Now, let's go back outside!
HOUSE IN NORMANDY
The end of August is always a splendid time to be in Lonlay l'Abbaye. Not only is the countryside green and fulsome, the weather mild, but the village has its annual "vide-grenier" and festival. We were lucky to be there this year for some of the best fireworks I have ever seen.
We stayed at Sarah and Geoff's AirBnB, a restored house near the small river that runs through Lonlay. In this picture, it is the brick and columbage house with sea green windows and door and the open skylight. Velux is the best known brand of skylight in France, so rather than use another word, a skylight is usually referred to as a "velux," the same way we might ask for a "kleenex," rather than a "tissue." Their renovation was very well done. They have kept much of the original woodwork, including an old hardwood staircase that is similar to the one in our house. Perhaps the houses are of a similar era.
At least some of you are thinking of commenting right now about how great our place in Lonlay l'Abbaye turned out. Hold that thought, please. I must remind you that the lovely spaces depicted above are of the AirBnB we rented in August, not our place! We are still on the proverbial slow boat to China, but...
... our hardwood floors are in! These are photos from opposite ends of the long ground-level room that will be our kitchen and living room/lounge. We are pleased with the rustic look and color of the wood. The finish is brushed and oiled in a natural way that is compatible with a country village house. The slight color variations give it some character.
Upstairs: If I look pensive in this photo, it's only because I can see lots more work to be done! We are anxious to get the attic insulated and finished off as well. The hardwood floor on this level for the main bedroom and small study is a bit darker and more formal. Stained but not varnished, the solid oak planks have a slightly reddish tinge. They are slightly more narrow than the honey-colored oak planks downstairs.
Our builder Jim was clever enough to use some of the extra oak from upstairs to build us a first step that was needed on the ground floor.
The next step in renovation will be to put in framing, electrical and plasterboard walls to finish out the middle level. Above is my amateurish sketch done to show the builders where we would like electric outlets (lots!), lighting, and the dividing wall between the study and the bedroom. Two electric heaters with internal thermostats will be placed here under windows to combat the cold.
And, of course, the bathroom must be tiled and outfitted. Because it is so small, we are asking our builders to have the door open outward, rather than into the bathroom. That should leave us room for a sink on the right with the toilet in the righthand corner. The shower will be built into the left hand corner, and we will have a heated towel rack (a necessity, not a luxury, in Normandy) on the left hand wall.
Now, let's go back outside!
Lonlay l'Abbaye, at the end of summer, was in its glory. The apple orchard that surrounds the old cider press near the center of the village was beginning to bear ripe fruit.
We took Bullet for a walk across the old wooden bridge that spans the Égrenne river to the ancient abbey. There were flowers everywhere and the river was splashing along happily like a stream.
This ancient crucifix is so weathered that it seems more of a pagan representation. It is very close to the old abbey. On another visit, I will try to find out how old it is.
The Abbey at Lonlay l'Abbaye was first consecrated in the early 11th century. Its doors were open to the public all during the festival weekend.
Inside the abbey, it was peaceful and cool. Recorded choral music added to the atmosphere. The church has many treasures and surprises.
Some of the statues are over 400 years old.
Outside in the village square, a kiddie carnival ride was set up, food booths were opening for business, and the main street was turned into a mini-midway.
The warm-up band had to play during the daylight hours and attracted a small, but growing fan base. As darkness fell and we got closer to fireworks time, another band took the "stage" and the village got more lively. There was beer and wine, grilled sausages, a "guess the weight" raffle, and a team of dedicated village volunteers who kept everything running smoothly. We saw Mayor Deroüet, but he was surrounded, so we did not get a chance to say hello.
Then suddenly, the fire department marching band appeared...
The children were given paper lanterns on a stick with lighted candles placed carefully inside (would not happen in the U.S.!) and of course, they were enchanted. Then the marching band led the children away into the dark like pied pipers, along with most of the village adults as well. We had no idea where they were going, but could hear them winding away down the narrow streets.
We followed the sounds and caught up with them all on the village green - just in time for those stupendous fireworks!
After the fireworks, we went back to the house to check on Bullet and relax, but we could hear the merriment and could look out the window to see dazed tiny kids whirring around on the lighted ride until way after midnight in the warm air while their parents laughed and talked with each other.
The next day, Sunday, found every street and corner of the village turned into a huge market, mainly of second-hand goods, vintage items and antiques - the famous "vide-grenier" (empty attic) type of rummage sale. Even our own house - in the photo just above - had squatters with a yellow sun umbrella in front. I did not spot anything I could not live without, but it was good fun, and we had a delicious steak at the village restaurant, Le Relais de l'Abbaye.
Besides the charming village fête and vide grenier, we also had time to let Bullet explore the orchard (whilst wresting her from wormy apples she was determined to eat), and we drove to La Fosse d'Arthour, a small natural site close to Lonlay l'Abbaye, associated in legend with King Arthur and his Queen Guinevere - but I'll write about that another time.
We do hope to be back soon.
I answered my French phone last month and heard a man's voice making a rather strange proclamation: "Bonjour, c'est Le Parquet." My first thought was that I did not know anyone named Parquet, but then it dawned on me: it must be the nice salesman from the flooring store! Parquet=flooring. Quite rightly, he assumed that I would have been even more confused if he had introduced himself by his last name, so he identified himself as his product. So much of our transaction had been through email to that point. Email is a godsend for language cowards like myself, because I can use iTranslate or Google to correct the written word as best I can before I hit "send." He was calling to let us know that our special order of solid oak was ready. He would tell the delivery company to call us so we could set a date for delivery to Lonlay l'Abbaye.
A few days later, after having heard nothing, I had nearly given up on the delivery company, and was about to make the first move to call them, but I delayed out of abject telephone fear. Finally, a cheerful man called and we chose a date. Then I gave Nicola, our builder, the delivery company number so that she could call them and coordinate a time. The boxes of flooring were duly received, but then needed to be opened and acclimated to the ambient humidity in the house. Typically, this takes from one to three weeks, and we knew that would take us to August.
Ah, August, when time stands still in France! Despite the internationalization of so many other business customs, the great majority of French workmen still take month-long vacations in July or August. Office workers as well. Our vet and his staff have decamped. The butchers and cheese shops and the fishmonger are closed, and we hear very little morning traffic on our street. A few days ago, we were having lunch at a tandoori restaurant and stood to greet the owner of our local laundry and dry cleaning place who was there with a friend to kickoff her "vacances."
Our builders Jim and Nicola thought that their team could begin installation of the floors near the end of July, but I had visions of brakes being applied to the project as soon as August rolled around. So it was a pleasant surprise to hear that they had started on the upstairs floor this week. And we got photos to boot! The photos are so reassuring, because we can see that the wood is the color and finish that we had wanted.
Our upstairs (middle level of the house) is where our bedroom and bathroom will be. The French refer to this as the first floor. The ancient beam that supports the original stone walls had to be sanded down so that the new floor could be laid level.
While the wood flooring is brand new, it has the look and texture of the old floors we had to tear up. We're trying to retain the feel of the original house as much as possible. Looks like the new flooring complements the built in linen chest that our builders worked so hard to preserve too. We're very happy about that!
Above photo is a picture of the old built-in linen cupboard as of September 2, 2015, the day after buying the house. While I was still hoping then that the floor on this level would not have to be replaced (the downstairs wood was riddled with a zoological compendium of insect damage), I knew that I definitely wanted to preserve this cabinet. Fortunately, the harder wood that the cabinet was made of (perhaps chestnut or mahogany) was resistant to the insects. The same was true of the staircase, so our builders were able to save both. All the wood flooring had to be replaced, however, as did the electrics and plumbing. Fortunately, the whole house is a relatively small space.
In the video above you can see the whole of the "premier étage" (French first floor) of the house, including the built-in cupboard and the "vétuste"(decrepit) pine floors, as I did my walk through back in September, 2015. Yes, the bathroom is definitely next on the list!
From August 24 through August 28, Joseph and I will be visiting Lonlay l'Abbaye. We are very excited to make this trip because we will get to see the new floors and make plans with our builders for the next steps: bathroom and kitchen. As a plus, the weekend of August 26 and 27 is a celebration weekend in Lonlay l'Abbaye with its annual "vide-grenier" (literally, the "empty-attic") where all sorts of vintage goods will be up for sale. The village will be abuzz with food stalls and visitors from near and far. We've found a lovely AirBnB rental that was just recently renovated by some folks who live in a nearby town. We love their sympathetic renovation of the ancient cobbler's house, and hope to meet up with them during the festivities! Here is the link to the rental if you'd like to stay in Lonlay l'Abbaye sometime:
Special Edition of the Blog today - Joseph Aragon's new novel "The Paris Plot" will be available for free Kindle edition download on June 23 and June 24!
My husband, Joseph, is an amazing person in more ways than one. Turns out that fiction writing is one of his best talents. His debut novel, a political thriller called "The Paris Plot," was recently published on Amazon and has received all five star reviews. This Friday and Saturday only, June 23 and 24, you will be able to download a free Kindle edition of the book on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Paris-Plot-Joseph-Aragon/dp/0998161209. If you are looking for an escapist beach read with settings in France, this is your book.
"The Paris Plot" received a stellar write-up from Kirkus Reviews. www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/joseph-aragon/paris-plot/. They call "The Paris Plot" "a fast-paced international adventure featuring engaging characters," with an "exhilarating underground pursuit..."
I certainly agree with that assessment, and find the book very exciting. "The Paris Plot" will be a great movie if we can get it in the hands of the producers!
Some of you may remember that Joseph was doing final revisions of this story last October when we stayed in Washington, D.C. for a month. www.atinyhouseinnormandy.com/blog/archives/10-2016. Joseph had previously lived and worked in D.C. (where we met) for many years, including two years in the West Wing of the White House as a Special Assistant to President Jimmy Carter.
American political intrigue sets "The Paris Plot" in motion, but most of the action is set in Paris, and a few other fascinating venues. What I like best is that the protagonist is a woman - Isabella "Izzy" Stone of the Secret Service.
Here is an excerpt from a press release that went out today to media outlets:
"[A]n ultra-nationalist French magistrate, Malevu, orders the president's arrest for war crimes, resulting in a deadly confrontation on the Champs-Elysées between the president's security team and French forces obedient to Malevu. Now Izzy Stone, head of the president's Secret Service detail, must do the near impossible to save him. She brilliantly devises a dizzying escape through Paris's secret underground networks of ancient catacombs and sewers, bursting forth from iconic landmarks in the City of Light. But will it be enough? Danger and violence forge a bond between Izzy and POTUS that neither had ever expected.
Kirkus Reviews says, "Aragon keeps up an impressive pace throughout the novel. Its short sentences and chapters are packed with intriguing details…. Izzy is shown to be astute and resourceful..." Aragon says, "Izzy is a kind of wonder woman with a Secret Service badge."
Free digital edition June 23 and 24 on Amazon.
Could an American president be arrested in France for war crimes? "The Paris Plot" lays out a conceivable chain of events grounded in international human rights law and the singular power of the French judiciary. "We've seen things recently come to pass that were once considered to be in the realm of fantasy," says Aragon, "but we are living in an extraordinary, fast-moving, volatile time where all options are on the table and the abuse of power is a constant peril. As Izzy Stone tells her team, 'It's a big world with lots of moving parts. Expect the unexpected.'"
The complete press release is at: www.pr.com/press-release/720331. You can find a few more interesting details and sample chapters on Joseph's website www.theparisplot.com. We do hope that you will take advantage of this chance to download the book and enjoy it. Please feel free to tell your friends!
So apparently there is a Windows horror video game called "Wooden Floor." The creators describe it on their website (http://www.indiedb.com/games/wooden-floor) in this manner:
For those of you who are renovating an old house, this sounds a lot like the way you might feel after several months of discovering that the simple wood floor you had in mind just does not exist, or is so painfully expensive to source and ship that you have to surrender. We've been in a Catch 22 situation for awhile now because we could not find the flooring we wanted, and we could not begin to buy materials for the kitchen or bathroom until we had the floors down.
First, our builders obtained a quote from a local wood mill, but the price for unfinished wood planks was just too much, because we would still have had to have them stained and finished. Even then, we could not be sure that they would be the color we wanted. Our next hope was to look online at the flooring available from Leroy Merlin, Castorama and the other big box stores in France, but they had no flooring that we liked.
The problem seemed to be that what we like is not fashionable at the moment. The flooring that is trending at these popular venues falls into three categories: light yellowish wood, dull grayish wood, and wood that appears painted over in white or black. The grayish and whitewashed woods are all right if you have a specific design scheme, but I could not see living with them, nor with a black floor, for decades. Not terribly versatile.
The lighter colored wood is nice, but we had that flooring in our place in California (above).
For Lonlay l'Abbaye, we wanted something warmer and more traditional - in a medium brown stain like the Parisian floor in the photo above. Why was it so difficult to find?
In the U.S., we found flooring we liked that was acacia wood (known as robinier in France), and shipped a sample to our builders, but it was not readily available from any French supplier (sigh).
What else could we do but move to France to sort this out? So we did! I retired at the end of March, and we moved to Paris in April.
Can you tell I'm happy? Living here is a dream come true. And in Paris, we finally found a flooring store that had the type of wide plank, warm-toned flooring that we wanted.
Ground Floor: This is the flooring that we have ordered for our downstairs "rez-de-chaussée*." The store we have purchased it from is called "Carrésol." They already have this flooring in stock. It is what Americans call "engineered hardwood" (a thick veneer of hardwood on top of a compressed wood base). Supposedly it is more resistant to moisture and can be fitted together and glued directly to our floor base.
*For those of you who are academically inclined, Joseph tells me that the term "rez-de-chausée" has Latin roots. The "rez" is from Latin "rasus," past participle of radere - which meant "to shave, or plane or run against closely" - referring in this case to the level of the house that was evened out to the level of the "chaux" (lime), from the Latin "calciata."
Upstairs flooring: This will be the flooring for the upstairs bedroom level (premier étage). Because they need to be nailed directly to the beams, these will be solid oak planks, just a bit less wide than the downstairs flooring, but in a similar color. Unfortunately, this flooring has to be custom-made, so we will have a three-week wait for it. Once it has been delivered to the store, we can arrange for a date certain to have both sets of flooring delivered to Lonlay l'Abbaye. We hope to visit around that time to see that the product is what we expected, and to find out more about how the floors will be laid.
There seems to be no way around a certain amount of delay in building projects, but we are very hopeful that our builders will be able to make our tiny house habitable in the next few months. We would love to spend some time there in the fall and winter this year.
Meanwhile, we've already been to Ikea for some kitchen inspiration!
Domfront is just a few miles from our renovation project in Lonlay l'Abbaye. We visited the remains of the ancient chateau there for the first time together. I'm not sure how old this particular standing wall is, but there has been a chateau on this spot since the 11th century, a site which changed hands several times in the middle ages as the French and English clashed during the Hundred Years War. In 1169, King Henry II of England received papal legates here who wished to reconcile him with Thomas Becket. One feels that ghosts abound.
The chateau in the town of Flers is considerably younger, and has interesting domed rooftops.
Au Bout de la Rue is a great little restaurant in Flers where we had a splendid fish dish for lunch with a half bottle of Chablis.
The five pictures above are of the B&B I mentioned in my last post, Le Presbytère in St. Bomer les Forges, and part of its back garden. This beautiful place has been tastefully restored by its present owners, Tom and Antoinette (Toinette) Jack, who are delightful people, and Tom is an excellent chef as well. The delicious breakfast includes very fine fresh-brewed Italian (don't tell the French!) coffee. Our several days' stay there was a highlight of our trip, and we hope to stay with them again this coming year.
The church in St. Bomer les Forges is a characterful structure and is lit up at night, which helps lead you back to Le Presbytère, just behind it. Across the street is the Relais de St. Bomer, where we ran into Jim and Nicola, our builders, on our first afternoon. Even though they planned on meeting us at our Lonlay l'Abbaye house the next day, it was a bit of a shock for them to see us, I think - as it sometimes is when you run into someone in an unexpected place.
We had fine weather our first few days in Normandy, and got to take a few more pictures of our half-house, inside and out. The last day we went for lunch at the Relais de l'Abbaye, where we ran into the Mayor, Monsieur Derouet. As we were leaving, a cloudburst hit, so we offered the Mayor and his friends a ride down to the Mairie. He was so nice, and insisted that instead of just going back to the office, we should go to his house for coffee! His home is in the countryside, about 10 minutes outside of Lonlay. Along the way, he pointed out the fields that his parents owned for raising dairy cows. His home is a lovely stone house, recently restored, with a monumental fireplace. He told us that he had had to replace the main overhead beams, which must have been quite an undertaking!
Meanwhile, we were able to see more signs of progress at our place. The walls are being finished, and we have a new electrical box downstairs. As it resembles a hydra, and we did not know which wires were live, we gave it a wide berth. The staircase walls are not going to be covered with wallboard, just relimed. Our next step is to choose the hardwood flooring we want installed in the ground floor and the upstairs middle level, but we have yet to find the right combination of color and durability in flooring at the main French supply stores.
Imagine this as an old master painting: "Homeowner Supplicating the Builder." I don't know what I was talking with Jim about here, but I'm sure I was asking for advice about something! Nicola and Jim were good enough to spend over two hours with us discussing the overall project, and giving us an estimate of total costs to tile and kit out the small bathroom, still a gaping hole to my right in the painting (er, photo). To Jim's right is a large stack of wall board waiting to be installed in the middle level and to finish out the attic, eventually! He ordered it in advance so it could be pulled up between the floor beams before the ceiling closed them off. Jim also told us about a great garage in St. Bomer les Forges, where we were able to get air for the tires of our rental car. Every visit we feel more well oriented.
I did not step into the main level on the beams at all, as I was too afraid I would lose my balance and step right through the new ceiling below. Joseph was bolder, and stepped out onto the beams to take the two short videos above - the first of the unfinished bedroom and bathroom (hole!), and the second which shows some of the attic area yet to be insulated and finished.
Happy New Year to you all! We wish you a year full of happy surprises, joyful contentment, and progress on projects dear to your own hearts. Let us each be a messenger of goodwill to each other and to the world.
Our Christmas present to each other this year was a visit to Paris and to Lonlay l'Abbaye last month. Paris was already glittering for the holidays on rue Royale and its passages.
From the Grande Roue, an enormous Ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde, we could see all the way up the Champs-Élysées to La Défense, which has grown to resemble Oz just beyond the city limits:
Inside a café on the Champs-Élysées afterward, we had scotch and hot chocolate while we watched the world rush past us.
Then we stepped outside to capture some of the boulevard's lights and traffic.
Our first night in Paris, we stayed at the Hotel du Quai Voltaire. 40 years ago it was the first hotel I stayed in in Paris - in 1976! The view out the window of the Louvre and the Seine is incomparable.
We had bought tickets months before on the internet for a modern ballet performance at the Garnier Opéra house. Always a memorable experience, but Kylián's choreography was a revelation to us.
Compared to the holiday glitz of Paris, the Norman countryside was peaceful and quiet. We were very happy to be there too, and most especially to discover the charms of Le Presbytère, a bed and breakfast run by an amazing couple in St. Bomer les Forges, just a few miles from our work in progress at Lonlay l'Abbaye. www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g1232081-d2199957-Reviews-Le_Presbytere-Saint_Bomer_les_Forges_Orne_Basse_Normandie_Normandy.html
More to come soon... Happy Holidays and a festive New Year to all!
"Petit à petit, l'oiseau fait son nid." Little by little, the bird makes its nest. This French proverb is akin to "Slow and steady wins the race" or "Rome wasn't built in a day." The idea is to encourage you to continue to persevere when it seems that you are only making a little progress at a time toward your goal.
Over the past couple of months, our tiny house in Lonlay l'Abbaye has been gradually renovated with all those essential elements that do not necessarily photograph well or provide the immense satisfaction of a big "reveal." The first outside job was to protect the building from the elements by replacing the rain gutters and pipes. Meanwhile, the inside was gutted, the remaining wood was treated against bugs and mold, and our ground floor was recreated and leveled. Framing and insulation came next. Now the electrical wiring has been done, the basic plumbing is in, and we even have some walls there too!
Here are photos of some of the "petit à petit" transformation that help me appreciate all the hard work and planning that goes into making a livable space:
In just a few days, we will return to Lonlay l'Abbaye and to Paris. This weekend, we are remembering the tragic terrorist attacks of last year, and the dignity and strength shown by all in the aftermath. We look forward to being a part of the new France - forgiving, embracing, and renewing - but fiercely protective as well.
This month Joseph and I (along with our Cairn Terrier "Bullet") are on vacation in Washington, D.C. It's something of a homecoming for us as we met here in Georgetown years ago. In keeping with my "tiny house" obsession, we were fortunate to be able to rent the small white brick carriage house you see on the left in the photo above. The carriage house is probably about 150 years old. Because it is so nicely renovated and well laid out, it's providing us with some good ideas for our tiny house in Normandy too. Thought I would share a few photos of the interior with you all too.
The front door entrance is on the right around this wood-burning fireplace. The fireplace is on a diagonal, and was probably added on at some point, but is a great feature for the small living room.
We have been reacquainting ourselves with Washington's wonderful museums - like the National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Air and Space Museum. We had a great night at the symphony and out on the balcony at the Kennedy Center. More monuments and new museums await, and we have tickets for the Danish ballet. There is a lot to do in D.C. But all in all, it is hard to tear ourselves away from Georgetown. Strolling these red brick sidewalks is a distinct pleasure all its own, and inspiration is everywhere. But for the parked cars, you could easily imagine sleek dark carriages with bay horses pulling up and down the gentle slopes.
We even bought some mums and gourds for the front entrance to our temporary tiny residence!
The ground floor of our village house will have a small kitchen as you enter from the square. The kitchen will be approximately 10 x 10 feet (about 300 cm x 300 cm), with some of the space taken up by the staircase. The rest of the ground floor will be a narrow living room/dining room of approximately 10 x 14 feet (about 300 cm x 425 cm). You will pass into it from the kitchen. Needless to say, we do not want to waste a lot of floor or air space installing doors that would swing into either the kitchen or the living room each time they were opened. Doing so would greatly limit the amount of floor space we'd have for furniture – and for us!
Luckily, our daughter had the very good idea to put "pocket doors" in the dividing wall between the kitchen and living room. This would let us close off the kitchen or living room area without interfering with the floor/air space. You can see where the dividing wall will be placed between the two rooms in these pictures. It's where the metal frame juts out from the wall:
Pocket doors slide away into the walls and are thus concealed when open. They are known in France as "portes coulissantes à galandage." The concept is a good one that has been around since at least the mid-19th century. My grandmother's house in New York had heavy pocket doors of oak between her writing room and her living room that we almost never closed.
In order to let maximum natural light in to the living room from the kitchen, even when we close the doors, we were hoping to find a set of sliding narrow "French doors" like the ones in the two photos below. What could be easier we thought, than buying glass pane french pocket doors in France? After all, isn't that where they came from?
Quelle surprise! Our builders went on a search for something similar, yet oddly enough, discovered that the main building supply companies had none! It appears they only carry modern looking doors for installation as a "portes à galandage." How could this be? Even in Los Angeles, glass pane pocket doors are about as common as McDonalds! From Castorama, they sent this photo as a likely suspect:
Hmmm. Like Ikea noir. But this door is so modern, and the frosted glass looks like it belongs more with a bathroom (as it is used in the photo above). So I decided to scour Castorama and Leroy Merlin online and also search for French brands specializing in well, French doors. French doors as we imagine them in the U.S. usually means white frames with clear glass. Once again, I was shocked that they seemed so difficult to find!
Lepeyre, Scrigno, Eclisse - lots of brands have high end sliding doors that can be hung on rails or made to disappear into your wall - but none of them look like French doors. Many are quite futuristic and made of glass, with designs etched or embedded into them. So much choice, but none of it looked like what we had envisioned. Some of it rather scary...
Should we consider solid doors after all, as perhaps the
only traditional alternative, or would these be too staid?
We would paint them white or ivory - not aqua.
These are from Castorama. Too provincial, even for the
Then there is this look, which the stores call
"atelier," that seems more appropriate for a
small Paris apartment with post-industrial reclaimed everything. The door is painted aluminum.
A possible solution suggested by someone in the DIY community chat at Leroy Merlin would be to try to find regular interior French doors - yes, they do still make those with hinges - and substitute them for the ones that are specially designed to slide into the walls. After all, as you can see near the end of the video below from Leroy Merlin, the doors are only attached at the top to the sliding mechanism. Of course, we would have to be sure that the regular doors are not too thick to fit into the mechanism in the walls!
Very excited this week to have photos from our builders of the transformation of our tiny shell of a stone house into some semblance of actual rooms! Let's begin with a "before" photo of the kitchen corner.
And now, with the insulation and metal rails in for the walls... All the beams above have been replaced with new solid wood.
Oh yes, the underfloor has been laid and leveled. This "contiboard" you see is a kind of plywood base the builders will walk about on while they do more renovation. Later we will add hardwood flooring once all the walls are up. You can see some of the electric lines overhead.
We are deciding on the composition of the wall/door between the kitchen and the living room area. Right now you can see some metal rails sticking out where the dividing wall will be. The question is whether we will leave a wide opening, or put in French doors, or put in "pocket doors" that could slide away into the small wall space on the sides. Our daughter's preference is for pocket French doors, and after all, it is meant to be her own little house. Will discuss the feasibility of these with Jim, our builder, on Thursday.
In the photo above we are looking straight from the front door area to what will be the back wall of the kitchen. We will have about nine feet of wall space to fit everything in, including a clothes washer. I suppose the refrigerator could always squeeze in closer to the stairs. Now let's look at the living room/lounge in 2015:
The old floor was decrepit and had to be pulled up and destroyed, leaving us with an exposed "vide sanitaire" (underfloor airspace) that was full of rubble. You can see the waste pipe that leads to the mains drains running along the bottom of the floor on the left in the photo below:
Now the floor has been relaid on concrete pontoons to retain the airspace, and should allow the building to "breathe" from underneath. Water vapor will evaporate up toward the roof. We are leaving an airspace behind the insulation to allow for this, and to avoid damp in the old stone walls. Our heated living areas will be boxed in once the drywall is affixed to the metal studs. Electric lines have already been laid and should be invisible behind the drywall.
With the new floor, insulation and railings up, the living room looks very different now:
Upstairs, brand new beams have been fitted for the bedroom floor. They had to stop at the main supporting beam. Beyond that beam there is older flooring that we have had thoroughly treated (as with the beam) to be sure there are no wood-eating insects within, but we cannot pull that flooring up as it is the ceiling over our adjoining neighbor's living area! A new hardwood floor will be laid over both. The main beam is very old, but solid.
The view below is looking into the study and bedroom area from inside the bathroom on the middle level of the house. We are going to be sure that the flue from this upstairs fireplace is properly filled in, and will have it walled over. Downstairs we do want to have a wood stove installed, but we'll only have electric heat upstairs.
The photo below is a view from the bedroom on this second level (which is the French "first" floor) looking back toward the stairs and the now empty shell of a bathroom. Below that is a photo of the bathroom in its "heyday." Yes, I'm being sarcastic. It was pretty sad, I'm afraid. The floor was covered with plastic contact paper with a fake wood grain.
We were worried that some of this bathroom area might also be built over part of an adjoining property, but once the fixtures were removed and the floor was taken up, it appeared that the placement was entirely over our kitchen.
It is a very small space to work with for a bathroom, and a challenge for our builders, but they have already replaced the beams, and I'm sure they will have some good suggestions. I will be happy if we can fit a basic toilet, sink and shower in there. Photo below is taken looking up from the kitchen at the fresh beams and reinforcements. You can see the waste pipe in the corner.
Here are two more views of the middle level and the fresh beams. You can see the windows of both floors. The house faces roughly southwest, so it gets good light most of the day.
All of the windows and the front door are scheduled to be removed and restored by a fellow who specializes in such work. Meanwhile, we are very pleased to see such progress in the rebuilding of the interior. We hope the house is happy too.