13 January 2015



Work continues on the new fosse in our absence.  Progress has been slower than hoped because the weather has not been too friendly but a date has been set for the inspection by Satese of the finished job for 20th January, so the work has to be completed by then.

Once the fosse is installed, work can begin on the new drive, so we’re still on course for the outside work to be complete by the end of the month.

There is some progress in our search for a new kitchen.  Back in December we had a visit from a salesman from a kitchen company in Tours.  We liked one of their ranges of kitchen units in the showroom but after he had been we felt a bit let down.  We were already losing confidence in him because he had failed to turn up for his first appointment chez nous, even though we had made an extra trip to Tours to decide on cabinet doors, worktops and handles, which must have shown how keen we were.  He looked at our existing kitchen and came up with a pencil design on a piece of paper that looked remarkably like what we already had, except for the addition of things that we didn’t really want but that he insisted were the right things to have.   Then he went away promising to email us alternative designs but so far we have heard nothing from him.

kitchen 5 

So we decided to have a look at displays of kitchens over here to get some ideas for ourselves and try to decide what we really wanted.  We liked this range in Ikea with its glass fronted cabinets and the island unit.  It had a nice traditional feel to it but with modern features.

kitchen 6

Then we called at Magnet and really liked this range of units.  The store manager and his staff kept a discreet distance and didn’t pounce on us but when we asked questions they were extremely helpful.  This range has the largest variety of shapes and sizes of doors, drawers and cupboards which we thought could be very handy when working round our uneven walls and beams.  He also said that they regularly supply kitchens that are shipped abroad. 

We were beginning to like the sound of this.  Our visit from the kitchen designer from Tours left us feeling nervous and uncomfortable, not at all sure that we would end up with the kitchen we wanted without a struggle.  I hate to give in to the lure of dealing in our native language and chicken out of grappling with a French company, but we felt that with something as personal and important as a kitchen we needed to get it right.  Principles might have to be sacrificed if necessary.

We made an appointment to return a few days later to talk about it in more detail and explore a possible design.  That gave us time to talk to Alex and Nicole about the possibility of fitting the kitchen ourselves, as a joint effort between us and them.  They were happy to help and we felt relieved, thinking it would be great to be involved rather than hand the whole project over to strangers, letting it out of our control.

kitchen 7

As the planning of our new kitchen evolved we looked around the showroom for ideas and for features that we liked.  This island unit caught our eye.

kitchen 8

So did this one, although I’m not too sure about the twinkly lights around the bottom!

kitchen 9

kitchen 9a

We were in the showroom for 3½ hours in all and eventually a plan emerged.  It is more than thirty years since I had a new kitchen (except that our UK house already had a brand new kitchen, not of our choosing, when we moved in) and things have moved on a bit!  The design was done on a computer and everything was displayed on a large screen in front of us so that we could see at every stage how it was working out.  Marvellous!

kitchen 4

And here it is!  This is actually my photo of an A3 print out of an “artist’s impression” of the finished design.  The view is from the front door so that on entering the kitchen you will see a nice space and a swish island unit instead of a grotty wall and the back of the sink! (Or a breakfast bar and set of fancy bar stools if the Tours man had his way.)

There’s a bit of fine tuning to be done before the kitchen is manufactured but we’re hoping for delivery in April.  With any luck we will have a new floor, staircase and kitchen by the summer.  Fingers crossed!


  1. You will have to live with the kitchen, cook in the kitchen, clean the kitchen and above all pay for the kitchen, so why shouldn't you have exactly what you want? Go for it!

    1. P.S. Which will be the designated ramekin cupboard? ;o)

    2. Gaynor, i think a couple of ramekins in each one should absorb the collection - and ensure that they are always to hand!

  2. Wow! Things are moving along quickly!

    1. Walt, once again I have that uneasy feeling that things are going too well, too quickly!

  3. Hey, have you looked for a turret over there? Maybe you could import one of those!

    1. Ken, I suspect that's one thing that might be slightly difficult to find here!
      If our kitchen man in Tours had kept his promise and inspired us with more confidence we would happily have given him our business as we really liked one of his ranges of units.
      The important thing for us is to get it done by summer. Having spent last year in a state of chaos We now want things done so we can simply get on with enjoying our lives - much like you and Walt!
      A part of me is disappointed that I didn't choose to "buy French" and I feel awkward about being seen as one of those Brits who brings everything from the UK. That was not what we intended, but at the end of the day we need to do what's going to get the job done in a sensible time.
      We stepped through the showroom doors hoping just to pinch design ideas to pass on to our man in Tours, but were won over by the attitude of the staff. I confess that dealing in our own language made the process so much easier - and a huge discount on some of the cabinets in the January sale also helped to swing it!

  4. Don't fret about buying "Anglais"...
    what you would have got from the guy in Tours wouldn't have been French anyway...
    most kitchen units are either Swedish or Italian...
    and if they were French they would have been more than likely to have been constructed of chipboard covered in paper!!
    Unless, of course, you specified "bois massif" that is....
    I love all those little drawers on the second one...
    very, very useful!
    No, tout-en-tout I reckonz you made the right choice!

    1. And those are not twinkly lights round the bottom of the large white island unit...
      that is the anti-grav that allows you to push the unit where you want!!

    2. Tim, it's funny you should say that!
      Apparently they recently fitted a kitchen for a lady who had her island unit mounted on industrial sized casters so she could push it to the back of the room for her frequent parties!

    3. We were thinking of an island on castors at one stage. Then we realised just how heavy such a thing would be once fully stocked.

  5. Magnet is owned by Nobia, the company that until the end of last year owned Hygena and I believe they still make the Hygena range of kitchens. You may find something 'French' remarkably similar to your choice! Pauline

    1. Pauline, our first question to the manager at Magnet was whether they have a French counterpart. He told us they had just sold off Hygena but then mentioned the shipping possibilities.

  6. We hated all the specialist kitchen places we went to in Tours. They behaved exactly as you are describing with one exception and we were put off them by someone who told us that they were very unhappy with the final build from them.

    If Magnet is connected with Hygena and Nobia then they get their benchtops from the company we dealt with for our granite tops. We were delighted with their product, price and service. As you know we also went for IKEA cabinets and my observation would be that if IKEA can deliver the kitchen we wanted and do so in foreign then their system works.

    All the cabinets you look at will be veneers of one sort or another, even the ones which claim to be solid wood. What looks like solid wood is often not, and the kitchen companies are not too keen that you realise it. We discovered this after talking to a local joiner (in Descartes -- they were terrific, but couldn't compete price wise and we felt awful not going with them in the end). According to them carcasses are made to standard sizes then shipped out to the various kitchen places. The carcasses are French, from French materials.

    Make sure you get extra plain sheets or boards of matching cabinet material. You will need it to create fillets because these old houses are not square. We went for the simplest possible drawers and cupboards. The only two fancy things were the rotating shelves for the corner and the narrow spice and condiments drawer. We are extremely happy with both, but feel we would have been frustrated if we had got sucked in to all the various racks and storage systems on offer. Cupboards that just have a shelf in them are the simplest, most practical and most flexible in the end, plus being way cheaper. Deep drawers are great and self/soft closing too.

    I don't think you'll have any trouble installing them yourself with Alex and Nicole's help. We had ours installed by a so-called professional kitchen fitter and the job was so poor we got Stéphane to re-do it all.

    Simon reckons the kitchen was the single most stressful part of our renovation.

    1. Susan, your last sentence sums up why I want to get this over and done with as soon as possible, by doing part of it ourselves, along with people who know what they're doing and who we trust to do a good job. I was nervous of handing over the whole thing to unknown tradespeople with whom I might have difficulty communicating, especially if it didn't seem to be turning out right.

  7. I'm sure that the French kitchen contractors find it hard to work with people who can't really explain in French exactly what they want. They lose patience and wonder why they are making heroic efforts but not getting anywhere. At the same time, French customer service can be difficult for us American customers to deal with. French people don't like to be bossed around. They have their own ideas. I don't know anything about the U.K., so I don't know how the situation there compares. Being able to communicate with the local tradespeople, and with everybody in general, in the local language is one of the requirements of feeling at home in a new country. I guess it's okay to be a permanent foreigner, and it's almost inevitable for many of us, but the more a person can do to adapt to the surrounding culture, the more pleasant the whole experience becomes. Otherwise, it's better just to stay "at home"...

    1. Ken, I don't understand why people move abroad and expect to carry on as if they were still in their home country.
      Once the dust has settled (literally I suspect!) I hope to spend time improving our language skills and engaging in more local activities so that we can make the most of our new way of life. Otherwise, as you say, what's the point?
      I once read in a "Francophile" kind of blog a discussion berating the
      French for not allowing the sale of basic medicines in supermarkets, complaining that pharmacies have the monopoly and can overcharge. My reaction was to wonder why these people bothered to live in France if they expected everything to be the same as in the UK.
      In any case, someone I know who works for a company that manufactures paracetamol and aspirin told me that the cheap products sold by the supermarkets often contained ingredients that came up as "unknown" in their lab tests!

    2. After the dust settles, you might be much less motivated to go to a language school for lessons. And I think classroom instruction is really the best way to learn the fundamentals, including pronunciation, grammar, and spelling. Vocabulary comes gradually. If you can understand spoken French fairly well (and I think you two can), you have a head start. And English friend of ours, who has now gone back to England, enrolled in classes over in Tours for a couple of years, I think she said, when she first moved to France 30 or more years ago. She became fluent, starting at the age of 40 or so. Myself, I've been studying French nearly full-time and living in France off and on for 45 years, and French is still nothing like my native language. It's a long-term struggle and hard work.

      A day or two I read a blog by an Englishman who has lived in France for decades, he says, and his opinion of French restaurants is that they are horrible. He says if you want to eat in a good French restaurant, you'd better find one in a country other than France. Where do these people come from? And why don't they go home?

    3. Ken, I think that fortunately people like him are in the minority and most ex-pats love living in France. Unfortunately people like him sometimes make a lot if noise and get the rest of us a bad name.
      Blogs, facebook and twitter have given people like him a wider audience where they can poke fun at their host nation, so they can publish such nonsense and presumably appeal to a large number of like-minded twerps!
      I wish people like him would go home, and leave the country for the pleasure of those who appreciate it!

  8. Our LaPeyre drawer fronts are real oak, as are all uprights and cross struts...
    the panel in the middle of the doors are oak veneered ply...
    on both sides, too, which is quite nice...
    surrounded by real oak...
    the rest of the carcass is 100% chipboard with an "oak" finish...
    as are the shelves...
    As Susan says... the deep drawers are wonderful...
    but they all have shallow sides and back....
    and all the "ordinary" drawers are too shallow!!
    This is caused by the side fittings being manufactured as one size fits all....
    therefore the drawers have a 18mm thick chipboard base...
    we do not actually keep our gold bars in the kitchen drawers!!

    Once other things are out of the way, those drawers are OUT and the base replaced with 5mm ply that will be fine for cutlery and cooking tools!!
    Another unit that we had to have for the drawer combination were the vertical storage drawers... good, but not good!
    The racks are open at the bottom...
    OK with round pans, plates, etc....
    they just ride over the bottom of the frame...
    but a square tin, if it falls backwards at the top, jams as the drawer closes...
    and has to be lifted square!
    Plain, plain, plain drawers are the best!!
    Vertical storage can be made...
    just need some plywood!

    The best things were the in-out dancing shelves for the corner units...
    and the long tall larder cupboard with pull out shelves inside...
    Pauline had a version of the latter in Leeds...
    but they were all connected to the door...
    which meant side access only...
    and you couldn't have full height items as then you couldn't get them out...
    not the best use of space at all!

    1. Tim, we are fans of drawers, deep and shallow, wide and narrow, they are all useful.
      Except as you say the ones like we have in our current kitchen, which are deep but with narrow sides - which means you can't fill them up as everything on the top layers falls out of the sides!
      That was one of the reasons why we decided to replace the kitchen - it was that or try to modify all the drawers!

  9. Hi from down here. Our experience for what it's worth! We got our kitchen put in by a local, as we were not over here much at that time. We got a breakfast bar which we use very little as we have a kitchen /diner layout. We also got integrated units at max RRP - no discounts!! -and the whole thing was much too expensive, but 10 years ago, there weren't any/many options to get British units. You've done the right thing in our opinion to go British. Don't forget to put in power and water connections to the island in advance (if that's not stating the obvious!). We forgot and have regretted it ever since. It saves cooking, washing up, etc against a wall, which can be a pain, even if you have good under cupboard lighting. It also saves turning your back on family, guests, etc. Finally, you can't have too many drawers! Bonne chance!

    1. Diane, having the sink up against a wall is the one thing I'm not sure about, but as the house has very few windows there was not much choice of where to put it.
      We did think about putting it in the island but think we would like to keep that space for preparation. We had forgotten about electricity but have remembered in time! It would be a good space for using a food mixer so sockets are a good idea. Of course there's no point in getting English sockets as all our machines are either bought in France or we have already changed the plugs!

    2. Friends of ours had their kitchen done a few years back. They put in a big island,and had just a small sink set in it, putting the larger all-purpose washing up sink against the wall. The small sink is very handy to have when you're doing prep work on the top of the island.

  10. I think you have made a wise choice, especially given the fact that you did earnestly try to 'do right' by the French, with such lack of interest in return. Your new kitchen to be looks fabulous. I've never had a new kitchen myself, but live in hope that perhaps the next year it may actually happen! Looking forward to seeing the finished product!

    1. Broad, having a new kitchen is a big responsibility. I keep telling myself that
      "It's only a kitchen" and I have managed with plenty of ramshackle kitchens in the past, but spending a lot of money on a new one and hoping to get it right makes me very nervous!

  11. I've only just noticed that Daisy is going to get a big shock....
    as she dives out through her catflap for the first time....
    after you get back!!

    And as for getting back in........................

    1. Tim, rebuilding the log ladder will probably be the first job on our return, before we even put the kettle on!

  12. The little pull-out for spices, well actually bouillon cubes, bottles of worcester sauce, etc is wonderful. We had one in Leeds and now have one here, next to the stove. Totally inadequate for spices though, it needs about three times as many shelves. On the other side is a bread store pullout. We've never used it. I specified two spice pullouts dammit. That man.... Pauline

    1. At this stage we don't think we have space for one of those pullouts, but we have two in or UK kitchen, one either side of the oven.
      We keep chopping boards and tall bottles of oil, vinegar etc in them. They are a brilliant idea.
      When the design is finalised we might find a nook for one, which would be very handy.
      We have found the best solution for spices is those metal racks with several small shelves which are just the right size to screw onto the back of a cupboard door. They take up hardly any cupboard space and store loads of spice bottles which can be seen and selected easily. No more rummaging in drawers or cupboards for that elusive jar of spice - which trashes the kitchen every time you make a curry or fruit cake!

  13. Oooh exciting!! :-). Investing in a new kitchen is 'serious' and getting the installation right is key so think you're wise to be more 'hands on'.
    Like you we're a great fan of drawers and most of our cupboards have internal pull outs rather than shelves--that way you can see what in there especially as most of our storage in under the counter because of the low ceiling/beams. Just make sure you get the right counter height, in an ideal world I would have liked to have our couter tops a little higher but forgot to double check when it was being installed. Ours was bought from Ikea in Tours but as we were still in the UK we measured/planned it all by going to Ikea in the UK 1st.

    1. Antoinette, as neither of us is very tall a normal height is fine, but a worktop that's too low could cause backache if we are not careful.

  14. We have several lazy susans in our small kitchen, for spices, vinegars, oils, and other bottled sauces. They work well.

  15. Having a new kitchen is a wonderful thing, Jean, but a big investment and I would advise you to take your time and do as much of the planning yourself as you can, rather than relying entirely on the showroom staff. DH and I have planned and installed 3 kitchens over the past 10 years, one in our French house, one for my mother-in-law and one in the house we've just left.

    The French kitchen was bought in the UK and taken over by us in the van and was entirely our own design. The other two had some input from showroom staff, but the features and positioning were chosen by us, based on how we knew we and my MiL actually lived and worked in our kitchens. We used one of the online design features offered by all the kitchen unit supplier websites and made our own plans in addition to the ones supplied by the showroom staff. We did a lot of tweaking before we were satisfied and have never regretted the amount of time we spent on the planning process. You'll be living with the result for a long time.