Le Fin, enfin!

So at long last, six and half years after we first started I can say that we have arrived at the end!!! Now obviously with a house this size and age we will never really completely finish as there will always be projects and things to tweak! However the house is done and now, thanks to the super hard working Anna, the garden is also done!

We started this project in February 2011, we took it on with heaps of enthusiasm, very little building knowledge and a ridiculously small budget! It has, to say the least, been challenging! At times it has consumed us, without a doubt it has consumed very single penny that we had, made, begged and borrowed! We have worked non stop, in the most difficult of circumstances at times, pushing us to our limits. However we have grown as a couple and as individuals. We have both learnt an incredible variety of skills, some we have mastered better than others! If I had the money I would pay for a plasterer, and Chris would love to never deal with the ‘bloody plumbing’ again!!

We have had an enormous amount of help from so many people! Experts that have been generous with their time and knowledge explaining how to do certain things; architects, builders, plasterers, plumbers and electricians to name but a few. Friends and family that have come over to have a “working holiday” and thrown themselves in wholeheartedly to our crazy project! The Workaway system that has enabled us to not only accomplish so much but to have met so many fantastic people from across the globe! I have cooked umpteen meals for tired and hungry workers, we have housed hundreds of different people. All whilst building two businesses and making and raising our son Louis!

I daren’t list all the people that we want to thank for fear of missing someone out! But we do say thanks to you all and at some point aim to throw a big party to celebrate and you will all be invited!!

So here are some photos of the before, during and after!

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There is of course still a treehouse to build, a slide and a proper pool, plus the remise to convert!! So any of you looking to return to Coustouge………….

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Flowers or no flowers!

We have been working like crazy to get the downstairs fit for business usage. It is amazing how long the ‘finitions’ can take; skirting boards, door liners, architrave, doors, etc. We are advancing and I am getting great pleasure from the lobby, downstairs loo and utility room!!! I think it is the fact that these small areas always seemed so far away, and relatively unnecessary, that they give me such satisfaction.

However they are not finished, we are still awaiting half the toilet! Incredibly the online company that I bought the toilet from sent me half a toilet and when I chased it instead of sending me the other half they sent me a table!! Very random and very annoying as I now have to wait for them to collect the table and for it to be sent back to head quarters before they will send me the other half of the toilet that I have paid for!!! Customer service at its best, heh!

Anyhow Chris hasn’t had the time to make a door for the loo yet so it would be a bit awkward to use! However we do have doors for the utility room and for the workshop, and it is here that I am in a quandary. The workshop door was the door from the pink flowery room upstairs, the one where they had papered the walls, the ceiling, inside the cupboards and the light fitting! Completely mad and it drove me mad trying to get the darn stuff off. Anyhow four years later I have a sentimentality towards it that Chris doesn’t seem to share. So the lobby is painted in this elegant grey colour, however I have left the pink flowers on the door as a wink to the past.

Answers on a postcard, should I leave the flowers or paint over them??

The last photo is from the original bedroom!!

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Play area and the smallest room in the house

It’s all non stop here with Chris, Louis and I working all hours to get the downstairs completed before clients arrive! We had some help with a workaway couple, Matt and Ellie, they did a lot of clearing and sorting for us, plus painting Louis’ fences.

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Louis’ play area has been defined, the pebbles moved up to the top terrace so that he can drive his tractor and fences up to make it safe and colourful. A slight cock-up on buying a cooker hood turned to our advantage!! Then the utility room, lobby and downstairs loo get walls, plastered, painted and floors in.

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La cuisine, la cuisine!

As ever I have been too busy working to write or take photos, however I am delighted to say after much ado we are in downstairs! The kitchen is open and we are all loving it. It isn’t finished of course but it is done enough to be comfortable, although I really would like the cupboard handles to arrive soon please as it is really hard to open the drawers without them!

If I say it myself we have done a good job. The house flows. More photos to follow…

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The Front Terrace

We have finally finished what Patrick started for us in the summer. The front terrace is complete, well almost as there are always little things to change and adjust.

After Patrick had brought up the levels on the right hand side of the terrace we sourced flat stones from our friend Yves vineyard then cemented and grouted them in.

We then started work on the lefthand side, firstly cleaning out the old petrol tank so that we can turn it into a well for rain water to water the plants. Not a nice job that but now that it is done we await the rain! We had to build up the sides of the well to take it up to floor level, this we did by using old bins to bring the height up and rubble to fill in the sides. All of this is unseen and took a lot less time than building the sides up in brick or stone.

We then sorted the levels for our very uneven floor and filled it with more rubble and then a layer of sand and cement. The finish wasn’t very attractive so we covered it with a thin screed of yellow sand and white cement to match the colour of the walls. It’s a tad orange right now but when it dries completely it will be the same colour as the walls, a pale sandy yellow. And today we finally received the correct ironmongery for the beautiful gate that Chris made, so we have hung it and it looks fab!

So at long last the front of the house, which has been such an eye sore is now looking good. Although I still want to re-render the front……


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Summertime is nearly over

We have had a long, and for the most part, hot summer but autumn is just around the corner. The grape harvest is in full swing, the days are sunny and warm and the nights are drawing in faster and cooler.

This has been a summer of work with very little play, only a brief 4-day camping trip in August. So it is fair to say that we are tired but the house has been coming along leaps and bounds.  Thanks to some local knowledge and help we managed to source enough flat stones to complete the front terrace, so far we have just laid them on the earth we need to take a weekend in October whilst the weather is still warm and dry to lay them properly and grout them into place. But at least we have the materials! We also have a beautiful front gate that Chris made but we need to finish the floor before we can hang it.

On the south terrace we still need to finish the small amount of pointing, another October job. However we have stocked some of the wood to create a barrier from the field, more to keep wild boar out than Louis in! We have also built a triangle in the far corner that used to be the building site area.  Patrick started a stone wall for us and we finished it then with the help of our friend Yves and his tractor and trailer (much to Louis’ excitement) we filled it with another friend, Matthieu’s, rubble from his building site! I compacted the rubble and have been adding sawdust, of which Chris creates tons, to fill in the gaps and create a clean surface whilst we decide what will be the ultimate surface. The area will be a play area for Louis and where we hang the hammock!!! Oh yes we have visions of resting in the future!!

However it is the recent work inside that has made a drastic change to us. We have being creating our office space and our library. The office was in the mezzanine in the living room, however it was impractical as it meant climbing the steep steps and so I rarely used it and in fact in the two years that we had it as an office we never even unpacked our boxes and so were just sort of perched in the office. Not very conducive of efficient working! Instead we decided to convert the small room off the hallway into our office. First we put up some walls!  We then took out the ugly aluminium window and replaced it with a beautiful wooden window in fitting with the rest of the house, we got Rob to build a brick arch, then Chris and I plastered the walls and put in a mezzanine floor using the old pine boards originally found in the house. I then painted everything, we laid the floor, again an original floor that has been lovingly restored, oiled and waxed it. Built a beautiful oak desk for us all to work from. Bought a huge sheet of MDF which I then painted with special blackboard paint to create a blackboard wall, had a Laurel and Hardy moment trying to get it in through the arch! Ran electric cables and put in plugs galore and heh presto we have an office, with a mezzanine storage space for important papers and files plus a single bed when we have lots of people over to stay. We still need to make three sets of drawers for our ‘stuff’ but it ain’t half bad! I feel efficiency coming along, for the first time in 7 years I can actually find things!!

The other big job was the library. It had always been out intention to create a library space along our large hallway for our collection of books. A couple of years ago Chris was given a couple of pine trees for free which he had to take to the wood mill to get chopped into planks and then store and dry. So between us we turned this into a 9m2 library! It took a lot of processing, and pine is not a particularly nice wood to work with as it creates a lot of sawdust, and then you need to paint it as the wood itself is not particularly beautiful. However last weekend we put the library into place, bloody heavy! I then emptied out roughly 40 boxes of books, old friends not seen for over 7 years! Dusted them and sorted them and between the three of us we filled those shelves. It looks fantastic, it isn’t complete as we will add a triangle at the top but for now it is absolutely fine.

What doing both the library and office means is that we have been able to sort out a lot of our things and create a lot of space downstairs in what will be the utility room, but what has really been a storage area. I have been ruthless with throwing away unwanted things, I hate clutter and confusion, it confuses my mind! So we need to finish the two terraces before the weather changes, sort out the chaufferie put a wall up and an air vent system in. Then we can start to work on the kitchen and wine school. There are still a couple of big investments to make, one we have half bought, but that said there is a still a lot we can do using recycled materials, an imagination and creativity!

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Pointing and a new terrace

It is the silly season here and we are busy with work, guests, workdays and renovations. On top of which there is a heat wave and so we are battling the heat!

That said we have been busy, very, and over the last few months have been edging closer to a finished house. Not there yet though! The back of the house is almost complete with the pointing, Chris and I jumped on the case when Rob was here as it is a huge project and many hands make light work. Pointing is the most relaxing job that we have done on the house as you just can’t rush it! We have rendered and lime washed the kitchen island, and planned the layout for the stone tops. We have plaster boarded the new office space ready to be taped and jointed and then painted. Rob did us a lovely brick arch which I am going to lime wash. We also bought a new toy to cut back the jungle in the garden, it is amazing to see how much land we actually have!

We currently have Patrick from Canada helping us with our front terrace. We have raised the level to stop the floods during the rainy season and have filled it with rubble from Matthieu’s renovation project, earth that I cunningly got the guys from the council to give me from the water project that is going on at the moment, sand from our friend Giles vineyard and stone flags that we have recuperated from around the house! I have to say it was a bit scary have the big tracteur pelle dump all that earth on the terrace, I thought he was going to take down our lovely wall!! Patrick has built us a stone wall for the flower bed and all in all it is looking great. It is amazing how much stuff has gone into building this part of the terrace up, bearing in mind this only half of the terrace and the walk way! We will tackle the other half at a later date, it is going to be at a different level and we need to clean out the old petrol tank which we are going to use as a well for rain water.

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