BRIAN Franklin continues his story of how he and his wife, Lucy, slowly and sympathetically returned a collection of outbuildings found in the grounds of the Chateau des Cresses, in the Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France.
Here he looks back on the work involved, and some of the lessons learnt, as well as the advantages of moving to France.
At last. The work is over, the spending has slowed down, and the results of all our efforts can be clearly seen and appreciated.
In some respects, there is an element of anti-climax about it all.
As we neared the final stages of completing the Cuvage renovation we, of course, could see all the elements of both interior and exterior renovation and conversion becoming a reality, and all our design and previous project control decisions working together as a whole.
Le Cuvage had eventually become a sum greater than its parts.
It was wonderful to walk up to the building and enter its doors to reveal the magnificent interior, and be pretty pleased with all our efforts.
It was a delight to spend our first holiday break within its four walls. To test out the showers for the first time, to christen the kitchen, to wake up with the newness all around us and the sound of the Roannais countryside surrounding us.
Our first family occupation took place at Easter 2006, after myself and a friend had moved all furniture and household items into Le Cuvage during a very wintry and snowy February a month or so before.
We had, typically, done a white van trip from England, and had also stripped our previous holiday home, The Stables, located in the original chateau grounds, and only a minutes walk away from our new residence.
We had prepared our interior furnishings pretty well, and would of course add to these over time. To be fair, we needed to live in the place for a while to get a good feel of how everything worked, and how the layout suited us.
Generally, it was all that we we wanted from our French dream house, and more!
Yes, of course, there are always improvements and changes that one realises could be made – a wall here, access here, electric points repositioned, additional or less lighting, extra storage.
But generally, we were very happy with the two dwellings we had created out of this huge wine-making barn.
Having previously owned a holiday home in the same enclave for 12 years, we were, of course, very familiar with our surroundings, and the region.
Whenever we arrived for a holiday we immediately felt at home. So, although the newness of Le Cuvage was a little strange, and we had to get to grips with a new home living experience, we did not have to contend with the need to discover a new locality, and relate to new people, and find new friends. All this was already there.
There was no doubt that the attention to detail we had maintained, and the quality of internal and external installation and fixtures had all paid off.
We, of course, still had plenty to occupy us, and although internally it was really a matter of moving and positioning furniture to maximum affect, outside was a totally different matter.
I was keen to get into the garden, and commence the tidying up work prior to the planting of trees and shrubbery.
Our new pool, too, and along with its surrounding area, required more attention to bring it to a decent holiday standard.
So, all-in-all, we still had more work cut out, but we were determined to enjoy it, and breathe in all that fresh French air.
Le Cuvage is definitely not a holiday home in the normal sense of the term, and was never really intended to be such. It was designed for purpose - a principal home ready for our eventual, and intended permanent commitment to living in France.
I hope that this renovation diary has been of of interest to the many readers who are looking to for a property in France, whether for a holiday home or permanent residence.
Each person’s project, of course, is individual to themselves, but seeing the results and hearing of the experience of others helps to see what can be achieved, and the potential benefits that the French way of life has to offer.
In our view, France is a brilliant place to buy and develop a property, and there are still many opportunities and bargains to be had in many regions.
The French way of life is a great experience for couples, families, and, particularly children learning a new language, and discovering another culture.
Le Cuvage has been an incredible experience for us, and it is still continuing in so many different ways.
We look forward to many years of appreciating all it has to offer, both as a home, and as a place that gives us access to a beautiful part of France.
Tips when buying and renovating in France:
- Spend plenty of time planning your electrics. You will rarely ever get it perfect (certainly before you start living and using your new place). This includes positioning of all electrical sockets, radiators, and particularly lighting. Economy and coverage of light is a delicate balance.
- Plan all your rooms well, and try to avoid large areas of wasted, unusable space. Make sure you maximise on bedrooms (you always need them when friends stay).
- Ensure your kitchen is a good size. A good Buanderie (storage/utility area) and you have plenty of other storage around the house.
- Externally, make sure you position your terrasse/patio areas in the best place for the sun, and access from the house. Ideally, if possible, ensure there is a covered area to get away from the heat of the day, and include a convenient BBQ space for all that outside entertaining.
- If you are having a swimming pool, try and make sure it is as private and as wind-protected as possible. Follow the French legal and security requirements for private and rental use.
Discovering The Roannais in the Rhône-Alpes
Le Cuvage project turns into a grand design
It's a serious business building in the Rhône-Alpes
Topping-off a grand design of a building project
Adding the finishing touches to Le Cuvage
Brian and Lucy Franklin run the Pure France Now website which looks to highlight the delights and opportunities of The Roannais in the Rhône-Alpes region. They provide business event hosting, holiday rentals, property finding services and enjoy promoting the area to visitors.
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