FRENCH FIXER UPPER
|Posted on June 2, 2019 at 4:20 PM||comments (456)|
Y: CYN TERESE OFFICE REDO
When I think of Castles, Knights in shining armor come to mind. But those walls of stone, soaking up moisture keeping the interiors cool in summer and colder in winter, eventually begin to rot anything that sits against them for too long.
That is exactly what happened in my small office space in the far north west corner of the house. The fact that a massive downspout right on the corner of the house which drained into a hole in the ground that G only knows where it goes didn’t help the situation very much.
This is how the moist wall looked before, when the wallpaper was falling off. Didn’t have to soak the paper in this room to take it off the wall.
Notice how the wainscot started rotting as well. The entire paneling on the lower half of the room for the two exterior walls had to be replaced.
Mr. Bound once again came through with close to perfection as anyone could get by reconstructing the paneling in the room.
The upper section got the same wall treatment as the dining room.
The lower section had to be painted three times with an oil base cream color paint. Using oil base paint for outer walls that come in contact with moist stone prevents mildew from penetrating the wood.
The gorgeous pocket doors remain the original stain wood color as before.
And Voila, the finished room with a small table just right for a small surface pro.
Until next time …
|Posted on April 2, 2019 at 3:20 PM||comments (90)|
BY CYN TERESE
IT HAS BEEN A WHILE
Whilst we make plans, life happens. I believe that saying is attributed to "Beautiful Boy" by Lennon but the sentiment can be traced back to an article in Reader's Digest written by Allen Saunders in 1957. No matter who says it, it is still a universal truth and we must be flexible enough to go with the flow.
I'd planned on moving on to the kitchen and the bathroom - yes singular - as one in a house with 6 bedrooms! But then I had the brilliant idea to go and paint the radiators in the Salon the same color as the walls to make them less noticeable, which turned out beautifully BTW. So, I decided to do the same in all the rooms downstairs.
You can imagine what happened ... Murphy came to visit and some of the wainscot in the dining room was visibly damaged behind the radiators now that they were removed from the walls.
Within a few days, I noticed some of the wall behind the radiators start to curl like a wet sheet of paper normally does as it begins to dry. I hired Mr. James (Jim) Bound to try and replace the back panels and make them seem like they were part of the original wainscot. I have to say, as usual, he did a marvelous job!
Now, it was up to me to stain the wood to match the semi-deep Mahogany color of the surrounding walls. Although I am a painter by profession, my talent is mostly on canvas.
You guessed it. "I didn't do so good." Stay tuned as I will painfully show you the mess I made and how I chose to fix it. In the meantime, you might just see my tiny office come to life.
|Posted on January 9, 2018 at 2:15 AM||comments (100)|
By Cyn Terese My French Fixer Upper Part Two
A frequently asked question is why did I choose this house? What made this house stand out above all the rest?
If you are following this special blog post and have read Part One, you already know that I’m working on my bucket list.
This brings me to Number 4: It must have stone walls, a wood burning fireplace, a formal dining room, carved woodwork like my father would have created, oak floors, room for an art studio, room for a woodworking workshop, a garage to store my junk, stone fences (like those in Ireland I fell in love with), and a garden to grow my own food.
By using RightMove.com, I began searching for properties in France.
France - Aquitaine, Lot-et-Garonne, Cocumont 200,000 euros
3 bedroom house for sale
France - Centre, Loir-et-Cher, Faverolles-sur-Cher 200,000 Euros
Initially, I placed a cap at 200,000 Euros just to see what I would find. The amount of properties I found was astounding. But almost every one of them needed some remodeling and/or renovating I wasn’t inclined to take on such an endeavor considering the initial price of the property.
1 bedroom flat for sale
Cheviré-le-Rouge, 49150, France 200,000 Euros
So, I reconsidered and thought perhaps I’d consider Flats or Apartments near Paris or Nice. Yes, it’s the two extremes of North and South but at 200,000 Euros? HMMM Maybe not. I'd end up getting a walk-in Closet for 200,000 Euros.
Then, at about page 13, I had a moment where I heard a choir of heavenly angels sing …
the Universal Studios’ a Capella theme song – Pom Pom Pom pommm – Pom pom pom pa – well you know the rest – as I laid eyes on my Rococo Lady, with her rocaille (stone) and coquilles (shell), and that grand circular staircase in the foyer.
My heart was pounding erratically as I was falling in love with my very first house in France! Then I saw the price and realized it was double the amount I was willing to spend considering that I would have to use a good chunk of the money I made selling my previous fixer upper on making renovations to this house. I made a mental note of the property and then proceeded to compare every house I found to my first love and none of them measured up. In the end, I had to set this house aside and face my reality – I had to let it go.
After a year of searching and refining my search, I made a list of a few properties that showed potential. Endless emails ensued while I scheduled appointments with various realtors handling the properties on my list, bought a RT airline ticket to Paris, made reservations at B&Bs, spa hotels, etc. for three days in each location, and finally, rented a car to traipse around France.
After the last realtor showed me the very last property on my list, I was so disappointed that not one of the houses on my list was what I was looking for. Then he says to me, “Well, I do have one property that seems to be exactly what you are looking for, but it is considerably more than your budget will allow.”
At this point I’m thinking, “Show me what you got and at least I’ll know how to adjust my budget or my expectations.” I followed him to a town’s square and parked my rental next to his. He asked me to go around the corner and wait for him by the front door because the electricity was not on and he had to open all the shutters to let the light in.
This image above is an exact replica of the house with the exception that the house I was now seeing was four times as wide and twice as long with one additional floor but the exterior is the same.
When he opened the front door, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was my first love! I wanted to jump for joy, but I dared not let on to him that I was in love with this house. In fact, I knew this house intimately because of the countless virtual tours I had taken throughout the house. Entering the foyer on the ground floor, you see the beautiful circular staircase, with double doors leading to a formal Salon with a wood burning fireplace, an office/drawing room, a formal dining room with another fireplace, oak pocket doors separating the dining and drawing rooms, a wine cellar affectionately known as “the Cave,” a kitchen with another functioning fireplace, and an adjacent mudroom leading out to a two-story double garage.
The next two floors lead to five bedrooms, four of which have functioning wood burning fireplaces, several long hallways, bathrooms with both a tub and a shower, the unavoidable bidet, separate toilet room, numerous built-in closets, and an attic completely open the size of the entire house.
The property also includes several stone out buildings, one that has numerous old tools with an adjacent small enclosed patio and another stone building adjacent to a quarter acre of land overseeing a river, several fruit trees of unknown fruit, several walnuts trees, some cherry trees, a pear tree, and another out building the size of a small garage with rabbit hutches, goat pens, chicken coops, and duck enclosures.
Is there any doubt why I fell madly in love with this house?
Please join me for Part Three of My French Fixer Upper FAQs to learn what I had to go through to acquire this house.
|Posted on December 27, 2017 at 3:35 AM||comments (86)|
By Cyn Terese My French Fixer Upper Part One
I know some of you have asked why France? Others have asked why I chose this house?
The answers to those questions are complicated, to say the least. But the truth is that it all started with a late afternoon phone call from my Doctor informing me that the test results indicated I had lung cancer. Since I hadn’t smoked anything since I was a teenager, I thought this was a rather cruel twist of fate. Ironically, I always told myself that if I was ever diagnosed with cancer, the first thing I’d do is smoke a cigarette. Well lung cancer ruled that out, didn’t it? After many, many biopsies, cancer was ruled out and I thanked the heavens I was able to start focusing on my bucket list.
Number 1: Forget about smoking, period! EVER, period!
Number 2: Go shopping for real estate. Some women go shopping for clothes, or jewelry as therapy. I prefer a fixer upper that I can demo (great way to get all my frustration, aggression, and excess energy out) and then build it back up. Why give money to a therapist when I can pour my money into a therapy that also serves as an investment that will give me maximum return?
Number 3: Look for property that will get me closer to all my favorite places around the world before those idiots (you know who I mean) destroy it all.
Number 4: It must have stone walls, a wood burning fireplace, a formal dining room, carved woodwork like my father would have created, oak floors, room for an art studio, room for a woodworking workshop, a garage to store my junk, stone fences (like those in Ireland I fell in love with), and a garden to grow my own food.
Number 5: Live to realize it all. See? I told you it was complicated.
Number one was easy to do, no question about that.
Number two wasn’t so easy as I began searching for real estate In Ireland. A few years ago, my sister Syl and I visited Ireland and while she fell in love with the men for their polite manners and their brogue, I fell in love with the land of endless rocks like the Burren and the many miles of stone fences. The majestic green pastures also stole my heart, but the rainy weather put a damper (no pun intended) on my dream of owning a home there.
Next, I searched in Spain. Being fluent in Spanish, this country would’ve been ideal, but the summer heat was too much to handle and the architecture, while magnificent in its ancient beauty, reminded me too much of Mexico – Acapulco and Mexico City to be precise. So why go all the way to Spain to buy what I could buy close to the US for pennies on the dollar?
Next, I searched in Italy. Since I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited Italy multiple times throughout my life and have a good grasp of the language, this country seemed like a strong possibility until I realized how long it would take to fly back to Ireland, the UK, France, and Spain.
The purpose of owning a home in Europe was for the proximity to all my favorite places. France was the place that fit that requirement. And so, the search for real estate in France began. If you’re interested in finding out why I chose this house, please come back for Part Two of My French Fixer Upper.
|Posted on November 12, 2017 at 3:20 PM||comments (81)|
By Cyn Terese Foyer Redo
Some things are just meant to be, no matter how hard you try otherwise.
I’m talking about focal points. Any interior designer will tell you that a room’s focal point should enhance the room’s most important feature, because that is where you want to draw the eye.
Take this room, for example.
The first thing that attracted my attention was the staircase. With its rich wood tones and winding stair treads, it clearly screams, “I should be the focal point of this room.”
So, I decided that the mural I wanted to paint in the foyer should be on the wall which is directly attached to the staircase so as one entered the room, the eye had no choice but to land on the stairs. (No pun intended)
But the long wall to the left had other ideas. I know you think that I’m merely anthropomorphizing but the wall truly has a mind of its own. You see, when I’m painting, I enter an alternative state of mind where time stands still, and all thoughts vanish. And when I’m finally done, the result’s a surprise to me as it’s to you seeing it for the first time.
I begin all my paintings with a complete white or black canvas. In this case, I painted over the brownish wall paper with a white primer.
The next step, is basically sketching out an image with burnt umber as I really can’t seem to draw more than stick people, so all of my sketches are done with paint and then I build up the images by layering in the color to create the dimension. Sadly, a result of being self-taught.
Remember that I said this wall had a mind of its own? Well this image you see here is really the third time I painted this wall. The first image was supposed to be a monotone light green image as seen through a haze. Instead, I painted a very detailed and busy image far remove from the bland, foggy, scene I had in mind.
So, I took some tan house paint I had in the storeroom and painted right over the image, so I could start again fresh the next morning.
But the following day, it happened again! So, I painted over it once again because it was not going to upstage the focal wall.
Finally, on the third day, I gave up fighting the wall. It wanted to be the focal point and nothing I did was going to change that.
One of the problems I needed to get rid of was all the brown in the room that made it look dark and oppressive. I decided to paint the baseboards and doors (except for my 400-year-old wooden entrance doors) to give the room a bright and airy feel.
My dear friend, Sophie, a very creative person refinishing furniture happened to come by just as I finished painting the baseboards and doors white. Her first words were, “what did you do”? Its ruined!
She says to me that the brown baseboards and doors brought out the dark colors in the mural and that it drew the eye around the room. Now I’m floored because she had a point. WHAT DO I DO??? I needed the brown to go away!!!!!
If brown is what draws the eye around the room, then faux wood trim might do the trick. I painted the door insets with the same tan color that I used to remove the two previous murals and then painted the edges around the insets to make them look like wood trim. In my eyes, it worked but I haven’t shown it to Sophie yet.
Then I decided to paint part of the baseboards with that same color to tie the doors in with the baseboards and to enhance the stripes on the floor. This, too, I’m happy with.
Now, I’m sure some of you are envisioning me as this chic, interior designer, artist guru or … Scratch that, like a needle across an LP.
Here I am on a rickety ladder painting the rest of the room the same sky-blue color to finish the look of the room. And, yes, that is a tiny brush for those hard to reach places.
One problem I encountered was painting the stairwell since the ceiling is about ten feet high. Being a person with strong self-preservation instincts, I wasn’t about to try and use a ladder on the stairs. So, with the help from a friend, I taped a paint brush to the end of a metal rod and that was what we used to do the cut ins. That’s painting the edges where the wall meets the ceiling.
And with a regular paint roller – again screwed to the end of a broom stick – painted the rest of the stair walls to finish the room.
Now, to the secondary focal point – the stairs. The mural on the stair wall is of the area where I live, including the church and my three-story house at the end of the street opposite the church.
Notice how there are two walls with the same image but separated by a perpendicular wall and a door. If you stand in just the right location in the room, these two walls line up to form a continuous image. And, no, it’s not from my height perspective. I achieved it by taking pictures and then lining them up as I went along.
People say you should write about what you know. Well, this mural is exactly that, It's a compulation of vignettes (if you could call a Castle a vignette) in the surrounding area near my home, Saint-Germain de Confolens, La Rochefoucauld, Saint Laurent de Ceris, view of the valley from Angouleme's highest peak, view of farmlands near Confolens, La Sonnette River, Moussac Stone Bridge, and the woods near my home. Oh, and the oldest tree in the surrounding area that is believed to be at least 500 yrs old. Hint, hint - this old tree is not the connifer tree you see towering over the houses on the back wall, which BTW happens to be my favorite tree of all.
Here are the rest of the pictures I took of the finished foyer. I hope you enjoyed my long-winded narratives as much as I enjoyed writing them. Now, off to go soak my finger tips. Kidding!!
Until next time,
|Posted on October 10, 2017 at 2:15 PM||comments (104)|
By Cyn Terese on Salon Wall Redo
I wish I could say that the exterior problems causing moisture buildup within the front wall of the Salon were fixed but the sad truth is … Well, let’s just say, they’re not.
Although, Jim Bound, my Sub-Contractor, did find several things that could be fixed such as the unclogging of the drainage system at the base of the stone wall which he did right away, there are still the need for repairing a rain cutter at the corner of the house and installing a drain pipe to redirect the run off directly into the drain instead of back onto the wall. These two items are going to require some serious scaffolding since the house is three stories high and each floor within has 12-foot ceilings.
For now, let’s focus on the wall inside the Salon.
As you can see, Jim removed the part of the wall that was crumbling, primarily the Wainscot section, the lower part of the window trims, the baseboards, and the top trim of the wainscot.
Since I know the Maire will not approve of reconstructing the slope of the street any time soon, I suggested we install wet board instead of plaster board directly onto the wall. Wet board is primarily what is installed behind any tile work in the bathroom to keep moisture away from the tile. If it works there, it should certainly work here in the Salon.
Once the wall was back in place, a new challenge became blaringly evident. The craftmanship of the mid 19th century was truly a work of art, from the thick window and door trim to the little extra thick trim work at the base of the trim around the French door.
As you can see, this thick trim is something not found in stores today. So, Jim and I began brainstorming how we could duplicated it by building up the thickness with various trims. We found a series of round ½ inch trim, square ½ inch trim, flat window trim, and a strip of routed edge that Jim cut off of the top of surplus base trim and began to assemble everything like little puzzle pieces.
What he came up with was something my father, Don. a Master Craftsman, (not to be confused with my brother Don who couldn't tell the difference between a hammer and a nail) would have created. Everyone who knew my father, knew he was a creative genius. Jim came close …
No, Jim was spot on. He did what my father often created in an era when excellence mattered.
Oh, and did I mention that he, Mr. James Bond, also did the electrical work?
Until next time…
|Posted on September 27, 2017 at 5:35 PM||comments (71)|
By Cyn Terese Salon Floor Redo
You know what they say about making plans? Best learn to be spontaneous because Murphy is in the house!
Now, before you go wondering who Murphy is and why he is living with me in my house I will only say this, you’ve already met him: he is that invisible little beast that will reign havoc on your best laid plans and make something inevitably go wrong.
Last year, 2016, I had a sub-contractor come by to inspect part of a wall and part of the floor in the Salon that seemed to me to be suffering from wood rot. He explained to me that it was not wood rot that was causing the wall and the floor to crumble but rather moisture seeping in through the 2 ft. thick outer stone wall. Apparently, the slope of the street along with an inadequate drain system was causing runoff to collect at the base of the wall, keeping moisture trapped in between the stone wall and the interior wall panel.
As a result, the wood paneled wainscot, along with the base boards, part of the floor, and joists under the floor needed to be replaced. Since I needed to have the work started immediately in 2016 but being that he was in such demand, I was going to have to wait until early spring of this year, 2017. So, I reluctantly said “Okay, let me know when your schedule clears up and we’ll get started then."
Can you guess what happened? Because I didn’t get in touch with him earlier in the year, he was no longer available to do the work.
As any Contractor knows, construction happens in steps: correct the causal problem outside, then demo the inside, repair the floor joists, install new floor, coordinate with the plumber for the radiators, coordinate with the electrician for the plugs, coordinate with the carpenter for the new interior wall, coordinate with the painter (oh that’s me and I’m flexible), etc. etc. The sequence of work, as they say in the biz.
You know where I’m going with this, right? My entire year was screwed, since I had planned everything and everyone down to the detail and now nothing was going to happen.
So, what did I do? I decided to paint the mural in the foyer instead. Whilst at the paint shop, I asked around and was given a name: James Bound. “Did you say James Bond?” I asked. “No, he goes by Jim Bound,” they said and, “he lives in your village.” I called him and within a couple of days he began the work - squeezing me in around his other responsibilities.
Not only was Jim knowledgeable of what needed to be done, he also came highly recommended and (silly me) had been referred to me by several people when I’d first arrived shortly after purchasing my home. Jim turned out to be my redemption.
Jim began by demo-ing the floor to see the joists and cleared away old rotten wood left behind in the concrete channels of the foundation.
He didn't react to the significance of the moment, but I was practically in tears. Not because the work was finally underway (well that too) but because it was the first time in over one-hundred years that the earth under the floor had been exposed!
Now, as any girl will tell you, rocks - especially the shinny and very expensive kind - are a girl's best friend. I, on the other hand, am a sucker for pretty pebbles on a path or fossils under a running stream, so all I wanted to do was push him out of the way so I could see the dirt floor and dig for gems!!!!
But as a grown woman, it would not be very dignified to dig in the dirt so I restrained myself (and let me tell you it wasn't very easy) and merely teared up and pouted for the missed opportunity to collect treasures.
After the new joists were put in place, the new oak floor was installed.
NOTICE THE WALL THAT NEEDS TO BE REPLACED. This is the subject for the following blog post next week.
As the in-house painter, it was my job to stain the new floor so I worked night and day to get the floor stained as close as possible to the old oak floor finish. I still think it should be a bit darker but so as not to lose momentum on the Salon Redo, that will just have to wait for another day.
Until then …
|Posted on August 7, 2017 at 3:15 PM||comments (100)|
By Cyn Terese What's Happening Now
Since I posted my last blog entry, much has been done on my French Fixer Upper. Although I had to hire out some of the work I couldn't do myself, I did do all the SHOPPING. From picking up paint by the liters only to discover later I didn’t like the color in situ, to the lavender bushes that found a home in my garden.
Very hard work, shopping is, then and now. Especially when I fell in love with large pieces of furniture at very reasonable prices only to discover they didn’t fit in the back of my Peugeot. Of course, delivery was an option at 80 euros a pop, but it wasn’t reasonable to pay that much just to deliver a single, very large armoire that cost much less than the delivery!
How did I handle that conundrum? I went back into the store and bought more - a truck load more, to make paying 80 euros seem like pocket change. As I’ve said before, there is always a solution to any problem. The solution could be as simple as to how you want to handle the problem …
Simple really … Or is it?
Until Next Time ...
|Posted on August 21, 2016 at 3:50 PM||comments (61)|
I wish I could say that I like to save packing material because I want to save the planet by keeping it out of the landfill.
But the truth is that I find it fascinating. It comes in all shapes and sizes; it looks like an art project all its own; and I can always find an alternate use for it.
For example: By breaking it up into small pieces, I am able to fill almost half of a large flower pot by throwing it down at the bottom before filling it with soil. It helps with the weight of the pot and it also helps with drainage.
During my Dining Room Redo, I also used it to fill large gaps between the top of my window frames and the stone wall behind them.
After I removed the wallpaper in the dining room, I noticed a ½ inch gap at the top of every one of the windows. At first, I debated whether I should leave the gaps or fill them in to minimize drafts during the winter months.
I chose to fill the gaps but since they were so wide I couldn’t imagine using wall mud or plaster effectively. Instead, I cut a half inch sliver of Styrofoam the length of the window and filled each gap with it. Then I sealed the foam in with dap and walla – no more gap! Pardon the pun.
Now, to the most insane use for Styrofoam.
Notice the wood burning stove in the corner? It made the kitchen smell like a vacation inside a barbecue pit!
After Simon, the plumber, removed the wood burning stove in the kitchen and disconnected the galvanized pipes from the wall, two large six inch holes remained in the wall.
Luckily, I had two circular Styrofoam discs six inches wide stashed away in the closet. I know! What are the odds, right?
I took the discs and jammed them into the holes in the wall. After filling the holes, I was able to cover the area with wall mud and make the foam and the holes disappear.
Once the stove and the pipes were removed, this is how the kitchen looked with all the holes, imperfections, and cracks in the wall filled in with wall mud. I wasn't very neat, as you can see, because once the mud dried, I planned on sanding the rough edges down with sanding sponges.
Now with a fresh coat of paint and a few antique olive oil jugs I found in the attic, the fireplace in the kitchen and the mantle above it, look like they belong in my modern kitchen.
Well... It will be a modern kitchen, once I have the cabinets and shelves built in.
Until then …
|Posted on July 15, 2016 at 6:55 PM||comments (74)|
By Cyn Terese on Windows
No one really knows how glass was discovered.
Obsidian, the naturally occurring black glass found on the edges of volcanoes, has been used by many societies since the Stone Age to make sharp tools like knives, spears and arrowheads.
As for semi-clear glass, some say the discovery of clear glass can be traced back to 3500 BC to the northern shores of Syria, or perhaps even Egypt.
If you’d seen the movie SWEET HOME ALABAMA with Reese Witherspoon, you’d be convinced that it was a lightning strike on the sand that first created crystal clear glass. Perhaps, that is how glass was serendipitously discovered in the sands of Syria and/or Egypt.
The flat glass making process has undergone several modifications since it was first introduced by the Romans in the first century CE.
The cast process allowed molten glass to cool and harden inside a mold which created a shiny side and an opaque side to the flat glass panel. The actual process has been lost but some believe it was either left to self-level which produced uneven thicknesses or it was flattened in the mold by a moistened paddle and then left alone to harden. This method produced glass with inconsistencies such as wavy glass or glass with bubbles in it.
The crown process was also introduced by the Romans and involved the use of a blowpipe. A hollow sphere was created by blowing air through the blowpipe into molten glass. Then the opposite end of the sphere across from the blowpipe was cut open. Then the sphere was rotated allowing centrifugal force to open and flatten the glass into a disc. Once cooled, small sections of glass were cut away in the form of window panes. The section around the blowpipe, known as the crown, was then used as decorative glass.
This method remained in use through the early twentieth century. It also produced glass with inconsistencies such as irregular thickness in the pane and curved ripples in the glass.
The mouth-blown sphere process was another deviation using a blow pipe. Initially, as with the crown process, a hollow sphere was created by air blown into the molten sphere. But unlike the crown process that was created by centrifugal force, the mouth-blown sphere was created by gravity. Deep trenches up to seven feet deep were created so the hollow sphere could be elongated as the blowpipe was swung from side to side while air was blown into the sphere. Again, there were inconsistencies in the glass such as parallel ripples.
After the early 1900’s, the machine-cylinder method was introduced which was similar to the mouth-blown method but instead was created by a machine that stretched the two ends of the molten glass while air was introduced into the hollow space.
So, while cleaning the window panes in my French fixer upper, I discovered a slightly chipped and very wavy pane of glass. I was amazed at the imperfections I discovered in just about every pane of glass in the entire house: 344 window panes in varying sizes. Thankfully, only one 9” x 11” pane of glass is chipped but doesn’t need to be replaced.
Now that we know a bit more about the various methods used to create window panes – I need your help to identify which technique was used in the window panes of the French Fixer Upper in Saint Laurent. I'll give you a HINT: I found a little peak in the corner of one of the windows that had bubbles in it.
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Until next time...