Friday, 9 March 2018

The barn

The barn project has taken up a lot of time and energy over the last few weeks and yet I've hardly mentioned it. Our original plan for France was to buy a house for us to live in and then a small house in the same location to turn into a holiday rental. When we came out to see the Old Notaire's House we knew it had a barn but Carole Cusworth, our estate agent, had kept quiet as to exactly it's potential. It is attached to the main house and the previous owner had already started some work on it. We were sold.

Even before we moved here we had started designing floor plans. Andrew and I rarely argue but when we do it's nearly always over design. Andrew has been a graphic designer for over thirty years, has a keen eye for design and a real attention to detail, plus he is very practical. Me on the other hand have been more flighty! I have spent time in the travel industry, banking, ran an antiques business, trained and worked as a kitchen & bathroom designer as well as a degree course in interior design. So while Andrew is working out the thermal values of insulation I'm saying 'oh! I see this with a Scandi loft style and a touch of Bauhaus' and heading for my colour swatches. You can see why there is sometimes friction. In my defence I am reasonably practical and not afraid to get my hands dirty. Anyway although we came up with various layouts we weren't entirely happy.

There were two internal walls and floor joists in the barn but they had to come down. The walls wobbled and the timber, although oak, had warped and had some evidence of woodworm. The good news was there was about 80 square metres of chestnut parquet flooring which had never been put down. Once everything had been stripped out we could see what a beautiful structure we had and it was then we had our Eureka moment and decided to turn the space upside down. Bedrooms on the ground floor and a huge open plan space upstairs. The bedrooms are on street level, and although quiet at night, we will have to make sure they have decent sound insulation. We had to get the downstairs planned and that was one of our friction moments. I was for two ensuite bedrooms so that one or two couples could have a really generous space. Andrew wanted to make it a three bed gite to maximise rental potential. Fortunately for me whichever way we planned, and we spent hours playing with the spaces, it never quite worked with three bedrooms. We could have done it with just a family bathroom but this wasn't the way we wanted to go.

The barn

We have been holidaying in France for over three decades, usually just us, sometimes with friends, and always struggled to find nice accommodation for just two or four adults. There are some stunning rentals in the peaceful countryside with uninterrupted views but far fewer in pretty towns or villages and even less if you want some quality.  How many gites have we stayed in where it has obviously been furnished with the strangest assortment of mismatched items just to fill cupboards. Does a two bedroom cottage really need a dozen eggcups? For us one of the joys of holidaying in France was to feel French for a week, to walk to the boulangerie or restaurant and not have to worry about driving. This is why for us the combination of the Old Notaire's House and the village of Correze is ideal, we can live this life and offer people the same experience.

So far the floor joists and internal walls have been removed and the new walls nearly finished. We have ordered a staircase and I'm about to battle with the dossier I have to prepare for the mairie as we want to replace the windows and front door. You can do almost anything you like internally but any alterations to the exterior of your house needs approval. This has been made more complicated for us as we are inside the Millevaches Natural Park and within 500 metres of an historic building.

We have no timescale for completing the works but we are hoping to get it finished by winter in which case we may move in there while we work on the Notaire's House. It's much easier to renovate if you're not living in a house plus I'd have a kitchen :-)


  1. Wow. In awe of the size of the project you've taken on. It will look wonderful with your combined skills on the case.

  2. You are too generous with your praise Margaret. In someways the barn is easier than the house, less undoing to do. And definitely less dirt!


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