Posted by: frenchinspiredliving | May 31, 2009

The House in Provence

Welcome!PAULINE CARRINGTON CRAGGS’S HOUSE IN PROVENCE.
 
If you have a house in France, if you are planning to have one, if you love old French things, enjoy having them around you and mixing them in with old English furniture, or even day-dreaming about any of it, then you’re my kind of person! 

Working in France in the late eighties created within me a life-long joy of France, its language, countryside and people, a link which will never be broken. To be able to put all that together, mix French with English furniture, from smart to extremely scruffy is such a pleasure I would like to share it. 

As soon as my husband, David, retired we decided to share our time between France and London, and still do. Last year, having spent eight years in the SW of France, in the Tarn, we sadly sold our old farmhouse which we completely renovated – just because there was far too much garden for my husband to look after – told him so! And we are about to finish our second French project. Don’t be frightened to take on the renovation of a property – there are no building regulations, and the builders we have had have been a delight. They also give you a quote and keep to it!!

Courtyard

Courtyard

French builders, young and old, not from anywhere else but the local villages around, arrive at 8, leave at 12, return at 1 or 2 and work till 5 or 6 – without EVER having a tea-break. Now isn’t that a joy? No corners full of soggy teabags and old sugar and milk cartons!! We have had the occasional builders who stay for lunch – not lunch as we’d expect. Our delightful plasterer in the Tarn covered an old box with a beautifully laundered cloth, heated up his lunch on a primus stove, asked for a corkscrew to open his wine, totally oblivious to the chaos around him – a moment to treasure, and put me to shame! 

Shaded Terrace

Shaded Terrace

The people in the Tarn were a delight, my French is reasonable and everyone helped David along too when he tried, and has slowly improved. Having moved away, we have French and Danish and Belgian friends there who insist on keeping in touch with us – don’t expect it, and it takes time, but there’s good and bad everywhere! The damp in the Tarn got too much for us, so moving to the sunshine of Provence was another adventure, and the joy of another house to renovate. 

Living!

Living!

We are forever bringing old bits of ‘puces’ (fleamarket!) to England and back again, stripping things increasingly hard to find, increasingly expensive unfortunately, and turning them into really comfortable usable objects – a cupboard for 50 euros! Yes, it was my best bargain, but it didn’t stand up! David set it straight, added more shelves, I painted, and now no-one would know it hadn’t been in our house for ever! 

The 50 euro Cupboard

The 50 euro Cupboard

Have a look at some of these things we’ve found and added to our collection. Having collected lots of old sheets and even very thick linen with stripes from elsewhere, they are wonderful for curtains and headboards and blinds and cushions and all manner of things, and I am forever being asked if I can make curtains etc. etc. for friends and colleagues in and around London. ‘Will you come make my house/flat feel like yours?’ ‘Could I sell my, or can I find a table just like that? ‘Why not! Do ask! It gives me a chance to find more – very early Sunday mornings, coffee and croissant the treat for getting up, and off to a market in some small town. I’m sending photos of the sort of things I’ve put together and hope you enjoy them as much as I like living with them around me. 

Watering cans!

Watering cans!

Old wooden tools

Old wooden tools

Old Confit jars and other pots

Old Confit jars and other pots

Well now……… Our House! 

Why is it I always seem to find some old ruin which needs some care and attention? I love more than anything giving an old building a new life, taking care of it so it will last a lot longer, give it all the things we need to be comfortable whatever the weather. A few trips to Provence in and around Eygalieres and St. Remy de Provence, south of Avignon, and one or two helpful estate agents (and DO persist, they are not like English ones, there is often not a concept of showing you lots of things – push hard for what you would like to see – they’ll definitely show you everything else!). If you are reading this, I feel sure you know all about buying and selling in France, so that would be boring for now. You’ll know what you want when you see it! I ALWAYS have a list of the sort of place I’m looking for -what way does it face – take a compass!, is it miles from anywhere/near a village/airport, all those important things and try to stick to the list.

The Courtyard

The Courtyard

Easy garden!

Easy garden!

This time it was definitely a house in a town – walk for the bread first thing in the morning in the cooler fresher air, walk to the market, for a coffee, an International Herald Tribune, a glass of wine at a pavement café, all those things you keep as joyous memories to store for later. As soon as we came across no.7 we knew this was the one! We couldn’t see the house from the gate, the garden was so overgrown, it was two small terrace houses, all the old wooden beams removed 30 years ago, changed into small rooms with lots of concrete and horrid terrazzo tiles – perfect!! Place to park, facing south, quiet but 200 yards from the centre of town, place for long, lazy suppers on the terrace, for a small pool, even a boules court, and 200 sq. metres of house to play with, as well as outbuildings to create a guest suite cum studio when David wants to paint.

David Carrington Craggs paints with ease and great flair using the landscape and images he sees in the French countryside.

Our Tarn neighbour

Our Tarn neighbour

St. Marie de la Mer

St. Marie de la Mer

David's painting

David's painting

English art, French fabric

English art, French fabric

 We pulled the walls out, installed lots of metal beams to hold up three good-sized new bedrooms, all with shower or bath, covered the metal beams with old wooden beams, added more old ceiling beams, and ended up with a wonderful 45 foot long room, kitchen at one end, dining in the centre, sitting at the other, including a reclaimed old stone fire surround and a splendid wood burning stove all the way from Ludlow! Old floor tiles and wonderful metalwork to give us a staircase which looks like it’s been there for 150 years, add lots of French and English finds and it’s home! Everyone loves it, they tell me they feel comfortable and calm, so I hope you like it too. If there’s anything I can help with, then you must let me know – I’m so delighted to share this excitement with you – I can hardly bear to settle down and entertain friends through the summer, I’d FAR rather sell up and start all over again!! It’s definitely very hard work, but such a pleasure! 

Happy summer and enjoy yourselves!

Some lovely extra images……

An old mirror

An old mirror

Old linen blinds

Old linen blinds

Old French fabric

Old French fabric

Boules on the terrace at any time!

Boules on the terrace at any time!

There will be more images to come over the next few months but in the meantime ,I hope you enjoy looking out for these intersting finds both in England and on trips to France.

I do commissioned interior design work from my London home and can be contacted through my email address.

Pauline Carrington-Craggs         carringtoncraggs@talktalk.net

Posted by: frenchinspiredliving | February 17, 2009

Garden Statues & Seating

Welcome, welcome, welcome to what I hope is going to be a very exciting blog site for all those like minded people who want to find and incorporate wonderful French finds into their everyday living space. 
The blog will grow over the coming months as new contributors and visitors leave their ideas here for all of us to get some benefit from.
Just published is the story of the last days of Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, his wife Empress Eugenie and Louis his only legitimate son.  Wonderful photographs of where this family is buried, how they came to be in granite sarcophagi given by Queen Victoria and why they are in the care of Benedictine monks in an abbey in Farnborough.  SEE …..SPECIAL PLACES TO VISIT.
 
A ‘Food and Drink’ catagory is coming soon and many more French related stories will take shape over the coming months.
19th century old painted bench £650 from Life, Nettlebed, Oxon.

19th century old painted bench £650 from Life, Nettlebed, Oxon.

 

This fabulous bench is tucked in a corner of a garden against an old brick wall but it could look equally wonderful languishing on a limestone floor in the entrance hall of a contemporary house.

French vintage metal folding daybed from Life, Nettlebed, Oxon.

French vintage metal folding daybed from Life, Nettlebed, Oxon.

Although these wonderful metal daybeds are difficult to find due to popular demand over the last few years, if you know where to look they are still available. 

Upholstered in a vibrant floral fabric the mattress and bolster are completly separate from the frame and easily stored through winter months.  

So on a bright sunny day this very portable seating can be placed with little trouble in dappled shade under a favourite tree.  HELLO! magazine or a good book is a must, a glass of iced home-made lemonade and a couple of hours taken out from a hectic day!  Could Life be any better than this?

Posted by: frenchinspiredliving | January 19, 2009

An introduction to vaisselier (dressers)

 

french-vaisselier

The strict interpretation of ‘Vaisselier’ is a dresser although not quite in the English sense because these pieces have hung on the walls of French country kitchens over the past few centuries.  They were used for decorative pots and jars,  to display cups and jugs or to simply store the bric a brac of life .

Vaisseliers are usually painted and often have just a bottom shelf and a roof-like top shelf.  However, if you’re really lucky you’ll come across ones with spoon racks, small drawers and cupboards; these wonderful pieces are well worth searching for at fairs and brocantes on your visits to France.

The brown painted vaisselier with three drawers is late 19th century and would cost in the region of £250, this small cream painted vaisselier would be about £75.

Posted by: frenchinspiredliving | January 19, 2009

An introduction to Egg Cupboards

Late 19th French painted Egg Cupboard
Late 19th French painted Egg Cupboard

These perfectly wonderful cupboards come in all shapes and sizes and so long as there is a bit of wall free in a built-in-kitchen they can be used to keep your eggs at room temperature and out of the fridge; really not the best place for eggs!

The sort of price you would have to pay for this egg cupboard is £125.

Posted by: frenchinspiredliving | January 16, 2009

Special places to visit

NAPOLEON III, THE LAST EMPEROR OF THE FRENCH (Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte) 20 April 1808 – 9 January 1873.

If you would like to read a very potted version of French history from 1789, the year of the ‘Great’ Revolution, to 1870 when this story begins, please go into www.oldfrenchmirrors.com and click on ‘Mirror History’

The Second Empire fell on 14 September 1870.  Napoleon III, already suffering from an illness was forced by the diplomacy of the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck into what is now known as the Franco-Prussian War.  This war proved disastrous for France, and was instrumental in giving birth to the German Empire, which took France’s place as the major land power on the continent of Europe.

The Emperor was captured at the Battle of Sedan and was deposed by the forces of the Third Republic in Paris two days later.

Louis, The Prince Imperial, then 14 years old and the Empress escaped to England. 

Napoleon III, Louis his only legitimate son and Empress Eugenie were eventually united in exile at Chislehurst in Kent.  The Emperor died there in 1873 and was buried in Chislehurst in the small Catholic Church of St Mary.

At the time of his father’s death Prince Louis, a student at the Royal Military College at Woolwich, was preparing to take up a commission in the British army in the hope that the pursuit of a military career by a Napoleon would facilitate a possible return to France.  He managed to persuade both his mother and Queen Victoria to allow him to join the expedition against the Zulu’s in 1879.  On 1 June, while on reconnaissance, Zulu warriors ambushed the Prince’s party and he was surrounded and killed.  He was 23 years old.  Seventeen wounds from Zulu assegais, all to the front of his body, proved that he had died a brave death. 

To Queen Victoria and the British it was an enormous shock but to Eugenie, his mother, it was the crowning tragedy.  “I died in 1879”, she would say.

With the death of the Prince Imperial, Eugenie realised that the dynasty was unlikely ever to rule France again so she decided to build a mausoleum in England in their honour.

Napoleon III, Empress Eugenie and their son Louis.

Napoleon III, Empress Eugenie and their son Louis.

The site of St Michael’s in Farnborough was chosen after the landowners refused to allow the Empress to enlarge the mortuary chapel at St Mary’s Church in Chislehurst, which was far too small to house both Imperial tombs.

Having considered various sites the Empress finally decided on the purchase of an extensive property at Farnborough Hill.  In the early autumn of 1881 she moved to her new home and during the years 1883 to 1888 watched the ‘basilique imperiale’ and the adjoining monastery rise on the crown of the opposite hill. 

Designed by Gabriel Destailleur in the French Gothic and Romanesque styles, the beautiful Grade-One listed Abbey Church is one of the finest, but least known, Catholic churches in England.  The building combines the splendour one might expect of a royal foundation with the austerity of a monastic church.  Simple, lofty arches and an Italian marble pavement draw the eye to the high altar under a richly decorated corona with the French inscription on it’s beams ‘St Michael our glorious patron, pray for France and England’.

St Michael's Abbey Church

St Michael's Abbey Church

Under the marble pavement of the sanctuary of the upper church lies the Imperial family, entombed in the crypt designed for that purpose.  The Emperor and Prince lie in granite sarcophagi in the transepts and the Empress on the shelf high above the altar.

Oak linenfold door to the Crypt.

Oak linenfold door to the Crypt.

The tombs, the gift of Queen Victoria, are an obvious echo of the tomb of Napoleon I at Les Invalides in Paris. 

Napoleon III 's Sarcophagi.

Napoleon III 's Sarcophagi.

Empress Eugenie's sarcophagi.

Empress Eugenie's sarcophagi.

Prince Louis's sarcophagi.

Prince Louis's sarcophagi.

“You have built this church in stone, not in order to pass onto distant generations the memory of the glories of France, but because you understand that there is something greater than man’s glory, more lasting than stone – the daily sacrifice of Christian prayer…. This sanctuary raised on English soil will not only speak continually of the memory of the Empress Eugenie to all who come after; it will be an eloquent witness to her faith and piety”
Spoken by Abbot Cabrol at the funeral of the Empress Eugenie, 20 July 1920.

The first monks at Farnborough came from the Abbey of Solesmes in France in 1895, a monastery noted for liturgical and Gregorian Chant.  Many of the monks returned to France at the beginning of First World War to fight for their country; a number of the men lost their lives at the front line.

To day, all the eight monks at the monastery are English; they lead a strict Benedictine life in its classic contemplative form, which is founded, on the sacred liturgy, study and manual work.  The Office is sung in Latin Gregorian Chant.  The farm and apiary supply the Abbey and it’s shop with eggs, meat, honey and wax; the Abbey Press produces books and cards employing traditional craft methods.

There are guided tours of the church and crypt most Saturdays, there are services open to the public and the Abbey shop is open every morning from 10am till noon.

However, it may still be wise to go into the Abbey’s web site to check the current situation with services and times of allowed visits:

St Michael’s Abbey
Farnborough
Hampshire GU14 7NQ
Tel: 01252 546105
Email: info@farnboroughabbey.org
www.farnboroughabbey.org

I met The Abbott of St Michael’s Abbey, Dom Cuthbert Brogan, a while ago and he kindly gave me a personal tour of the Abbey and Crypt.  It was a wonderful morning spent with an eloquent witty man.
    
He has quite regular contact with the extended Bonaparte family particularly on anniversary dates, 9 January, 5 May, 1 June and 11 July.
 
The French Napoleon III Fan Club has periodic contact with the Monastery over the return to France of the remains of their most honoured late Emperor and his family; the French Government also jumps up and down on this same subject every 15 years or so!  The idea is an attractive one to the French but the reality of shipping the three granite sarcophagi back to France and finding somewhere to put them, is a much bigger problem!

As Dom Cuthbert said, “ We are a Benedictine monastic order and we are here at the Abbey to follow the rules of St Benedict.  We are merely custodians of the tombs of the last Imperial family. We have no desire to deprive France of their remains but you can’t help wondering where the French would put these three huge granite sarcophagi were they to be returned to France.   There is simply no room in any of the obvious places.

Any-way, there are many Royal and Imperial remains dotted around the world; can you imagine if the decree went out that all remains must be repatriated to the country of origin what chaos there would be at the Gare du Nord; hundreds of badly labelled boxes passing each other in the night…….. They would never make it back!”

Leave well alone, I say!

It is a rare privilege indeed to have the opportunity of visiting such a wonderful place.  So if you do make the journey to St Michael’s Abbey please be aware that this is a Benedictine Order and the monks have no income; a donation to the Abbey’s funds would be gratefully received.

              
Bridget de Breanski, The Old French Mirror Company.
www.oldfrenchmirrors.com

  


Le Petit Trianon….Marie-Antoinette’s neo-classical chateau at Versailles.

Marie-Antoinette was 19 and had just become queen when her king, Louis XVI, slipped into her hand a key ring adorned with 531 diamonds.  “Madame, do you like flowers?” he asked.  “I have a bouquet for you….”  It was the Petit Trianon.

The Petit Trianon is the hidden, most subtle face of Versailles, a symbol of the relaxed rhythm of life in 18th century France. Displaying every kind of excess, it illustrates a new idea of happiness associated with the return to nature, inherited from Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  It is a place of Fragonard-style pleasure and libertinism, its atmosphere light-hearted, cheerful, natural and carefree to the point of self-destruction….Just a few years later, those most closely involved with the Petit Trianon lost their heads!  This text by Marie-France Boyer.  

The Petit Trianon can be visited at the Chateau de Versailles, 78000 Versailles, France. (00 33 1 30837620)

The Music Pavilion...Wedded life was far from harmonious for the Comtesse de Provence, eventually the last titular queen of France.  Neglected by her husband – the king’s brother – mocked by Marie-Antoinette and dismissed by the French court, she found solace in her estate on the outskirts of Versailles.

Today, all that remains of her domain is the Music Pavilion – a Palladian villa whose floral frescoes and smart Louis XVI style still hit the high notes. Text by Philippe Seulliet.

On the outskirts of Versailles this restored Pavilion is worth a visit although it may be by appointment only.

Posted by: frenchinspiredliving | January 15, 2009

An introduction to lighting

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHANDELIERS

Taken from the word in French for candle (chandelle), chandelier simply means a candle-holder suspended from the ceiling with two or more arms bearing lights. There is also an association with the word chandler, a maker or vendor of tallow candles; tallow was a substance got from melting the harder and less fusible kinds of animal fats to make candles.

Chandeliers were first used in medieval churches and abbeys in order to bring overhead light to these cavernous spaces; they were simple wooden structures, often in the form of a cross, and spiked at the end of the arms where the candle was placed.

As the centuries moved on the chandelier developed into elaborate masterpieces of shimmering metal. Jan Van Eyck’s painting of The Arnolfini Marriage in 1434 shows a gleaming six arm brass chandelier hanging from the ceiling of Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini’s home in Bruges. Arnolfini came from a wealthy family in Lucca, Italy.

The Rococo influence (Germany c.1730 – 1760) increased the use of cut glass pendants and ornaments giving the chandelier more sparkle as the candle flame was reflected in the drops. The elegant style of Robert Adams in 1765 made crystal chandeliers longer, the arms strung with chains, the candle sockets and drip pans decorated with bells and flowers and the central shaft took the form of a Grecian urn.

As lead crystal was perfected and refined in England during the 18th century more and more decoration was added to these large complicated chandeliers. The addition of lead to the glass increased the clarity and sparkle of the hundreds of drops intensifying the impact and refraction of light.

It took some time for Europe to catch up with the strides that England had made in perfecting the art of lead crystal making but J and L Lobmeyer of Vienna and Baccarat of France were achieving superb work on lead crystal chandeliers by the 1820’s. It was in 1764 that Louis XV granted the Bishop of Metz permission to establish a glassworks in Baccarat, France; the main production plant it still there today.

Karen Matthews

www.crystal-corner.co.uk

 One of a pair of French chandeliers from Crystal Corner 

One of a pair of French chandeliers from Crystal Corner

Pair of 18th Louis XVI giltwood candle sconces

A pair of 18th century Louis XVI giltwood candle sconces.

Late 18th century c. 1770, French Louis XVI giltwood candle sconces with the head of a man and woman embossed on plaques hung from golden ribbons. The flaming torches and quiver of arrows decorating each sconce were the symbol of Louis XVI of France.

This pair of sconces are very rare and it is therefore quite difficult to put a price on them; there is absolutely no reason to spend more than £200 or so for something similar but later, which will still create ‘The Look….’

 

Wonderful French vintage chandelier from Life, Nettlebed, Oxon £2500.

Wonderful French vintage chandelier from Life, Nettlebed, Oxon £2500.

Posted by: frenchinspiredliving | January 15, 2009

An introduction to Buffets and Armoires

Coming soon…

Posted by: frenchinspiredliving | January 15, 2009

An introduction to tables

FRENCH FARM TABLES

 Farm table were made from whatever wood was locally available and th

French 19th century Oak oval table

French 19th century Oak oval table from Jan Hicks Antiques and Interiors

Posted by: frenchinspiredliving | January 15, 2009

An introduction to upholstered chairs and sofas

Vintage French chair re-upholstered in a wool fabric £895 from Life, Nettlebed, Oxon.

Vintage French chair re-upholstered in a wool fabric £895 from Life, Nettlebed, Oxon.

One of a pair of mid 20th century Louis XVI style chairs.

One of a pair of mid 20th century Louis XVI style chairs.

 

French 19th century upholstered sofa

French 19th century upholstered sofa from Life at Nettlebed.

Posted by: frenchinspiredliving | January 15, 2009

An introduction to mirrors

An example of the quality of mirrors on offer by The Old French Mirror Company  

 The mirror shown here is a French gilt Napoleon III mirror c. 1860. 

Mirrors are a ‘must have’ in any home because of what they can do to the space; bring light in, reflect chandeliers and other interior items, bring the garden inside or just to be seen as a  beautiful piece which brings the room together.

French 19th century mirrors come in all shapes and sizes.  This was a century that re-invented itself many time as three major families and the ‘people’ themselves fought for power.  All these changes became evident in the design of the furniture and mirrors through the century.

This then gives the buyer of to-day an enormous range of styles to chose from.  Early lineal Empire and Restauration mirrors, simple curved topped Louis Philippe mirrors, sometimes with a modest crest.  Between 1851 and 1870 there was a return to more flamboyant styles reminiscent of the previous century when Napoleon III took his place on the throne of France.

Most of these mirrors will still have the original mirror plate, marked or not, and it is quite important to keep the integrity of the piece in tact rather than re-place marked glass.  A good dealer will know the dates of when mercury and silver were used and the cut-off dates of each.  In the mid 1920’s silver, as a method of making glass into mirror, was replaced with aluminium.

Expect to pay from £600 for a small antique mirror.  The mirror in the image above would be in the region of £3500.

Text provided by Bridget de Breanski of The Old French Mirror Company.

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