Dis­count decor

Bought a big house? Here’s how to make it feel homely with­out break­ing the bank

French Property News - - Contents -

It’s the fun part of mak­ing your French house a home – mak­ing it feel habité or lived in. If you can af­ford to adorn the walls and floors of your new prop­erty with an­tiq­ui­tés and ob­jets d’art that per­fectly com­ple­ment its age and char­ac­ter, then lucky you. But for most of us, it’s more of a chal­lenge. Though liv­ing space in France comes at a much lower premium than in the UK, fur­ni­ture and fur­nish­ings do not.

We bought a small château, or mai­son bour­geoise, in Bur­gundy last year. With 12 bed­rooms spread over two up­per floors, it’s quite a project. There is also a farm­yard which in­cludes a labourer’s cot­tage, sta­bles and barns.

De­ci­sions about neu­tral paint colours and in­ex­pen­sive cur­tains were straight­for­ward. We were lucky that the house had some fur­ni­ture, and find­ing ad­di­tional pieces in vide gre­niers (sec­ond-hand mar­kets with stalls man­aged by both itin­er­ant pro­fes­sion­als and lo­cals), char­ity shops and on the web­site lebon­coin.fr (the French equiv­a­lent of Gumtree) was rel­a­tively easy.

The real dif­fi­culty was mak­ing the place seem lived in – or habité. Ex­pen­di­ture on the roofs and two new bath­rooms came first. The fur­ni­ture, al­though in­ex­pen­sive, nev­er­the­less set us back a bit. So when it came to the in­te­rior pieces – lamps, or­na­ments, cush­ions, small stor­age so­lu­tions, oc­ca­sional ta­bles and chairs, mir­rors, lanterns, can­dles, hooks and so on, we had to be clever.

Shop­ping around

French Ikea was an ob­vi­ous port of call. So were Maisons du Monde ( maisons­du­monde.com), Casa ( casashops.com), Auchan ( auchan. fr) and Le­clerc ( e-le­clerc.com). And, of course, with in­ter­na­tional par­cel de­liv­ery charges free or rea­son­ably priced, or­der­ing from the UK of­ten made sense too. With ju­di­cious se­lec­tion we dis­cov­ered at­trac­tive ob­jets on the mar­ket in un­likely out­lets in­clud­ing Wilkin­son, Fly­ing Tiger, Mata­lan, Dunelm Mill, Asda and dot­comgift­shop.com.

The trick is to look for nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als – glass, woods, in­clud­ing bam­boo, cork, leather and cot­tons and other nat­u­ral fi­bres. Wire and me­tal ob­jects, even of a more mod­ern de­sign can also look sur­pris­ingly French pro­vin­cial or at least at home with the shabby vin­tage. The art is all in the com­bin­ing and con­trast­ing of el­e­ments of the in­te­rior spa­ces.

It’s also im­por­tant to set up themes, whether it be pineap­ples or birds, hearts or shells, and to con­trast tex­tures. We’ve done some up­cy­cling too but the cost of paints can even make this dodge more costly than buy­ing new from the right sup­pli­ers.

Clocks, cush­ions and con­soles Aside from the bed­rooms, we have a din­ing room, win­ter sit­ting room, sum­mer sit­ting room, and party din­ing room with a very large ta­ble. Th­ese last two rooms are joined by a spa­cious arch and we call it the ball­room as when the fur­ni­ture is re­ar­ranged the spa­ces can be used as one. There are eight fire­places in the main house with a fur­ther two in the farm. All need some dec­o­ra­tive at­ten­tion.

Side­boards and ta­bles, whether oc­ca­sional or din­ing, also need cen­tre­pieces of some sort. The hall needed hooks and stor­age for the cro­quet set, and the walls – square me­tre af­ter square me­tre – needed pic­tures. Hall­ways, cor­ri­dors, util­ity rooms, land­ings and lob­bies – we have many of th­ese. And they also need to look lived in and or­gan­ised. Shelv­ing and small bas­kets have been a god­send. Stylish clocks have en­livened cor­ri­dors in­ex­pen­sively. Con­sole ta­bles have also been in­valu­able to add in­ter­est here or there. And in the bed­rooms oc­ca­sional ta­bles, cush­ions, lamps and lanterns have trans­formed what might oth­er­wise feel too much like bi­jou ho­tel rather than home.

We were lucky that a num­ber of bound books were left in the house too. Some are re­ally very beau­ti­ful. Al­though need­ing in­dus­trial dust­ing, a few care­fully cho­sen vol­umes, on a small ta­ble here and there add in­ter­est.

One per­son’s trash... One final piece of ad­vice. In the UK houses in need of work are gen­er­ally sold ‘with va­cant pos­ses­sion’, and the ex­pec­ta­tion is that the house will be com­pletely empty with the ex­cep­tion of some toi­let roll and light bulbs al­though I know peo­ple who have ar­rived at their new home to dis­cover that th­ese too have

Belinda’s home in Bur­gundy Belinda’s part­ner Will sur­veys the snow

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.