I had a ton of things to do today but it’s been very hard to apply myself. We set up our account with Credit Agricole, Baz having had an ‘interview’ on 27th July. He just told me off for putting our French address on the payment instruction to the bank, as we don’t actually own it yet. I know he’s right but I just couldn’t resist, so I hope it doesn’t bite us.
We are very aware that August, the month of doing nothing in France, is almost upon us and we still don’t have a date for completion. On top of that I am away for a week. In the absence of real progress I’ve been struggling to keep my mind on work so I occasionally break off to Google stuff. It’s mainly harmless, but it can lead to me buying bits and pieces, as well as to schemes in my mind becoming grander. Or more time-consuming, at least.
We have both looked at the photos so many times now, and despite having quite a lot of them, it’s all getting a but tiresome. I wish I had taken a bloody tape measure with me to the viewing as we are constantly trying to guess the dimensions of rooms. Last night we were trying to figure out what size the courtyard is, based on various possible dimensions of the floor tiles. Obviously we don’t actually know the sizes of the tiles, the doors, or anything. So we’re still none the wiser…
Gill(coteetcampagne) and I have been discussing chinoiserie and she sent me this lovely picture. The sweep of the staircase is so elegant and the wall design is stunning.
Chinese handpainted wallpaper for one of the bedrooms would not only be wildly expensive, and the preparation of the walls is beyond us. Rather than give up, I am looking into various stencils and have found several which are almost there, but not quite: http://www.stencil-library.com/chinesestyle-panel-stencils/003488-CHI0013-1/panelno1stencil.html https://www.hennydonovanmotif.co.uk/chinoiserie2.htm
But I want something all-over and cohesive with a variety of intensity in the pattern while still forming a united design, rather than just stand-alone panels like these stencils. I may put the elements together from smaller stencils instead. Obviously this would be time-consuming and we would need to plan it thoroughly, but I need to find all the right stencils first. And do some practicing, as I have not stencilled since it was last fashionable – in the 80s!
The great thing about this style is that it can suit so many tastes – light and airy, dark and brooding, vivid monochromes. The colour possibilities are endless: yellow, green, blue are all favourites of mine, and for our house I want quite an intense background and perhaps a touch of bling to set it off. A silver ceiling?
It was the late 70s. I must have been thirteen or fourteen years old and I often spent more time at my friend Adrian’s house in Bounds Green than I did at my own. I was in awe of his film star-esque mum Eleanor (part-time opera singer, part-time antiques dealer) and his sister Therri (probably still the person I would have most liked to have looked like). The house was a dog-smelling chaotic mix of antiques and dust. The colours throughout were dark and brooding, with intense colour in unexpected places. There was nothing contrived about the house, it just oozed casual style and screamed ‘home’ to me like nothing else. Eleanor was my self-appointed mentor. She was slovenly, selfish and demanding, and I learned all I could from her! There was a skip outside one weekend and I saw a small wooden Burmese dragon lamp hanging over the side. It was perhaps 2 ft tall, and would have matched the enormous standard lamp version in her living room. I could see it was damaged, but I asked if I could take it. Of course, she said yes. Her husband John was clearing out some of her old stock which she had no room to store in either the shop in Islington or in the house. I grabbed the light and scoured around. The other thing that caught my eye was the most gorgeous embroidered picture I had ever seen. It was all the colours of thread sewn onto a beautiful green background backed by simple cardboard. Someone had obviously spent their own personal hours meticulously creating this and yet it had ended up in a skip?
My gut feeling then was – and it still is – that it was sewn in the 1930s. I hung it in every bedsit and flat I lived in and then when I bought my first home at 21 years old I splashed out and had it framed. The framer in Porlock in Somerset was intrigued, and he suggested that it was older than I thought, but I doubt I will ever know. It remains in the same frame and has pride of place in our living room. I look at it every day and would never part with it.
I spent some time this weekend with my beloved ten pound chandelier. So far I have removed quite a lot of rust and am starting to experiment with finishes. I bought a product on Amazon called Rub’n’Buff which is intended for use on porous items, but I couldn’t resist giving it a go on the chandelier as I sat on the decking in the sun. It comes in a tiny tube and I started applying it directly with my finger, but as I went on I found the best method was to apply a small amount to a soft cloth and wrap the cloth around it, then rub the item until the paint gently comes through the cloth. I definitely got better at it as I continued, but the areas where I used my finger looked very ‘painted’ rather than metallic (first picture)
because I had used too much, so I had to get the Wonder Wipes out to scrub off the excess (second photo) I am struggling to get some of the initial paint out of the details in the metal so I will get the non-scratch scourers out again.
This stuff is going to be very useful for anyone distressing frames or similar. I was very impressed with the coverage I got and the way it hasn’t obliterated the delicate pattern on the metal. It behaves more like a dye than a paint.
I have asked my brother to bring his soldering iron the next time he visits as the frame has been dropped at some point and one corner has two very clean breaks which should be invisible once mended.
Having only visited the house once, and that was now months ago, I want to know more of the history and how it came to be empty for so long. A friend who also has a house in France described the remote buying experience as feeling unreal and dreamlike. You are so right, Gill!! (coteetcampagne). In our case Baz hasn’t even been there and I feel a weight of responsibility. While obsessing I noticed a magazine called ‘Jours de France’, on the floor in my photo of the ‘Club Room’. Google tells me the magazine went out of business in 1989. The front cover shouts ‘Bravo Thevenet!’ and the picture is of Bernard Thevenet. To be fair he was easy to find as he hasn’t changed much (see recent photo below). He is a renowned cyclist and won the Tour de France in 1975, so I will check the publication date once we get the keys, but it looks like the last time anyone spent any time there was around 40 years ago, which would explain, but not excuse, the hideous insane clashing décor in that room
I was very excited when I saw this rusty chandelier on ebay. It definitely has a touch of the Jugendstil about it. It was honestly described as having two missing, one chipped and one smashed shade and broken glass in the body too, but no-one bid on it and I got it for ten pounds. It’s very heavy too. The guy selling it was so nice that he packed it all up for me (brilliantly, I should add) and wouldn’t take any money for the packing materials. Apparently he bought a very large hotel laundry basket at a local auction and this was inside when he got it home! If anyone knows how to safely remove rust from something like this please let me know, and I will have to find new shades for it, which is a shame as the piece has a very clear style and different shades will dilute this, but it has to be given life again. I may have to look into metal paint, but there is some silver metal coming through where I started with my toothbrush and Brasso. I have done lots of googling but cannot find anything like it anywhere.
It was a good job we were sleeping off hangovers after a friend’s birthday. We would otherwise have been at work when the paperwork arrived at the house needing a signature! I think the reality of the state of the house has just hit Baz, as the French process of buying and selling a house includes notes on asbestos, lead content and plumbing, etc and even in French it’s obvious that there are some “issues”. Not that it’s a surprise though. I dated a magazine on the floor in one room to 1975 and that is the last time anyone used the house, as far as we know. We have asked if we can have the docs translated into English so that we fully understand. But I think everything is pretty much in order. There is no work done without permission and there is very little plumbing present (only one very basic bathroom) so we are kind of starting fresh.
I have opened my arrivals from Ebay and had a look. I am so happy with all the lights I have bought. I have these fantastic green art deco wall lights and matching ceiling light which we picked up on Saturday and which are immaculate. I was gushing when we got to the guy’s house, telling the poor bloke how I have wanted to own something like these since I was a little girl. Honestly, there can’t be many people who would consider that normal and he must have thought I was certifiable, but it is actually true! So we will have to dedicate at least one room in the house to my total art deco obsession. The rest of it may have to be more subtle, but it certainly won’t be bland.