! And ta da suddenly it looked how it does above. And it had only cost us the price of the fabric. And I love it. Though not entirely snuggly (see above comments about scratchy sofa – the seventies were NOT a time of comfort) it does provide the perfect place for me to sit and read French Grazia in the winter.

But where else can you find such gems IN France? Well, as it turns out this is around the time we met some lovely English people called Stephen and Philippa. They live in an amazing chateau in a village called Aignan – and from there they sell brocante. And they have lots of mid century modern stuff there (as well as properly old stuff too) so I bought my crazy orange lamp and a black leather chair (see below – covered in teddies).


Chair from Brocante Lassalle

And as small world would have it, Stephen lived in Greenwich before moving to France and Philippa is a fashion editor so it was more than furniture kismet that we were introduced to them and their chateau and their brocante. And now we often bump into them on Sunday’s at Vide Greniers and race each other for the mid century gems! And for New Year this year, they invited us over and we felt very grand telling people we were spending new year at a chateau. Which should you have some spare cash is currently for sale. Go on – its a bargain!Image

Where’s my water?


Tom Daley wouldn’t stand for these conditions!

Every holiday home needs a pool. Somewhere to focus the all day lounging. And in the first summer as the temperatures had soared in SW France we had made do with the above. It was even too small for Arthur but Seb rose to the mini challenge (he was behind on the pain chocolat consumption something he would make up for in years to come!)
We had, by now an exhaustive list of local pools of which there are many but they all only seem to open for one month of the year. When we first bought the house and had no hot water I had the genius idea of going to a swimming pool where we would be able to shower/swim/shower (any other combo would have resulted in us getting thrown out for environmental reasons). And so we spent days in our early first visit on a crazy wild pool chase – finding one on the Internet, driving for miles…. Finding it closed. We finally googled an indoor one in Lourdes where I hoped I could bathe in holy water and come out a size 8 but when we arrived at it – it was the one day of the week it closed. So much for spiritual enlightenment.

Even our little local French villages have amazing outdoor pools but they reserve opening for July and August only. I have no idea how the business model on this works but there is clearly little economic sense in opening before then.

We did eventually find one brilliant outdoor leisure complex in Mirande – only twenty minutes drive away which opens in June.


Ludina at Mirande

A combination of three pools, slides, table tennis tables, sunloungers and snack bar – we thought we’d hit the jackpot one June half term when we discovered it open. As we paid our entry fee though, the lady behind the counter eyed us suspiciously – “les anglais?” She posed. “Oui” we said excitedly. “Ah” she said as if that explained it all. We were the ONLY people in there. It was warm and sunny outside but not boiling and as soon as our pasty, white, english flesh hit the water we understood why we were solitary bathers. It was FREEZING. As with most french outdoor pools, there is no heating. So if you happen to be there at the beginning of the season when the water has had little sunshine on it – you may as well be in that bit at the end of Skyfall when Bond tussles under the ice with a bad guy. Obviously so as not to lose face we carried on regardless. The kids feel no cold anyway and were thrilled to have the slides to themselves and I shivered in the shallow end praying for it to be over.

Once it IS July or August though there are loads of great local pools to visit in Marciac, Vic-en-Biggore or Plaisance. And best of all in years to come we discover the Lake at Aignan which is a man made beach next to a gorgeous green tinged lake.


Aignan and on and on….

With slides and a rope park with zip wires and dangerous climbing feats to attempt. The kids love it.


Peter got ready for his bushtucker trial

And we love the amazing restaurant there with prawns the size of small aliens you can crack out of their shells and get covered in prawny juice but not care cos you are in a damp swimsuit anyway! Best way to eat seafood. Which makes sense really – perhaps that WAS the original purpose of the bikini – to eat seafood without spoiling your clothes!


Breton cover up you say?

Of course the easiest way to do some swimming in rural SW France is to build a pool. And this of would have been Peter’s preferred option. In fact he had plans to do this before we even had a kitchen or a bathroom but good sense prevailed – in other words I told him not to be so ridiculous. The truth is, if we did build a pool we could rent our lovely holiday home out for others to enjoy and charge more and find it easier to rent. And readers – I hope in the not too distant – real life we will be doing this, but you’re still a couple of years behind when we had not the finances or the time to do this. So instead we bought an INTEXimage pool which takes days to fill, is freezing cold at first and which Rebecca Adlington may find restrictive in terms of Olympic length swimming, but for our two boys it was ideal. At 15ft across there is plenty of room for them to swim about and for peter to float in a lilo with a bottle of beer in hand at around the 5pm mark. We have none of us worked out yet how to take chips n dips in there with us – but if we did it would be just about perfect.