Kitchen & Dining Room

So okay, inquiring minds, at least one inquiring mind, clamored for more house pictures. The terrible truth is, they are just crazy disorganized. They came from half a dozen sources over what, six years now, so they are scattered all over the place. And while a great mind, Frank Lloyd Wright’s, declared the fireplace the heart of the home, this mind declared fireplaces to be energy inefficient space hogs. In this house they were not even pretty. All were removed. Wright’s symbolic heart, gone. So where to start? Why not the middle?

Okay, too weird. Why not the start? This is the old dining room. Note the gorgeous, probably elm, flooring that has buckled and become unusable because for three years before I arrived, nobody heated the house. Don’t ever do that to your house, not in a place with freeze/thaw cycles and lots of rain.

The guys removed the wood. My request to have it stacked for reuse was met with “Nah nah, can’t hear you,” and every last bit of it was burned. Why did I fire my architect? Here is one reason. So, out came the floor, leaving this odd half-basement that I think was filled, sort of, with rocks. Eventually, out came the fireplace. Of course the icky dark gray marble remains in the garage to this day.

Stone, pierre de Bourgogne to be exact, replaced the wood. We installed heated floors in most of the ground floor, reducing the need for radiators and giving the house nice, even heat. There are no hot or cold spots and the heat is lower than with radiators, so the air is not so dry. That said the heated floor does create a barrier that eliminates mildew, at least in the rooms where it is found. The basement and the utility room can still have problems.

Mildew, this in the old kitchen, is not your friend.
The guys removed the old ceramic tile. Jacques supervised, as only he can.

I must have a better photo of the old wall, but where? Anyway, you get the point. The kitchen and dining room were separated by this thick stone bearing wall and the kitchen was a dump, destined to become a big storage area if we didn’t fix that. Honestly, it was awful, useless as a kitchen and, as a dining room, just sad. So they removed the stone and put in a steel beam, thus joining the two spaces. Now the light flows from the front of the house to the back. I have a big kitchen where the elm-floored dining room used to be — note fireplace that warmed Dad while everyone else froze — and improved circulation and access to what is now the dining area.

Here it is, open, free space. Note the hole in the wall. The old dining room had a solid wall flanking the fireplace. I wanted natural light from multiple directions. Also I wanted a terrace at floor level to replace a kind of poky corner outside. So I had the guys put in a window, for which you see the opening, and a door which you see below. It was quite a fight, another nail in the architect’s coffin. But I won and really, it is so nice to have those things.

This, too, gives you some idea of how much nicer it is to have that wall gone. You can see the Lacanche stove where the fireplace used to be. A range hood has since gone in. The plumbing and wiring are in. The walls are insulated and finished; Stuart had a painter buddy who had some free time, so the entire house was painted way too soon, but it was a good job and the guys protected it, so, okay. Stuart and Liam are installing the cabinets, which were made in his workshop. Stuart also made the windows and the door.

The kitchen needs its range hood, but you get the idea. It is big, by French standards, light-filled and highly functional. The bar stools are by Thomas Moser and came with me from California. Most of the lighting is LED spots. The one hanging fixture is from a shop in Melle.

It is so nice and open. Maybe I should have left it like this, but I stood in the dining area to get the shot and I can’t relax at the table if my view is of the cooking mess that awaits me. So I had Stuart add a low bookshelf that is just enough higher than the countertop to hide a world of cleanup.

Here is the dining room without its furniture and, in general, with quite a bit of work to be done. The stone flooring is cut in to make room for bookshelves. Someone, can’t say who, exactly, has a bit of a cookbook addiction.

This is my only immediately available photo of the dining area. The furniture came with me from California. The bowl is made by Soy, in Istanbul. The view came with the house.

32 thoughts on “Kitchen & Dining Room

    1. Thank you! So, there are two of you who want the gory details. I will consider that a mandate. Next up, I don’t know. I’m in Paris working on my iPad, so I’ll have to see which photos are here.

    1. In this case it was the artisan anglais, though there was also a measure of misogyny and anti-Americanism on the French side. I spent a lot of time gritting my teeth, telling myself the end result would be fine and they would all be gone. So it is and so they are. I’m glad you like the kitchen. I’ll see whether I can dig up enough other photos to show more of the house.

      1. We only used one atisan anglais and he was a disaster.The artisans francais wanted to do what they wanted not what we wanted, so they had to go too… Luckily we were introduced to the artisans turk who were super and became friends. We are still in touch!
        Looking forward to more pics!

        1. Seriously? Are they still in Vendee? If so could you send me their info? Next up are the barns. Not only can I not actually afford to do the work but I dread dealing with a bunch of crazy guys again. With Turkish guys, worst case, we can make a quick call to Turkish friends who can translate.

          1. Unfortunately no. They used to work out of Angers until about five years ago when the boss moved to Bavaria to work with one of his brothers and none of the others wanted to take on the responsibility of running a business. I will ask Osman – his old foreman – if any of them have resurfaced and if so are they working with a good firm and get back to you.

          2. Osman is retiring this year…he has been doing agency work as have two of the others…simply to avoid paperwork. Tahsin – the boss – did all that when he ran things and they just don’t want to cope with it, so no continuity with reputable firms there, I am afraid. Their electrician followed Tahsin to Germany and the other two were working in Spain – better wages than in France, it seems! Sorry not to have been able to help. I asked if Osman knew of anyone in the Vendee/Deux Sevres area, but he didn’t.

          3. The paperwork is unbelievable. The state treats my bank account like a piggybank. Sometimes the money comes in, other times, most times, it goes out. Sometimes they get it wrong, so I have to keep a tax attorney on tap to beat them back. I can’t afford it, but it would be worse to just pay the state, so my tax guy just loves to hear from me, as he often does. A small operator can’t play these games. I see good people with the brains and ambition to hire some people, build a firm, but nope, no way. They always cite the government paperwork. In short, I don’t blame your guys. I am grateful that nearly everything I still want to do can be handled by Julien or a buddy of his, an electrician /plumber combo who works alone. He likes the simple life. My guess is that many of the refugees who get their papers here take a while to stabilize, then leave France. They talk about going north, to Germany or Scandinavia.

          4. Tahsin and Osman had been in France for donkeys’ years, entering via Germany originally. Settled, with families – and found that to get up the ladder – both were top class stonemasons – you had to have your own firm otherwise you were treated as non skilled and paid likewise. A French chap whose firm had worked for Batiments de France set them up with starter jobs on his reccommendation, having seen their work, and it took off from there. Never large scale, but employing their own team – mostly younger men just come from Turkey. Some of them stayed, like the cement man Ramazan, others moved on.
            Tahsin was good with the paperwork, luckily…and good at getting roun it too!
            His eldest brother was a teacher in Turkey, all the others left for work abroad…one in Russia, he and another in Germany orginally until Tahsin moved on, one in the Ukraine and one in Libya

          5. Oh, well. They’d have been perfect for my house and Tahsin could have done my taxes. I’m not hearing anything like that about the guys in the camps now. Generally they show up with no training at all. Our guy now speaks four languages enough to get by, but can barely read. For half his life now, some fifteen years, he has not stayed in one place long enough to acquire any formal skills.

          6. A totally different background to Tahsin’s gang…they were all legal immigrants. The poor guy you are helping…he must be intelligent and yet has been deprived of the means of using his brain. Can you imagine how one would survive his experiences….

      2. I marvel at how you developed a consistent vision and weren’t swayed by others ultimately. Although I’m having trouble understanding why they rejected so many of your suggestions since they seem obviously great. Well done! Do you fell proud when you see the comparisons or just tired?

        1. Well, it’s home, now. I just enjoy what is there and imagine what I’d like to do next. Contractors are conservative. They like to do what they always did. I’m used to that — and I’m used to them taking notes when they see the finished result. Each time that happens you become a little more assured when you see the resistance again. After a while you get like that Men’s Wearhouse guy: “You’re going to like the way it looks, I guarantee it.” Also the architect was trying to keep costs down — at any cost to the quality of life. He didn’t get why I would cough up for the wall opening, rather than live with a dark, poky room. I even had to fight to get a closet for my bedroom, a fight I won only by letting him go, then telling the contractor to put it in. I knew what I wanted. I had done this before; you remember how I changed the Kensington house, for example. So, my way or the highway: their choice, though I try to resolve things before it gets to that point.

  1. First of all, girl, I am in awe of the scope of work undertaken. You truly are a masochist with great taste. I looked at the old style rock and mortar foundations and moaned, “Jeezumcrow, how does anybody find level, square and plumb with those things under the whole structure?” I’d love to get my paws on some of that pierre de Bourgogne but, alas, Fedex charges might be prohibitive. I will not even discuss mold & mildew mitigation, nope, not going there, uh uh. The kitchen looks superb, love the cabinets and the walls (and we pretty have the same green in our kitchens.) Fabulous light from the big window adjacent the island. I guess over there you call “French Doors” just “doors,” eh? Some nice crown moulding touches, too. You’re brave using wood countertops but they are gorgeous. What kind of wood? Where’s the dishwasher? Oh wait, she’s writing the blog. :snorf: Can’t wait to see the follow-up progress pics. Thanks for the tour de France.

    1. Thanks! French doors and windows are just double doors and windows. The molding and rosettes are either original or repro made from molds of the original. The wood countertops are what I got when my contractor was too disorganized to make the lead time on the Corian I wanted. They are stained like crazy, something I have decided to just live with. I thought they were pine, but they haven’t yellowed, so I’m thinking maybe oak. The dishwasher is in the island, just to the right of the sink. Thanks for kicking my butt to get something finally published.

      1. Just trying to bost the page views. Nah, nah, nah…I am an avid follower of home remodeling projects and learn so much along the way. Yours is an especially fascinating study. Curious abot all aspects…how was the electrical…plumbing…permitting…it’s all interesting to me so I’ll continue to hound you (note dog reference) from time to time for more.

        1. Okay. For now I can tell you that permitting was easy. That’s the one thing the architect got right. I used to deal with the permit office in Los Angeles and I can tell you it was much simpler than that. No detailed plans, for example. Electrical and plumbing are typically done by the same company, though not always by the same personnel. My onsite crew were excellent, their management, not so much. It all works, more or less. Nothing leaks or shorts out. Some time post-plague you’ll have to come check it out. Kitazawa seeds make an excellent hostess gift. Meantime, pester away.

          1. I’d love to see it but for now a trip to Ralph’s is big time excitement for us. I got an oil change and it felt like the grand tour. Hope all continues swimmingly!

  2. What a thrill to see the pictures. I wasn’t going to pester you any more but you opened the door. More, more. I want to see it all, from every angle.

    1. Okay, then. More it is, one space at a time. I’m warning you, though. The last one will be the garden, a beautiful expanse of trees and grass turned rock-strewn wasteland. So far the garden is not a success story. Best case I’ll drag things out long enough to turn things around a bit.

    1. Thank you. I love compliments from anywhere but coming from you, that’s high praise indeed. Now I need to pull together photos for the rest of the house. The changes were not as dramatic, but I hope you like them, nonetheless.

        1. If he posts something on my house, he identifies it. Right now he is only shooting my house or his own. No worries. He has better photos, but I have more.

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