Update update!

Argh – I have neglected my blog. I feel bad about this as I was so passionate about keeping it up to date for so long. I think the problem is two fold…

  1. I was playing catch up, telling our story room by room with historical photos and tales. Now I am in essence updating in real time so have much less to work with.
  2. The changes we are making now are much less seismic. We are even re-renovating things we renovated when we first moved in.

But just to get you all up to speed on progress – here are some pics from this summer. A summer where we were visitor free for the first time since we bought the house so in theory we should have had loads more time. Our first project was to redecorate the kitchen.

Here is how our kitchen looked when we first bought the house, complete with Flintstones grotto..


yabba dabba do!


And here is how it looked once we’d painted and added in a kitchen.


overtly olive in 2011

But this summer we decided to give it an overhaul. It was the first thing we decorated when we moved in and as such it was looking a bit tired. And I’d also tired of the Overtly Olive walls that we’d plumped for when we first moved in.

So I headed to B&Q and bought myself many tubs of Valspar Smoky Lashes and some Dulux Egyptian Cotton. And voila – add in a metal sign we found in a Vide Grenier and we have a brand new kitchen. The ceiling still needs to be painted but we both feel a it sick at the prospect of forty or more in between beam sections.

Next visit I am replacing the floor but may stick with a black and white theme as it feels like part of the house.

And I simply can’t part with the ‘ugly chair’ I bought after a fight with a woman in IKEA’s bargain corner. It was one of the first things we got when we bought the house and just needed anything to sit on. It has housed the bum of all our guests who sit in front of the fire checking their emails or reading a book and despite stains, burn holes and general wear and tear, I think it has to stay.

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What colour should we paint our shutters? (part deux)

20140804-113627-41787089.jpgApologies for the prolonged exterior painting blog. Like those films that wend on and round and just when you think they’ve ended it turns out there’s still another whole section. Like The English Patient. Or Atonement. Or Legends of the Fall by the end of which I was shouting at the screen to anyone who came within of five mile radius of Brad Pitt “steer clear – they all die!!!”

And so it is with my exterior painting. I blogged about shutter colours vs wall colours way back here. And happily you all made suggestions, passed comment etc but as with all best laid plans I seem to have ended up nowhere near any of them.

My paint dramas taking my dreams of a dark cream wall with a white shutter from me – or HAVE they? Here’s how that looks so far…


All white?

And once the window frames have been painted white too – it might be calm, serene and sophisticated… So that plan is, to paint all the shutters white (and as they are all in such bad condition they probably need lots of base coating and TLC anyway – check out our Shutter A&E area


Always knew this bit of barn would come in handy for something?

And then – I can take a view. After a long chat with Serge we decided that it might be nice to do at least the doors in a silvery green to match the leaves on my burgeoning lavender plants. (Imagine that conversation in French?) But the truth is I really can’t decide. Anyone got any thoughts then do share. I’m a bit stuck!!


Fifty shades of pink


Not suitable for anyone male and/or over 9

So, to recap… This is the pink I had chosen for my ‘salon’. And I hated it. Sorry Earthbourne paints, it’s not entirely your fault, I mean, this might be nice in a small girl’s bedroom. Possibly with some of those flowery padded letters spelling out ‘sleep’ but it’s just not what I had in mind for my grand salon. I’d chosen pink for my French salon as my London home is a haven of greys, khakis and blues (well my old London home was – the current one is a building site save for my bedroom which is a khaki haven farrow and ball Blue Gray


Farrow and Ball Blue Gray in my London bedroom

In France, as it’s in the middle of nowhere where no one will expect any specific design motifs (rooms without livestock in them are oddities around these parts!) and has huge rooms, I saw it as an opportunity to do things a little less ‘greige’ which is where my pink obsession began. But my salon had to be grown up and not at all girly. #epicfail so far.

This is more what I had in mind….


Maybe a touch girly?


A little more ‘mature’?


Definitely more sophisticated and ‘manly’


Dream room…..

And I know I teased last blog post that I’d reveal what I ended up with eventually. I might spin this out a bit longer – like an episode of Homeland. All WILL be revealed next post…..

a separate summer

‘And ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation’ Khalil Gibran.


Good morning barn

It was the summer of 2010. Before Kate and Wills got married. Before One Direction and when I thought I’d never find a guy as great as my husband. It was the summer we separated.
The school holidays yawned ahead of us like an eternity. Weeks of telling Arthur, who was now 6 nearly 7, to turn off electricals and go outside and kick a ball about. Then remembering that we live on a relatively busy London street and have a postage stamp sized garden, and its not the 1950s. As Peter was to be sole carer of the children over the summer while I went clipping off to work each morning in inappropriate footwear, he began to hatch a plan.

“What do you think about me taking Arthur to France for the whole summer and you staying here with Sebastian?” he mooted one morning over breakfast. Six whole weeks apart? The longest we would have been apart in over ten years. I wasn’t sure. I’d miss him. I’d miss Arthur. I’d be looking after Sebastian ON MY OWN (you may not have met him, but let me tell you he makes the kid in Home Alone look under-resourceful). Id have no one to work the sky plus if it broke! And most of all, isn’t it weird to think its OK to spend that long apart. Does it mean our relationship is somehow flawed if we are able to live comfortably with only Skype to communicate. We’d been married for 11 years at this point and while there were elements of resigned comfort in our relationship – we get quite excited when there is a BRAND NEW episode of Midsommer Murders – I like to think we are also more in love now than when we met drunkenly at a party fifteen years earlier. (He has no recollection of our meeting – in fact the only thing he claims to remember about said party is that a transvestite porn star was there – he’s right but it was LA in the 90s, there was a transvestite porn star at most parties.)

But it made sense. We had all that space in France, a wood, fields and about ten broken bikes leaning up against one another in a barn. In London, we had a Victorian terrace with an urban decked area complete with olive tree and seating area that we had done pre-kids.


The deck factor

And so it was agreed. Seb and I would stay home with Yvonne our amazing neighbour agreeing to look after him until I got home from work in the evenings. Peter and Arthur would spend one feral summer, wearing the same pants for days, existing on bread with Nutella and making plans for an enormous treehouse they would one day build in the forest.


Now that’s a back garden!


a rooftop pool you say???

Seb was really too young to care where Arthur and daddy had gone, and besides I took him to shoreditch most weekends with uncle Richard and he got sole attention, ice cream and swimming in a rooftop pool, what’s not to love? Our Shoreditch summer was really so enjoyable that we forgot to miss our nuclear family. Our new alternative, child free family who drink cocktails at midday, spend hours shopping for fresh flowers and hang out in private members bars DID have a certain allure….and besides, my boys overseas were happy. Eating their body weight and gaining around 6lbs each, their skin the colour of stewed tea (could have been tan, could have been lack of hygiene) and their smiley faces over Skype telling me of trips to Bricot Depot and the time Arthur found a salt n vinegar crisp the size of a saucer!


Its all gone a bit Dalston….

But on the day we landed at Pau airport, reunited for a two week holiday, the sight of their (dirty) faces through passport control made me realise the best thing about being separated for the summer. The realisation that you can’t wait to be reunited.


My husband and a glass of rose! Back together again (husband – obvs we HAVE rose in London too)

Come on kids its like Disneyland but with no water. Or heating. Or Mickey

Look what Mummy and Daddy bought

Look what Mummy and Daddy bought

So I won’t bore you with the year it took us to actually buy the place. There were unusual french laws, strange bank demands and a bizarre incident where Sebastian pulled the 1970s style lace curtain down in our solicitor’s office (a child with taste – obviously). But almost one year to the day after we put in our offer – we had the enormous, Scooby Doo-esque key to the house!

From memory I think Peter went twice before us on his own taking down Calor Gas heaters and some thermals to get electricity and water connected and all that sort of thing. He has his own ‘building blog’ with the deets on it http://www.gensachouse.co.uk


Anyone for scrabble?

And then we all went for a holiday. And there was no water for loo flushing so I learnt how to do this by pouring water down with a bucket. We had a fire to keep us warm in the kitchen and nowhere to sit except for four old wooden chairs we’d taken with us.

And it was AWESOME! We discovered the joys of the local Super U – ate out – A LOT, met our neighbour Serge – more on him later, discovered the joy of the vide grenier (literally translated it means Empty Attic and is the french equivalent of a car boot sale but with the odd hidden gem!
And we spent our evenings in front of our fire, drinking wine and planning. Planning how we would transform our new french home. Thinking of how we would redecorate each room and how to best utilise the space. Dreaming of a time when we would come here and it would be warm, comfortable and chic. And until then we were happy as it was. Happy with Scrabble and a bottle of Madiran. A steak cooked on our Smeg range we had driven down with us in the back of our car bought on ebay. And happy to go upstairs and see our two boys sharing a room with a fireplace big enough to climb into. Like something CS Lewis would have written about. And if you think I’m exaggerating about just how bad it was…


One day this will be a dining ro

flinstones grotto - we still have no idea why?

flinstones grotto – we still have no idea why?

the only working (ish) bathroom

the only working (ish) bathroom

Its just like a boutique hotel really

Its just like a boutique hotel really