lespetitesgarennes

Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France


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Whispering grass – Pelouse chuchotement

la maison bois, charente, timber, eco, holiday home, gite

The house is finished and ready to rent!  We already have 6 weeks worth of bookings so far, which is very exciting for our first year. Tom has been back to the house a few times to meet with Sawdays and Gite de France to discuss our ratings and advertising.

We have also added a balustrade to the terrace.  We felt that the drop was just a little too high.  Tom designed it to match the house and we found a great local guy called Chris to build it for us.  Despite this not being something we wanted but realised that we needed, we feel that it has turned out really well and Chris did a great job.

la maison bois, charente, montembouef, architect designed, timber

The new balustrade

As you can see from the image above the grass is doing nicely.  It still has a little bit of growing to do and we need to tidy up the posts that can be seen, but there will definitely be a useable garden space in time for our first guests. There is also still some planting to do and I think at the front of the house we will go with lavender.  The purple of the lavender and the cream of the stone will always be a winning combination!  We had the trees at the front of the house pollarded.  Whenn they grow back they will have a much thicker look and give the house some more privacy from the road.

La maison bois, charente, montemboeuf, timber, eco, architect

The front of the house

Chris also did a lot of the snagging works inside the house.  We know have wardrobes in all the rooms and the architraves and skirting have been finished.  It is amazing what a difference these little touches make to the house.

We will be back in the Summer and I for one can’t wait.  It will be almost a year since I was last there and so much has changed.  If you are interested in renting the house, please visit our website where there are a lot more photos and information about the house.

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We won! – Nous avons gagné

Tom explains the design of the house (in French!).

Tom explains the design of the house (in French!).

Although we didn’t want to Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de L’Ours avant de l’avoir tué we were quite hopeful of success when we saw that our house had been used as the main image for the marketing of Prix Regional Construction Bois.  As luck would have it, we won first prize in the Maison Individuelle category!  Tom had to go to Niort to pick up the award and then give a speech in French to the other winners, runners up and judges!  He said that everyone was very complementary about the house and the design.

All the winners

All the winners

As winners of the Poitous Charente regional award we are automatically entered in to the national awards.  There is no date for when these will be, but we will probably be up against houses in Provence and Cote d’azur! But hey, I’m not to sat that this will happen quand les poules auront des dents – because you never know.

 

 


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The big event of the wooden building – Le grand rendez-vous de la construction bois

Présentation des projets du Prix Régional Construction bois 2015

Présentation des projets du Prix Régional Construction bois 2015

We have written about the organisation Futurobois a few times on this blog.  It was recommended to us but the regional Architect that we contact them to talk about our build.  The Architect also thought that they could help with suggesting a builder who could build to the specifications that Tom has designed. For those that don’t know  Futurobois is an inter-professional association of timber companies in the Poitou-Charentes region, including all firms, from logging, to architects, to sawmills, coopers and carpenters.  They also assist professionals in the responsible and sustainable development of their business, through collective or individual actions.

The also happen to hold a Regional Wood Awards which celebrates buildings made of timber that have been built over the last year. Now in its 11th Year, the event, ‘Building with wood;’ is being held on 29th January 2016 in Niort.  Tom and our builders Marandat entered the competition, but are yet to hear if they’ve been short listed.  However, the programme for the day has been released and we are chuffed to see that Tom’s building has been used on the front cover!  Even if the house is not short listed, this is great advertising, everyone who attends the conference will see his design and you can’t get much better than that!


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Almost there – Presque là

Oh Andy


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Come together – Venez ensemble

Always check your IKEA bits

Always check your IKEA bits

Here we are in France, 3 weeks of putting the (hopefully) finishing touches to the house.  So much had happened since I last the house that I was very excited to see it. The week before we were there, my sister and her family stayed for a week.  They had to do a bit of indoor camping because unfortunately the kitchen hadn’t been fitted in time for their arrival.  I hope they still enjoyed themselves though – at least they were able to have a hot shower!  Sadly for them, the kitchen started to go in just as they were about to leave and was ready to use by the time that we arrived.  The kitchen may be have been delayed, but it is well worth the wait.  It is much nicer than the kitchen we have at home and is great fun to use.  We were lucky to find our kitchen fitter because he was able to help out with a lot of the other jobs that we needed to do.  There was no way that we would have been able to work on the flooring, skirting, wall cladding and other bits and bobs if he hadn’t helped us out.  We are very grateful to Matt for all his hard work.

During our first week, Tom spent a lot of time fixing lighting in the rooms.  It is all well and good having a shower or going to the loo with the door open when it is just the two of you, but when there are a lot of builders around, it is a good idea to have the door shut!  My DIY skills amount to painting and fixing towel rails and it was a little too early for that, so I was on Supermarket runs and Lego building with Molly.  Neither of these things are particular hardships, although letting me loose in a French supermarket may not necessarily be the best idea.

I was able to help Tom with the storage for the living area.  He had worked this all out very precisely on IKEAs design page which then kindly gave him a list of all the bits he needed.  All of this was included on his mammoth ‘three trolley’ trip to Bordeaux IKEA, but something went wrong and a few bits were missing and a few bits were left over (a door rather than the vital screw we had forgotten to use).   Off we popped to IKEA once again, but got round in record time and didn’t even stop for meatballs.

We also went to the Mairie to talk about bins and rubbish collections.  I know that even though the translation of Mairie is Mayor, he isn’t the same as our Mayor in Lewisham, I still found it funny that we had to talk to him about our bins when at home residents have to ring a big call centre in a Council building somewhere.  I work in the same office as the people whose role includes dealing with problems of missed collections and missing bins and I know that they like me would find it amusing.  I can never imagine a situation where Tom and I would walk in to Lewisham’s Town Council Chambers to talk to the Mayor about getting a bin.

 

We have just started the second week and things have moved on massively.  It was a flurry of excitement and activity here on Monday (yesterday).  Thromas – our plumbers and electricians – came to install shower screens, heated towel rails and some of the lighting.  This was the lighting that needed scaffolding to install so Tom wasn’t able to do it.  It is amazing what a bit of lighting can do to a room.  With these major jobs done there would be a lot less dust being created.  This meant we could put furniture together and remove plastic coverings from the windows – the later of these activities certainly made the place feel a little less like a building site. Flapping plastic in never a good look. With the furniture in place we were finally one the way to having a home.

On Thursday, Fred (French Fred), the man doing our earthworks is starting.  Hopefully, by the middle of next week we will have a driveway, footpath and some useable garden at the back of the house.  This will make a huge difference to the look of the house.  Removing plastic from the windows does help stopping the place look like a building site, but the piles of earth and stone all over the place do nothing for the look of the house.

I’m off to do some more cleaning now, we’ve got guests coming in a couple of days, so we need to get things a little more tidy – I think you put up with a lot more when you’ve been living with it for a while.  I’ll report back soon on our progress…., but it really is all coming together….!


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Hello walls – Salut les murs

The wall is complete!

The wall is complete!

The wall is complete, and doesn’t it look great!  We are so pleased with how it looks, and I think our mason, Stuart is rather proud of himself as well.  All it needs now is a bit of lavender, landscaping and lighting and it will be perfect.  When the sun is shining on it, that creamy stone is going to look fantastic.  It really has been a labour of love for Stuart and you can see that in the details around the doors and windows.

I think that the stone wall really adds something to Tom’s design and while I think that if we had clad the whole building in timber it would have also looked great, this wall adds a whole new dimension.

The wall and timber cladding

The wall and timber cladding

The wall also extends to the pergola, which will make the area in to a really lovely, warm and sunny spot.  I can’t wait to get over there an see it.  I am also not sure we’ll be able to resist sitting on the pergola with something cold and delicious – even if we are surrounded by building equipment.

Hello Faron Young!  (I tried very hard to find something other than Pink Floyd, and I manged, just)


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Sometimes all I need is the air that I breathe – Quelquefois, tout j’ai besoin est l’air que je respire

Air tightness test

Air tightness test

The results are in….

At the end of February we had an air tightness test. Achieving a good level of air tightness is important for the energy efficiency of the building.  The benefits of improved insulation and more energy efficient heating systems such as the ones was have installed would be lost if warm air leaked out of the building and cold air leaked in.  Too much air leakage can lead to unnecessary heat loss and possible discomfort, which anyone in the house would feel as draughts.   To carry out this test, the company arrived and fitted a temporary airtight screen to our front door.  They then mounted a big fan to the screen which blew air in to and out of our house so that they could create a pressure difference between the inside and outside of 50 Pascals.  To pass an air leakage test in England and Wales, a home must achieve an air permeability result of 10 m3/(h.m2).  By the end of our build we will hope to achieve 0.6 m3/(h.m2) which is far in excess of UK building regulations and is almost Passivhaus standard which is 0.2 m3/(h.m2.).  At the end of this interim test we would not expect to achieve our desired result, but doing a test at this stage would allow us to seal up any major leakages through the construction. It was all quite exciting on the day and as we waited for the results.  The results came in and….we achieved 0.8 m3/(h.m2). I think this far exceeded what Tom expected to achieve at this stage, so he was very pleased that when they ran the test again they attained the same results!

It’s all yours, The Hollies….