Monday, July 9, 2012

Building the Apartment - Project 2011

Doorway to the Apartment... and Project 2011

On the wall at the mid-way landing is the door to the back of the house. Directly below this part of the second story is the shower room and next door is the toilette, then the utility room with the water heater, washing machine and large chest freezer, then the large wine cave with an outside entrance to the breeze-way.  This second story addition to the  back of the primary home done in the 1940's.  It was primarily open space with one bedroom on the east end, for Therese.

Jean Darees,  the youngest son,  was the craftsman of the family, soon after the addition was completed, he planned out the space and built primary walls to make space for a bathroom, small bedroom and an area that we will use for the kitchen.  Just beyond the kitchen is another door leading to the original hay loft, located immediately above the breeze-way where all the Fetes are staged.

Coming through the door from that first photo, go back and look - I'll wait. Okay you're back, so coming up the steps there is a hallway. This is the view to the west, behind us are two rooms. The new toilette/shower room and Therese's bedroom, straight ahead is the kitchen and the loft, doorway just before the kitchen is our bedroom.  Note the single light bulb hanging from the ceiling.  The boxes of tile along the walls have been there since 2010.

This is a photo of the interior walls of the toilet room in the bathroom.  The French use terracotta bricks and wood that has slots to support the walls. The blocks are only about 3 inches thick and are roughly 6 inches by 12 inches.  Usually a grey coat of cement (scratch coat)is troweled on, next a finish coat of plaster then paint. 

Here is Linda doing the "Vanna White" demonstration at the interior wall in the kitchen.  To the left is the houses original outer wall, some 3 feet thick with scratch coat, it is now the interior wall for our kitchen. Again, with the single bulb at the ceiling! Definitely, need to work on the interior decorating!

This room is 5 meters wide and 10 meters long... BIG room! This is the view of the open end of the loft.  Notice the floor and the bottom edge of the opening are one in the same?  Great, for bringing in hay and grain but not so good for grandchildren leaning out to take in the view! Don't worry, we found a solution (I think).

Turning around, this was the view to other end of the loft, notice how the floor changes color? Look at the very cool little mini-Dyson vacuum cleaner.  No upright vacs in France - also no wall to wall carpet.  This little vac really took a beating. We used a large screw driver to scrape between every board, dislodging 200 + years of dirt and grime, and that little vacuum stayed strong load after load! Then the floor was stained and sealed. We worked in sections, to help us not get trapped. Plus, it was a real killer to bend over or crawl around digging out the dirt.

This is our Argentinian born - via South Africa - now in France worker, Ronald. Applying plaster to the block wall between the loft and the barn, he also did the plastering in the kitchen, bedroom, hallway and new bath.  I lost count of the bags when we went over 30.  First the plaster is applied, a couple of days to dry then sanded to the texture desired. 

Here is the opposite wall Ronald was working on, with, me DEEP in the sanding process.  Note the size of the latter I am standing on, seems french ladders are quite narrow.  The dust from this process can be found outside for miles and inside on every flat surface. With never a word about the noise and dust from Therese, Joseph or Jeannette who continued their life as if this crazy work happened frequently. We were still sleeping at Cousin Patricias petite maison in Bassoues, driving to and from Montegut each day.

Motivational shot: This is the view that has become the kitchen window. Looking north toward Villecomtal, it is traditional for the kitchen window to face north in this area of Gascony...we are told.

Again, for Motivation: I am jumping ahead a bit.  This is our kitchen sink/cupboard.  We found a gorgeous cabinet in a Brocante (used furniture-to us antiques store).  This china cabinet (you can see the upper section in the loft photos), with intricately craved fruits, was built in the Provence region.  The green and creme colored marble top was removed and modified to accommodate the sink.  Top drawers were also modified so are still useful.  Our English plumber, Simon was clever enough to use a very flat type collector and drain so we have nearly full use of the two cupboard doors. All the modifications were made so that we can return the piece back to it's original use.

To the immediate left is the cooker, a 5 burner, hot Italian unit, found in the discount isle of the local appliance store.  The center burner is for boiling pasta, but could also be used for a forge!  To the right of the sink is the clothes washer, then the dishwasher and refrigerator are on that side. All a perfect fit!

This is the "still nearly at the beginning" photo.We are still removing and finding storage for the accumulation of STUFF.  These two walls are original to the building and a metre thick. 

This cute little bed was in the bedroom, it's mattress was 2 feet thick and made of cotton wadding and burlap. Only a child could sleep in this little shorty bed.  I used the head and foot boards as head boards for two beds in the loft.  Linda did the sand and stain.  Wherever possible we used existing materials including re-purposing the furniture. 

We got so busy near the end of the trip that we took very few shots of finished work.  This is the kitchen with the Armoire (we're using this as a pantry) and kitchen table in place.  Notice the small cabinet with the basket on top.  This was a commode, yep, where you keep the chamber pot at night.  We bought it for only 10 euro at a Vide Greniere (village wide garage sale) solid inch thick walnut burl wood.  After a good cleaning and seal coat it now houses the propane tank for the cooker.  The marble top is the cut out left over from the kitchen sink project.

This sideboard/cabinet matches the one we used for the sink. We'll use this piece for a dish and cutlery storage cupboard.  The large dark door on the right leads up a few stairs to the loft.

We finished work on this interior project, all walls finished with plaster and paint!
All electrical updated and expanded for the kitchen and loft!
All new plumbing for the bath and kitchen, thanks to the forward thinking of Jean Darees there was a hot and cold water stub just below the bathroom floor that we were able to tap!
We also tiled the walls in the bath, tiled the floor and walk in shower!
Chandeliers are now present in the Hall, Bath, Bedroom, and Kitchen!

We had to open a hole in the base of the exterior wall for the toilet, kitchen and bath drains. We also upgraded the septic tank lids.   

There is one double bed and 3 single beds in the loft.  A double bed in the bedroom with matching armoire. A kitchen table plus a game table in the loft with two comfy chairs.  Also in the loft we found another antique bed that I converted into a sofa.  For that one of a kind piece, we still need to cut the foam and cover it, but all in good time.

Ronald did a great job on the walls and the bathroom wall tile, plus he removed and replaced about 1/3 of the floor in the loft.  Our plumber Simon also was very good and the electrician Maurice excellent, not cheap but really good. We felt in good hands with the tradesmen!

The Montegut apartment is complete! There are still little odds and ends to finish up... but, that is for another trip. To celebrate it's completion cousine Georgette, Therese and Joseph surprised us with a lovely bottle of Champagne! And just to be absolutely sure, we enjoyed a very special evening with cousins Odile and JP. Now we truly fell like we live in Montegut!

And if you have been... thanks for reading.

Au revoir Joseph

Joseph Darees

This is a photo of Joseph behind the house on his way back from a visit to the neighbor.  Joseph died earlier this spring, he was in his late 80's.  He was born in what we call the grandparents room and died in his own room next door. The grandparents room has been kept as almost a shrine, furniture is in the same position photos hang just as they were in the1890's.  His mother was a Dargeles - just like mine. 

Here we are with Joseph in 2010 when we replaced Linda's favorite gate (lower left).  Joseph seemed to simply pop up everywhere when we were in the thick of  major work projects.  Once, while I was intensely watching the top of the bucket while operating the Manatou material lift I saw something from the corner of my eye and there was Joseph standing between the huge tire and the lift boom.  Another time we had 3 workers and 9 different jacks hoisting up heavy timbers in the second story of the barn we were feverishly adjusting jacks when I turned around and, yes, there was Joseph.  Down at one end looking like he was ready for the big lift.  

Here Joseph is coming out of the chicken area, he opened the gates every morning to let the chickens out, he fed them and collected eggs every afternoon. Chickens at Montegut are a commodity not pets as is the current trend in California, these chickens do not have names.

Joseph also raised rabbits.  These rabbits are used for food and also traded with neighbors for other food products no longer grown at Montegut.  They are highly prized, both Linda and I can say Bon Appetit, too.  Cousin Odile prepared one for us last year at a dinner feast with JP and his Mother,Helene, Joseph's sister - she is over 90. 

Each afternoon, after his nap (he sat in a straight back chair at the dinning room table) he could be found hard at work on his Sudoku book, he played the expert level and finished a book in only a few days. Then is was on to a few more small chores around the property or just a walk to visit a neighbor then it would be time for the game shows on TV.

He lived a long life and always seemed happy going about his daily routine. Joseph will be missed by both his French and American familys.