Another week and a huge transformation

Once again the last week has absolutely flown by for Andy, who seems to have been out working almost literally from dawn to dusk.

Making the most of the early morning light

Now France is in lockdown and his daily exercise away from the house is limited to 1 hour, at a maximum if 1km from the house, there are even less distractions and so his nose has been well and truly to the grindstone.

With lockdown he can’t even just go for a little drive in Fifi

When I posted this time last week, the first fix of the electrics had been done and the ceiling was up in the new kitchen, but the supports were still in place where the new opening has been made and the terrace was a simple and very unattractive slab of concrete.

Hardly a perfect, chic, Provence style

The first job was the nerve-wracking task of finally removing the acrow-props that were supporting the side of the house whilst the hole was opened and the reinforced concrete pillars were curing. It was so tempting to remove them earlier, but as after about 4 weeks the concrete has about 90% of its final strength, we had to resist temptation as we needed to be sure they were strong enough. So drawing a deep breath, Andy finally removed the props and the beams only really breathing properly again once they were out and there was no sickening creaks of cracks to be heard.

Supports finally out and beam covered

It was only then that we finally could see what a difference the new door had made to the dark little room and really appreciate the view we would get out of the kitchen onto the terrace….

What à difference this makes

When we bought the house this terrace didn’t really feel as if it was part of the house – the old owner had sometimes parked his car on it and the only way we could get to it was to either walk up the road or climb up a step ladder onto it. It’s always been a real eye-sore and we’ve always felt we could really improve it and make the most of its incredible view across to Caseneuve, with that constant wish to be able to just wander out with a coffee and enjoy the view, so this has become a focus during the week.

Such a lovely view

Earlier in the year Andy had taken a sledge hammer to the wall separating the terraces , to open up a space for steps to be built, which would mean we could finally get rid of the ladder. For the last few months though there has just been is a slope of earth running between the two, which hasn’t been particularly safe or elegant, but at least it gave us an idea of what it would look like.

The first stage of opening up the steps

The good thing was that where Andy had made the hole, there seemed to be a natural gap in an original stone-faced wall (which had been hidden behind an ugly, badly cracked, rendered block wall)….this ‘gap’ had lovely large stones on each corner, giving us the chance to make the most of that original feature. Looking at it, it had obviously been built like that for a reason, we’re not sure whether this had been an old shed or barn attached to the house many years ago, but it was an old access and we were determined to make the most of it.

An old opening, the perfect instant character on the terrace

So the sledge hammer was wielded again and the modern blocks knocked away to reveal as much of the old stone as possible and although it was all a bit rough and would need a bit of work, we had instant character on the terrace.

Once it was all cleared and tidied, Andy was then able to start creating the steps that would finally open up the top terrace for use. Rather than use purpose cut slabs Andy started carefully selecting the big stones from the huge pile that he had gathered when opening up the new door and continued to build walls at either side, following the line of the opening we had found.

The steps can only be built one at a time, so over a few days he continued the process…

First 2 steps in place

A painstaking job of finding the right stones, setting them in place…

Building up the walls was a painstaking process

Building the walls up at either side….

It looks great though

Until they were all in place and we finally could walk from one terrace to the other, tested by Millie who left her mark as the concrete was still wet ….. she wanted to make sure we remember her!

Millie left her mark for posterity

With the steps in place Andy could turn his mind to tiling the terrace itself and finally hide the bare concrete pad that will be where we have our table, sat under a provencal iron pergola. So with the weather set fair for the day, Andy started the process of marking out then laying the tiles.

Starting the tiling

What he hadn’t appreciated though was the sheer size of the terrace – we had measured it, knew how big it was, had even carried all the tiles up that would be needed …….

A bigger job that we had even considered it was

but somehow the more tiles he laid, the bigger it seemed to get and he had to work until he had to turn the outside light on just to get it finished.

Working in the dark to get it finished

The tiles in their structured lines seem to have made the terrace grow to twice its original size and we realise that not only will the table and chairs fit up there, but also some other seating too….. perhaps the beautiful old bench we managed to fit in the back of the car at a brocante a couple of years ago …

The terrace transformation starts

It would be very fair to say that Andy was exhausted by the time he finally sat on the sofa that evening with aching knees and arms, but a huge sense of satisfaction after a hard day’s work…..

Relaxing with the animals after a day’s work

and the following morning in the early light, with his first cup of coffee of the day, he could really see what he had achieved and it looked superb.

What a difference to the simple pad of concrete

Of course though, laying the tiles was just the first bit, so another few hours of grouting lay ahead… more hours of shuffling around on his knees, making sure that all the joints were filled and cleaned back, only to look at the sky with fear as it started to darken and threaten rain, just as he finished the last bit….

Please don’t rain

Happily though, the weather gods were with him and although the clouds continued to build, the rain didn’t appear so the following day he could polish them up using his long-perfected approach of shuffling around with an old towel under his shoes, removing every last trace of dust from the surface, before finally sealing and treating them.

Soft shoe shuffle – tile polishing

All done, and what an incredible difference it has made, but with the new doorway boarded back up, and the piles of stones, broken fencing and weeds, it now looks as if it is a derelict house with a nice patio!

Looking like a derelict house with a nice terrace

Back inside the new kitchen the work has continued and the plumbing has all been hidden behind the wood battens that are in place for the new stud walls…..

Getting ready for the walls to go in

And today Andy has started the process of putting the walls up, firstly covering the battening in heavyweight wooden boards….

Creating the walls to support the new kitchen units

Before putting the plasterboard in place. The aim being to give the walls a solid enough structure to support the new kitchen cupboards when we finally get around to fitting it.

And the first full wall is in

The room that we have long-dreamed of is now quickly being transformed from that dark, unpleasant space into a light and comfortable kitchen with a lovely view out

Looking out onto the terrace – blue skies in November

The oak for the doors and porch have now arrived and hopefully it won’t be too long before they can be made and fitted, as well as the ironwork for the terraces.

All being well today will see all the stud walls in place, which means Andy can then move onto opening the new doorway from our current kitchen.

This old kitchen will soon be a thing of the past

At the pace he works, I have a feeling this will be done quite quickly now and we’ll then be able to really understand the difference this will make to the house and the way we live in it…… It’s so exciting…..

6 thoughts on “Another week and a huge transformation

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