lespetitesgarennes

Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France


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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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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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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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These wires are out of control – Ces fils sont hors de contrôle

Kitchen wires

Kitchen wires

Apologies for the lack of posting recently, but life sort of took over.  Molly started nursery, but was then sick and I was due to go back to work, but then also became ill.  I have just about recovered now and I am recuperating in France! Sadly not in Cannes where most people seem to go for that sort of thing, but La Rochefoucauld is very lovely!

We are also a little behind schedule, but inevitably these things happen.  Unfortunately, not having been on site for six weeks has meant that things have moved more slowly than expected.  Even though we are behind on the program that the builders had given us, the site had changed considerably in 6 weeks.  Externally, the site is looking a lot tidier for a start which makes the approach to the house a lot more welcoming.  This is further helped with the very beginnings of the landscaping. We’d contracted ‘An English Nursery in France’ to plant a hedge for us and to do some tree pruning and the work they did has made a big difference to the front of the house. Hedging plants seem to be very expensive in France.  We were very keen to use our local pépinière, but it would have been cheaper to buy the plants in the UK and drive them over.  This of course, would have not been very good for the plants! 

The pergola had also been finished and we were now able to see Tom’s design of a seamless continuation of cladding of the house and pergola in action.  I can’t wait to be sitting there with a glass of pineau watching the sun go down.  I am sure some of you would like to join me!?

However, it is on the inside of the house that the biggest changes have happened.  We now have some walls, ceilings, the beginnings of a staircase and lots and lots of wires, pipes and ducts everywhere.  As I have mentioned before, it is difficult to imagine how the layout of the house will look or gauge the sizes of the rooms from the architect’s drawings. When we were last in the house, before the partitions went up, I could not visualise the space and wondered how we would fit two en-suite bedrooms downstairs.  Visiting the site again, with the partitions up, I can’t believe how large the areas are.  It just goes to show that you really need to see a house with internal walls before you worry about the space!

The walls that have been put up enabled us to see that all important framed view that I had wanted Tom to design right from the beginning of the project.  It was very exciting to finally see it. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks all the walls will be up!

We now have a bit of careful time and project management to work on.  It is also vital that the interaction between our mason, plumber, electrician and main builder works as smoothly as possible. We have to time the delivery of our kitchen correctly because there was no way our mason, who is doing the tiling can do a good job on the tiling with big kitchen boxes in the way!  It is therefore important therefore that the tiling is finished before we take delivery of the kitchen, but this meant that first fix plumbing and electrics had to be finished before the tiling can start.  This organisation of the trades was going to be difficult once back in the UK, so we will have to keep our fingers crossed that until Tom can get back to site things run smoothly with all the trades!

 

Over to you Franz Ferdinand


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Hope in the Air – l’espoir dans l’air

South facade and pergola

South facade and pergola

The scaffolding is down and the pergola is on its way to being finished – it has been a busy week on site!  The building is beginning to look like the original concept sketches that Tom did almost a year ago.

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We only have a week left in France before we head back to the UK.  There are still a few things that we need to sort before we go because we will not be back until Easter.  It is hard to choose tiles and flooring when you are not around to see them in the shop.  Still, this as finally been decided as has our hedging, decking and walling!

We have an air tightness test booked for next week as well.  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 are lost if warm air can leak out of the building and cold air can leak in. Too much air leakage can lead to unnecessary heat loss and possible discomfort in the house which you would feel as draughts. The test involves regulating air pressure inside the house.  They do this by fitting a temporary airtight screen to our front door.  They then mount a big fan to the screen which blows air in to and out of our house so that they can create a pressure difference between the inside and outside of 50 Pascals.  There is then some more complicated maths to do. To pass an air leakage test in England and Wales, a home must achieve an air permeability result of 10 m3/(h.m2).  We hoped to achieve 3 m3/(h.m2)! We’ll let you know how it goes.

Over to Laura…..


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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!

Anyway….

Over to Dave Clark Cinq