La Cuisine (the Kitchen)

(Note: This story was originally published on May 20, 2106.)

The kitchen of our house in Montagnac was what first drew us to the house. The picture, on the realty site, of the medieval stone vaulted ceiling and the four stone columns seeming to hold the ceiling up, was absolutely magical. It was that picture that led us to call and set up an appointment to see the house for the first time.

Funny though, once the house was ours and we actually lived here, the kitchen was the one room we really felt needed our help. It was dark! The first thing we did was to give the walls a coat of fresh white paintquelle différence – what a difference!

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While we were painting the room, we decided to remove the cinderblock bench that had been built against the far wall. We also painted the dark stained wood shelving, which had been only recently installed where the fireplace had been (evidenced by the soot stains on the ceiling).

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We also changed out most of the furniture, which we had inherited with the house. One chair was still in beautiful shape, but not our style, so we gave that to our friends, who have others like it. A few others we gave to an antique shop owner in Pézenas, who said he would donate them for us, to someone in need. The first thing we purchased for our house here were six vintage provençal chairs for the kitchen table – almost identical to the ones we have around our French farmhouse table in our Cape Cod kitchen.

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The previous owners of our house had decorated the entire place as if they were still living in the Middle ages. Yikes! Not cozy, to say the least. This heavy, dark tapestry-like curtain in the kitchen had to go, ASAP!

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I snapped a quick picture of the curtain fabric just before gleefully tossing it into the dumpster at the décheterie (dump). Even though the photo makes it look like a red background, believe me, it was black!
After finding the chairs for our kitchen table, the fabric store was our next stop, to replace the afore-mentioned offending curtain that closed the kitchen off from the front hall. A curtain here is necessary when it’s cold outside, as the all-stone front hall retains a chill. (The temperature of the ground floor is apparently one of the nicest features of this house in summer months.)
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I trimmed the drapes with a Souleiado trim I had already owned and brought with me in my suitcase.

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Still in in my PJ’s, I couldn’t wait to get to sewing, right after breakfast.

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We also needed to add some curtains at the windows for privacy. The old shades with time-worn holes, that had been there for many years, were the first things to go after the tapestry.

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Sheer curtains like these grace kitchen windows all over France. Pre-made and ready to cut to size, they are wonderful at letting in the light, while also providing a sense of privacy.

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Jack found this great fabric, which matched our ochre and green tiles perfectly…and it went with the provençal theme we had in mind for the kitchen.

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Note the charming brass fleur-de-lys hook for the tie back – found at our local hardware store.

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I made a curtain out of the same yellow gingham, to hide the electronics and wires on the shelves (wi-fi, etc.) The beautiful provençal paisley fabric is another that I had been saving for just the right spot. I brought it with me to France, and decided to hire a seamstress to make the needed cushions for me. She did a beautiful job! (above & below)
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This fabulous antique bench from Arles, replaced the former built-in cinderblock bench that Jack had removed. We found it at La Brocante du Siege in Pézenas, where a charming father & son team redo old chairs with rush (paillage) or cane (cannage) seats. The poster is one we had bought many years ago at La Petite Provence du Paradou, near St. Rémy. It is so perfect for this room.
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We knew immediately that we wanted to replace the existing boring cabinet doors (white fiberboard with cheap mismatched hardware). We found the ideal pair from Benjamin Boularand, also in Pézenas. (We later ended up buying quite a few pieces from Benjamin, whom we now consider a friend and who came to our house to deliver a bed – story for another time). The doors are from an antique armoire and what is remarkable about them is that they still have their complete original hinges. Usually only the top or bottom of each hinge is still intact. The walnut doors are so heavy that we had to hire a carpenter to help install them.
Two pillows I bought on Etsy and brought to France.

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I love this exquisite chair (also provençal), which features the traditional chair back motif of a wheat sheaf. Its original rush seat is woven of three colors of straw: natural, red and green.

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These antique plates were another of my favorite finds. They have their original brass hangers – four of which are shaped like rooster claws!

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We bought the charming green pot, for utensils, at the potter’s shop in Anduze, an hour to the North of us.
We also painted the lower cabinet doors white and added fun new handles. (They had been stained a very dark brown.)
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Our Anduze pot. We also got one for the terrace kitchen. (I’ll write about this pottery in another post.)
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I couldn’t resist hanging a garlic braid and herbs from la garrigue, the wild, hilly terrain that covers much of the Languedoc and Provence. Herbs – thyme, rosemary, lavender, laurel – grow wild all over these hills, and the air is permeated with their aroma. These herbs and garlic are staples of southern French cuisine.
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Our “new” old chandelier replaced a small one that we eventually moved to the front hall. It reminds me of a Dutch still-life painting. It’s actually made of turned wood, although it’s painted to look like metal.
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Finally, we gave the door to the stairway a coat of green paint, an added a curtain to the back.
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Our first purchase in Pézenas was the set of six vintage provençal chairs for the kitchen table. And the last purchase – the night before we left – were the two faux bamboo chairs on either side of the door. The two rooster giclée prints, below, are copies of paintings by Jack. We brought them with us, since no kitchen should be without a rooster! They echo the antique rooster plates on the opposite wall.
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The finished kitchen, for now…

I found one of the key items I had been searching for,the night before we left – a heavy old copper jam pot, to hang on the wall above the shelves. We didn’t have time to hang it, so that will be on our to-do list for the next visit.

1 Comment

  1. And another blogger for you … Cotetcampagne … she and her husband have a place on the coast which they rent out for holidays and are renovating a house in a little village in l’Aude. She describes her blog as warts and is, in my opinion a very talented lady. She also loves all things fabric so your obvious skill and taste would appeal, I am sure. It’s nice to get connected with people who are kindred n’est pas?

    Like

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