Before and After: Part Two

We finished the bedroom! Remember that long list of things we had to do to turn two rooms into two other rooms? Well we’ve done all the things!

We finished knocking down the wall, tore up the linoleum, sanded and painted the ceiling, tore down the rest of the wallpaper, put up and painted a ceiling beam where the old wall was, cleaned up and evened out all the bits where we knocked down the wall, put up two new walls, put down a layer of styrofoam insulation, put down laminate flooring, and installed wooden paneling on the wall that was all bumpy.

There were some intermediary steps I’ve left out. We also decided to just completely redo the floor instead of trying to salvage the old hardwood, since the floors weren’t level and the hardwood floor in the previous rooms was not the same.


The walk-in closet is still a work in progress, but the office should be ready as soon as we pick up my new bookshelf and my rug arrives from Ikea. We splurged and bought real hardwood for the office since it’s only 4 square meters.

My future office

My future office

Future walk-in closet

Future walk-in closet

Also, exposed beams are pretty, but a big pain in the arse when it comes to renovations.

Thirty Euros Well Spent

Today I was wiping down the little table in our kitchen and I started thinking about its path to where it is now. I bought it when I moved to the city center in Poitiers after six months in the colocation where I met J, my future boyfriend. That move was the first one I’d make into an unfurnished apartment by myself. I already had a bed and an armoire that I’d bought for the flat-share, plus an old desk they didn’t mind me moving out with.

I bought it for 30 euros at Troc in Poitiers, and it was my dining table for a year and a half in my little walk-up apartment in a historic centre-ville building.

When I moved into the duplex with J, the kitchen was unfinished except for the standard sink, so it served as our kitchen counter/work surface, and we made our coffee and toasted our brioche on it every morning.

Now that we’re in the new house, it’s the table where we eat when it’s just the two of us, and it takes up a lot more space in the kitchen than it should, considering how small it is—no more than two people are comfortable eating at it.

We’ve put a new kitchen table on our wedding registry. We’d like to replace it for something that three or four people could eat breakfast at.

But I’ll always have a soft spot for this tiny wooden laminate thing that was intended to be short-term and that instead has followed me through these different phases of my life.


Merci Troc


Before and After

I’m still on sick leave—the lack of posts isn’t due to being busy but rather to lack of inspiration. But today I got off my butt, cleaned up the house, and took some before and after pictures of the three parts of the house that are done, and the remaining part of the house that is still a major work in progress. The before pictures are a mixture of the house empty and the house filled with the previous owner’s things at the time of the original visit.


Work done: Un-mounting the old cabinets (done by father-in-law), un-mounting the old range-hood (FIL), tearing down the old wall-paper (also FIL), busting off the old baseboards (FIL), making electrical lines in the walls (J), drilling an electrical line to the basement (J), updating existing and installing new electrical outlets (J), putting down a blue sticky layer on the floor (J, but this barely counts because it’s super fast), tiling the floor (J), tiling the baseboards (FIL), grouting the floor (mostly me), smoothing the walls (FIL), painting the walls (J, me), painting and treating the new cabinet façades (me), building the cabinets (J), mounting the cabinets (FIL, J, and some of J’s little brother), cutting and installing the wooden counter (FIL), treating the wooden counter (J, me), screwing on the façades (J), creating two pot drawers (J), installing the sink, faucet, and stove (FIL), installing the new range-hood (FIL, J, and twice because we bought a hood that blocked one of the cabinets seeing as how they’re at an angle, so we had to buy another of this particular model, and it was still close!), installing the back-splash tile (J), grouting the backsplash tile (me, J), installing the backsplash light (J), putting handles on the drawers and cabinets (J), painting and treating the cabinet baseboards (me), cutting and installing the cabinet baseboards (FIL), installing a new light fixture (J), sealing the counter to the back-splash (J). Phew. I think that’s all of it!

It is SO much better. I didn’t hate the old kitchen, but J did. And there was no place to put an oven. The previous owner had a tiny toaster oven that she left on the counter (see picture one). Also to install the tile we had to take down the old kitchen and since J hated it we obviously weren’t going to bother putting it back up. I love having breakfast in this kitchen before going to work, it’s so cheerful with the blue and the yellow. Also, yes, we are still missing one long blue board to the left of the oven.

Living Room

Work done: busting off the old base-boards (FIL), sticky-layering the floor (J), tiling the floor (FIL, J), grouting the floor (J, me), tearing down the old wall-paper (me, a friend), painting the heavy first layer of paint (J, me), painting the walls (me), taking down the awful curtain board around the windows and repainting the ceiling above it (J—sorry no photo of this one before), tiling the baseboard (J, me), grouting the baseboard (J, me), taking the wall-paper off of and painting the doors (me, SIL), re-doing the outlets (J), drilling a hole in the wall to bring the phone line in (J, this was hilarious because his drill bit wasn’t as long as the wall was wide so it was guesswork), painting the radiators (me, MIL), installing the light fixture (J)

In these pictures you can’t see the bay windows that lead to the terrace or the corner with the TV, because I don’t have before pictures of those things.


Hallway schmallway right? WRONG. This hallways was a total b*tch and I am extremely proud of it. During the renovation work we spent weeks sanding the walls, stepping over tools, stepping over radiators laid down in the hallway… It was a wreck and I dreamed of the day I could walk around barefoot in it. Also, we didn’t originally plan to change anything but the tile in the hallway. The wooden base-boarding was dated, yeah, but it didn’t bother us and the wall-paper was recent and very well done. But FIL quickly told us upon moving in that if we wanted to tile we had no choice but to tear at the wooden boarding, and once the wooden boarding was out, we realized we had to tear down the wall-paper and paint.

Work done: Tearing off the wooden base-boarding, tearing off the awful old wall-paper behind it, busting off the BLACK base-board tiles revealed behind (I am serious, it was black tile) (me), tearing out the screws that held the old boarding into the wall (me, this was a b*tch), spackling the holes they left (FIL), sanding the spackle (FIL), tearing down the old wall-paper of the upper half of the wall (J), spackling and sanding some more (FIL—remember I said this step took two weeks?), finally getting to paint the walls (me), leveling the difference between the living room and the hallway with some sort of cement (me, J), tiling the floor (J), grouting the floor (me), tiling the baseboard (me), grouting the baseboard (me), painting the radiator (uh, someone)

Yeah, all of that for this boring hallway. But knowing all the hard work that went into it, I find it really beautiful, and I can walk barefoot in it! And yes that is our bathroom at the end of the hallway.

Also, cast iron radiators are REALLY HEAVY.

So what’s left?

Yeah, we’re not done. We have a master bedroom to create out of what was some weird pointless “salon” room and a tiny bedroom. Here’s that so far:

On the top row you have the “salon” before and after, and on the bottom the bedroom. So far we have: knocked down most of the wall, cleaned up the huge mess that made (like, fifteen bags of pieces of wall), torn down some of the wall-paper.

Work to do: Finish tearing up the linoleum on the salon-side (omg, this is so hard), finish tearing down the wall-paper, put down new flooring on the salon-side, clean up and re-seal the hardwood on the bedroom side, put up some sort of weight-bearing beam to keep the exposed beams from sagging over the years, sand the ceiling between the beams and paint it white, sand the bedroom-side beams and paint them the same color as the salon-side beams (I know, THEY ARE NOT THE SAME COLOR, WTF), build a wall on the salon-side to divide it from my future tiny office (hard to explain—the salon side is longer than the bedroom side so that extra length will become my tiny office), build another wall IN the future bedroom to create a walk-in closet, re-wire some electricity, paint or wall-paper the walls, put up wooden boarding on one of the walls that’s lumpy (why? why is it lumpy?), put up new light fixtures. I think that’s all.

We hope to have finished before the wedding next summer. We’re going to try to spend a couple days working hard next week and J may take a week off in February during the school vacation to work hard on it with me as well. There are a few things I would prefer not to bother with, namely, painting the ceiling white, building a walk-in closet, putting up a weight-bearing beam since I’m not convinced it’s necessary. But fear not we are going to do all of those things and in the end we should have a gigantic “suite parentale” as the French like to call it. Gigantic—this will be a 25 square meter bedroom. Turns out you put two tiny rooms together and you get one huge one. Also, I’ll have a little office, which I’m pretty excited about, because my crap is everywhere right now.


We’re moving!

J and I signed a purchase contract for a house last Tuesday! We’ll get the keys the 15th of April. I am really excited and happy to move out of this rental, though we have been very happy here. We’re just sick of sharing walls with a noisy family, dealing with plumbing problems because the house hasn’t been renovated, like, ever, and walking through the rain to get to our cars.

The living room. Don't worry, this wallpaper will be removed upon arrival.

The living room. Don’t worry, this wallpaper will be removed upon arrival.

Here’s how it all went down (if you’re interested in all the nitty gritty details of buying in France, Ksam is in the middle of a series of posts about buying a home over at Totally Frenched Out).

J and I have several things planned for summer 2015, and originally, we’d planned on moving into a new home around then too. Back in November, we went down south to visit some friends in Marseille and in the Montpelier area, and BOTH of them were in the process of closing on new homes. So we got to thinking, maybe this was more doable now than we had thought, and maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to avoid cramming it in with other events two years from now.

For the past year we’ve been regularly looking at the “vente” ads to get an idea of what’s around, and though we had a good feeling that there was plenty to be had in our price range, a real search definitely narrowed things down. These were our criteria:

  1. three bedrooms with a yard
  2. at least 90 square meters (which we quickly upped to 100 square meters after visiting a couple of houses)
  3. nothing in the city: Poitiers property taxes (taxes foncières) are three times the place where we’ve bought!
  4. nothing too far from Poitiers either! Homes about 25 km away were significantly cheaper… but we figured the suffering of our social lives and gas tanks would balance out any benefit from that.
  5. no adjoining houses (maisons mitoyennes). J found the idea of dragging our diesel lawnmower through the house to mow the back yard particularly irritating.
  6. no heavy renovation to do.

Though we made appointments at both of our banks to get a loan estimate, our friends in the south had told us about a Casden loan for young teachers. I was already at the Banque Populaire and with the Casden, so getting this loan (3% for 20 years) was just a matter of buying before the end of my third year of titularisation (August 2015). Being with the MGEN is also an advantage, since they have less expensive loan insurance and a loan guarantee.

We found our house on seloger and on leboncoin, because it turns out, in our budget, on this side of Poitiers, there are only about five houses for sale, and they’re all advertised on both sites, some multiple times. This house came on the market and we’d made an offer within four weeks. It was sold through an agency, which added 5,000€ to the selling price.

Originally the seller had asked us if we could make some sort of agreement by which she could stay as long as possible in the house after the sale and pay us rent, because she had to build the house she was moving to. We had said that this didn’t bother us as long as we had the house by July 1st. It turned out we couldn’t agree on rent anyway, so we slashed this part of the agreement at the contract signing.

The only problem with slashing that plan is that J and I are heading down to Spain for two weeks on April 19th. So we’re giving our notice on our rental for May 5th, and the work that has to be done on the house (electricity, some windows, tiling…) will have to happen after that. Oh well. We’re hoping for a crémaillère beginning of July!

Renovation Finished


After (there is a fourth chair, it’s just still upstairs. Also, this room is gigantic and we could easily put more furniture in it.)



After, opposite direction


After (this was a real pain in the neck—linoleum is not made to go over tiny steps)

We changed a few other things that I don’t have “before” pictures for.

Re-arranged (door taken off its hinges)

Here you can see our new butane cylinder, and how very much I want a spice sorter.

Ingenious dead space between the laundry machine and the fridge where I can hide all this crap.

Voilà. I keep following my old reflexes and moving to get the spices in the old spot, or going to the fridge in its temporary spot on the other side of the kitchen. It’ll take some getting used to but I’m very happy with it.

All finished just in time for J to leave on vacation tonight. He’ll be gone for almost three weeks. So I’m starting to plan a trip down to meet up with him toward the end, as well as to see my old roommate Marie and her family in the Alps. I’ll also go see a friend on the Ile de Ré for a couple of days, possibly as soon as next week, but that’s not set yet. I have a few friends to meet up with so hopefully I’ll be able to keep busy in the meantime.

Three things, but primarily the meuble

1. Our kitchen is rapidly coming back together. One of the smaller projects was to repaint this cabinet:

I forgot to take a picture of it before taking the doors off. But I think you can imagine.

From the side

My old roommate Marie had painted this before I moved in. I find the combination of colors awful, which is too bad, because the paint job looked complicated and well done.

I had resolved to paint it something sort of neutral to go with the grays and oranges in our kitchen.

Before putting the handles back on

Once it was all painted I thought a few decorations would be nice. So I went to Castorama and found those stickers for sprucing up your walls.


We’re also putting it in an easier place to see in the kitchen. I’m way happy with it.

2. In other news, the horse is back in his field with a reinforced barrier between it and us. He left us a few “gifts” in our outer garden. J thinks that given the number of them, he probably spent the night in our yard.

3. I got my timetable for my BTS hours a few weeks ago, and upon looking at it with a BTS colleague the other day, realized that one hour had been added to my schedule. Normally not a bit deal—but I was already at 19.87 hours per week. Normal teacher workload is 18 hours and the school can “impose” an hour of (paid) overtime. This brings me to 20.87 hours. I would love to drop a class and get back down to 18 hours, in spite of the extra pay. But I’m not sure there’s anyway for anyone else to pick up the hours!

Plus, my school is private and does what is called “capitalisation” of hours, which means our classes are all 50 minutes instead of 55. To make up those two lost hours per week, we do two hours of “activities” per week—extra help in English, career counseling, conversation, whatnot. Which feels like two extra hours of work even though it’s pretty easy (no inspection possible, no heavy planning). On top of that, I’m going to help plan a trip for the middle schoolers to England this year.

Anyway, I can’t decide if I’m asking for trouble with a timetable like this or if I’m overanalyzing things. Almost one hour of the BTS hours is “studio work and projects”, 45 minutes is for planning, and then the one new hour will be with very few students (maximum seven or eight). Fortunately, no one’s at the school right now so I have some time to think about it.