Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France

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Lavender’s blue, lavender’s green – lavende est bleu, lavende est vert

33 North west 6pm

In early July 2016, we went over to La Maison Bois, to spend our first proper holiday there, i.e. one that didn’t involve a lot of work.  This meant that for the first time we were really able to enjoy the house and use as a holiday home.  We only had 2 weeks because our first guest were due to arrive on 16th July.  Unfortunately, there was a few bits and bobs that we needed to do to satisfy Gite de France and to get it ready for the first guests. One of the most important things was to get the entrance to the house looking more welcoming.  We started this by creating a flower bed at the front, which we then planted with lavender.  The creamy stone and lavender combination is seen throughout France, but probably because it works so well!

Tom also put up our sign a number, 11 bis is official.  The lovely blue number is a great improvement on the piece of wood that we had before.  Hopefully, it will be easier to find now as well.

Well, it just had to be didn’t? It was all about finding a decent version!


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.


Almost there – Presque là

Oh Andy

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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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Wonderwall – Le mur formidable

SLM building the wall cladding

SLM building the wall cladding

Last weekend, Tom took a trip to Montemboeuf to catch up with our builders who were all kind enough to meet him at the weekend.  He managed to sort quite a few problems out, so it was a good job that he went.  Unfortunately, these problems have resulted in more costs for us.  This is a pain and does mean budgets will have to be reduced elsewhere, but this is all part of the building process.  Still, at least now it is all resolved and we do not have to worry about the painting or the kitchen installation. It just goes to show what a difference being on site makes and if we could have been, I think we would both liked to have been there for the whole build.

We also have a date for our kitchen delivery, whoop whoop.  Luckily, it should be delivered and installed by the time Tom next goes out there in July.

SLM Construction also started on our external wall cladding.  I was slightly skeptical of this idea especially when I saw how lovely the timber cladding looked.  I have always loved the colour of this stone, so I was happy for it to be used, I just wasn’t sure how it would work with the timber.  Now that the wall has started, I think it looks amazing and I don’t know why I ever had any reservations. I should by now trust Tom with his design ideas.  You would think I would have learnt to after all this time.  I must take heed when he tells me his new thoughts for our interiors!

In other good news, the sheep are back!  The farmer has kindly erected a fence around our new hedge so that they don’t go nibbling on that.  From what Tom told me we really need them on site because everything has been growing really well – including the hedge and the newly planted trees. I wonder if Jeff (le fermier) will give us one of his sheep?!

Well it had to be didn’t it?  Take it away Liam…

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Veiled in Grey – Voilée en gris

This is where our kitchen will be

This is where our kitchen will be

Although I have been quiet on the blogging front recently, things in Montemboeuf have been moving forward at a pace.  Unfortunately, plaster boarding, and taping and jointing are not the most exciting things to be writing about or to show in images.  They may be an important part of the whole build process, but they don’t get the proverbial juices flowing!  There is quite a lot of house to plaster board so it is not surprising that it has taken a while.

We hope that the plaster boarding will be finished by the end of the month and then work can start on the painting and tiling.  This has meant that we have been trying to chose colours for the house. Fortunately, a lot of the house will be painted grey or white, but with a few splashes of colour.  We have a rough idea of the colours we would like, but when it comes to tones – there is a lot to chose from.  We have also been warned that French paint is not as good as English paint, so we’ve been going through swatches from Dulux, Little Green and a few others.  There really are 50 Shades of Grey!  Grey may sound dull to some people, but if used well and with the correct contrasting colours, it can be very effective.

Tom is also planning to contact our kitchen supplier to arrange for them to come out in July. Hopefully, they can install it in time for our visit in August/September.  In the meantime, Tom and I will be not only be choosing paint, but also furniture and kitchen equipment. Our first guests (my sister and her family) are booked in for late August, we need to be ready for then.  Hopefully, there isn’t a classic ‘Grand Designs’ moment coming up!  Still at least there is a nice Chambre d’Hotes in Montemboeuf if things are not ready!


Over to you Mystery Jets

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Clad all over….. Bardages partout

The cladding starts

The cladding starts

The last couple of weeks in the Charente have been glorious, this has meant that our carpenters have been able to make a good start to the timber cladding on our house.  The whole building, including the roof is going to be clad in Douglas fir.  When we were first discussing the cladding with Marandat, we had the choice of using Larch or Douglas Fir. Initially the Larch cladding does look a little less bright, but as soon as the start to go grey the two woods will look the same.  We therefore decided on Douglas Fir because it was cheaper, but just as good.

Tom designed the timber façade to be open jointed rather than tongue and grove to give the impression of depth, this meant that the setting out of the cladding took a lot of working out and a bit of complicated maths!  Tom and Claude from Marandat eventually agreed on spacing the battens 15mm apart. To ensure the timber battens were equally spaced to the nearest 15mm each section of the building had to be measured and then divided by the spacing, while taking in to account the width of the battens.  Hopefully, once the cladding has finished, nobody will notice if the spacing is a few hundredths of a mm out in some places!

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What you see in these photos is not the finished product, the edges will be neatened up to be the same length and then the ends will be covered with flashing.  The south and west sides that have been put up have already started to lose their slightly pinkish colour.  This does mean that the wood will be changing colour at different rates, but it all happens so quickly that it will not be noticeable for very long. The cladding should be completed by the end of this week and then they will start work on the inside, with the very exciting drylining!

We have also (finally) finished tendering for the screed, tiling, stone wall and decking area.  We now need to decide what tiles to use.  This has proven more complicated than tendering for the person to do the work.  Tom and I have therefore been spending a lot of time in tile showrooms. The choices seem endless and because there are a lot of areas to tile, most of which need different styles, there are a lot of decisions to be made.  One thing I have learned is how expensive mosaic tiles are – almost 3 times the amount of square or rectangular tiles.  I don’t think I will ever look at a tile in quite the same way again!  Whenever I use the loos in the supermarket or restaurant I take notice of the tiles. Sadly, Tom has been doing the same thing, ‘oooo, did you notice the tiles in there?!’

We are also tendering for some of the soft landscaping works, including where to buy the hedging plants for the garden and who to get to do the tree works. I think we have made our decision, with help from Al, it is just a question of choosing the correct plants.  Due to my background I am very keen that we should have a native woodland style hedge rather than the leylandii and laurel that you see in gardens all over France.  We are therefore likely to be planting a mix of blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel etc. These plants will give us colour and the birds fruits and berries.  It also means no leylandii or laurel!

Over the last few weekends, we have been exploring more of France, staying in our general area, but hoping to get a better idea of our surroundings and the Country.  We took a long weekend to Bergerac and Perigord, home of good wine, truffles, duck and foie gras.  Staying in the most amazing Chambre d’hôte in Beaumont du Perigord, we took a couple of trips out to some wonderful Bastide towns.  It made me realise that there is still so much of France to explore and that wherever you go you can always get a decent bag of veg in the local market!


Over to Dave Clark Cinq

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Time to discuss the landscaping! – Temps de discuter de l’aménagement paysager!

Al and Tom discuss our landscape plans

Al and Tom discuss our landscape plans

As mentioned in our previous post our brother-in-law, Al, joined us for a few days in our lovely gite near Salles Lavalette in Poitou Charentes. As a Landscape Architect, we decided that he would be an ideal person to help us with our landscape plans.  A lot of our discussions were around designing the entrance and approach to the house.  We felt that this was important for a number of reasons, including the fact that once we have a habitable building on site, we need to give it some protection and security.  However, it is not something that we can rush either because it is the first thing that people will see as the approach the house.

We discussed a number of options and had a couple of site visits and I think that we all have a similar idea as to what is needed an as to what will work.  Tom and Al also visited a few garden centres near Angoulême to get an idea of what is available (plants, stone, aggregate etc) and the costs involved.  As there is a Pépinières in Montemboeuf, we hope that we will be able to buy some plants from them as well.  We are quite a long way off from planting, but the design stage is in full swing!

Al is now planning to come back to us with a few ideas.  Once we have these we will post them here and on our Design page.