If you are anything like me – once you’ve put all your hard-earned cash into buying a house you suddenly realise that there’s not a lot left to make your transformation dreams a reality. Unlike many french families who live in one house whilst undertaking a complete renovation on another, we shall be working slowly and on a shoe-string. If you know that you are going to be living for some time in difficult conditions, I’ve always found that creating one or two zones which don’t scream at you, but leave you feeling somewhat tranquil are essential. For me there is nothing more essential than a welcoming entrance hallway. I don’t want to arrive back home exhausted to be reminded immediately of what needs to be done.
Our hallway was gloomy, with dirty and peeling cream-coloured paint over the walls and panelling. The old owner had decided to highlight the mouldings of the panelling and doors with dark turquoise paint, the carpet is a deep and very worn sludgy green, and the ceiling showed the residue of many years of smokers, smoking chimneys and oil-fired central heating stains.
The small ornate ceiling-rose with it’s smokers yellow tar tinge persuaded me to attack the cracked and peeling ceiling first. Once the ceiling was scraped down, the cracks filled and the ceiling and its rose painted, there was a major difference in the quality of light.
When we were in the final stages of buying the house the owner had aked me if I wanted any of his lights or furniture. I pointed to his ceiling lantern and since he’d had all his posessions valued for auction, he hastened to look at the reserve auction price. After a minute or so of jovial negotiation I exclaimed,
“Mais Monsieur, je vous ai déjà donné mon dernier sou pour cette maison” “But, I have already given you my last sou for this house”, and we said no more, but when I moved in the lantern was happily still hanging from the hall ceiling.
And when “Husband à l’etranger” gets home he will be moving the coat pegs and unattractive gun cupboard to the far end of the hall to make way for a hall table something like this, in place of the bench:But what I love most about the hall is this amazing window to the front door. On sunny days I can open the glazed section to reveal the cast iron window guard, and let the sunlight and fresh-air through whilst still being secure from the street.
For now I’m waiting for the moment when “Husband à l’etranger finally walks through the front door, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that his Scottish blood will mean that that window will be opened even when it’s mid-winter and i’m shivering under a hundred jumpers, but whilst waiting for our inevitable trip to the brocante to search for a narrow hall table, I’ll pop a few flowers on the window-cill outside.