Hi, I'm a SAHM who's moved to France with my husband and two daughters. My blog focuses on our family life & decorating our 18th century village house here. I'm scouring brocantes to find furniture to revive as well as little special somethings for our home.
I love DIY and craft - sewing, painting, whatever.
If any of these things interest you I'd love for you to stay and wander through the site - especially if you want to tell me what you think!
The door into the kitchen area is a horrid, hollow 1970s affair. I looked and looked for a salvaged door to put in its place, but the narrow opening made this feel like an impossible find. Then I found a solution on that haven of good ideas, Pinterest.
A little more about the doorway. Our home is a former doctor’s residence. I’ve come to discover that, as a result of the way the health system in France operates I assume, many former doctors homes have the same layout. I know of at least three other British residents who have bought these homes have a similar floor plan. A largish central house with a front door, then a connected area with its own front door. These serve as the office and waiting room of the doctor.
Consequently the doorway to the kitchen area had two days to ensure the privacy of patients. I’ve removed the internal door and I’m left with the exterior one, which runs smoothly along the wall that will be part of the dining area. I wanted to give the interior of the door character, whilst maintaining the flat, exterior side. This is so that when I decorate the dining room I have the option of paneling that can continue over the door itself, blending it into the wall.
The first step was to mark where the door touches the frame. I knew that cladding to the edge would mean it wouldn’t shut, so this gap needed to be taken into account. With the door closed I drew around the frame onto the door…
Then I took the door off its hinges and laid it on the floor. I laid the lengths of wood onto the door to see how many I needed. Just so you know I didn’t use T&G, but shaped plinths. I did this because I wanted the groove look, but not the additional thickness.
When the boards where laid on the door I came up a little short, but rather than cut one of them I realised two quarter rounds made up the difference.
Next I used strong glue to glue the first length along the drawn line, leaving enough of a gap for the 1/4 round. I clamped is in place to make sure it kept its position, then glued on the quarter round so it was snug. I continued the width of the door, then added the 1/4 round. I left it there for an hour.
I rehung the door and added acrylic between the 1/4 rounds and the door.
I’d already removed the handle, so I drilled through the handle hole on the opposite side, with a smallish drill bit. When I had its placement I drilled a large hole for then the kitchen side. Then I added a fingerplate and doorknob.
Next I added a length of wood above the door, and finished it with a moulded piece and a decorative element.
Due to the depth of the door frame, as a result of the double door, I also added wood into the door frame itself, and trimmed it with quarter rounds. Here it’s is painted. I think it looks quite effective and a lot less than a new door would cost. What do you think?
The recycled kitchen project is steadily coming along, to the point even my husband was excited enough to search some potential ranges ovens. That’s a big deal. He is not the getting ahead of himself type. Basically the opposite to me 😝.
I’m waiting for the chimney to be swept this week and I can’t smooth the surface of the cement floor prior to that because it’s going to take three days to walk on. I didn’t want to start it last week, the heatwave was just too much. So, as we are currently operating out of a small kitchen, I’ve been moving our excess things onto the shelves.
There’s a lot of predominantly whites in these displays. They help to keep an area light whilst the shapes themselves add interest.
Naturals and neutrals
To add a little more interest natural tones can be added…
These look wonderfully classic. However, I don’t have this many whites even with the neutrals mixed in.
One colour display items
Grouping together a single colour gives a sense of calm.
In this one they’ve added secondary tones of yellow. As they’re in the same colour pallet the harmony is maintained.
It’s incredibly stylish, but I don’t have the same colour tone to try this.
I just wanted to introduce this as an alternative to just crockery etc. These pictures displayed on the shelves. The ones selected here seem to add a little elegance, no?
Food as colour
To introduce colour into the mix you can utilise your food itself…
Background as colour
Either subtly like this…
…or more pronounced…
…which is more in line with the kitchen I’ve been working on. The second one also introduces colour into the displayed items as well as the background too.
Colour in items
Again the tones are in the same pallet, but the busier patterns gives it a more lively feel along with the sugary feel.
These are a lot stronger…
Pops of colour
Mixture of colours
These definitely give the impression of an evolving room, with pieces built up over the years rather than one that’s been styled. Even though I’m putting this kitchen together, this is probably where I’m headed. After all, all of my items have been selected over the years.
I’m about to move onto the kitchen floor, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to update you on the areas that I’ve managed to finish. Nearly all ‘above ground’ is now done, apart from the two lengths of ceiling that I have to leave incomplete because of the electrics that need finishing. So ignore the floor, and let me tell you how I’ve been getting along…
I posted about this bookcase that I turned into an open, shelving unit. Here it is now with the decorative brackets attached and stained and varnished brown. As I said in my previous post, I’d realised that I was going to struggle finding a buffet unit narrow enough to fit on this wall without it meeting the oven shelf. I’d dreaded moving it as I knew I’d need to strip it again….😫. But I think it looks good here.
The bookcase now cupboard was replaced with this buffet top. It is the partner to a base which I’m going to reduce its width and lace beside the oven. The space directly next to the oven will hold a gas bottle, so only the right side will be a working cupboard. Nevertheless it should give me extra workspace too.
You can see the side cupboards which I can now show you without cropping images to emit the mess behind the open doorway. The area just beyond is a mini vestibule entryway which leads to what was the doctors waiting room. This will be my next project – knocking through to create a long, formal dining room. The doorway is a hollow, 1970s plain door. Not appealing. I’ll be posting about how I developed into this tongue and groove door.
My girls have been sitting at the island already 😊.
I’ve started to add some more decor. I’ll be changing the wreath on the mirror door as the pinks are too bright with the more subdued tones of the other decor. I think these other pieces add a more grown up feel to the pink. The painted milk churn is going to be used to store twigs to start the fire eventually.
Speaking of the fire I’ve spray painted this fireback and basket with high temperature spray paint. I have an appointment next Thursday to clean the chimney.
As well as gingerbread elements in the cupboards I told you in this post how I wanted to develop an aea with this detail. This is where the staircase was, and I finally managed to create a false ceiling here. Above it is a staircase, so no one will need to stand there. I couldn’t add beams, so I just tongue and grooved the area and then glued squares of light, pattern polystyrene tiles. They have a flower pattern, which suits the kitchen stile, and I disguised the tile edges with this trim.
The gingerbread elements are actually all sorts of finials, brackets, decorative furniture legs, a side strut of a bed….just everything really. I hope it works, but I’m trying to disguise the huge cement beams which were there to hold the ceiling up in spite of the staircase opening. As you can see the pendant light will fit where the arch is, and this will rest just above the dining table. I still need to repaint and add more acrylic to fill in the gaps.
The final one I want to show you is the cooker shelf and the tiles. The latter are from Bricocash, which is well worth a visit if you live in France and have one near you. Their considerably less expensive than Bricomarche- I got these tiles for 8€ a 30×30 square. I tried to grout them without letting the grout nestle in their crevices; however, even with a sealant applied prior to the grout it didn’t work. I still like the effect though.
You can see that I’ve tongue and grooved the doorway, but I’m waiting for the last bit of electrics to be done before finishing the final, wall section. I’m going to do more work here, I’m thinking of painting the door. But just changing the door handle gives it less of a upvc look, don’t you think?
Please God the COVID restrictions for travel end soon. My husband’s business is in the tourism industry, so there will be no electrics without his salary. And that’s the least of our worries.
The bookcases that were in situ when we arrived in our french home have previously been developed with gingerbread features, mantle and a sliding door for one, along with using a wonderful fruit bas relief and an added spice rack for the second. That’s amongst other things. The vast majority have been from recycled material and I feel like they really add something.
I found these cupboard doors in a brocante and I was struck how much they echoed the pattern of the doors from the buffet I’ve since cut down. A later brocante buy of our fireplace has a similar design and, whilst walking home, having dropped my daughters at the village school, I started to think about how they’d suit the kitchen. I’d intended to use them in the hallway, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense.
When I arrived I measured the width of the doors and found them too wide, so I knew I’d have to narrow them. Even with my circular saw it was tough going, but with that and the hand plane I’d managed to sufficiently reduce them.
Next step was to ensure they didn’t have termites. I’d inspected them in the shop, but in bright light there were some obvious termite holes that I’d missed in one of the corners. They weren’t painted or varnished, so I went ahead and put three coats of termite killer/deterrent on both sides. Then I painted them with several coats; starting with primer and moving onto chalk paint, prior to finishing them with two coats of water based varnish.
I used similar hinges and method of attaching them as I did with the shutters. After I checked they hung properly I took the hinges off of the bookcase/cupboard and painted the latter with a couple more coats of chalk paint. I’d been delaying that whilst I mulled over whether to knock through the wall that will be the pantry, but I’ve decided not to now, so there won’t be a lot of dust from that; hence my going back to painting these cupboards.
I’ve been doing lots in here during my posting absence, and I plan to update you soon. However it feels a lot more like a kitchen in – except there’s no sink.
And no oven.
But definitely, definitely a kitchen.
So the next week or so I plan to do one last coat of paint, sand and varnish throughout then….the floor. Insert daunting music here.
I’d love to have a traditional, wood kitchen door but, as with the front door, I have to admit that the upvc is the better option living her in Normandy. Being so close to the U.K. we have similar, rainy weather and it’s often cold. If ours was just a holiday home I’d insist on finding a wood door to replace the one we have. However, and I hate to say it, we have to be practical. So the upvc door stays. Boooo!
Wíth that being said working on the kitchen has allowed me the opportunity to notice the pool of water that inevitably ends up around the door when there’s a heavy downpour. Thank God I wasn’t in a position to go straight ahead with the flooring.
So before I could start with decorating the area I had to ensure it would remain dry. Cue my standing outside, up a step ladder with watering can in hand pouring water over the door to see where the water was coming through. It seemed to be coming through the bottom of the door frame. This gave me three points of entry;
the holes in the door frame, there for letting the water be released out safely, could be blocked,
the seals on the door itself could have deteriorated and need replacing,
the seals around the frame could have deteriorated
Holes in the doorframe
If you have the same problem a good clean of the door may resolve it. This is what the holes look like….
They were filled with gunk, so I was hopeful this would be the cause of the problem. You see, rain water is meant to go through these holes and pass safely out of the bottom of the door. Alas, having spent some time removing debris that could cause a blockage another go with the watering can demonstrated more work needed to be done.
Next came an inspection of the door itself. You can see that there has been some sealant that now appears to be braking down. It actually looks like this has been applied post the door’s insertion by hand. I scraped this away and applied some transparent sealant.
If you live in France you might want to know that I applied the one on the left below. However as I was working I kept looking down and could see that the water seemed to be seeping through underneath the door area. So I moved onto using the one on the right to seal between the door and the masonry.
Seals around the door frame
This was coloured grey, perfect for the stonework of our home. I just ran some masking tape in a straight line around the door frame before running a strip of this into the corner prior to smoothing it out with my finger. I just did about 10cms light application and then smoothed as a little went a long way.
I used it along the bottom on the inside too, just to make sure.
A rainstorm after this proved they’re now in working order again – hurrah!
Ive since started to tongue and groove the interior of the door frame. I’ll add a post on that soon.
Those of you who follow the blog know – and if you don’t, we’d love to have you with us – that I’m putting together our kitchen with salvaged and upcycled furniture and wood. Money primarily is the motivator, but also I enjoy the challenge. Sometimes, when it’s frustrating, I don’t; but most of the time it makes life more interesting. This is one post that wasn’t a challenge whilst the work was ongoing, but as it neared completion I realised changes had to be made…..😩🤪.
FYI the reason for this post is how I got the bookcase to stay on the wall, not so much about the painting, staining, varnishing side of things.
Taking a bookcase and turning it into some open, wall shelving.
Why? Well that’s a good question. The bookcase in question is of good quality wood so should be valued. This is something I left off my list of whys before; salvaging and upcycling has meant that I’m constantly using solid, well made, wooden objects in my projects instead of flimsy, plywood, MDF or veneer.
This particular book case was bought when I had an old, Victorian, small terrace house and there were narrow alcoves either side of the fireplace. I had the bookcase made as I couldn’t find anything to fit the gap. It was lovely. Yet in our new home it seems to be a little lost.
The first step was staining the interior of the bookcase so that it matched the rest of the wood tones in the room. Then I added a coat of varnish to give it some protection in the kitchen environment.
Next came some coats of the pink paint I’d used on the central kitchen island; for those of you who are having a look back at that on this link – can you believe how different the room looks now?!!!
When I’d done the kitchen island I’d tried to make my own chalk paint. I prefer this because it scrapes of like, well, chalk and doesn’t flake like latex paints. I’d made some plaster of Paris mixture up to add to the latex paint I’d bought. The first time it had worked well, but the next day I found a lump of cement mixture stuck to the bottom of the huge 5L paint tub. I was so gutted, as I’d planned on using it elsewhere. Since then I’d read a tip that, when doing your own, make up small jars of paint at a time to use in one go to cut down on waste.
I coated the piece in four to five layers of paint as I really wanted to be sure that the piece was well covered. On these layers I painted right side up, but when I was happy with the coverage I laid it on its back on a stand and started on the bottom. This was important because you’d see that when it was hung on the wall.
As I was doing this I was gradually adding T&G to the walls. The corner area was particularly tricky, and in this kind of scenario I like to add a piece and then think what to do next. This worked out really well as I realised that I could use it to disguise fixings and add a little more support.
You can see by my scribbling on the wall where I’d worked out where the cupboard should be based on the tap placement. In fact I scribbled all along this wall to try and give me an idea of where the oven would go, what size of furniture I’d need between the sink and oven etc. It just gives me an idea of what I need to be looking out for next.
As I worked on painting the cupboard I made a sort of shelf of L brackets, so I could rest it on them. On the wall you can see an oblong shape with sections either end. This was marking the base section, which a section missing at the back, and sides of the casing. The T&G would need to go round these side sections and up to the higher line.
But I wasn’t going to solely rely on that. As with the chimney mantle I was going to use z bars on the top. I made a row of them along the back of the cupboard, screwing them in. To discern where they needed to be on the wall I took this off cut of wood and marked on it the two outside edges of the cupboard. Then I took the partner pieces to the exterior z bars and bluetacked them in situ. I placed the wood, aligning the marks I’d done for the outside and then marked where each z bar was.
The reason I did it this way was because their counterparts would need to be in alignment and consequently further beneath the cupboard top.
The final mark I made was indicating the length from the base of the back of the cupboard and the bottom of the companion z bar.
Notice how in the L fixing shelf the part jutting out was at the bottom. This was because the z bars inevitably mean the cupboard would be a little proud of the wall and having the length against the wall situated behind the cupboard would slightly counteract that.
I marked where the width of the cupboard was before resting the off cut of wood on each L bracket and marked off where the bars should be, drawing a line between the marking horizontally along the wall when I was done. Then along this line I drew the markings where each z bar needed to be…
After that I screwed them into the wall. Drilling into these ancient walls can be tricky, and I’m not successful with every one. Even when I start with narrower drill bits to successively wider ones sometimes it just doesn’t work. So I identify which ones can hold the wider screws and use the appropriate size ones for the holes of the remainder. Prior to screwing in I added my builders glue to the back of each bar to add extra support; then I left it over night to dry.
Whilst I was cleaning up I noticed my mistake. I had forgotten to mirror image the plan of the z bars. So I knew tomorrow would mean my slightly altering the bookcase positioning. C’est la vie.
If there is going to be something fixed to a wall I always try and do a couple of coats of chalk paint first on the tongue and groove. That way when you need to paint around the furniture you have a bit of breathing room. Once the wall was painted it was time to see if the fixtures would keep the cupboard in place.
I was nervous when I heaved the now cupboard in place. Would it work? Would it hold its weight? Would it look……odd?
Well, it held its position. Here’s the initial photo….
I was waiting for wood brackets to arrive to fit to the base of the cupboard to make it look less bookcases, so I went ahead and finished the back wall including the oven mantle shelf.
That had been another dépôt vente buy; the detailed cornice had been bought separately another time. I was pleased with it, and my tiling, when it struck me. The large gap between the light and the cupboard.
Added to that I wanted another cupboard to run on the side wall so we could store the oven’s gas bottle and have a side worktop.
When I saw this in the dépôt vente I realised I could solve two problems at once….
The top would go in the bookcases place and the bottom could go beside the oven with the bookcase restituâtes above it.
I’ll update you soon 😊.
For those of you living in France….
I’d also found these z bars in Bricomarche.
In my post on the mantle for the fireplace I used these, but I ordered them from Amazon. I’d actually gone into Bricomarche and shown a picture of them to the staff there, but they didn’t know what I was talking about. Whilst looking for something else I happened to fall upon these. The Amazon ones cost 7€ a pair, whereas these cost 7€ a pack of 4!!! Although they’re slightly smaller than the Amazon ones I’ve still saved myself a lot of money!
Bricomarche is the most expensive Brico, but followers of my Twitter account know my thoughts on that, so my mind turned to wondering how much they were in other places. I couldn’t find them in Brico Cash, the least expensive, but in Le Clerc Brico a pack containing a pair of z bars was 2.60€.
Butlers sink, apron sink, Belfast sink….whatever you call them, I love them. I’ve always wanted a country kitchen with one in the corner. Locating one in France was a challenge, but I managed to find one here that wasn’t too expensive and it’s been sat there ready for me to get to work. Here’s the look….
Here some are with lovely skirt fronts…
Here is the kind of cupboard I’m talking about…
They’re quite expensive in the U.K., and with COVID way beyond our budget. Added to that they don’t appear to be the norm here in France so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find a cupboard that would support it. So I was searching for a solution.
I saw some with a brick support like these..
But, although practical to carry the heavy weight, I didn’t really like the look for my kitchen. Nevertheless, let’s face it, the main issue is the weight. So when I saw these I thought I’d found my solution….especially as you can see a sewing machine stand working well in the images below.
So this is why you can see one in my last post on the salvaged dishwasher cupboard; I plan to use this to hold the weight of the butlers sink. It’s also why I’m starting to introduce black, wrought iron elements into the decor. I think it stops the pink central isle from looking too girly too.
In my last post on making a dishwasher housing unit cupboard out of salvaged wood I told you that the worktop I’d bought wasn’t sufficiently wide enough now that I’d had to add on more depth to the cupboard itself.
In the images you’ll see how this corner of the room is far from squared off. This means that in order to be able to get the dishwasher to sit in there the side of the cupboard needed extending.
I’d left the project overnight whilst I mulled over how I’d overcome the problem and having thought it through a narrow shelf seemed to be a good solution. You can see the images that inspired me to do that here.
I was using the salvaged steps from the staircase I’d removed from the room; which meant cutting them to size, and sanding them down. Then I added a couple of coats of termite treatment, just in case.
When sufficient time had passed I glued the piece that would be flat against the wall first. You’ll see I keep changing glue. I prefer the white glue as it seems to be more robust and dries quicker; however the transparent version feels oilier and seems to take long to dry. The latter needs to be used when there’s a possibility of it being seen though.
Here’s the first block…
Here’s it against the wall. The treatment actually gave it a pretty finish…
The end overhangs a little, but I’m not going to worry about that until I can work out how to approach the sink area.
Next is the end wood; I’ve used the transparent on the bottom and white glue on the side where it will come in contact with the white T&G.
Then for the front piece; transparent throughout, starting with the end that’s going to fit snuggly into the wood along the length of the wall….
…and then some glue on the back for where it’s going to connect with the other side piece…
…this is it in situ…
You can see that I didn’t tile right into the back corner – it’s not going to be seen and I brought those tiles with me on a trip from the UK. They’re Laura Ashley and there’s only a few of them.
The cut out strips in the wood are from where they fitted into the uprights. I wanted to match them to the window area, so I glued some 1cm 1/4 rounds to them.
Next I added a strip of wood along the back wall. This was glued in place and will help hold up the narrow shelf. I made sure it was level with the top of the front shelf with a spirit level. In theory anyway….
Then I cut another piece of salvaged wood to act as a shelf. You’ll see that even though the wood that runs parallel to the back wall is horizontal the gap narrows the further into the corner it goes due to the angle of the two walls. So I used a similar method cutting this as the top of the window encasement – I measured one end, then the other before drawing the line between the two at the appropriate angle.
Having cut the wood I kept having to plane/sand the sides to get it to fit snugly in the gap. Once in I ran some 1/4 round on the edge and well as putting some in the gaps that run along the wood…
The annoying thing is that whilst working on this I must have pushed too hard and made the shelf dip slightly. You don’t notice it on a casual glance, but the tins i plan to put there do dip slightly 🤪.
There were some gaps in the wood because, obviously, I’m not an expert at this – I used tinted wood filler to hide these…
It doesn’t look very pretty at this moment, but here it is after I’ve sanded and varnished it..
Here’s the finished, as far as I can now anyway, version…
I’ve taken all those sharp edges off with the sander too. Ha! It’s a little dusty from all the woodwork!
I’ve added a curtain which can be pulled back and tucked behind the post when loading the dishwasher. I’ve also added that iron towel holder for tea towels; I think it compliments the iron sewing machine stand. More on that later 😊.
The kitchen is coming on; I’ve spent the last week tiling and grouting what will be the dishwasher and sink area before laying a laminate floor and I’ve started putting together a housing cupboard for the former. Added to this is some further tongue and groove and some work on a leaky upvc door.
Whilst working on the cupboard like structure to house the dishwasher I primarily wanted to use this sideboard to do it…..
This was the cupboard that came with us from our rental when we moved to France (it’s the one on the bottom). In the above image it’s painted yellow, which was my original colour scheme. I’d bought it in a brocante for less than €30; the price was so low because it was huge and therefore unsuitable for a good many homes. Originally it was used to hold our tv, but wasn’t suitable for the location in our new home. So I thought I’d use it as a kitchen island, then I was going to put a sink in it; but the necessity to change the location of the range oven to the back wall meant that it wasn’t feasible to keep it in its entirety.
As I’d already bought an additional cupboard to use as an island, I gradually stripped it of useful parts, and now the remainder is being use for the dishwasher. The main parts I wanted to use are the side struts with the carved details on them. However it was still being bookmarked for the island when we had the electric work done, and so it was going to be set with plugs sockets. As a result both sides had an oval shape removed from the wood to insert electrical points and they needed to be disguised.
In addition to the holes on the side of the cupboard it didn’t have sufficient depth for the dishwasher. Having tried different things I eventually came up with using the central door panel and facade of the drawer to give extra detail to the cupboard side and cover the hole. Here’s what this looked like in its preparation stage, with the panels glued on. I’d had to weigh it down by….well, everything.
It was fine to use the alternative side to extend the piece as I only needed the front, detailed corner panel as I planned to fit that directly against the wall.
The ‘cupboard’ also needed additional height. I found these lovely blocks of wood leftover from replacing beams in one of the garages to stand the cupboard on. As they weren’t quite long enough for the left hand side, nor wide enough to cover the front, decorated part of the cupboard, I had to adapt them. Here’s what they looked like after a first coat of varnish….
With only one coat of varnish the addition is obvious. However I’ve now added more and you can barely notice it, particularly with the panel details distracting the eye. But you’ll see that when I post the end result.
The additional wood has been attached straight away to the cupboard post end, which is to be attached to the wall; but I was yet to attach the other side.
I painted the main part in chalk paint. I always use chalk paint for salvaged furniture as if there’s any type of irregularities, like the seam where the two pieces of wood are added together, I can add a thicker layer of paint, then sand it back to a smooth finish. You couldn’t do this with latex paint.
In the image below is the strut that I’ve placed on the wall which will have the left side panel attached to it. I added strong glue to the side that will be attached to the wall, put the cupboard side in place and then held the strut firmly against it so it was in the right place. Then I marked where the strut was prior to removing the cupboard side carefully. The mark enabled me to ensure that it had kept the position.
Here’s the housing cupboard attached to the struts…
Here’s the exterior of the cupboard…..
….and here it is with the worktop attached and dish rack above. I’m going to do a post about the worktop next as there’s been a knock in effect with the added cupboard depth which needs resolving. But here it is in it’s current form…
I think that seam from the additional piece of wood is hardly noticeable now. Obviously all the T&G isn’t painted; I work on an area and then move on. This is because if I can’t adapt a piece I may end up reviewing how to get what I want, and this can have an effect for additional work. So, as they say in France, petit par petit l’oiseau fait son nid!