It’s one year ago this week that we moved out of the little house in Le Grand-Pressigny and into the much larger house a few kilometres away. The year has gone by quickly and has not been without moments of uncertainty, wondering whether we had done the right thing. For me anyway, not so much for Nick.
I know in my heart of hearts that of course we have. The little house was perfect as a holiday home but very small and we were not comfortable spending more than a two week holiday there. Apart from anything else, it had a very small garden and we wanted the space. We also felt very hemmed in. It was nice to be close to the village shops and bars but sometimes we felt a little crowded there.
We thought when we viewed the new house that it was a “move straight in”, in other words that nothing needed to be done urgently to make it comfortable. Once we had been in a while, we started to make a list of jobs that needed doing and things that we wanted to change, some requiring fairly immediate action, others that could wait.
The really major job we needed to do was to replace the fosse septique. We knew this when we were considering buying the house so it was no surprise. It was a big, expensive job and caused a lot of mess. We had to lose our walnut tree and a lovely apple tree to make way for the pipework and comply with the regulations.
Now that it’s all completely finished it we’re very happy with it, knowing that our waste water is being dealt with properly and emerging as clean water into the ditch. Much better than knowing that it disappears into a tank with a hole in the bottom and ends up who knows where.
The new tank now sits under an area of decking. The main purpose of this is to deter people from driving over it. The layout of the drive was such that it was very tempting for large vehicles, such as the vans and trucks used by builders and so on, to take the easy way when leaving the house by driving over the grass. A heavy truck could do a lot of damage to the tank. The decking works well I think and is a nice place to sit and have a quiet drink in the shade once the sun has gone down behind the barn.
After the new fosse and the new drive we then moved seamlessly, if not painlessly, to having a new kitchen and staircase. The new kitchen came about because the kitchen floor was crumbling beneath our feet and to have a new floor meant the units had to come out. The staircase was a purely aesthetic change. We thought the existing metal spiral staircase was not our kind of thing. We are extremely happy with the new one.
Now hopefully the last, major piece of work is about to start. This includes re-rendering the whole of the front of the house and some of the inside as well.
We love the exposed stone areas in the sitting room but they are a bit rough and ready. The builder re-rendered the exposed stone in the kitchen and it looks so much better that I knew that I couldn’t live with the living room as it was for much longer!
We love the old bread oven in the dining room. Its size suggests that the house once stood amongst many other dwellings and not by itself as it does now.
The walls in the sitting room and dining rooms will soon look like this one in the kitchen. The builder starts next week and it will take 4-5 weeks for the whole lot to be done.
The question is, are we renovating or titivating? The house has never been uninhabitable, except when we moved out to make way for the builders when the kitchen was done. Is a new kitchen renovation? Or titivation? We always felt that we couldn’t tackle a real renovation of a house, looking at what some of our friends have achieved, starting from bare walls, with no plumbing or electrics. We have changed things to our taste and done necessary repairs, which is not quite the same, perhaps.
There are many reasons why we fell for this house, the main one being that the basic renovation, already done, was sound. The original buildings had already been transformed into exactly the right kind of living space for us, giving us the number and size of rooms that we had been looking for. We love it. But it has needed a bit of love and care – and titivation.