Renovating the old French farmhouse – the start

Written by on May 7, 2012 in My French House
My French House Nina Campbell fabric

Nina Campbell fabric – the dream

As a project manager in a previous life I am inclined towards being organised.  The Other Half – despite having been in several jobs that have required it – is not remotely organised.  This can be a bone of contention when it comes to the work schedule in our French farmhouse – and that is putting it lightly.

In our approach to this massive renovation job in France – I favour lists, target dates, milestones and tick boxes – he likes to be creative, a free spirit, laissez-faire.

When we first started to renovate the house, we tried it my way.  I made lists, created tables of jobs with dates for completion and dependencies.  For instance we couldn’t install a bathroom until the septic tank was dealt with, we couldn’t set up the tools we needed to do the work until a floor was laid in the workshop – that sort of thing.  He thought I was being bossy and controlling.  He does not take well to instruction or, frankly, suggestions.

So, we tried it his way.  We would buy materials – get them home and on occasion store them for weeks, months, years in some cases when it became apparent that we couldn’t progress some jobs – until others were done.

My French House the hall - the reality

The hall – the reality

Eventually we worked it out – after a fair amount of arguments and trial and error. I have my huge book of work schedules, very detailed, every job that needs doing on a room by room basis.  I release the work in stages onto smaller worksheets and try not to be bossy and order things to be done!  I do all the targets, dependencies, timelines etc quietly and in private and I don’t bother him with them – I don’t use any fancy online tools that he can’t use.  I use simple excel and it works perfectly.

I also act as chief ‘gofer’ – go-fer this and go-fer that.  He is firmly The Guvnor when it comes to renovation work and when we’re in building work mode – I don’t argue, demand or suggest anything – we do it his way!  That is unless I feel very strongly about something… he has a tendency to want everything tidy and straight, I think that there should be some acceptance of the fact that parts of the house are 400 years old, it used to be an animal shelter and we should accept and acknowledge its quirks.  To be fair, he usually gives in as I can argue my case til the cows come home (in the field at the bottom of the garden!).

I fetch and carry his tools, breeze blocks, wheelbarrow loads of sand – whatever is needed.  I tamp down the concrete floors while he mixes and wheels the heavy loads about; I paint the walls and ceiling – not the Guvnor’s favourite job, in fact he hates it but I actually enjoy painting. I think its probably a legacy of going to work with my dad when I was three years old – he used to paint advertisement boards. I am also chief tea maker and I make lots of it – we get through about 120 teabags a week between two of us. I get to decide the look for the house.

My  French House the bathroom

The bathroom – dreadful reality

I choose  all the colours, I take pictures from magazines and books and show him what I want – whether it’s a look for a room, a style of cupboard, a table or desk – whatever.  If its furniture – he can pretty much replicate whatever I show him and often comes up with new ideas to enhance pieces.

My main influences are Nina Campbell and Terrance Conran.  Mr Conran has a home in France and I came across some photographs of it in an old book years ago, I’ve kept the book and used to hanker after a gorgeous kitchen like his – I love his country style approach but with flair.  Nina’s style is very English and very chic. Years ago I worked for a millionaire in Mayfair and one of my jobs was to manage a project with the designers and decorators who were doing up his Mount Street flat.  Nina designed the curtain fabric – it was magnificent.  I have all of her books and read them over and over trying to absorb some of her know-how and flair. I scour ebay and the website for her fabric at a price I can afford and it takes a while but I have managed to purchase some which I will make into curtains and cushions.

My French House chandelier to be re-wired

Chandelier to be re-wired

The OH is very talented and skilful and almost completely self-taught when it comes to renovation.  He is also determined that we carry out every single piece of renovation and restoration ourselves, this includes such diverse requirements as rewiring an old chandelier that hasn’t been used since pre World War II.

Before we came to France he undertook several building courses and qualified in all of them – plumbing, plastering, bricklaying, electrical installation, roofing and rendering so that he would be able to do all the work without help. He was already a qualified carpenter but he took specialist courses in cabinetry and routing so that he could build the armoires and pantry cupboards I like the look of.

We still have a long way to go but I really believe we are actually making some progress – here’s my “short-list” of all the jobs we’re doing!

 

Related Articles

My Good Life in France in pursuit of the rural dream house!

When I first set eyes on the run down, neglected and frankly horrible house I now call home, I never ever imagined that so many years later, I would still be working on it! It was a chilly day in February, sleet fell making everything look rather drab and bedraggled, a bit like how I […]

Continue Reading

Old French house renovation | The Gym

I bought a wreck of a farm house in France. Dirt floors, corrugated iron doors, holes in the roof, rising damp, descending damp… you name it, this house had a lot of issues. I wasn’t daunted, I knew it had potential. I had dreamed about doing an old French house renovation for years. After a […]

Continue Reading

Renovation in France: Hall of the old French farmhouse

When I bought the old French farmhouse it wasn’t the hall that sold it to me that’s for sure! A horrible dark, damp and smelly room consisting of breeze block and chalk block walls and a rather unattractive tiled floor which had been covered with ugly carpet. There was a 40cm high step into the […]

Continue Reading

The Pig Shed becomes a posh spa

After the external structural work was begun (roof tiles rain down) and the rebuilding was finished (a phoenix arises from the rubble) – it was time to work inside the pig pen. The OH who is the Gov’nor when it comes to building, instructed me, the apprentice, to do the painting of the horrible black, […]

Continue Reading

Renovating in France | A phoenix emerges from the rubble

Having removed the roof from the old pig shed (and survived being knocked out by a roof  tile dropped on my head) – we now had an empty three walled shell. It was time to move the hot tub in! Yep – the pig shed was earmarked for an Italian hot tub bargain that I had […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed
Top