Thursday, December 31, 2015

Chambre to Salon renovation continues

Moving all of the furniture out of the room was the first step of our plan. We quickly changed the plan when together we couldn't budge the armoire, even after it was emptied!  Eventually we walked the armoire inch by inch away from the wall giving ourselves a little room to work.

Both windows in this room have lovely views. The window below looks out over the kitchen garden toward the South-East. The window alcove is clearly hand crafted!  Small rolling foot hills in the distance were once grazing pastures for Montegut sheep.

Without the heavy drapes sun light floods the room. This window has 2 panels of 14 panes....

The window pictured below has 2 panels of 12 panes! Your might have already noticed the window on the fireplace wall has a straight top and this window facing the courtyard has a curved top. No one seems to remember exactly why the two windows are different. All 5 windows on the front of the house have curved tops as do the shutters.

To be consistently inconsistent... the number of panes in the front facing windows are not all the same, either.

Below is the window overlooking the courtyard of the house. On clear days we get a glimpse of the majestic Pyrenees mountains. Snow capped year round it is truly an exquisite view. The immediate view of the petite valley where Montegut presides is serene and the perfect stage to observe the change of seasons.

Both windows needed several panes replaced and the old glazing putty chipped out and replaced. This one new skill had quite a learning curve! After all the repairs to the windows were made the frames needed sanding and at least two coats of paint both inside and out.

Wallpaper removal was slow-going. Using a sponge to wet the paper was the only way it could be removed. Installation was long before strippable wallpaper. But thankfully there was only one layer of wallpaper, although in several areas thin paper was used as sizing.

Here is a short wall behind one of the entry doors. The paper was really glued down and in some areas pulled the plaster off with the wallpaper!

It would take a full day to remove the paper from each of the 4 walls.

Taped drop cloths protected the oak floor from the wet strips of wallpaper as well as excess water dripping from the sponge.

Here you can see an area with a large section of the sizing paper.

In the lower left corner of this photo you can see a dark horizontal stripe. It appears there were at least four different colors of paint used perhaps as an decorative accent color?

All went well until it was time to check the stability of the plaster on the walls! Light tapping at the base of the wall proved to pinpoint another problem. Water damage from the long-ago leaky roof found it's way down to the base of the walls.

The only thing to do was to chip away all the loose adobe and shore up the walls with cement. The photo below is the bottom corner of the short wall at the doorway.

Several areas were quite deep, up to 6 inches at the corners and 8 or 9 inches high. Small stones and bits of broken tile to add structure to the deepest holes and to resemble the original adobe composition. Proper repair required thin layers of cement with ample time to dry.

Clearly this would be a major endeavor - the entire perimeter of the room had suffered water damage.

Before the cement work could begin the surface of the adobe had to be stabilized in order for the cement to adhere. We discovered a spray on latex product to harden the adobe surface enabling the cement to adhere.  At this stage of repair tape was used as a visual reminder to ensure the new wall would be straight.

The good news?

It only took 8 bags of cement (50 lb bags!) to complete the patching, oh and about one full week of back breaking work.  Photos to follow in the next post.

And if you have thanks for reading.

Au revior!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

From chambre to salon - Before

Octave Valere Dargeles born 24 June 1867 in Montegut sur Arros, Gers, Midi-Pyrenees, France

Octave and wife Victorine Gabrielle Bonnabel pose with nephew, Cesar Raymond Dargeles and sons  Ernest Octave Dargeles and Henry Jules Dargeles.

The Dargeles photo was taken around the turn of the century. A copy was sent to family in Montegut and has hung in the same room since 1900. In 2002 cousin Therese points out the prominent placement of the photograph.

This upstairs bedroom or chambre has long been referred to as the Grandparents Room. Generations of Dazet, Dargeles and then Darees babies entered the world in this room. Not much has changed, aside from redecorating sometime during the late 1960's.  Vinyl wallpaper, heavy damask drapes, ceiling medallion and a brass-like chandelier were part of that upgrade!

The furniture is centuries old and still in lovely condition. A heavy sleigh bed slightly smaller than a double bed, a commode next to the 9 foot tall walnut armoire and the marble topped washstand are the original furnishings. At a later date an oak table and 4 chairs were placed in the center of the room.

 When the bedroom fireplace was no longer in use a removable cover was used to restrict drafts. Unfortunately it also created a perfect spot for wasps to build a very large nest.

 This photo was taken from the doorway to the room.  The room is large at approximately 16 x 18 feet with local oak plank flooring. The walls are adobe with plaster finish on the interior. The ceiling as well as the massive beams were plastered and painted as part of the redecorating.

All of the "before" photos were taken during a trip in 2008 to measure/photograph and evaluate the interior as well as the exterior to create our list of renovation priorities.

The armoire is enormous and at approximately 5 feet wide and  9 feet tall it demands immediate attention upon entering the room. The silky smooth finish has been preserved beautifully. Inside two small drawers held small family memorabilia. Several shelves held hand-made and delicately embroidered linens. Among the stacks of fine linen sheets and napkins were small lavander sachets and ribbon wrapped sprigs of herbs from the kitchen garden used efficiently to discourage insects.

A simple storage closet unit was built in between the wall and fireplace. Vinyl wallpaper covered the closet doors as well as the door into a small bedroom. If you look closely you can see the door latch and edges of the closet doors.

All of the wallpaper was removed as was the 1 x 5 inch rough cut oak used as base boards. We also removed the storage closet.

Heavy gold colored draperies covered both windows. The draperies were hung inside the recessed window area making it quite difficult to open the windows which in turn made it a challenge to open the shutters.

Since this room was no longer used it was always dim and a bit foreboding.

And if you have, thanks for reading.
Au revior,

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Early Montegut history

The house we call Montegut had a long history before a Dargeles called it home.  Montegut has been farmed since the 1600's when the original house was less than 1/4 of the size of the current barn!.

According to family lore the exiting house was built in the early 1800's in the quintessential Gascon farm house style. It began as a single large room, approximately 18' x 18' or about 6 square meters, The room originally served as the kitchen/dining area as well as the sleeping area. An enormous fireplace nearly 2.5 meters square kept the family warm in the very cold damp winters.  To the right of the fireplace is a hand carved stone sink from a single piece of local granite with a small drain hole.Water was efficiently directed through the outside wall to the kitchen garden area. Hand crafted fruit wood cabinets were added much later.

 In many of the Gascony history books you will see photos of elderly family members sitting on a short legged chairs almost inside the fireplace.

The following photos were taken in early 2007 before we began the slow renovation.


Fast forward another generation or two and a second story was added to the house.  Now there were four large rooms. With an elegant Oak and Walnut staircase and beautifully carved solid pecan doors at the entry to the bedrooms. Montegut didn't change much until the 1960's when indoor plumbing was added.

There is some speculation that these carved doors look suspiciously like the oldest doors at a nearby Abbey which is currently being renovated after years of decline.

And if you have, thanks for reading

Au revior!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Antin Jardin 2015

The garden of Gertrude and Hans were opened to the public this weekend. Beautiful! 

And if you have, thanks for reading. Avoir, Linda

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Le Marche en Vic en Bigorre

One of the largest weekly markets is located in Vic en Bigorre, about 20 minutes from Montegut. Today's market was well attended as usual. Since the weather has been mild residents are planning for flower gardens and window boxes, not to mention vegetable gardens. The market had something of everyone.

I think perhaps these poulet are ready for le pot! This breed is familiar around Montegut, probably good layers? But without feathers on their neck they look slightly bedraggled.


The white chickens were beautiful, the bit of black fringe really was striking.

This Artisan Bread table was a sight to behold. The baker gave me thumbs-up to take photos but he was busy answering questions and cutting samples. It was quite popular

Looks like he got up early to make enough product for the market. Extra large rounds to purchase by the kilogram.

Small loaves, seeded and traditional breads.

Baguettes! I think the AB on the sign means they are made with organic flour (ble).

Baskets were mounded high and crates were full at the beginning of the morning. But by the time we arrived there were still plenty of choices. The loaves below were full of seeds and nuts.

A basket of farm fresh eggs, cartons available for you to use and return next week! The eggs are not  sorted by size because you get the size the chicken lays... so at the market you get to choose what you like!

These onions were dug up just this morning, that is just as fresh as you can find! For only 6 Euros you will get about 30 onions - to replant or eat.

Small lettuce red leaf or green leaf and romaine, ready to plant.

Petit Pois - Peas in the pod, fresh and crisp. This mound of peas were gone within 10 minutes of this photo.

About 36 varieties of Olives!

A large table of at least 6 different kinds of homemade Nougat

The chocolate with blanched almonds looked heavenly.

and if you have, thanks for reading                                                    Linda