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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!


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Tile be there – Carreau être là

Choosing new floor tiles

Choosing new floor tiles

Two weeks ago, Tom, Molly and I took a very quick trip to Montemboeuf to see how things were going with the build. Having not seen the house since Easter, I was expecting quite a few changes, and there certainly were.  The biggest change is of course our wall.  It completely changes the look of the house and it was so good to see Stuart’s handy work in the flesh.  I could see why he was so proud of it.  He is clearly a very talented mason.

Unfortunately, while we were there we discovered that after all the time and effort we took choosing tiles, we found out that our floor tiles were no longer being made and so we had to chose from a new set.  We narrowed it down to two, and Molly and Stuart had the deciding votes because Tom and I preferred different ones.

Stuart didn’t waste anytime in starting the work on the screed and the tiling.  Partly because, we couldn’t do anything else in the house before this was done!  The downstairs tiling in practically finished already, which means Bernard and Thromas (our electricians and plumbers) can start with the second fix!  With any luck, the tiling will be finished by the end of next week.  If all goes to plan, Tom may actually have a working kitchen and bathroom when he goes back in July.

Stuart also started work on the terrace.  it is apparently in the mid 30 degrees at the moment, very hot weather to be working outdoors. Still better that than on the roof!

On a slightly more annoying note, our doors are still not fixed. Doors and big windows always seem to be a moment of high tension in Grand Designs, and it is with us.  They went in easily enough, but now they don’t really work.  The manufacturers have been out a couple of times to try to fix the problem, but haven’t resolved it yet.  I just hope when they do come again, they fix them and don’t damage the tiling.

Oh yes Les Quatre Hautes


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Somebody paints the wall – Quelqu’un peind le mur

Sanding man

Sanding man

As the wall was going up on the outside, on the inside work started on the painting the walls on the inside.  First things first, the whole are had to be sanded to make the surface ready to paint.  The poor chap above was given this task and it looks like he did it on a very warm day. Luckily he still seemed to have a smile on his face!

I will not post lots of photos of paint drying, but it is an important step in the build process, so in needed blogging about!  We still haven’t quite decided on all the colours, but we are getting there. We even roped in our neighbours and lodger to help us choose our colours, but we only got as far as the grey and orange!  We do not have that long to decide because our decorator needs to order the paint from the UK. Paint colours are quite important for the feel and look of the house, so although we don’t have long, ew can’t rush these things either….

The thing about finding songs to match the title of the blog post, or vise versa is that you come across some crackers (and some not so much).  I will leave you to decide which this is.

Take it away Tracy


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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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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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Look through any window, yeah What do you see? – Regardez dans n’importe quelle fenêtre, qu’est-ce que tu voir?

View from the master bedroom

View from the master bedroom, before the windows went in

A lovely view hopefully!  It was a big week this week on site with a lot happening.  Our 3 Velux windows were installed, the ‘crinkly tin’ finally started going up, flooring went down upstairs and the big sliding doors in the living room also went in.  With flooring down upstairs I was finally able to go up and have a look myself.  I am not a lover of heights and ladders at the best of times so the thought of wandering around up there, balancing on timber beams was not my idea of fun!

View from master bathroom

View from master bathroom, before the windows went in!

Anyway, now I have been up there, I was really able to appreciate the views across to the other side of the plot.  It wasn’t the best of days to see it from, but I can just imagine lying in bed with the sunshine streaming in – bliss!

The living room windows

The living room windows

As I mentioned in our last post, we thought we should celebrate the closing of the roof.  So on, Thursday, we took some champagne along with us to site and raised a glass to all our builders. Drinking champagne on a building site, in the cold on a Thursday afternoon is not something I ever thought I’d do.  I think the builders appreciated it anyway and even complimented us on our choice of champagne! Now if a Frenchman compliments you on your champagne choice, then you must be doing something right.

There are still a couple of windows to fit upstairs, but even with the downstairs windows fitted the difference in the temperature in the house is very noticeable.  We also no longer have the wind howling through which makes being on site a lot more pleasant.    Hopefully, the windows will be complete on Monday and then work can continue on the roof.  Unfortunately, a lot of rain is forecast for next week and rather unsurprisingly the builders can’t work on fitting a metal roof when it is wet!

Windows in

Windows in

Another important stage was that we were connected to mains drainage! The Mairie has been promising this for a while, and in the end they came a day earlier than we were expecting! We now have water, drainage and electricity – we could almost move in.

Over to The Hollies….


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The roof, the roof, the roof is on (fire), Le toit , le toit , le toit est sur ​​(le feu)

The roof is almost there!

The roof is almost there!

Well, not quite on fire thank goodness, but it is on! Finally, we can stand in the house and not get rained on. There is still a way to go with all the different layers, but it is one step closer.  There was talk of using scaffolding to get the roof on to the South side, but fortunately they found a way as it was not an expense that we wanted.  We are still hopeful that the windows will be put in by the end of the month, making the building watertight!

Tom is hoping that the carpenters will join us for a ‘Topping Out‘ ceremony  In building construction topping out is a builder’s rite traditionally held when the last beam (or its equivalent) is placed atop a structure during its erection.  According to Wikipedia (that fountain of knowledge) the practice of “topping out” a new building can be traced to an ancient Scandinavian religious rite. A tree was placed on top of a new building to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced in its construction. Long an important component of timber frame building, it migrated initially to England and Northern Europe, thence to the Americas.  Hopefully, it will be Champagne all round, well when in France….

While we were on site today, Tom even took the chance to explain to Molly the insulating properties of Pavatex.  As you can see, she was very excited.

Molly learns about Pavatex

Molly learns about Pavatex

We have also be spending a lot of time in Leroy Merlin, Cedeo and Dupont looking at bathrooms and fencing. Some big decisions need to be made over the next week and we can’t make these without seeing the type of bath, loo, taps and sinks that we will have.  As always it is hard not to get carried away! Slightly less exciting, but just as important is the dry lining and door packages.  Tom is doing his best to get me enthused about this, but compare this to choosing baths and there is no contest.

Rain is forecast for the next couple of days, so I think a trip to Ikea in Bordeaux might be on the cards.  I wonder how the French Ikea experience will compare to that of the one in Croydon?

 


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There’s room enough for two, up on the roof….Il ya assez de place pour deux sur le toit

Fixing the pavatex pavatex

Fixing the pavatex

The roof is beginning to go on!  For the first couple of days this week the builders fitted the purlins on the north and south elevations.  Then today they started to fit the Pavatex and waterproof membrane to the north side of the house.  Pavatex is a high-quality insulation made from renewable raw material wood.  It also gives better protection against cold, heat, noise and fire.

The builders are confident that the north elevation will be finished by the end of the week, but have warned us that the south side will be a lot more complicated because they can’t get the manitou to this side of the house.  Therefore, they have to get the materials to this side of the house and on to the roof some other way.

The roof will be clad in timber, but below that there are a number of other materials.  Underneath the timber there is lightweight metal roof (crinkly tin ‘in the trade’) to help keep the rain out.  Below this is a waterproof membrane (to also help keep the rain out), then woodfibre board (Pavatex), then the purlins with more woodfibre in between.  Below this would be our ceiling.  I am told this is a fairly standard roof style, but if it keeps the rain out, that is fine with me.

Roof detail

Roof detail

New French words I have learnt  (I will expand on this as the weeks go by);

There are some particularly interesting ones this week…..

Placo – Plasterboard
Placo feu – Fireboard
Placo phonique – Acoustic plasterboard
Ossature metal – Studwork

Poêle à bois – Log stove
Parpaings – Blockwork
Concrete – Béton
J’ai  une faim de loup – I’m a hungry Wolf.   I’m reading (or attempting to read) ‘Tintin au Tibet’, in the hope it will improve my French.  (From this you can read that I am just doing it as an excuse to read Tintin)
Hors d’eau – Water tight
Hors d’ait – Air tight
La poute – beam
Poussez les dents – teeth coming through!
Baies coulissantes – Siding doors
Casque de chantier – hard hat.
Sous-sol – basement
La Renouée du Japon – Japanese knotweed


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Our house, it has a crowd, there’s always something happening – Chez nous il y a beaucoup de monde, Il y a toujours quelque chose qui se passe.

Taking shape

Taking shape

Just a few photos to update you on the progress of the house.  These were taken just before Christmas.  Work is due to start on site again tomorrow.  We are expecting and hoping for a flurry of activity.


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There is a house in Montemboeuf – Il y a une Maison a Montemboeuf

 The house arrives

The house arrives as flat pack

Well almost….

Although a little delayed our house in Montemboeuf has finally started to go up.  Tom and I are both disappointed that we can not be there to see the beginning of the process as we had both been looking forward to this part of the build.  Fortunately, our timber frame company have sent us some photos of the progress – and it all seems to be happening very fast!

Our soon to be neigbours have also been kind enough to take a few as well, so at least we will have an idea as to how things are going.  Sadly we will no longer be watertight for Christmas, but at least they have made a start and when we get back in January we will see more of the house being erected.

It has been great to see Tom’s designs finally ‘in the flesh’ (almost).  I am also pleased to see that my portrait window in the bathroom made it to the cut of the final designs!  I also can’t believe how big some of the windows and doors look.  On the drawings it was hard to tell the scale of things, but seeing these images you really get the sense of how great the doors will look once finished.  We are both so eager to get out there and see it for real now.

Joyeux Noël!