Sunday, 17 March 2019

Does my sofa look big in this?

The first design meeting with a client is always exciting and best done in their home over a cup of coffee or a glass of something chilled. How do you think they would feel if I mentioned the desire to see their wardrobe? Probably be a little confused and check that I was an interior and not a fashion designer. But there is a good reason for this and it could just help you with your own interior design projects.

I have a friend who has a wardrobe that is an assault on your vision. It is crammed with colour and pattern with no organisation. She will mix fabrics, colours and patterns that have no right to look good together but on her they work. And her home is the same. If she likes it, she will buy it with no thought as to what she already has and what it will go with. Beds and sofas are strewn with dozens, and I do mean dozens, of cushions and throws. Fabrics sparkle, there is glitz everywhere and it changes from week to week. I love to visit but I couldn't live with it, it's way too chaotic and boho for me, but it's not about me, it's about what she feels happy and comfortable living with.

If you look in my wardrobe you are unlikely to see much colour, it's a sea of neutrals. Despite efforts from friends and family (particularly my mother who regularly sends me 'unsuitable clothing') colour is almost always restricted to accessories. Occasionally I try something bolder but even though I know the colour suits me I don't feel comfortable, it really isn't me. I love 'luxe' fabrics but if I make an investment then an item has to last, I have cashmere jumpers that are at least 15 years old. Most of my quality clothes have been collected over the years from charity shops and EBay (and an indulgent husband at Christmas!). I won't wear velvet in the summer or linen in the winter, just can't do it, and I really don't like manmade fabrics. You will never see me in a Christmas jumper or sequins & glitter.

You won't be surprised to know that my home is the same, a calm unobtrusive space. I swap winter velvet curtains for summer linen and cotton. Fabrics are natural and usually unpatterned, maybe a check or stripe although I do like vintage curtains. Walls are plain to highlight artworks, every accessory has a story or special memory and most of the furniture we’ve had for years. Table linen is seasonal, candles are ivory and unscented. I love layers and texture.

Below is my current winter wardrobe (in temporary accommodation and in desperate need of new hangars) and two previous bedrooms. You see the similarities?

If you want further evidence then have a look at some of our well known interior designers and their interior styles. Two complete opposites - Kelly Hoppen and Trishia Guild. Ms. Hoppen is the queen of neutrals and slick contemporary design whilst Trishia's designs are full of colour, pattern and exuberance. These two images sum up their personal and interior style perfectly. Neither is a better designer than the other, they are just different.

So if you want inspiration for your own interiors, don't turn to Facebook just open your wardrobe!

Feel free to follow our new life in France as we restore our house and barn here

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Do you fancy an evening stroll?

Mortimer and I wondered if you would like to join us on our evening walk? It’s a gentle stroll, not like the morning hike. It’s been such a lovely day it would be nice to have a stretch after working in the barn.

Corrèze high street
Our house is at the beginning of the village high street and the first thing you’ll see when you turn right out of the drive is the tabac, a very popular spot in the morning when everyone collects their copy of La Montagne. A few steps along, passing our local branch of Credit Agricole and we’ll turn right into the ‘ville clos’. I love this garden on the left, quite unexpected in the middle of town with the tall trees shading the balcony.

Corrèze town garden
It's a short cut into the old part of town, I feel as though we’re creeping up on it unawares, sidling up to the 15th century Porte Margot. As you can see Mortimer knows the way!

Porte Margot, Corrèze
Entrance to the 'ville clos'
We’re now in the square surrounding the l’église St. Martial, a church was first built here because Corrèze was, and still is, a stage on the St Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage route. You can see the traditional carved cockle shell on several buildings in the area as well as the new signs. When the weather gets warmer we often see pilgrims striding out along the lanes.

Old and new pilgrimage signs
I hope you agree it’s a beautiful space. We’re encircled by ancient buildings, there are the houses of the 'tisserands' (weavers) as in the 18th century weaving was the dominant industry. Several houses are of the old rural style which originally had the living quarters on the first floor, reached by an exterior stone staircase, with the ground floor housing the animals.  There are houses of the bourgeoisie too, the house of Jean Meynard de la Farge for example who was secretary to the king and very wealthy. In the summer we enjoy evening markets and concerts here.

The church square
Sign of the Knights Templar and window detail
So many of the buildings have beautiful details, I love the carving around this window, and here we have a sign of the Knights Templar. Not all the buildings are in good condition as you can see from this one, although I love the fact it has a cat doorway.

In need of some T.L.C
We’ve now come out of the medieval centre and are heading down to the river Corrèze. Have you noticed the chill in the air? It’s been a really warm March day and the granite stones in town really hold the heat but now we’re by the lavoir the air is much cooler, really quite chilly. There are several lavoirs in town, they were where women would do the laundry. The water comes off the Millevaches plateau and washing clothes must have been freezing although quite a social occasion. Mortimer loves them in the summer as they're a great place for him to cool down in.

On the right you have the first section of the municipal campsite which straddles the river. On this side you can camp, rent one of the chalets or park a large camper van. On the side near the chapel is camping and smaller camper vans, you'll see that there is quite a width restriction because of the old bridge.

Corrèze campsite
Shhhh! did you hear that? I think it's one of the buzzards, there are a couple of pairs that nest somewhere here and we often see them. Mind your footing here - the steps are a bit slippery.

We're coming up on the fifteenth century Chapelle Notre-Dame du Pont du Salut, it's rare to not see devotional candles lit. If you press that button to your left, that's it, you can see the interior illuminated.
Chapelle Notre-Dame du Pont du Salut
It's such a peaceful spot by the river. Talking of the river, the water level is way down on last year when we had flooding, that big rock there was completely covered. It's another one of Mortimer's summer cooling off spots. Are you O.K with this slope? We're going to head back up to the old town and this is the quickest way.

River Corrèze
I think I've been chatting too much as it's beginning to get a little dark now. I confess I love this time of evening, particularly on this road. It's very quiet and everyone is settling down for the night. Because the houses are right on the street I do take a sideways, sneaky peek in through the window as I pass. We're back at the church now, we've been out so long that the lights are on - but it is beautiful. Well I think so but perhaps I'm biased!

Corrèze town at night 

Back home now, and I should have left an outside light on. Never mind. Did you enjoy your stroll? I hope so, you're welcome to join us one morning if you like. Now, how about a glass of wine?

For daily glimpses of life in Corrèze you can follow us on Facebook

Monday, 25 February 2019


The river Corrèze
Work on 'La Grange' is getting quite exciting now as we're slowly moving away from building works to decorating and design. I'm rarely seen without my design folder (which is getting fatter by the day) and am constantly on the look out for furniture and styling items.

As I write, we are a good two-thirds of the way through laying the upstairs flooring. We were lucky to have inherited several piles of chestnut parquet with the house. Never used, filthy dirty and assorted sizes but beautiful. Because it's been sitting around for a couple of decades I have to sand each tongue & groove before handing it to Andrew for glueing. The jury's out on the likelihood that we have enough, but there is a Plan B. We're hoping to get it down and treated before the kitchen arrives at the end of the month.

Two thirds done 
Andrew's cunning solution to put pressure on the floor overnight 
It took some planning but I love this detail
The plastering has been finished downstairs and Andrew has made headway with the plumbing, just as well as the en-suite fittings and tiles have arrived. We have decided to put underfloor heating in both bathrooms, it's so nice underfoot.  Design decisions can be put on hold here for the moment.

Plastering finished
Andrew keeps reminding me how much painting I have to do once the plaster is fully dried. I'm ignoring that at the moment and am trying to get ahead on some of the furniture and soft furnishing projects. Before we left the U.K. I bought a small Parker Knoll bedroom chair which needs recovering. I love this make of chair, beautifully made and timeless style but the downside is that they can't be recovered, you have to start from scratch. I've stripped and painted it and am now waiting for my new toy to arrive so I can start work. We were gifted my father's compressor and Andrew has ordered me a stapler that I can use with it which will make my life so much easier. I am also fortunate that our next door neighbour is an upholsterer (with an atelier that I covet) and is happy to sell me any supplies that I need.

Before stripping 
Stripped and part painted
Other projects are lining up behind the chair, some furniture I've chosen to paint, which are quite simple projects, but I've also been inspired to make some lampshade covers, which is completely new to me. I've commandeered one of the old notaires offices as a clean upholstery room whilst the summer kitchen has become the painting room.

Ready to be painted
I'm avoiding the French shabby chic look in the gîte, it's a very popular but not really our style. I need the spaces to be practical, easy to clean and robust but I want to have some fun as well so I'm throwing in a few mid century design element. There are plenty of funky items around at the brocantes and vide greniers and they'll work beautifully with the contemporary feel we're after.

A surprise delivery from a French friend - crêpes and chocolate mousse
We do feel that we've hunkered down since the New Year, most outings have involved either a D.I.Y store or searching for inexpensive furniture. It has however been so much better than last year as the woodburner has kept us cosy and, on the whole, the winter weather has been quite benign. We have had snow and it has been very cold but not nearly as wet. The last few days have been really warm, I've even seen some of our friendly lizards basking on the granite walls and lunchtime baguettes have been eaten outside. I'm not saying it too loudly but I think spring is just around the corner.


As always you can follow our French life here or on Facebook

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Does my sofa look big in this?

The first design meeting with a client is always exciting and best done in their home over a cup of coffee or a glass of something chill...