the house transformed…

house_beforeWe had always wanted to change the front of the house. The render badly needed redoing and there was an arrangement of windows and a door encased in concrete which clearly didn’t belong. Jools wanted French doors opening out onto the garden from the dining room so Rog came up with a design which would retain the old proportions and transform the facade. Our neighbour was able to recommend a local mason, and as we had seen some of his work, we were happy to employ him. It took 2 years and three months before he arrived but it was worth the wait…
Here is a pic to remind us what it was like before.
The weather was perfect for most of the week, slightly damp and mild. Unfortunately, it absolutely poured with rain one day but typical of French artisans, they carried on regardless without a break (apart from lunch – of course!)
house_beforeafterThe end of the house was completed first and it enabled us to see what the rest of the house would look like. The render is a lime mortar which is a traditional material. The colour of the render was really important to us as we wanted a real southern feel. In this case, the colour was achieved by adding a dark sand.

house_facadestripAnd so to the front. They stripped off the old render, then made the opening for the French doors. All the cut stone required for the new openings was recuperated from our ruin. Some of it had been frost-damaged so they had to dismantle and sort quite a lot of stone to find the right pieces.
house_facadestrippedIt was quite tempting to leave the facade as bare stone… but we knew it was never meant to be like that.
house_masonThe stone is first coated with a grey cement to seal it and give a smooth base. Then the render is applied, smoothed with a hand trowel then finished with a spiked trowel and a wire brush which gives it a nice textured surface.

Voila !
Voila !

History Lives in the Buildings

We believe our house was built around 1850. Back then, rural France was much more densely populated. Balandière, had over 50 people living here within the memory of our oldest neighbours. It is now only 28 full time residents in 12 households. We had some cottages to the rear which were occupied by farm workers and pre-dates our house. Our neighbour Christine, can remember visiting her grandmother there, who apparently kept a moped in her living room!
Most people would have worked the land, and as we find out from photos and from clearing out cottages and outbuildings, it would have been a poor and hardworking life. However, Henry Marsac wasn’t an agricultural worker. He became a policeman and ultimately had a distinguished career.

Tucked behind our wonderful “marronnier” (Horse Chestnut) the house has had an interesting history. Fondly referred to as “la belle maison” by some locals, in its recent past, it had been divided in two by the Marsac brothers, Henry and Emile. Their names and other scribbles are etched into stone doorways and lintels around the property. Thanks to our neighbour John-Paul, who was born in the village, we have some wonderful photos of the Marsac family.

Marriage of Henry Marsac and Germaine, Balandière
Marriage of Henry Marsac and Germaine, Balandière. The wedding photo was taken in front of the barn.

The house underwent its most drastic transformation when the previous owners converted it back into a single family home. Unfortunately, circumstances changed for them and we turned up at just the right time to rescue it from its state of despair. Here is the house in an old picture showing a mysterious central chimney and no bathroom window. Most of the transformation was carried out by our predecessors, an English family, who brought the house back to life.

An old black & white photo of our house before it was converted back into a single family home
An old black & white photo of our house before it was converted back into a single family home

We have continued the restoration work, albeit slowly. The ivy has been replaced by a climbing rose and wysteria and the garden is no longer a jungle. However, It wasn’t until October 2005, that the facade finally had it’s facelift when the mason M. Moreau and his son arrived and worked solidly for one week and gave the house a new lease of life.

The house as it is in 2009.
The house, 2009.