Interesting how quickly time slides away — and we’re a bit shocked to realise that we are leaving the house that Mark has been working on since November in TWO WEEKS!
We’re headed over to the other side of Normandy for another reno — but it also looks like we’ll be leaving France in mid-June to have some adventures in other countries. Sooooo — it was time to update Mark’s online work portfolio with a LOT of pictures.
Gallery 1 has the images from here in Normandy over the last 5 months. And Gallery 2 is full of the pictures from that huge renovation he did on the Mid Century ranch house in Australia in 2014 through mid-2016.
Want a peek? Then go to Ad Lib Artisans to see what I’m talking about. DOZENS of photos showing the range of the work that Mark does.
We must have lived in a golden bubble during our time in France. I found the most amazing bargains on items that are soon to find a home in our ‘new’ 1950 house in Australia.
I had learned about metis by doing a bit of research after seeing vintage bed linens on sale for stunningly low prices in some rural communities in France. And when you use the phrase bed linen, that refers to the time when sheets and pillow cases were actually made of long wearing linen. In many cases the linen sheets in a household were passed down from one generation to another because the fabric was so dense and sturdy that it practically never wore out. It might have had a mend or two after 30-50 years, but it was still intact. And nowadays, interior designers just love to re-purpose metis and vintage linen into drapes or upholstery because the pieces are always huge size-wise compared to today’s bedding.
Linen is warm in the winter and cool in the summer because it’s a natural fibre and it breathes just as pure cotton does. Metis is a 35% cotton and 65% linen blend and is equally valued by people who appreciate fine bed linens. Just try checking the prices nowadays on Ebay for vintage metis or linen sheets from France!
On several occasions, I found packages of linen or metis sheets that were listed in estate sales and they were — wait for it — pre-World War II pieces that still had the original ribbons around them. The pieces of fabric were simply huge and all they needed was a long (long!) soak in several consecutive containers of gently soapy water to remove the yellowing of age and bring them back to a pale cream hue.
Vintage French bed linens from the 1940s soaking
The seller of one batch, the owner of an estate sale company, said she had opened up a massive linen press in a large country house and found stacks and stacks of never used bed linens that had been purchased and stockpiled before the war began. What a treasure horde that was!
Just before we departed from our lovely hometown of St. Girons, we visited a depot vente (a vast second hand goods dealer in a former mill) and trolled through table after table of bedding sheets that were crisp white 100% linen. Mark and I filled our arms with the best of them and I purchased them for a fragment of what they sell for in boutiques or online.
Vintage French bed linens packed to return home to Australia
More than 2 large boxes of these vintage linens came back with us from France to grace our new home and remind us of a place that seared its beauty into our hearts. I’ll make sure to take pictures once they are unpacked and in place on one of the beds.
And so it begins — the gathering up process prior to construction.
We’re serial renovators since every single house that we have ever owned has been a project. So that probably explains why Mark was not keen for us to buy a brand new house. And truthfully, I don’t mind the idea of taking a run-down property and completely transforming it. We’ve worked together for years running a restoration business both in Australia and on the road in Europe, so none of this is a drama.
We paid a visit to a tile warehouse the other day to pick up the tiles that I had purchased online for the kitchen backsplash. Here’s the vast space below and a sheet of the lovely glass mosaics we’ll be using. I particularly like the way the light will bounce off of them since every little rectangle has been imprinted with the texture of a hessian sack fabric in all sorts of different angles.
Sheet of glass mosaic tiles
Once we got them back to our current (for a few more months only!) residence, Mark placed them on a vintage table that we have sitting beneath a window. I put the paint charts next to them (yes — that’s our ‘old friend’ the Dulux dog on that chart) and right behind it sits the new vintage themed Bush radio that I got for my birthday. That radio is going to be sitting on the kitchen counter and it certainly does go nicely with the colour scheme we’ve chosen.
The new kitchen colour scheme.
The new retro Bush radio will fit right into our kitchen colour scheme!
Perhaps I should title this article “Life In A Tiny French Village — For Now”?
The Midi-Pyrenees village of Engomer
We arrived in the Midi-Pyrenees almost 4 weeks ago and have settled — temporarily — into a house that we are renting in a small village. It’s a pretty little bend in the road, I won’t deny that. But this particular village is so small that there isn’t even a village shop or bakery or any kind of amenities.
River bend in the village of Engomer in the Midi-Pyrenees in France
Pretty and quaint is all well and good, but you know a place is wee-tiny when the post office is only open a few hours in the morning, and only for 4 days during each week. The woman who runs the place was actually quite put out that I wanted stamps for cards and letters to Australia and the USA instead of to other locations in France. Sheesh!
Village post office in Engomer & it is only open 4 mornings a week!
The picture below is of our way-too-large house as seen across the village tennis courts. We rented this house sight unseen at the recommendation of a friend here since she knew we’d be arriving with no place to live and no time to search because Mark would be starting work a mere few days later. It’s charming and fully furnished, but thank heavens we have a month to month option!
Our rented house seen across the village tennis court
For those of you who have followed my writing for years and were familiar with our darling little eco-cottage back in Australia, you will know that a big barn of a place like this is not really our style. The ground floor of this house is as large as our entire little house back in Australia! We are firm believers in a frugal lifestyle with low energy consumption, and this house may be charming, but it certainly won’t be energy efficient. If we want to splash out a bit, we’d rather invest in a new piece of computer or camera or sports equipment — not an electric or fuel oil bill!
A plan is being formulated. Twenty minutes from here is the larger town of St. Girons and that is where I plan to aim my search. We are going to look for a house with a much smaller footprint and a lock-up garage for Mark’s tools and supplies. We are putting the wheels in motion for our household goods to be shipped from Australia as soon as the shipping company can pick everything up within the next week or so.
We had hoped to manage with only one vehicle. But Mark needs the van every day for work and there is no public transport in this tiny spot. In a similar way to our life in Australia, the distances between each village or town means that we are going to be forced to purchase a small car for me. We may have that sorted out in the next couple of weeks and then I can begin the search for another house to rent.
St. Girons is a lovely and old-fashioned market town, but it has quite a lot of amenities. There are narrow streets and tall old houses pressed shoulder-to-shoulder, market squares, and lots of cafes and pretty little shops. It’s the kind of place where you can get out and walk to the shops, the hairdresser, the bookstore, or to a cafe for lunch or dinner with friends. How fab would that be!
As always, I will keep my readers apprised of our progress as things unfold. And thanks for all of the charming off-site notes that you have sent to me privately expressing your happiness about our adventure in resettling in a new country.
Finally, enjoy a slideshow of more village scenes including two shots of the snow covered mountains as seen through our livingroom window.
There could be minor challenges to navigate through or there could be major challenges to overcome for those looking for a budget house to purchase and renovate in France. This crumbling property of an indeterminate age in Naucelle in the Midi-Pyrenees probably falls into the latter category.
Part of the roof was off and the interior had been exposed to the weather for who knows how long. Even brave serial renovators such as we two wouldn’t take this one on!
A bit TOO much of a renovation project in Naucelle, Midi-Pyrenees, France