Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Almost like a real house!

The house project is making progress and starting to look like a real house. There is still plenty to do but for now it's worth taking a look at what we have achieved. So here is the almost finished salon:

The thing I'm most pleased about I think is how light it is. Amazing when I think back to how dark and dingy the room used to be. Even the white lime pointing makes a huge difference to the space.

Below is my new window seat finished in my spare time this weekend. The white pine cladding on the front is great stuff: pre-finished, dead easy to install with a air finish nailer and cheap.

The stairs I made still need a hand rail but this is in-progress. I think i'm going to make iron baluster rail to add to the contemporary neo-monastic look.

And in the kitchen (shown below) is the cupboard Julia saved from the fire.
To explain: we had a dresser we were going to paint. I / We did this only to find that Crown undercoat (water based) and crown top coat (oil based) do not mix. On the tin they say that they are compatible with "all undercoats" etc but they are not. Well, if you ring the help line, they say that technically they are, as long as you flat the undercoat down with 400 grit paper between coats and for that reason they legitimately claim total compatibility on the tin. Having painted the cupboard only to find the paint falling off in strips, I was ready to cut it up for firewood in a fit if peak! Julia, on the other hand, calm as ever, refused to admit defeat and made me scrape off all the paint I had just put on, sand it down, and then re-paint it with (none Crown) white wash. In the end I'm glad she did, as I think it now looks stunning. This somewhat round about technique has at least left the cupboard with a genuinely aged patina, although I wouldn't recommend trying to replicate this process.  

The other thing I did with the cupboard is to replace the drawer fronts. The original ones has a machine routed pattern all the way round the front (like some kitchen units have) and they looked wrong. For me it made an otherwise nice cupboard look too modern in a not very appealing 1980's kind of way. The replacements are plain and to my mind at least more in-keeping with the intended style. Its also very solid (being oak) and great for keeping the crockery in; but such a lot nicer now its not dark brown varnish

And just as a reminder, the big picture.

And the shed in bloom

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Bike Shed 2014

The new wave of custom motorcycles is one that interests me greatly. The BSMC III 2014 was a feast. My only apology is my my photography of the event might be construed as automotive porn. Close up, shots of the intricate detail!

If I ever win the lottery this would be the bike I would buy!

Oh yes!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Art Vs Craft

Today I went to get a new passport from the office in Liverpool. By happy coincidence this afforded me a few hours in the Tate to view the new exhibition of work by Mondrian, called Mondrian and his studios
It's a great exhibition particularly because it has a life size replica of his studio in Paris. Walking around his studio I think really gives you an insight into the Man and his art that you would not otherwise get. Go see it. 

I also had chance to look around the rest of the Tate. Some work I liked and some I did not but all of the work made me think. And as the mark of a good exhibition I'm still thinking about it. With the Tate more than any other gallery I have been to, I'm left with the question of: What is Art?

For me (ignorant in the field of art) I consider some things art and some not. Its a gut feeling that in hindsight I find difficult to rationalize. When I studied at the Birmingham school of jewellery, my tutor said "You need to decide whether you are an artist or a craftsman. If your an artist then you make one of something, and to make a living you need patronage. If your a craftsman then you make a run of your designs and you start to make a little money". Interestingly the definition in France is very similar. Art is: "one of something and each piece unique" craft is: "more than one the same". For me though there is something more important than uniqueness and that is the element of skill. I struggle to find the "Art" in a nicely folded pile of linen. I also struggle to find the "worth" in social comment on Art that involves tattooing the backs of drug addicted prostitutes with a 160cm line for the price of a shot of heroin?? Sorry.

So what of Mondrian? If you look at his paintings (the later ones we recognize anyway) and we have a series of paintings that are in-fact substantially the same, or at least perfections of a theme. Their creation is not terribly difficult. But do I think its Art?.....well yes. And why? Because what Mondrian did was unique (back to the definition above). Any child / adult who has any interest in Art will recognize his work. And for me that is supremely difficult and requires absolute skill. After several thousands of years of painting, to produce a style that is so distinctive and so unique is truly remarkable.

For myself I have for a long time been content with being a lowly craftsman. 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Oak Room

As I'm tempted to call it given the quantity of the stuff in there,  is nearly finished!

As you can see I've used a wooden framed sub floor off the concrete. Boards a 165mm x 22mm French Oak in random lengths. These are from trees grown locally and have been stacked upstairs for the past 2 years

Floor boards laid through to the kitchen above. You get the general idea, below. The board are all traditionally face nailed by hand with cut floor brads. These I had to import as they don't sell them in France any more as far as I can tell? 

I need to finish off the bottom of the stairs with the last step from the landing.

And the beams. They look nice now but they were a swine to do.

Needless to say i'm tired now!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Weekend break

Sorry I couldn't resist the sarcasm, I think I've caught it off my children! This weekend I went home and did some more plaster boarding in the salon. For one room there seems to be an awful lot of the stuff; ten 3m x 1.2m sheets to be exact. The 3m length is required because the ceiling height is around 2.8m tall. Handling big sheets is a art in itself but then you gain when it comes to taping and jointing. Remember this is France and they gave up on plaster skim coats many years ago. The result is that board joints are filled and then sanded with filler made especially easy to sand.

As with most jobs its the twiddly bits that take the time; like over the windows and around the doors etc

Still on the good side i'm finding the taping and jointing very easy going, on the grounds that Julia is doing it. This is a strategy I'm liking a lot.

Once we (Julia) have finished the prep to the walls then we (Julia again) can paint and then we (ok me this time) can do the floor. Now the floor I am looking forward to doing. Its 165mm wide 22mm thick solid French oak and its going to look fab, in a puritanical / monastic kind of way.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Return to the French Folly

Well first off a confession. Its been over 6 months since my last blog and during this time I have totally failed to keep my postings up to date. In my defence I have been working in the UK and only getting home every 2 weeks. With time spent with my family so precious, the blogging (but not all the renovation) has slipped.

We are currently working on the Salon and its starting to come together:

The ceiling is done; I hung a metal frame off the floor above and the plaster board is screwed to the rails. This gives a nice flat ceiling and allows you to adjust the height to your liking. The plaster board is them scribed around the beams. For information the beams have been cleaned up. Chipping off any worm eaten wood with a sharp axe then wire brushing to get all the loose material off prior to treating with wood preserver. This I may say is a really sh**ty job. If you ever think of doing this DONT; pay a man with a sand blaster and have done with is too short. When you suggest this course of action to your wife and she gets all stroppy about the cost then either hand her the axe and the wire brush or go ahead and call the sand blaster in anyway. For the love of God save yourself the pain and two whole days of your short ass life.

Walls are using 75mm metal stud partition. This means you can space the wall off the stone giving an air gap and allow for 75mm insulation meaning you avoid the hot cold interface with the plaster board. This will reduce the possibility of condensation and mold further down the line; its more expensive but then you save on heating and hopefully it should last a lot longer than just battens and plaster board.

Julia has been pointing, and is doing a cracking job.
Tomorrow I'm doing the pipework transition from the main flow and return upstairs down the walls to the two rads in the salon. After that I can finish the plaster board on the walls.

Now to lighten the mood a little here is a picture of my next door neighbors new cock. Nice isn't he!