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Renovation Revelation

Back to... Holiday Homes The Magazine

Restoring a wonderful wine domaine to beyond it's former glory


In November 2002 we landed at Carcassonne and were met by a local estate agent. We hired a car and followed her through driving rain into what seemed like the wilderness and miles from anywhere.

We parked on a gravel road and waited. Eventually, a French gentleman appeared in an old black Peugeot. Apparently the house we were to view was down an overgrown driveway, which, although we were parked opposite it, could not even be seen!

We jumped into his Peugeot and unbelievably headed through the bushes which turned out to be growing either side of the driveway. The car was getting scratched to pieces, wheels spinning in the mud but no one seemed to mind.
We arrived at a collection of buildings, the central one being a house of some lovely proportions but looking visibly neglected. It was raining heavily and even before David got out of the car he said 'this is not the place for us' - I thought differently...

It was desperate for renovation. Our journey had begun, although it would be 12 months before we became owners of the property.

After an exhaustive search for artisans our team began to form. We realised early on that someone needed to be on site to ensure that our ideas were being carried out correctly so it was decided that I needed to oversee the renovation. I spoke virtually no French but my piece de resistance was being able to cook. In order to keep the team on site and avoid losing at least two hours a day for lunch breaks, I decided to cook 'the team' their main meal at lunch time. At any one time there could be anywhere from 4 to 15 workers on site. I would cook a three course meal and have it on the table (usually planks of wood with a selection of barrels, tubs or piles of bricks as chairs ).

Food was the beginning of my learning process and conversation started. Embarrassingly halting at first, it developed as did our renovation. We purchased a Weber BBQ from the local Mr. Bricolage and I cooked almost entirely on that until our kitchen was completed. Our renovation took two years, with the builders on site 5 days a week throughout that time.

We sourced the best materials from local suppliers, Delbano provided the stone for the terracing, Ferrand Carrelage and Jacob Delafon in Carcassonne provided our bathrooms and tiling and our fabrics for curtaining and soft furnishings were sourced in South Africa where we purchased the most luxurious silks. John Lewis were able to provide the stunning French fabric for curtaining and valance in the master bedroom. Our handmade chimney was provided by Barascud and from the moment it went in it has never smoked !!

Need renovation advice?

I have gone onto renovate 5 further properties from those hesitant steps we first took at Domaine de Nérige, and enjoy the process very much indeed. I am currently helping two new owners with their renovations and about to rebuild another of our own properties.

Should anyone be interested in seeking my help in finding houses or providing renovation advice, please just contact the Pure France team...

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Note: This article may contain or reflect personal opinions and cannot be considered contractual.
Full property details and booking terms and conditions are available on the relevant property page(s).
Entry fees, opening hours and other information is correct as of publishing, October 2016.


   

Derelict French house renovation, near Carcassonne

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