Aren’t walls meant to be straight?

Was it really only just over a week ago that I wrote the last update on the work we’re doing to convert the buanderie into a new kitchen. Just looking back at the blog now, I am struggling to believe how much has been achieved since.

When I last wrote, we had just taken delivery of the next lorry filled with supplies and were starting to tackle the room itself, to turn it from an empty, unattractive space previously used as a dumping ground for everything we couldn’t find space for, into something we will be able to enjoy as a key part of the house. There was so much to think about to make sure we did the right thing, as it will be such an important and well-used space, in fact it really will be the heart of our home (a little corny I know, but true) .

Looking forward to being able to cook in a proper kitchen, rather than a kitchen corner

The thing is that like every other space in the house, this one is quirky and as we started to really plan the interior, its quirks and personality became more and more apparent. Like every old house we’ve had over the years, its walls were clearly built by someone who had never heard of a straight line, with the room getting narrower at one end than the other and the walls themselves weaving in and out slightly too, and that is just from wall to wall. From floor to ceiling, it appears that the house has been constructed by those responsible for the pyramids, as at the ceiling the walls are 20 cm narrower than at the floor level, meaning that the room gets wider the higher it gets.

Of course this makes it interesting and we’d rather have that than a boring square box, but when it comes to planning kitchen units and what fits where, it makes it more of a challenge, more akin to an IQ Test question than a simple drawing and of course our original ideas have long since gone out of the window, although we kept the drawing for posterity.

The original plan that was still on a nail in the room…. Now revamped

We had already done some work based on this plan and the plumbing was all installed when we had the work done upstairs, so apart from the water pipe for the fridge (which can be moved) we have all the water supply and waste in place, so that aspect of the design will have to remain …. apart from that though we have had a total rethink, especially as the opening from the old kitchen is coming in a different way, so we have the whole of that wall to play with now, which gives us a lot more options than we had before.

The first thing though was to put up the battening to allow a ceiling to be created and also to straighten the end walls. At the moment the ceiling is simply the concrete lintels and bare blocks from the bedroom floor above and the thought of trying to fit units and work surfaces against walls that look as if they were built by someone with no spirit level after a few bottles of wine, really wasn’t filling us with joy.

The first step was to get the wooden beams in place to support the new ceiling, which gave us a few hours of fun, me still hampered by my broken clavicle and shoulder brace, trying my best to help hold the heavy pieces of wood against the blocks whilst Andy drilled, then screwed them into place. This actually ended up being an easier process than we had feared, thanks to the lightweight easily extendable poles that I could ratchet into place with one hand, whilst Andy held the beam up.

We couldn’t have managed without these

In fact we got it off to such a fine art that it was taking about 30 mins to fit each piece, so by the end of that day the wood was in place. Well-deserving of a glass of wine!

And the beams are all up…. Time for wine

Then onto the walls – The french stud walling system is based on metal frames that then support the plasterboard walls, which is great and very simple, but pretty limited when it comes to being able to secure anything to it, certainly not heavy wall cupboards in the new room. So we decided to use wood to build the stud-work, which would create a much stronger wall, especially once plaster boarded and further strengthened with ‘contreplaque’ too.

Hopefully all this should be strong enough to hold the wall cupboards

So for a couple of days Andy squirrelled himself away, cutting, drilling and fitting the studwork in place, creating the base for the new walls that will ultimately hold the majority of the kitchen cupboards

Shaping the studs to fit the oddly shaped walls…

And cutting them to fit over and aroud the plumbing too….

So just a few days after the lorry had off-loaded all the supplies, the room was really starting to take shape and we could really get a sense of the space we would actually have to work with.

Andy then ploughed on, using his newly purchased sack trucks to push the heavy Travertin tiles up the hill before starting to lay them and all of a sudden the empty space with a gaping hole on one side was transformed and our kitchen was starting to emerge from the ugly duckling that had been there before.

Now we could actually see the space we would have we went back to the drawing board with our plans and several sheets of paper (and glasses of wine) later we thought we finally had it and drew the new wiring plan for the electrician, proudly handing it over as the finished work. Needless to say he was really happy with the plan, raising just the one eyebrow when he saw that the washing machine was in the kitchen ( did we really want that …. Ce n’est pas normale) which got us thinking again.

Not the done thing!

Unfortunately due to the different levels, moving the washing machine into one of the other spaces it could sit in would mean fitting a pump to get the waste water up to the drain level, not impossible, but not really practical either. So back to the drawing board again.

Then it struck us that with the space we had gained by moving the new entrance, we could perhaps build in a large cupboard that could act as a little utility room housing both the washing machine and dishwasher. So at 10pm we were back out in the room with the tape measure seeing what would fit and (once again) changing the design.

The new plan… Simple, but it will work

We think that’s it now. The new plan has been drawn another door ordered from Pascal and over the last 2 days our wonderful and extremely patient electrician has been in doing the first fix for the wiring. Arriving at just after 7am, Andy has had the coffee machine ready for him and he has set to, feeding the lengths of protective tubing (gaines) across the ceiling, behind the stud work and using his incredible cutters to channel out the walls and create the holes for lights and plugs on the new terrace.

Some serious drill envy here!

He hadn’t seen the wooden stud work before, but understood the reason we had done it, as fitting anything of weight to the metal system is always a challenge…. when we said it would have ‘contreplaque’ too, his view was that it would withstand an explosion…. so a few kitchen cabinets shouldn’t be too hard!

When he left the room was filled with lengths of pipe hanging from the ceiling, sticking out from behind the studs, with hardly a straight line in place, like the web of a slightly deranged spider and the next stage of cutting and fitting the plasterboard could start.

So much trunking

I am still as much use as a chocolate fireguard when it comes to lifting and the lightweight poles we’d bought were great for wood, but would have buckled under the weight of the panels, so I would be of no help to Andy in manoeuvring the pieces into place. I am even less use now as I have had to do an emergency dash back to Devon to be with our youngest son who has just had to have his appendix removed.

A socially distanced dash to Devon

Happily though we have really good friends Chris and Jen, who have recently renovated a beautiful town house in Apt, creating Cent Cinq Holiday Appartments and Chris kindly stepped in to help.

Getting to grips with odd angles to be cut

As I type this they are using the last few hours before France is locked down again to put as much of the plasterboard up as possible. The room is becoming a reality.

Chris hard at work helping to put up the ceiling

So as things now stand, the doorway is open and the supports will be removed once the concrete has finally gone off properly and it’s got all its strength….

The top beam is now fully in place, the final supports are yet to be removed

The floor is down apart from the last bit where the supports still stand….

The Travertin is just so beautiful on the floor

The new doors and porch have been ordered, to be made from French Oak in the Provencal style… (although you wouldn’t know it from our drawings)….

We know just what we want and I’m sure Pascal can translate this to the finished piece

And we finally have a plan for the units that will work and give us the kitchen we have dreamed of…

So as France gets locked down, Andy has plenty of building supplies and plenty of jobs to be getting on with. He has the new terraces to tile, steps and stone walls to build….

Starting to build steps between the terraces

… and of course another hole to open in the side of the house to create the doorway into the new room. As that will involve taking out our current kitchen that will be one of the last things, but at the rate he is working, I don’t think it will be too long before the jack hammer is out again.

Looking at this the next hole won’t be as much work

I hope to be able to get back out and join him again soon, as this is something we want to do together, it’s our little project, our little home and it’s hard to be so distant from it albeit for a relatively short time, but what has happened is just the latest in the sharp twists, turns and unexpected drops on the roller-coaster that is 2020 ….

All we can hope is that 2021 may be different…. And at some point we can just wander out onto the terrace with a glass of rosé and just sit and enjoy the view without a worry

8 thoughts on “Aren’t walls meant to be straight?

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