The Grand Salon (or, how we finally painted our sitting room!)


Cosy huh?

When we first bought the ‘house in france’ one of it’s biggest selling points was the sheer size and scale of the rooms. Majestic one could say. Certainly compared to London living where if you can afford a three story shoebox with a postage stamp sized garden its considered living in Versailles! And the french house had rooms the size of entire floors of our London home. And so it was with the ‘Salon’. Too grand to be called a ‘sitting room’ and the word ‘lounge’ brings me out in funny lumps n bumps and certainly not a ‘drawing room’ as we had no intention of withdrawing to it – in fact we intended to spend hours of our time there so we plumped for the french – ‘salon’ when referring to it.

Initially the salon didn’t have a floor. It had rats running through it eating up the broken floorboards and so we closed the doors and avoided it at all costs. But once we’d had some people come in and concrete the floors (sorry Ratty – maybe they’re still there like Han Solo – frozen in time or people in Pompeii having their tea when the volcano hit) we started to use the biggest room in the house.


a bit cosier…

And for Christmas each year we built big fires and had the tree and a couple of sofas thrown in to sit on. The mid century modern sofa eventually ended up in the kids sitting room (see blog post here) but the big squishy grey sofa will remain. It came from IKEA and is a bargainous EKTORP – the cheapest one they do. But as it’s already had children peeing on it and paint splattered over it as part of project redecorate I think it was a wise move not to go for Parker Knoll!

It is essentially the last room we need to decorate and in some ways I’m worried about where my blog will go once I’ve shown you this!!! Although we still have sub rooms and hallways and barns and exteriors to make over. So don’t abandon me just yet.

Once Peter had plastered the most damaged bits of wall (and the Kings Speech style peeling paper had finally been removed) we started painting. I’d had an idea that I wanted this room to be pink. I cant even remember why I got this in my head but I must have seen a pink sitting room in some back issue of Living Etc or some such. And Peter insisted I get an Earthbourne paint as they are clay based and better for our damp walls. So THIS is what I plumped for being the only pink they had at the time. And then we started painting. And we made the kids help…


Who needs kid’s clubs?


Pink to make the girls wink

And it was VERY pink. And we used two whole tins of relatively expensive paint.


our brush with pink

And then it was almost finished and……. I HATED it. It looked like a 10 year old girl’s bedroom. All it needed was some White Company bunting and a One Direction poster and that’s where we’d be. And I knew that I could not leave it like that no matter how much our expensive, clay based paint had cost. So we went back to the drawing board. And the quest for the perfect pink began again…… like Indiana Jones hunting for the Holy Grail – I was looking for my dream paint colour. The quest was on…

Let’s go outside….(aka lazy blog post)

I’ve blogged before about how hard it is to blog while here in France. Not because of dodgy broadband access or writers block but simply because I have no down time. I’m either preparing food, playing board games with the kids or doing basic DIY. (My husband will scoff at this but I honestly do wield paint brushes from time to time – or I do faffing about moving vases from A to B which constitutes valuable DIY in my book – I’m a whizz with a sconce!)

So I decided to blog quickly with lots of pics I’ve taken around and about but not shown you before. Mainly of the exterior. We have lots of fields and even a wood – and there are several outbuildings but we tend to use hardly any of it. The fields and woods are overgrown though Peter spends hours driving his ride on lawn mower around them, like Forest Gump.


And partly as we still need to keep an eye on our, or visiting children, the main action all takes place in front of our house. Which is half gravel, half weed infested lawn with two big hammocks strung between the trees.


And in front of the house is a big table and chairs we use for meals – we even ate out here one Xmas Eve. Sometimes in summer it’s actually too hot to sit out here. And besides, Peter hates sunlight and prefers a darkened room. But for me, this is where the holiday cliches come alive. Sitting around our big garden table laden with stinky cheeses and home made quiche.


And then there are barns, and funny disused bits of ground, and gates and doors that lead to other areas. And we hardly use any of it. But it looks pretty. So here is a lazy blog post picturing my grounds…






How to build a treehouse!


A few months earlier, we’d all ventured as a family to a large house in Northumberland for two friends’ joint fortieth birthday. A stunning, enormous country home with tartan wallpaper, monks’ seats, priest’s holes and presumably some agnostic architectural features too. It was so far north that other party guests spoke of nosebleeds, needing passports etc etc but for me, it was about thirty minutes from my childhood home. I grew up in Northumberland but rarely go back, so despite my southern friends’ initial reluctance, I was quite proud to be able to show them the white sand beaches, fifty foot sand dunes and incredible ruined castles (Hogwarts included!)


So while celebrating Dan and Louisa’s 40th in Northumberland, or more precisely, at this amazing house called Ellingham Hall with roughly twenty adults and twenty kids, we discovered they had a treehouse. And it looked like this….


So excited about this was Peter that he took lots of pictures of nuts, bolts, rope attachments and stair formations. Was he planning a Christian Grey style ‘red room of pain’? Thankfully not, he was instead planning to recreate said treehouse, in our woods, in France, this summer. And the boys would be helping.

Now one of the things that has always mystified (and impressed) me about my husband is his ability to build things. He just knows where nails and screws and things need to go in order to erect structures. He knows how to put pipes into things to get water to go to it or poo to go away from it. He also knows how to cut things at angles. This is the cleverest thing of all – AND I’m the one with the maths A Level (I’ve also got economics A Level though and my bank manager would surely scoff at that one!). And so it was with project tree house. He trotted off to Bricot Depot for wood and then started sawing things at angles, convinced that he knew in his head how this was all going to look. And the boys helped by passing him screws.

Or by pretending to saw their legs off, or my head off. And Peter grew tired of our lack of commitment to wood cutting at certain angles and basic construction techniques. So eventually we all went in and watched a film, leaving him, like Charactacus Potts banging and sawing away in the woods.



Come and look! He finally shouted. And we dutifully trooped out to see the framework all done so that it looked like the pic above. We all ooed and ahhed about how fabulous it was – Arthur momentarily looked up from his Nintendo to declare it ‘Epic’ and Sebastian tried to climb up it without a ladder.
“Ah no, just wait a sec,” said Peter, “I need to make one crucial adjustment to this nail here,” he continued, wielding his electric drill.
And then with one unscrew, we watched as plank by plank, it toppled to the ground, like those dominoe topplers who used to be on Roy Castles Record Breakers. Not a scrap of wood was left standing. The treehouse lay at our feet.

At this point I would probably have burst into tears and given up on the whole thing, but Peter simply shrugged and said it would be easy to fix – after all, the hard bit had been cutting all those angles. So he started again and with a couple of design based ideas from me it looked like this.

Apparently this is phase 1 which will be added to with other houses joined by rope bridges. One day I’m told it will be just like the one at Ellingham Hall. Trouble is, by then out kids will be in their late teens. Oh well maybe one day we’ll have grand kids!!

Renovation recap

So where are we at with this house? We’re having people to stay so it must be quite close to being done right? Well. Here is the thing. Bits of it look nice. The bits I’ve shown you. The kitchen, one bathroom, two and a half bedrooms and the barn now has a floor. (Mr Landauer the gardner came with gallons of cement, tonnes of gravel and excitingly for the male members of the house – a digger/tractor thing *technical term)


Le Tracteur thingy


First put down ten tonnes of gravel


Then pour on gallons of concrete…

And we have a table tennis table, swingball (another great 80s throwback – Pete and i dress up as John Lloyd and Chris Evert while playing for authentic feel) and a massive hammock for the garden. But inside? There is A LOT still to be done. And when friends come to visit we feel bad making them holiday and DIY, so work slows down. And if we have friends to stay then we feel bad going off and painting or plumbing, with a casual ‘help yourself to a slice of Brie’ so work slows down. So I must at this point thank Stuart for his Herculean efforts while technically ‘on holiday’ as he did spend an entire day, with Peter painting the ceiling in one of our dingiest rooms. And to our friend Mr Candy for his mini-break with Peter to install top floor windows in the early days. It was, and is, MUCH appreciated. And now that bits of the house are habitable, Peter can’t really justify heading over alone (or with Mr Candy) to ‘make essential advances in wiring’. So things have slowed. Considerably. And as this blog is being written in the past I thought it might be good to have a recap. Its roughly May 2011 and here is where we are at…



Vic began to wonder if her lamp choice made her a basket case?

2. Downstairs bathroom


Wouldn’t you just die without the Metro tile?

3. Master Bedroom


It was time to clear out the dead wood

4.boys bedroom


La Carte SVP

5. Upstairs hallway


1. The top floor!

On our top floor are two massive attic rooms. My goal is to make one a master suite with freestanding bath. The other is to become a ‘dorm’ for our younger guests. But right now they both look like this


Nice for bats!

2.The entrance hall

Not exactly Southfork is it? This is first thing you see if you enter via the enormous front door. Pete has done some plastering and some painting but there is still quite a bit of work needed.


3.The downstairs bedroom

This is going to be a guest room. It has the finished bathroom attached to it and at the moment you have to walk through this to get to the bathroom. Note it DOES have a radiator. Not quite hooked up yet. I might let Pete explain the heating to you all – it is beyond me! This room once had a loo in the corner of it so at least that has gone to the dechetterie (french for tip) and it has had a coat of white paint by this stage – it WAS worse than this at one point!


Its all white really

4. The grand ‘salon’

We rather pretentiously refer to this room as the ‘salon’ because sitting room just doesnt seem right. It is huge. It is grand. And one day it will be a salon. But right now it looks like this…. we did around this time have Mr Landauer come in and concrete the floor so we could at least walk through here without stepping on a mouse or rat or some such scurrier. But I thought I should give you the ‘basic’ picture.


Its all gone a bit ‘kings speech’

5.The worst room in the world (indeterminate eventual usage)

Look at this! Truly the ugliest, dirtiest room in the world. This is pretty much the worst room we had to contend with with a horrid huge water tank that took hours of sawing and yanking just to get it off the wall. And incredibly when we first visited the house this is the only sink we had and we used to USE it! But reader – this room will in about a years time from now become awesome. Just wait!


Cup of tea anyone?

6. The Dining Room

But not one you’d really want to eat in. All these not so nice rooms are connected to the nice rooms so even if you are sitting in the lovely kitchen having a glass of rose – if you need to wee in the lovely bathroom you have to walk through any two of the above to get there. Which is where flip flops have become essential items.


Pink to make the boys wink

7.The Top Floor bathroom

Yep. Check this baby out? Holes in the ceiling. A bucket to collect the water that pours in up here and no floor whatsoever.


Can I have a pee please Bob?

So thats it. Nice right? Want to come for a visit yet? Maybe leave it another few months? And see what we get up to?