Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lovely, lovely

Why do I do this to myself? I stop blogging for months at a time, then I have no idea how to cover everything that has happened in the interim. And so much has happened over the past few months!

People, we have a house. A wonderful, warm, beautiful, fully functional house that we’ve waited more than four years for. And, best of all, we made a certain addition to the house that really makes it particularly homey. Here,I'll call him Pup.

But back to the house itself. After all those troubles with picking a color, we finally went ahead and ahd it painted. We kind of didn’t have a choice. The painters (well, the masons, who did the paintwork) were insisting that they needed their scaffolding, so we had a make a decision or leave the house unpainted. So, here….drum roll, please….is our house:

It looks pretty good, no? But honestly? It’s not the color that we wanted. It’s too yellow, too light. But the good thing about restoring a ruin is that everything looks good compared to what you started out with. So, we look at our too yellow, too light house, and are happy. Admittedly, sometimes we contemplate it with puzzled expressions on our faces – exactly why couldn’t we get the color we wanted? Why did the painters/masons keep giving us every color except the ones we asked for? – but then, we stop thinking about it because it is just too baffling.

But look at this:

We can't really complain.

The outside of the house being basically done (except for the shutters and the iron window protector thingys, which will come later), we have turned out attention to furnishings, decorations and interior painting. Since we spent all our money getting the house in habitable condition, we’re moving really slow on the interior and spending lots of time at IKEA. Here, for example, is our living room:

Functional. Comfortable. Again, can't complain.

The one thing that we didn’t buy at IKEA was our bed. We wanted something really big and special, and we couldn’t at all find what we were looking for at any store. Then Dawg found a lovely wrought-iron bed of Italian design on the web, and it could be all ours for the low, low price of 2,000 euros! (In case you’re confused, I’m being facetious). So, what we did was take a picture of the bed to a blacksmith (gotta love France for still having artisans like blacksmiths!), and he agreed to make it for us for a fraction of the price. It was delivered in June and we love it:

We bought the mattress at IKEA (or somewhere) but it tickled us that the blacksmith offered to introduce us to a mattress-maker. Can you believe it? A mattress-maker! I love it!

Pregnancy/post-partum hormones made me declare with a great deal of vitriol that Pup would never see the inside of the house until the house was professionally cleaned and the bathroom painted. Our very, very kind and generous friends, Skip and Tollie, gave up a weekend to paint the bathroom with Dawg, and the results were amazing:

We also had an industrial cleaner come in to scrub the house from top to bottom. While someone not so familiar with the house might not notice – I did. No longer do I have to change Lil’Dawg’s clothes twice a day because he’s covered with dust from running around the house. The tiles in the front hallway gleam like they probably have never before. The glass in the windows is bright and clear. And the smell! Our house actually smells fresh and clean! The pigeon-shit smell has been long gone, but it never smelled truly clean until now. I can’t wait until it takes on other scents –like the smell of baking bread, or freshly-cut flowers.

Our last big outdoor project (besides the barn, which still remains an eyesore and hazard - oh, and repairing the wall...and replacing the gate...)is the garden. The future garden, that is. We just spent the weekend with, once again, our very kind and generous friends, doing the back-breaking work that is necessary when you’re preparing the soil to sow grass. But you can read about (and see pictures) of that experience at my gardening blog.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Anybody out there? Help! We still can't decide on the colors for the house! We have to make a decision this weekend! I'm so nervous! We don't want to do the wrong thing! All the colors seem to change depending on the brightness of the day, or the angle at which you look at them, or whether you look at the house individually, or as part of the neighborhood. Oh yikes.

Anyway, for what it's worth, here are the final choices. I know, I's impossible to decide anything from these pics. But please try anyway.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New Gardening Blog

By the way, I've started a new blog just for our yard/future garden. It's called Totally Green: Tales of a Beginner Gardener. It goes into more detail about the mechanics of gardening than this blog does house restoration, but that's mainly so that I actually absorb what I'm learning about gardening. So, if you have an interest in gardening or are curious to know what we're going to do with our yard, drop by!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Color of A House

Sometimes it seems like everything associated with this house is complicated. The latest issue is the question of the color we should paint the house -- not the rooms, but the house's facade.

We have been thinking about this ever since we bought the house, and for years thought we'd have a very, very pale blue house. It seemed that this was the original color of the house and we wanted to restore it to it's original state. But now we realize that the house wasn't blue, as none of the houses in the village (or surrounding area) are blue, and the houses that we thought were blue are actually light gray with pale blue shutters -- the color of the shutters gives the houses their bluish tint.

Our neighbors, having had 4 years to get used to us, now actually speak to us on the street, and lately have been dropping hints about what color we should paint the house. They appear worried that we're going to paint it an odd city-folk color, like hot pink or electric purple. They don't have to worry -- we are actually limited by local law to a certain range colors that are typical of the region.

We have a palette produced by the department (which I guess would be the 'county' in the U.S.) and have been going over and over these colors for months now without resolution. Dawg has become fixated upon a sort of muted orangish-yellow color (peach?), and my obsession remains with having a bluish house, which translates into light gray. In the end, we decided to ask for four samples: (i) Dawg's peach color, (ii) my light gray, (iii) beige, (iv) a very pale pinkish-beige. The painter - who is actually part of the same outfit that did all our stonework - agree to paint a square foot of each these samples on the side of the house by the time we visited next.

We arrived last Thursday, curious to see what our four choices would look like. The painter/macon proudly informed us that he gave us six options instead of four. Here they are:

What's that you say? The image is too small? You can't tell the difference? Okay, here are some close-ups:

Still can't tell the difference? We couldn't either. Which one is peach? Beige? Gray? And why'd he even bother throwing in two "extra colors"? To me, they're all cement-colored with a smidgen of red mixed in.

The painter/macon gave us a long explanation about why he could only get these colors, something about the paint looking different in small samples rather than large. I don't know. What I do know is that if we paint the house the wrong color, it will ruin all our efforts to maintain the original character of the house. There have been missteps with the house, yes, but all on the interior; stuff most people wouldn't notice. If the exterior of the house is the wrong color, though...(shuddering) it will be VERY upsetting.

Seeing that we were completely baffled, the painter/macon brought us a different palette, and told us he could reproduce these colors with more accuracy. Not sure why -- I think he's using a different kind of paint. Anyway, we selected colors similar to the ones we chose before.

I'm really afraid to see what he comes up with this time.

Anyway, I'll leave you with pictures of some other houses in our village. If you have an opinion about a particular color, don't hesitate to let me know!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Deserving A Post All Its Own

I think the most beloved object in the house, other than its occupants, is our lovely Lacanche range-cooker. Remember when we were trying to decide on a color and were leaning towards something vibrant like or tangerine or lemon yellow? Well, happily, in we decided in the end that a neutral color would be best and went with “Frangipane,” which is a fancy way of saying beige.

We abandoned all thoughts of a bright stove while having lunch with friends who had just remodeled their kitchen in tasteful ecru-and-white tones. And as we admired their kitchen, our friend K said, “So glad to be rid of the old one. Don’t you remember? It was hideous. It was orange. Orange!” And I said slowly, “Yes, it was hideous. Yes, it was orange!” At that moment, I knew that we would never have “fiesta-colored” oven. And now, seeing it gleaming in our kitchen, (grâce à Dawg’s parents for his 40th birthday – thank you so much!), we feel as though we dodged a bullet. Even now, every so often one of us will glance over at it and say, “I love this stove." And the other will fervently agree, avowing that no other color would have been right.

Cooking on this thing is such a pleasure. We went with the six-burners and haven’t looked back. On our second weekend at the house, Dawg made a boeuf bourguignon. We only had two burners going at the same time, but we reveled in the knowledge that if we wanted to make another dish, like, say, scrambled eggs and bacon for twenty, we could. There was room for all.

And now, here are a couple of pics of our beauty shortly after it arrived.

Now, I know I'm notorious for abandoning this blog for months at a time, but do stay tuned. Everyone was so helpful with their suggestions for the color for the stove that we were thinking maybe you could help us with another color problem, a major one: what color should we paint the house?

It's not over

So, in my last post I made it sound as if our house was all finished and wrapped up with a shiny, red bow...but that wasn't case. We didn't spend another night there for 3 months. We couldn't, really. The week after we stayed there in November, the place became a filthy, unliveable worksite again. We had the roof redone, the kitchen workspace installed, the old crepi scraped off the house's facade and replaced with plaster, the front stairs replaced, and certain rooms painted white. But now, except for the painting of the exterior and the garden, all major works are finished. And so two weeks ago, we crept back to the house, laden with a new bed from IKEA and a new slide from Lil'Dawg, to see how everything turned out.

It looks great.

The roof went from this:

To this:

The facade went from this:

To this:

To this:

(Okay, not a great picture, but you get the idea - they replastered it)

The kitchen went from this:

To this:

To this:

To this:

Not bad, eh?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

We did it!

It felt something like a dream walking into our house with our bags and baby, knowing that we were coming home for the first time. But after that, it was surprisingly normal. It was our house - the house we fell in love with almost 4 years ago; the house of which we know every square inch. No ghosts popped out at us. No fretful memories of the years of grime disturbed us. Everything seemed the same as it had always been, except much, much better. And that's when I realized that we had done it. Even though we restored the house from top to bottom, we managed to keep house's original character perfectly intact, while eliminating the creepiness.

This was a major goal of ours from the very beginning. During our house-search, we saw many beautiful old places with horrible modern "improvements." Plastic window frames, glass-enclosed terraces, exposed stone where there should have been paint, eye-watering paint jobs where there should have been stone. We decided that we wanted a house that would look almost exactly as it might have in whatever era it was built. Of course, we modernized it with things like double-glazed windows and insulation, but we tried hard to impress upon the workers that we did not want anything that would change the house's inherent character. (And believe me, it was a struggle. You wouldn't believe some of the things that they wanted to do in the name of modernity and convenience.)

So, walking into the house, it felt great to realize that even with all its shiny new doors, windows and walls, it still was a Really Old House.

That said, it was also a Really Dusty House. We hadn't been in the door five minutes before Lil'Dawg was covered from head to toe in dust. Seriously. Just like we'd rolled him in it. I didn't even bother to take off my coat (though I could have! The house was warm!) before picked up a broom and got to work. All that day, we swept, mopped and scrubbed, but when we left the house the next day it was still dusty. I guess it will take a couple of months of repeated scrubbings for the house to realize that it is, finally, clean.

When we weren't cleaning, we were shopping. We didn't have any chairs and after a full day of cleaning, the idea of flopping on the hard floor didn't seem appealing. So we went to a store to find a table and chair set. We were envisioning buying a lovely wrought-iron set; one we could put in the garden when the weather turned nice, and upon which a simple white table cloth and wine glasses would look appropriate. What we ended up with was a ungodly plastic set in dark green. We threw a colorful tablecloth over it, but it didn't help much. The contrast between our beautiful handmade wood floors and the unnaturally-colored, mass-produced, green plastic chairs was just too striking. They will have a short tenure.

That night, we dined on the same meal we have eaten in our little village for the past 3+years: avocado, tomato and Boursin cheese on baguettes. (If you've never had Boursin cheese, you must, as it is more addictive than crack. It is ridiculous that with all the wonderful cheeses that exist in France we always turn to Boursin in times of need, but we do. I don't know what they put in's possible it's not even cheese. But man, it's tasty!) We had wanted to have something more memorable, seeing as it was the first time we'd eaten inside the house, but in the end it was appropriate: our fabulous Lacanche stove will arrive in early December so we won't be needing to eat cold sandwiches any more. Bring on the boeuf bourguignon!

Sleeping there that night was... interesting. We were on an air mattress that was not too comfortable and reeked of plastic. But the thing that took us most aback about sleeping there was the noise. Not from passing motorcycles or drunken revelers, which we're accustomed to from living in Paris, but from the village church . Church bells! Church bells! Every hour on the hour! We go from dead silence...silence so heavy it weighs on your bong! bong! bong! bong!

Now, I specifically recall asking someone about this before we bought the house. Maybe it was the agent. Maybe it was our neighbor, Red. And we were told that the bonging stops around 10pm, starting again around 7 am. But no, it does not! Why doesn't anyone stop this?? I can understand how one might need the clock to ring in times gone past, before clocks stopped being luxury items, but come on! Even the oldest, gnarliest farmer must have a ditigal clock now! That the bell keeps ringing, even though there's no need for it, seems very French to me. The bell rings all night because it has always rang all night, and even if no one likes it, no one can - or should - stop it either. Dawg now wants to be a member of our village's council to campaign against the all-night ringing of the bell.

To be honest, though, the bell didn't wake Lil'Dawg, and the only reason I noticed it was because: 1) I was tossing and turning on the uncomfortable air mattress and so was awake anyway, and 2) I was annoyed that we had been Lied To!

Okay - enough chitchat. I know you want to see pix. But first, I want to shout out to architects #1 and #2 , who are getting married this Friday. Herzlichen Gluckwunsch zur Hochzeit, my dear friends! And thank you for helping to make our house such a pleasurable place to be!

And on to the pictures.... (These are just a taste; I'm putting together a full set on shutterfly).

Living Room



Guest Room

Guest bathroom

Lil'Dawg's room

Master Bathroom

Master Bedroom

Ready to go home....

Outdoor Shots:

Our beautiful View

The Yard

Our Wonderful, Really Old House