OLD SCHOOL STYLE

Liz Lamour Former teacher hus­band and her French a stone ren­o­vated Corentin Brit­tany, cre­at­ing cot­tage in rary take on con­tempo a de­sign ‘old school’ Naomi Jones; Words by Brent Darby hs by pho­tograp

Living France - - CONTENTS -

A former teacher re­veals how she ren­o­vated a Bre­ton prop­erty with ‘old school’ de­sign

Former teacher Liz Lamour knew ex­actly what she wanted to achieve when she re­designed this 200-year-old stone build­ing in Brit­tany. “I gave up teach­ing af­ter our third child came along in 2006, so when we bought this place the fol­low­ing year, I wanted to cre­ate an in­te­rior that would re­mind me of my pre­vi­ous ca­reer.” Chalk­boards and chalk have in­spired the main colour scheme through­out, while the scar­let tone in the kitchen/diner is rem­i­nis­cent of children’s art­work; and dot­ted around each room are vin­tage posters and books, zinc num­bers and rows of hooks that will trans­port you back in time to your old school days.

Liz owns the cot­tage with hus­band Corentin, a French farmer she met in the mid-1990s as a stu­dent work­ing in his fam­ily’s restau­rant in Brit­tany, in order to im­prove her lan­guage skills. Born and bred in Ire­land, in 1999 Liz moved to the farm her hus­band had in­her­ited from his grand­par­ents, and to­gether they have ren­o­vated sev­eral prop­er­ties in the ham­let, most of which are rented out as hol­i­day cot­tages.

They them­selves now live in what was the farm’s pigsty with their four children, Dara, Molly, Una and Róisín (11, 10, 8 and 6), who ap­pear to have the idyl­lic set­ting for a sto­ry­book child­hood: set well away from busy roads is a coun­try lane where stone cot­tages, tum­ble-down barns, and fields of hay and prairies line ei­ther side; where crick­ets chirrup

“I wanted to cre­ate an in­te­rior that would re­mind me of my pre­vi­ous ca­reer in teach­ing”

har­mo­niously, and where traf­fic con­sists of the odd walker out for a hike, a cat on the prowl for a tasty snack and the oc­ca­sional trac­tor hum­ming along in the sun­shine. “It’s so peace­ful here,” says Liz, “and not un­like the coun­try set­ting in Ire­land where I my­self grew up. So al­though I dearly miss my fam­ily back home, I feel very set­tled here and the children love it.”

She may miss her fam­ily, but Liz doesn’t miss her old job as she’s carved a new and much more phys­i­cal role for her­self. “With each project, we’re our own ar­chi­tects,” she ex­plains, “so we have to work out what we want; and as we do all the work our­selves it has to be phys­i­cally pos­si­ble oth­er­wise we need to come up with an­other way.

“This cot­tage,” she con­tin­ues, “which we call Jeanne af­ter Corentin’s mother, was very small but we wanted it to be fam­ily-friendly.” Us­ing a spi­ral stair­case in­stead of a stan­dard flight meant they had enough space in the orig­i­nal ground floor for the grey and white util­i­tar­ian shower room and a dor­mi­tory-style twin bed­room so that the up­stairs could be used purely as a mas­ter bed­room. The main

liv­ing area, which would in­clude an open-plan kitchen/diner, would ex­ist in a new ad­di­tion with a high vaulted ceil­ing.

To cre­ate the old school cot­tage, both Liz and Corentin played their roles to per­fec­tion. Corentin was strictly in charge of the ground­work: pre­par­ing foun­da­tions, build­ing the struc­ture from chalk brick, a tra­di­tional ma­te­rial that has in­su­lat­ing prop­er­ties, and plas­ter­ing with lime and sand, as well as fit­ting all the power and wa­ter sup­plies and drainage. Then Liz stepped in to lay floor­ing, fit tiles, and her favourite part, dec­o­rate and fur­nish; this is where she got to use her old school colours and ideas. “I love old

Chalk­boards and chalk have in­spired the main colour scheme through­out

chalk­boards and ed­u­ca­tional posters,” she says, “and luckily I found some­one on­line who loved them too but needed to sell some be­cause they had too many.”

In the kitchen, be­hind the main work area is a large chalk­board she found through a French web­site, lebon­coin.fr, which is a cross be­tween eBay and Freecy­cle. “The per­son I bought from even had an ‘ école’ sign which we’ve put on the front of the cot­tage,” says Liz. As well as track­ing things down on­line, Liz has picked up suit­able ob­jects at bro­cantes and vide-gre­niers, which lit­er­ally means ‘empty loft’ and is sim­i­lar to an an­tiques mar­ket or car boot sale. The

small school chair used as a bed­side ta­ble in the twin bed­room was one such find, as was an eye-catch­ing desk lamp in the mas­ter bed­room, which sits be­side a ticket board that would have been used at the horse races, prov­ing that Liz’s school theme isn’t rigid, al­low­ing her ex­tra touches of play­ful­ness.

Also in the mas­ter bed­room are a couple of ex­am­ples of Corentin’s abil­ity to use odd bits and pieces stored in one barn or an­other: he nailed sev­eral bits of wood to­gether in a star shape around which Liz has twisted fairly lights to make a pretty fea­ture over the head­board. And in front of the op­po­site wall is an im­pres­sive wardrobe, not dis­sim­i­lar in looks to Dr Who’s Tardis, made from left­over tim­ber.

With Liz’s care­ful di­rec­tion and an abil­ity to see the fin­ished scheme in her mind, she and Corentin have worked day and night to cre­ate a cot­tage with its own char­ac­ter, but not one that is con­trived or dif­fi­cult to live with: the old school house has per­son­al­ity, but more­over a warmth that in­vites you in and asks you to stay.

Con­tact Liz via cham­bres-gites-bre­tagne.fr (00 33 (0) 6 70 03 57 32) to book your stay in this peace­ful spot; travel via ferry from the UK to St-Malo (brit­tany-fer­ries.co.uk).

The Lamour fam­ily

Above left: The vaulted ceil­ing lends the space more light and a feel­ing of open­ness in this com­fort­able room. Corentin wood clad the ceil­ing and used un­der­floor heat­ing Above: The bold splash of red in the din­ing area lifts the mono­chrome scheme Top right: The build­ings in the ham­let are con­structed of ir­reg­u­lar-sized yel­low stone Right: The twin bed­room hints at old board­ing school lodg­ings with metal beds and striped linen (from Linum). Ed­u­ca­tional posters be­deck the walls and zinc num­bers line the shelf (avail­able at Etsy)

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