closing time featured image

Closing Time

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 !

Tiina x

Le Grand Balcon vol II

Bonjour mes amies!

We have really had it made this summer; the weather is amazing and there seems to be an event or a fête on every weekend around the Montagne Noire…  In short – la vie est belle!

Dry, warm conditions make the best renovating weather, if you are not too concerned about sweating like a sinner in church of course, and I have been trying to make the most of it all by painting random bits around the house, such as our back door.  This house sure has plenty of things that need doing up and ought to have a higher priority on my list of projects, but I have a habit of preferring to make small adjustments to the spaces we use the most instead of rushing face first into something big and scary like building a spanking new kitchen or plastering a few ceilings.  That way, I think, it all stays somewhat manageable and we do not lose faith half way through the renovations.

our balcony before

James was home for five-odd days and we had a smashing time watching the Tour de France, seeing friends and sipping copious quantities of rosè; generally talking bollocks and contemplating where to crack on next in this old house.  We have grand plans for our balcony and while the planning goes on, I have avoided doing too much painting or decorating on it in fear of wasting money and time, as practically every surface will be demolished when we start installing new windows, floor tiles and ceiling panels.  Among the many unsightly features of our terrace, a cinder block and concrete wall covering the whole left hand side will be taken down also, to expose the old granite topped half wall still situated behind the cinder block one.  I have personally waited to wish au revoir to this brutalist masterpiece since moving in: the uninspiring colour of its concrete render makes our otherwise lovely outdoor hangout feel a bit like a murky garage.  However, as we are waiting the window folk and a mason to come back with their quotes, it is looking like the works might not commence before next summer.

That would mean almost another year looking at that hideous wall.

And I did say we have had the perfect painting weather…

This little project falls bang in the middle of the small upgrades and little tweaks category – nothing life changing, nor really even permanent, but makes such a difference on how our balcony looks and feels.  I have so many tins of scrap-paint sitting around the house so the cost of this wee improvement was not going to be an issue either.  As we do spend most of our time sitting outside (not always with a glass of rosè though, sometimes we drink gin!) it felt appropriate to splurge a bit of paint on this particular detail that has been bothering me.

Consequently, having found the time from our busy social calendar (LOL, as if), I crabbed my rollers and got to work…

edf

After a coat of white primer, it was time to add colour!  I decided to mix up a light blue-y grey by using some white paint and leftover arty pigments.  This makeshift shade appeared almost as a bright tiffany blue at first but dried significantly lighter and murkier, just as I hoped it would, as in this context even a pastel blue would have been a bit too dazzling for me.  The grey with a speck of blue we ended up with is just perfect, making the space appear fresh and airy.  I was afraid it could all look a bit too “new” compared to the other well-weathered elements of the terrace, but fortunately the concrete render of the wall was so incredibly rough I had hard time getting most of it covered in paint, resulting in an impromptu distressed look.

Lucky me.

I will not be getting back the hour and a half I spend painting this due-to-be-demolished wall, but I see it as a worthy sacrifice.  The balcony looks hell nice and I can go back to enjoying my wine without any intruding thoughts of concrete clad multi-storey car parks.  Win-win altogether, or what do you think?

If you drop in, I will be on our terrace, writing my next blog about painting a tiled floor and raising a glass to all summer projects… Sante!