We were invited to some friends home tonight and passed a wonderful evening in Franglais. As soon as we arrived we were welcomed by a blazing fire. In France there are lots of open fires in kitchens and food is still cooked on them. Our host has promised that one day he will cook duck there for us. But more about that conversation in a little while.
Our hostess was at the farmhouse style dining table making croque monsieurs. A little tip for you if you ever want to make them yourself; instead of using the traditional sauce she mixed cheese with crème fraîche.
She was preparing them for our supper. It had apparently been a very rough day and they apologized for the fare; though there was no need as it was all delicious.
I say all this because you are never served one course in France, no matter how simple the meal. We still had soup to start, with cheese and baguette following on from the croque monsieur and then dessert.
As we dined we discussed table manners. There are differences between the two cultures and I was keen to learn about them. But I’ll post about that later.
Conversation turned to our ducks. I raised the topic actually and as soon as I did they both burst out laughing. You see they are the couple who I had the conversation about the goose.
I said that we’d sadly come to the decision they were just too big. Our host told me about a friend they had who had bought an ancient farmhouse and inherited animals with the property; a pregnant sheep, a goat and chickens. They’d be happy there.
Following on from our superb evening my friend came round to view the ducks and arrange their departure.
He looked at them. “They’re big ducks.” He said; slightly astonished. “I know” I said. Then he said again “They’re big ducks”
“It’s not just me then. Ducks aren’t normally this big.”
“I’ve never seen ducks this big”.
We both stared at the Godzilla like water fowl and, once the acknowledgement about their girth was done with, we moved onto how and when they’d go.
In between then and today an English friend came round. My French friends are the ones who casually mentioned eating the goose as a solution to our previous problem. Now the English friend was suggesting the same thing.
What is it about people wanting to eat animals that you know the names of????? If you’ve named ducks Micky and Minnie you can’t roast them and scoff them down!
As I’m now in a place where eating things that have never been packaged in plastic with a consume by date stamped on it, I side stepped the issue and blamed our lack of wanting to tuck in on the children.
“They don’t need to know” I was told.
Visions of “Do you remember that time you served us our pets after you’d lied about them going to live on the farm? Well mum, let me introduce you to the care home I chose for you…..”
Then my neighbour, who is apparently very adept at butchering animals and proceeded to tell me how you off a turkey in the most efficient way, offered to do it whilst the kids were out.
Now, for those of you who rear animals to eat this isn’t a judgement piece. I’m being a tongue in cheek; meat lover here and I appreciate all of you farming folk. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your efforts. However…I’m not eating something I’ve raised, who I’ve watched eagerly for their head to turn green and worried about the fox getting.
Today our French friend arrived and the ducks left. The girls cried a little. Even though they lived outside it’s still leaving a gap in our lives. But I know they’ll be a lot happier on the farm. Not a euphemism.
Fireplaces make a wonderful focal point in a room; instantly catching your eyes to fix on a place and therefore drawing you in, giving you a sense of welcome.
I really don’t like the one we have though; it’s corner position makes it hard to decorate and it’s chunky structure is at odds with the rest of the house design (you can see it in the first image below).
Added to that the flu is too small as it’s not an original part of the house, but one that’s been created. You can’t light a fire there as a result – the man who came to clean the chimney told me it was dangerous and only small fires could be lit there!
So as I consider what I want to do with a fireplace this and the following points are thing I’m considering.
There are two chimneys that are built into the walls. One is in the room that we now use as a dining room ( so we won’t be using this) and the other is in the corner of one half of the living room – facing the current constructed one. I don’t know why they’ve added this extra fireplace; perhaps because they wanted to keep the bi-fold doors that are there, perhaps because the current fire location is more central to the room. However the original positioning of the two fireplaces would have Ade sense in this pre 1850s house where central heating originally didn’t exist.
However this second fireplace itself poses a problem. If a fire was lit there you couldn’t see it throughout the room, at least in the additional sun room, and it isn’t central to the original room either, as it’s in an awkward corner.
Therefore there are two key points I want to ensure are present when we go ahead with a new fireplace;
it can be seen throughout the room, preferably from the dining room too – this may be tricky as the room is more of an L shape in the living area,
I want to combine both the traditional, period decor elements of the rest of the house with the more modern living room elements.
With that in mind I came up with this list of options and inspiring images to help me on my way; maybe they’ll help you on your way more.
Current Position – Inset Fireplace
The current position could, in theory, be relatively easily be fitted with an inset fireplace. However as you can see in the image above (that’s a vintage woodturner with some fairy lights in it, not an actual fire) the current, square shape doesn’t actually go to the wall edge. It would therefore have to be extended.
In addition there’s that small flu – so perhaps it wouldn’t be safe enough for an inset fire which give off a lot of heat due to the fact they’re so efficient.
If it is possible I’m thinking along the lines of these simple, classic designs that aren’t so modern they jar with the dining room decor…
l like how this modern design has this glossy, tile effect on the chimney casing. Not only could I have an Art Deco style tile pattern – giving the room the air of going from one period era to another – it would be away of mellowing that chunky, angular affect of the current design.
The only downside would be there is not mantle – what to do at Christmas????
A final, inspiring image I found in this series is this corner, inset fireplace with a mantle…
Mantle…check, adaptable design…check…can be seen throughout the room….
Here’s my problem. You can in theory see this fire throughout the room, but the right hand glass with be flat against the wall. So you’ll only just be able to see it in our summer room when you’re sat on the main sofa.
The “summer room” is just an extension with large windows in it, I’m calling it a summer room to differentiate it from the period part of the house. We use the room all year round though.
We won’t light the fire that often, it will be just for when the heating breaks down or special occasions like Christmas. As it will be a treat I want to be able to get the most out of it, if you have a cosy fire going you really want to be able to see it after all, and as a result this option is unsatisfactory on all levels.
Summer room, corner fireplace
Did you know you can put a woodburner in a conservatory? (Find some information on that here).
In order to see the fire through the length of the room I’m considering this as an option. Our summer room doesn’t have so much glazing, and there are only stone walls on the side wall and left hand corner. As a result we’d have to have a corner fireplace. A woodburner would be the obvious choice….
The alternative is an inset fireplace like this one…
I love this option below, but for many reasons that I don’t want to bore you with, it wouldn’t suit our home. I put it in here so that it may give you an idea that you hadn’t had before (if it does and you are able to do it, FYI, I’m jealous).
Positioned beside the entrance doorway
Exploring the house I’ve found integral chimneys. In France chimney breasts are encased in thick walls most of the time, unlike the UK where they tend to jut out of thinner walls. In this picture below of the central part of the area you can see a radiator. On the other side of the wall is the old chimney breast that now houses the heating system, which has a flu going up through it.
However the boiler doesn’t take up the entire chimney breast, so it is a possibility to remove the current radiator and put a woodbrner there, with a flu going into the chimney using the spare space. It could look something like this directly next to the door..
Or this ivory version..
However that would take a lot of plumbing work and may well need the disruption of our tiled floor.
A Fireplace on the back wall
The other hidden chimney beast is on the opposing back wall seen below…
The difficulty with this is the positioning is very close to the bi fold doors which separate the living area from the formal dining area, effectively splitting the entire space in three. It is not central to the wall itself, but takes up the left side of the wall. In effect it starts in the middle of the painting and ends where the diving wall just out. So I wouldn’t so much have an option like this…
I’m uncertain if I had a woodburner if I could reposition it to the centre with an angled flu pipe (an open fire certainly wouldn’t be suitable so close to the doors). In any case, with the L shaped layout you couldn’t see it throughout the room.
Central Corner Fireplace
We could remove one of the central doors and then have a corner fireplace, which could be done one of two ways. By placing a woodburner in the corner…
Or a traditional option of an inset fireplace like this…
Do you get the impression I was seriously thinking of this as an option? Yes, there are a lot of images!
Double sided, room divider
Another way to ensure that all the room can see the fire is it have the fire as a room divider like these to the side, with the flu being directed into the existing chimney.
Both are more modern options. Alternatively we could go for either modern or traditional elements but in a central fireplace by removing two of our four bi fold doors, and putting in a chimney breast to house either an integrated fire or woodburner. All these would require a flu which would have to go up to our bedroom skimming the wall and into the loft through the roof. However, even though this sounds intense, the ammount of work involved will be at least comparable to all the other options.
This is what I found..
The first option is a little too rustic for me, and the second too modern, but the third (in the words of Goldilocks) is just right. If you look at this comparable final image, my favourite, you can see how it would look with doors either side too….
As with some of the options above it is double sided, so you could see the fire from the dining room as well as every other area in this oddly shaped room. With an inset you could turn the fire down when you wanted to eat and therefore remain comfortable too. I love this classic look, which can easily combine both decor styles. I could have a more elaborate style on the dining room side, with cleaner lines like the one above on the more modern, living side.