La Petite Touche Progress

2007 to 2011 - The Renovations: Phase 1 - Holiday Cottages

The story so far

This page is ordered so that it reads chronologically down from oldest to newest. It matches the chronology of the pictures in the photo gallery.

2007

In March 2007,

we went to a French property exhibition in Birmingham and spent all day talking to agents from different areas in France. This led to a firm decision that our first trip to France for 2007, in June, would be a house hunting trip.

By Summer 2007,

having done a considerable amount of research on the web and after many long discussions over (French of course) wine, we set up appointments to meet with a number of agents to look at specific properties. In mid-June we set off for the Loire where we had the first in a series of appointments arranged to view properties. We saw several, including one which we had fallen in love with electronically so to speak. We made an offer on this but it transpired that unbeknownst to the agents, the property had been sold already!

As they say, every cloud has a silver lining and we were about to find ours! We went back to the same agents the following week having decided that we definitely wanted to find a property in the Loire area – we cancelled the other agents' appointments. We looked at several more properties but when we chanced upon La Petite Touche – that was it – our fate was sealed!

We committed to the purchase in July and stopped by to visit the area again during our August foray into France. Arriving back in the UK, we knew it would be less than a month before we were back in the Loire to complete on La Petite Touche. Needless to say, September swept past and we found ourselves trekking back to the Loire yet again.

September 2007,

at 2pm CET on Friday 28th September 2007 we found ourselves the proud owners of La Petite Touche and so commenced work on the task of restoring and where necessary rebuilding it. We also have to decide eventually what to do with the ‘dependances’ – but that is definitely for another year or even decade!

In November 2007,

we signed the contract for the Master of Works (Project Manager cum Architect) to seek formal quotations from the various French artisan builders, and building trades. Our intention was (and remains) to retain as many of the original features as possible; such as 300 to 400 year old Oak beams, the original ‘Four au pain’ (Bread oven) and not least, the 80 centimetre exterior walls.

In December 2007

outline estimates for the work, described as "worst case" were received. These were quite a bit higher ("worser") than expected but when you gotta do it, you gotta do it! We were led to believe that when the final, detailed, estimates came in a bit more sanity would reign and we might get a pleasant surprise. (The final cost was more than we expected but less than worst case!)

2008

By April 2008

and after several iterations and a lot of passing of data and pictures via email we had agreed the project parameters for the renovation work for the first phase of the renovation, being the work to create the two Gites. The next stage, having agreed the outline, was the more detailed "Devis" (estimates) done by the Artisans and to be "signed off" before work commences. This took some time!

End August 2008

and all the devis had, at last, been signed off after a number of iterations to get things as we wanted them. Work could now commence within the next 2 months on the first phase of the renovations, once the planning application had been approved. The big lesson learnt is that it is a time consuming exercise. However the people we were working with were all really helpful.

September 2008

After quite a bit of investigation and research, not easy during August with everyone on holiday, we eventually got to the bottom of the planning situation. There was an existing planning consent,which meant that the renovations could start. Hooray!

In October 2008

we reported that work had begun! The first phase of the job was, as one might expect, the removal of the things we didn't want. (Here started the ongoing saga of what became known as "the heap", an ever growing mountain of material neither wanted nor needed inside!) By this time the wall in Gite 1 (Le Petit Bosquet) had been demolished and we now had a lovely large room as the Salon with 2 double windows. The old downstairs bathroom was no more! Also, the water meter had been fitted ready for the supply of mains water to the house, to augment the well.

December 2008:

in the last two months work had moved on apace. The main beam in Le Vieil Atelier (the old workshop - the name we have decided on for Gite 2) had been replaced. This involved a crane and lots of heaving and left ruts all over the place. All of the downstairs rooms had had their floors concreted, and various items of pipework and cabling had been "planted" under it. Sandblasting of the woodwork had also taken place. The floor of the downstairs bathroom in Gite 1 had been dug out and relaid to give more headroom. So the year finished with work on both Gites well and truly under way.

2009

In February 2009

it was reported that further developments had taken place, but the weather had also played its part. Because of the cold weather (yes 2008/9's winter was also pretty cold) the laying of the chappe (concrete floor) for the upper floor was delayed and then it took longer to dry than expected. (The lower the ambient temperature the longer the concrete would take to go off.) There was also snow ("it doesn't snow in the Loire")! However there had been some progress, as the upstairs did by now have a flat floor!

April 2009

and the weather had improved from the inclement days of February. The new Lucarne (dormer window) had been fitted in Le Petit Bosquet. (The sight of 2 artisans using chain saws to cut through the roof timbers was more than a man could take!) All the doors and windows for Le Vieil Atelier were in and the internal plumbing and electrical work was moving on apace. Upstairs in Gite 2 some minor redesign work had taken place as, following the laying of the chappe, it became clear that the intended bedroom layout would mean lots of bumped heads! Not entirely unexpected that something would come "out of the woodwork" as the work progressed. But it was resolved, thankfully, before any of the internal walls had been fitted.

Outside, the "Rose Garden" benefited from the addition of new roses and the first blooms were eagerly awaited! We had also taken out a conifer that wasn't where we wanted one to be. The Courtyard and driveway however were looking "battleworn" and would clearly need attention once the major works were completed, as would the area around the back of the house.

During May 2009,

as the weather got better, so the pace of work seemed to have quickened. Surely not just a coincidence but possibly helped by longer days. (With no internal lighting what you can do in mid-winter does have limitations!) Since the last update only a few weeks before, the drylining, along with the addition of huge amounts of insulation, had been completed and work also moved on with the electricity and plumbing. The new salon in Gite 2 looked wonderful. The floor tiles were "imminent" and even some of the bathroom fitments had started to appear. We would soon be in a position to start decorating and putting in some of the finishing touches.

Outside, more work had been undertaken with the addition of further roses in the "Rose Garden" and three new trees in the orchard. The growing season was well and truly upon us and everything seemed to be gaining inches every week. We found out that we have some bluebells next to the hangar. Every year we seem to find something new.

July 2009

As predicted in the update in May, decorations had by now started. However, in Gite 1 only the upstairs rooms had been started and the bedroom completed. Attempts to decorate had been interrupted by "the carreleurs" starting work, in the downstairs salon, which was now starting to look like one room! In Gite 2, downstairs we made more progress with 3 coats in the new kitchen - one more for the ceilings still required - and the decoration of the salon was now completed. The stairwell was still "work in progress" (partly because we couldn't decide what colour to do it) but the bedroom had been completed.

In terms of the structural work, things were pretty much complete by this time, with the exception of the staircases, which are the last major item (partly so that they don't get used until the renovations are complete). Internally we had a working bathroom and kitchen, which effectively meant that passable comfort was now almost possible. The remaining work was scheduled over the next few weeks (before and after holidays). Apart from the staircases and glazing of the small windows, the remaining items were either cosmetic or final fix; electric lights, power sockets, and the like; with shower and bathroom fittings and the remainder of the wall tiling. Still quite a bit to do, but progress much more visible.

Outside, "the heap" of all the stuff that had come out of the house during the renovations, remained to be cleared and the drive still awaited some, well a lot of, tlc. The roses seemed to have taken, albeit with one or two casualties, and the trees planted earlier in the year had begun to establish themselves. The hot weather at the end of June wasn't best for them though, but the rain in early July had helped a tad. (That, however, was the last rain until September which severely stressed the new trees and it won't be until Spring before we know whether they have survived.)

By August 2009,

further and visible progress had been made. The carreleurs (tilers) had now all but completed their work, both walls and floors. Only some final "plinth" work still remained to be completed; in both Gites. It was by now, at last, possible to see exactly how the rooms would look and they were really just awaiting furniture to be added. Except, of course, the salon in Gite 1 and the bathrooms which remained to be decorated.

The electrical and plumbing work had also moved forward with much progress here too. The large walk-in showers in the upstairs bathrooms had been fitted out and both bathrooms looked stunning! It was really worth it as we had had to find not one, but two, designs for them. (When the artisan went to order the first design that we had chosen, he was told that although the design appeared in the catalogue, actually they had never made any, so if they were required it would be "about 6 months" before they could be manufactured; which was much too long a lead time - and of course there was no guarantee they would ever actually produce any. So it was back to the catalogues to find another suitable design.) As it turned out the second choice was probably better than the original, if a bit more expensive. Having used them we are now convinced it was all so much the better.

And in the last week before the August holiday began in earnest one of the staircases was fitted.

So what remained to be done? Well we still awaited one staircase; due at the end of the month. Glazing of the small "feature" windows has been prefaced by delivery of the glass and at least one was complete, but finishing off still remained. Then there was the "heap"; mentioned in more than one past bulletin - still to be cleared. Filling in of the various holes made in the house, driveway and courtyard had also been done.

September 2009

saw the arrival of the furniture and kitchen cabinets. Both of holiday cottages were now furnished to a greater or lesser extent although some furniture was still awaited. The new kitchen in Gite 2 wass fitted and working, taps and a gas bottle being the only outstanding features.

On the renovation front, since last month was "August" not a lot happened. We still, at the time of writing, awaited a staircase, some shutters and the juliette balconies for the front of the house. However these were all "in fabrication" so would be arriving imminently. Outside there were still a number of holes to be filled, so we didn't get any more unwanted "guests"! (We had had a few souris which were relocated, humanely, away from the House.)

Those of you who were following the "heap" saga. Yes, it was still there, but it was destined to be leaving the premises soon.

October 2009

was 1 year since Phase 1 of the renovations started and the end was, thankfully, almost in sight.

Since the last update, the long awaited second staircase for Gite 2, shutters and Juliette Balconies for the front of the house, had all arrived and been fitted. Much of the snagging work had also been completed. The gaps around the small windows, holes in the walls and other minor jobs had been done. Also the exterior of the front of Gite 2 had been rendered, a fine job indeed! Only a few small jobs remained to be done, hopefully by the end of the month.

And so to the "heap". Finally it had been helped on its way and the courtyard area had been levelled to remove the ruts made by the crane when the new beam had been installed in Gite 2, last winter.

In November 2009

at long last we could report the completion of Phase 1 of La Petite Touche renovations. All of the minor snagging remarked upon in the October report had been completed and signed off.

Now that the renovation work is complete we can concentrate on those little finishing touches that make a house into a pleasant place to stay, such as additional lighting, pictures, mirrors and other decorations.

We also started work outside to make a couple of garden areas for each individual Gite and more roses were planted for the Rose garden. (This did not progress quite as well as it might have done because of the dry weather which extended to the end of October.)

So another milestone completed. There is still much work to do but 2010 will see us ready to welcome our first "guests".

The next major renovation work phase will be on the second half of the main house. But that will be another story!

2010

February 2010

It's been a little while since the last news bulletin loaded to this site. Now that the major works are completed, things are moving a little more slowly.

However since the last report quite a bit has happened. The beam in Gite 1 (Le Petit Bosquet) has been given a new lease of life aesthetically by being clad with a new oak skin. During the Christmas period decoration of the salon commenced. A new satellite dish was also fitted allowing UK free satellite TV to be viewed for the first time.

Externally we've made a start on the semi-private garden areas for each of holiday cottages. This has included levelling the whole area, removing all the debris so it is ready for grass sowing as soon as the weather permits. A fence with gate has also been erected to divide the two garden areas, with a gate to allow fraternisation if appropriate.

The final piece of news is that we've taken an advert (www.holidaylettings.co.uk) for Gite 2 (Le Vieil Atelier - the old workshop) so it is now "officially" available for rental in 2010.

March 2010

Those of you who keep up with things on the other side of the water will be aware of the storm called "Xynthia" that tracked across France at the end of February. Winds between 95 and 100mph were recorded. It was quite a dramatic night. LPT didn't come through completely unscathed. The outbuildings shed a few slates and the fence between the two Gite back gardens although not totally trashed did take quite a bit of "flak".

We reported completion of all the decorations and application of finishing touches to the second Gite, now named Le Viel Atelier (The Old Workshop).

The grass seed had been sown and was just beginning to show. Construction of the two front gardens and a large quantity of gravel made the courtyard look much more pleasing on the eye. The roses planted last year seemed mostly to have weathered the winter well and all appeared to be in bud. The weather had also started to improve (but still remained very cool) and the grass needed its first cut.

All was finally ready for the 2010 season. The next thing to concentrate on was getting the larger Gite, Le Petit Bosquet (which is another way of saying La Petite Touche - so a bit of a play on words, but in French this time) ready for occupation.

May 2010

Recent developments included more work on Le Petit Bosquet, now closer to completion. The salon was finally decorated and the results can be viewed on the relevant page. We think it looks pretty smart. Still a bit more to do but the end of the tunnel now seems to be in sight!

The grass seed that was sown in March, because of the unusually cool weather, stubbornly refused to turn into a lush sward, as we had hoped. Not helped by a very dry April. More seed was applied, but it too proved difficult to nurture, mainly because of the weather. However as last reported, the roses had taken a step forward and were all in a late state of bud. Full blooms were eagerly awaited. The front gardens (about 2/3rds of an acre) were growing well and regular cutting needed to keep them looking trim. One new tree was planted in the fledgling orchard, an apple, which at the time seemed to have taken well to its new surroundings.

October 2010

Well the Summer is now well and truly behind us and as the nights draw in we can take stock. This summer has been as dry as any we have so far seen. As a result and because of the soil characteristics of where we have been trying to grow grass, very little progress has been made. We had a lovely display of poppies but no lasting grass, except where we did not want it. The newly planted tree reported on in May did not survive the Summer. Still perhaps we'll get a kind winter!

On a more positive note we have all but finished Le Petit Bosquet, only the kitchen now remains to be decorated. And we have been very pleasantly surprised by the positive comments from all who have stayed in Le Vieil Atelier. They can be viewed on the page for Le Vieil Atelier. As can be seen from the page for Le Petit Bosquet, we are now marketing for next year and have adverts on both Holiday Lettings and Owners Direct websites. When we did the renovation project we put an inteconnecting door in upstairs, so it is also possible to book both Gites together allowing for larger parties to stay. Using the French for "together" we have called this combination L'Ensemble.

2011

January 2011

The weather this Christmas was similar to that the year before - a beautiful crisp day - almost a shame to be enjoying Christmas lunch inside. The kitchen has been painted and finishing touches have been applied to Le Petit Bosquet.

Outside we have been moving plants. When we purchased the property there was a large thick laurel hedge in the front garden apparently planted to cover the back of the piggeries. Closer inspection revealed that it was actually a temporary planting point for about 200 plants. These have now been moved to the perimeter of the property, which is what we believe the previous owners intended for them. At the moment they look rather odd as they have very little in the way of side shoots, but we will give them time to establish before we take the tops out.