After a long hot summer spent by the foot of the Montagne Noire, I have just about a week left before I’ll lock up shop and return to Somerset for the winter. I’m in no means ready to go – it feels like I merely scratched the surface on this year’s renovations, but daily grind is calling… and I do miss James who has already returned to the UK work.
The last few days have been a combination of trying to enjoy the last of my time in France and tying of loose ends, finishing half painted walls and hanging missing shutters… and although it does not feel much right now, I am glad to be able to wipe these little jobs off the agenda. The most important one, started when my mother was still here, was to give our entryway a fresh lick of paint:
Less than an entryway per se, but a forbidding corridor, our hallway has been my least favourite part of this house since we moved in. Despite of the stunning patterned tile right as you walk in, the walls were dirty and where they were not covered in mismatched patches of sage, electric blue, cream or brown paint, the plasterwork was, to put it plainly, falling apart.
Well, I describe it as plaster, but in reality a lot of the framework of our house consists of, in a need of a better term, construction waste, i.e. cement and sand combined with plaster. This stuff was used widely in the beginning of the century as it was cheap and relatively easy to mix up, but unlike pure plaster, it rarely ages well. For one, it cracks to buggery with changes in temperature & humidity and if that isn’t enough, it literally disintegrates from a slightest of punctures. Imagine hammering a nail into a wall made of this stuff – that tiny little pinhole can, and will, easily turn into a fist sized crater.
At some point, sixties or seventies I recon, the previous occupants must have gotten fed up with their crumbling walls and simply covered the holes and cracks with a hearty layer of wallpaper. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. However, when we moved in, the 90’s wallpaper, that had not been desperately well hung in the first place, was peeling off and mouldy so we had to get rid of it as a priority, exposing the hot mess that lay under the filthy surface.
To rectify the situation I would need to demolish all existing “plaster”, all the way down to the houses stone and timber frame, and start anew. I have nothing against doing so, eventually, but I am going to have to sell a few more paintings before I can afford that. So, to make sure we will not return to a house where half a wall has crumbled to dust over winter, I decided to add a stabilizer: good old white emulsion.
Paint, as you may or may not know is pigment suspended in a liquid, most commonly in an oil or acrylic based solution. In a way, to offer coverage and stability, paint needs to act as a low level glue, to adhere to the surface being painted and this is where things get interesting. My turn-to-dust-plaster walls crumble from the slightest touch, but introduce a bonding agent, such as acrylic emulsion, and you increase your chances of keeping this stuff up on the walls until you have couched up enough cash to do the job properly.
These walls had been painted before, in a sort of sage green colour. This was originally paired with mahogany stained pine panelling, later painted brown followed by electric blue and finally haphazardly tinted cream. With the help of my mum, I was finally able to lay that particular colour-monster to rest, deep under several layers of matte white paint. Damage control, to say the least, but I can finally return to my wine and cheese without needing to worry about this particular problem… at least for another year or so.
I will be packing off to England soon, with a heavy hear, but that need’t be the end of Chez Nous N°21! This blog started out chronicling the ongoing renovation of my century old abode, and I want this to be at the hear of it, always, but at the same time I would love to keep writing while I am not actually… well, renovating. I am sure I’ll be able to come up with more exciting content from the other end of the pond, but tips on what you like reading about are always appreciated – just drop us a comment or get in touch via social media.
Until then – à tout à l’heure !