It has been a huge decision for us to make, but one which we are extremely happy with, as we feel we have taken the cottage as far as we can and that it needs a family to live in it permanently again to give it the love it deserves, which in turn will allow that family to feel truly loved by it! It is such a beautiful place to live and a wonderful, spacious family home!
I will be honest in saying that the decision has been a tough one, with all the love we have put into it, the memories we created there as a family and the deep connection we have with it, but with the tables being turned and us now being based back in the UK for the majority of the time with only short holidays being spent out there, we are finding that if we carry on as we are, we will just continue to feel like hamsters running extremely fast on a wheel which just turns and turns and doesn't allow us to focus on any further goals we wish to achieve. It just does not make sense.
I should mention that with the cottage come a spacious orchard garden with a peach tree, damson tree and various cherry trees. The pool is not included, but nothing stopping you from installing your own!
With the cottage comes other outbuildings which provide lots of storage space and the possibility of creating a further gite. There is also an area at the back of the cottage which lends itself to be a lovely, spacious private walled garden.
Again, there is the potential of adding an extra bedroom to make it a 5 bedroom (it is currently a 4 bed, but listed as 3 as the French do not list rooms of a certain height as bedrooms and one of them has a lower ceiling than the rest). There is a self contained vaulted ceilinged room which follows on from the left of the cottage as you face it that was used by the previous owner as a hair salon. If a doorway was knocked through, it would become part of the house and potentially a 5th bedroom, or room of your choice!
As any of my followers will know, the more recent focus of our renovations in France has been our barn, "Tiny Tim". Tiny Tim (who is actually not so tiny!) is a beautiful Vendéen Stone barn steeped in history and which is split into 3 sections, one of which (the furthest section away from the cottage - deliberately so to keep the privacy of each property) we have begun renovating to make into our family home for when we stay in France and where we will spend more time as a couple/family later on in life when the children have finished their schooling, further education etc and have become more independent in their own lives.
Here he is in all his glory!:
Even when it was in its rawest state, we stay in the barn during the times where we have guests renting the cottage for their holidays. Some people would think us mad, but we just refer to it as 'Camping à la grange' and have always felt comfortable and protected staying there and thoroughly enjoy our summers in Tiny Tim with the huge amount of space he has to offer, his lovely garden with gorgeous views and the privacy which has been retained, even when the gite is being let.
Tiny Tim holds our heart strings tight! He actually takes my breath away every time I see him and we are truly in love.
We discuss, visualise and dream all the time of how certain rooms and areas are going to look - colours, styles, flooring, walls, accessories etc. We are just itching to add to what we have done so far and really make him smile inside and out!
As you will see from previous blog posts, we have so far replaced the roof and re-concreted the floor. We installed the old kitchen which we removed from the gite in the barn, which is very basic, but works very well. We have a traditional roll top bath, which I have repainted and looks beautiful - one of my favourite features already and one which gives a very different experience when taking a bath within the immense space that is our 'wing' of Tiny Tim. I also painted the external doors and added rose detail which make Tiny Tim even more beautiful and made him smile. :O)
He is basically a huge cavernous space which to us is like a blank canvas just urging us on to create on and bring to life!
His internal walls which section the rooms are currently curtains which I have hung!! :D They work and are great as a temporary measure, but we can't wait to replace them with the plasterboard which we have and is ready to be fitted!
When we re-concreted the floor, Scott ran in all the plumbing feeds in accordance with the plans he drew up to submit with our planning application to convert the barn into living accommodation (he's a very clever boy!!).
That is another thing I love! The plans are completely ours. Something we have discussed and visualised together as a couple and which when come to fruition, will literally be our soles being displayed through such a beautiful building. We are lucky that our styles and visions when it comes to properties are very similar and compliment each other, so it is never difficult to discuss ideas and we very rarely disagree (well, that is when it comes to planning a property renovation anyway!). ;o)
We have separated bedrooms for us and the girls, a working toilet (thank goodness!) and a lovely big lounge area with TV and internet and a few lovely French pieces of furniture which we have enjoyed collecting over the years to make our home homely and accentuate it's character.
Just talking about the barn and what we want to do with it gets me excited! I just cannot wait to continue what we have started and really make him shine!
As it is, each time we visit since we have moved back to the UK, our focus is the cottage. We arrive, get settled in the barn and immediately get to work on any cleaning, maintenance or ground works which is needed to get the cottage in order for the first guests. The pool needs to be clean and gleaming, the garden looking beautiful and neat with all borders strimmed and the grass freshly cut, any weeding (usually lots of!) done and the cottage beautifully clean and welcoming with the beds freshly made, the welcome pack out and ready and its arms wide open and ready to welcome her next guests! (Yes, the cottage is a girl, for sure!!)
Once the guests have checked in, it is not quite time to relax. We need to make sure they are completely happy and most probably will have a little more gardening work etc to get on with (even though we have a contracted gardener who maintains the garden throughout the year - there is only so much he can do within his 2 hours per week and it is a big space to cover with rockeries, fruit trees, rose bushes etc and we also have the barn garden to think about ourselves).
I never truly relax when there are guests staying. I worry constantly that they are OK and have everything they need. That everything is working as it should, the pool is warm enough, the weather (not something I have any control over, but still!), etc! It is a stressful business offering someone a holiday home as you want nothing more than for them to have the holiday of their dreams and it is very much up to you to ensure all that you have offered is presented to them!
We are then focusing on giving the barn a good clean up and getting the family nice and comfortably settled for the time we will be staying there.
Each week on a Saturday is our changeover day where we get the cottage cleaned up and ready for the next holiday guests. I have 2x sets of bedding for each room and am busy washing and ironing between lets.
With wanting to give the girls some holiday time and other little maintenance bits which we have to focus on each year to make sure everything is cared for and in order, added to the fact that we often spend the last 2 weeks staying with my mother 40 mins away, which is the base for our holidays with the extended family and where the girls get to spend lots of quality time with cousins, aunties, Nana and Grampsie, it leaves us very little time to focus on Tiny Tim where progressing with renovations is concerned.
We hope that with dividing the land, which was officially done last month, making two separate properties in their own entities and selling the cottage to another family, who will hopefully become good neighbours and friends of ours, we will be able to then focus on the barn, with the added bonus of no longer having to pay the same amount of money that is currently our UK monthly rent again to pay for the mortgage over there. We will also then be able to start making plans for purchasing our own family house again back in the UK.
I would like to point out to any of you who are reading this and may be thinking that our cottage could be for you, we have purposely designed the way the houses and gardens have been are laid out so that they face away from each other and remain private, which has always been extremely important to us, with the privacy and idyllic surroundings being a huge factor of what drew us to the property in the first place.
Also, any further work which will be carried out to the barn will be done by ourselves when we are there in person and will not be noisy work which would cause any disturbance, as all the noisy stuff has been done and it is all internal now.
We have planning permission (a huge feat when applying through the rigorous French system, which I was extremely relieved and slightly chuffed with myself on eventually obtaining - hard work!!) to make the barn into a 5 bed family home.
A big reason for the fact I have not found the time to write a blog update in such a while and have only got as far us updates on my facebook page, "Building The Dream - In France" is not only that we had our second daughter, Amélie back in June 2016 - now nearing her 2nd birthday!! :oO, but also that we made the move back to the UK just a couple of months previous to that and have since been trying to get the balance back whilst raising our beautiful girls and keeping the place going in France, continuing to rent out the cottage both long term and with us being there as a family during the school summer holidays and running the shorter weekly holiday lets, which in itself with all the advertising, communications and paperwork which goes with it is very time consuming.
We have also had the misfortune of renting the cottage to an undesirable tenant, who did not leave at the end of their tenancy, neglected to care for the house and caused us a lot of stress for 6 months. We are pleased to say the issue has now been resolved, but I think was the icing on the cake for me. We work so hard to please our tenants and do everything we can to ensure them a happy, comfortable and pleasant stay at our property and for ourselves and our lovely cottage to be treated with such disrespect is somewhat of a "kick in the guts" and something I for one never wish to experience again.
Scott is currently working full time as a kitchen fitter and I have continued with my art and furniture projects, some of which you can view on my facebook artist page, PattonArt, which is only in its very early stages and needs to be greatly added to! My most recent focus has been my book, 'Summertime on Rainbow Hill', which is a children's picture story book based on a wall mural which I painted whilst pregnant with my first daughter that I have written and illustrated and has finally been printed after 7 years (on and off when time permitted!) in the making!!
Although the book is available to purchase from me direct, my current focus, starting this week, is putting it out to publishers in the hope that one takes an interest and the book can be pushed in the directions I would like it to take.
So yes, at present we both feel slightly like Olympic sprinter hamsters on an ever turning wheel, but hope that we can stumble upon a lovely family very soon who might be looking to make the move to France and feel the cottage is the perfect choice for them.
Once we have found the right purchasers, who we hope will love the cottage as much as we do, we will be able to move our focus to the barn and our family future.
This will also change greatly the time we spend on our French visits, meaning we will have more flexibility to do the things we want to and with the people we miss whilst we are in UK.
If you are currently on the hunt for a beautiful traditional French cottage for your family to call your own, please get in touch via email to: