On the train home from Paris last night I had a lightbulb moment that in three days time it will be officially the middle of winter. Which means its just six weeks until spring. Which put me into a state of mild anxiety to get done all the jobs I promised I’d get done over our quieter months.
So this morning I was a hive of activity doing all those bits.
We finally went and ordered a new dishwasher and its being installed tomorrow – oh happy day! Our Miele that came with the house has started making some strange groaning noises during the rinsing cycle. We suspect it is around 25 years old bless it. So its in with a new one exactly the same only it has a steel facing instead of black. It baffles me as to why in a lovely light cream painted kitchen black appliances were installed… so happily this is step one of replacing them. Next target is the crazy oven… a story for another day!
Another “finally did it” was filling out my order for dahlias from an agricultural college in Normandy that specialises in dahlias. How lucky are we to have that! I am a new grower of dahlias but they’ve proven to be surprisingly easy for such gorgeous blooms … you feel they should be harder to grow to get such beauty. I bought my first two “Cafe au lait” at the Courson plant fair our first year here, and the plant fair’s last year at Courson before its move to Chantilly. Mike carried them back to the car through the crowd and when we got there we had a bunch of broken stems and no flowers, but they triumphed on despite us troopers that they are, and each year I lift and store them away in case of hard frosts or rot in the wet over winter.
Already in the garden the little green tips of bulbs and tubers are starting to peak through. I think the bluebells will be first to bloom and the iris are not far behind but have further to grow. Random unidentified bulbs are coming up everywhere as I am a shocker at labelling anything or noting where I’ve planted stuff. Probably why every time I put a spade in the garden I machete a bulb to death. Safer are the hyacinths I’ve got coming along by the kitchen window. I’ve had one store bought basketful of hyacinths already come and gone and planted out in the garden, and round two are coming along a treat. I love the smell of them.
Also having a great time in the garden are the turtle doves, blue tits and sparrows. I’m now onto our second 10kg bag of nuts and refill their feeder every day. Its like Heathrow Terminal 6 outside the kitchen. The doves are fed from seed thrown out for them every morning and the little birds all zoom in and out of the bird feeder all day.
But I digress – back to the to-do list.
Tomorrow I’m going to start painting the ceiling beams in the bathroom of Le Jardin – our largest guest room. When we renovated in there I was really mindful not to erase every bit of character from the house with my love of white paint. It takes a fair bit of bravado to paint 300 year old wooden beams. But the beams in there aren’t that old and I love a lovely clean pristine bathroom so they beams are in for it. Before and after photos will be coming next week.
And I’m about to do the final thing on my list for today – book Trevor (one of our two cavaliers) in for hydrotherapy for his arthritis. Winter isn’t kind to those with arthritic joints, particularly those getting on in years, so a chat with our vet this week got us a recommendation for some extra help for him. Allez!
Old houses are like any relationship. They need care and attention. There’s a lot of ongoing maintenance. They are a work in progress. In that spirit, here are a few of our recent changes here at La Pommetier.
In our La Mirabelle room we finally have an antique daybed installed. Sounds easy enough, but this has been over a year of drama believe it or not. It has involved tappissiers (upholsterers), ebenists (furniture makers) and a charpentier (carpenter) to get it fitted in the space in the room. Fabric has been sourced from all over and the lovely people at VV Rouleaux in London sent emergency supplies of braid when we ran out. I haven’t got the cushion set up right yet – my tendency is to be a bit matchy-matchy rather than mix and matchy – so I’ll keep working on that. But here it is for now…
Next door to La Mirabelle in our La Campagne room our little art collection has grown. I absolutely love those rooms where the walls are absolutely covered in paintings and interesting things (nearby Chateau de Balleroy does this well). It doesn’t have to be of Louvre quality – just fitting with the room and the house. And in this room, which doesn’t have a view of the garden like the others, we wanted our guests to know that they are in the Normandy countryside. So slowly, were collecting up paintings from our local auction houses and antique dealers that reflect our setting. Its going to take a while before we get to Balleroy levels… but work is in progress.
Now I just need to finish the banquette I’ve been working on in upholstery classes for the past nine months.
Work in progress.
Yesterday the lovely Sharon Santoni of My French Country Home fame featured La Pommetier on her blog. Sharon has followers the world over and last year released her beautiful book, My Stylish French Girlfriends which has already had multiple print runs. We featured on the day Sharon’s blog turned 6 years old – and for me it’s one of the original and the best in the blogging world.
Sharon had put a call out asking her readers about a life transformation of their own as she has transformed her life from mother of four to international blogging superstar and author as her children all grew up and flew the nest. I wrote what I though was just a little note from me to Sharon really just to tell her how much her lovely insights and photos of life in Normandy meant to me among the demands, deadlines and drama of working life in Melbourne and how they planted the seeds for our own move her in 2014. When she selected my note to publish on her blog, I underestimated the response levels from her very engaged, supportive and lovely community.
Among the notes of support and booking inquiries for La Pommetier today there was a few questions about things people saw in the photos, so here is a few of the sources and suppliers. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if there is anything else you’d like to know.
The little cushions of painted scenes of Normandy are by the super talented Genevieve Levy and can be purchased online here: www.maisonlevy.fr. For those thinking of coming to stay, the cushions with the umbrellas on the beach in Deauville are in our room “Le Jardin”. In our “La Mirabelle” room we have Genevieve’s cushions with the little red tractor on the beach – you’ll see these tractors here at Arromanches where they are used to take the fishing boats down to the water at low tide. The cushions in the photo are not currently available in her e-shop, but if you send Genevieve a little note via her website and ask nicely she may be able to get some for you. I had these cushions pinned on Pinterest for years before we arrived in France and emailed to ask if her if she could still supply them – it was a little wait for them to arrive but I love them. Genevieve has a store at 20 rue Taylor in Paris if you are in the City of Lights.
The bedhead is from a lovely store in Paris called Le Bout du Monde – its right between the Opera, Madeleine and the ‘grand magasins’ and worth a visit as they style everything so beautifully. They have also recently opened within Harrods in London.
The paint colour for the walls is Farrow and Ball’s ‘Light Blue’. Its such a soft colour and the paint gives a lovely chalky finish suited to old homes.
These Louis XVI chairs (we have a matching pair) we fought off antique dealers to buy while at the huge deballage at Le Mans (a giant antiques/brocante fair held each month). For me they are just on the border of chic and shabby with their wear and tear, but they are utterly charming and so many guests have told me they’ve peeked in the seams to see all the old stuffings and to leave them as they are. So they stay as they are.
The curtain fabric is English linen designer Kate Forman and is called Cameo Rose. They are triple gathered and double lined with both thick thermal lining and cotton lining to give them their really full fluffy look. Of course its the tie-backs my mother made that really makes the room look good (according to her).
The lamp bases are from Laura Ashley and the shades from a market in Aix-en-Provence. If you have time in your French itinerary, Aix is absolutely stunning. It’s Provence straight from central casting – cafes, markets, galleries, cobbled streets and chic boutiques.
The curtain and cushion fabric in this room in our two bedroom suite ‘L’Arro’ is called ‘Mozart’ and is made by an old French brand called Braquenie which is now owned by the veritable Pierre Frey. Braquenie has a lovely store in St Germain de Pres in Paris in an area filled with decorating and fabric and furniture stores around rue de l’Abbaye. Make sure you pop into the very bijoux Galerie Salon for the so chic Astier de Villatte ceramics and water colour maps of Paris, London and New York by Parisian/Norman dweller Marin Montagut.
The bed heads are antique Louis XVI that we were lucky to purchase from the artisan upholsterer that hung the fabric lining in our living room. I had been telling him what I was looking for and voila! he appears with these gems.
The side tables were a long ago purchase in Australia that came to Normandy with us but we have picked up something similar in zinc (minus the cute scallop edge) from a great decor store in Deauville called Kaprika.