Rebuilding the Main House

The barn was not quite finished (the exterior still needed to be re-pointed) and the suites were livable. It was time to start on the main house. We had saved the best for last. What was to become the kitchen and the salon (with the dining area, music corner, fireplace, mezzanine and great staircase) started as the stable for all the animals - horses, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks etc. Neighbors tell us of playing there as children (over 40 years ago): running in and out of the stables, chasing chickens and ducks and just generally having a good time playing and hiding behind the bales of hay. By the time it was our turn, the place was a wreck. I took this picture of Marie-Louise sitting on the cement floor where the wall had been knocked out between the horse stable (now the kitchen) and the manger for the smaller animals (now the salon).

The Kitchen and Salon - Before

We started by jack-hammering out the cement floor and scrubbing the walls and beams. The roof was taken down, all the rafters and lath were replaced and the roof tiles cleaned and put back up. The walls in the kitchen were picked clean (by hand, of course) and re-pointed. The two small, high, half-circle windows in the horse stable (called cow's eye windows) were elongated downward so we could see the back yard from the sinks in the kitchen. The salon walls had been covered with a very hard cement. They also wept, building up a kind of salt peter in the corners. We could not do anything with these walls except hide them behind a new brick and plaster wall - which is what we did.

The Salon - before
After the Work

To admit more light into the kitchen, we added a south side window and a new dormer above. The kitchen is large and would become one of the focus rooms in the new house. Lightness and an airy feeling were important features we wanted to add.

New Window and Dormer
The Master Bedroom Walls Go Up

The car port - or open storage area - was next. During a storm the year before, the east wall developed a large hole and the whole wall began to crumble. The back wall wasn't any too stable, either. So the whole thing came down - walls, roof - everything. A new slab was poured and the room was totally rebuilt from the ground up. While we put stones up on the exterior and kept the roof tiles to maintain the look, this portion is otherwise constructed using all new and modern materials. It is large enough to hold our guest bathroom, our bedroom, a walk-in closet, another toilet, separate sink and shower areas and our office upstairs.

The Staircase Goes Up

With the outer walls all repaired, the new roof installed and the new windows in place, we began the finish work. First we put in the rough plumbing and electric. While that was going on, the stone mason arrived and erected two new fireplaces - one in the salon and the other in the kitchen for use as an indoor BBQ. We also added interior walls in the master bedroom to divide it into the different spaces, then laid the heating (under the floor) system and the tile over it, installed interior doors, built in place a grand staircase and a mezzanine above. The real finishing touch came when the kitchen modules (made in Germany) and the counter tops (marble from Italy, fashioned in France and wood butcher block made from hard, French birch) arrived and were installed. That was a great week!

And although this is written down in only a few words, this effort took us another two years to finish. We changed masons and plasterers - always difficult to do. We lost our plumber to retirement and ended up doing all the kitchen and bathroom plumbing ourselves. Our fingers are still crossed!

The New Kitchen

We moved in during the Spring of 2005 and began the process of decorating the house, redecorating the suites and, finally, adding the terraces, pathways and plantings around the house. We installed a pump in the old well - and, unbelievably, we found the old well still worked and refused to empty, no matter how hard we pumped!

As this is written, the summer of 2005 is almost upon us. We will have the barn re-pointed on the outside this July. The work is winding down. I think I'll have a glass of wine to celebrate. So with my glass of Tourraine Gamay in my hand, let me raise it up and salute you who have read this far and all of you who come to visit - for you are truly welcome.

Ready To Go