Andy and RachaelIn anticipation of their first child, Charlize, Andy McKenna and Rachael Hale left New Zealand to set up a new home near Béziers in France. Like many people before them, the plan was to buy a place that required minimal work, although it didn’t quite work out like that says Andy…

Are you renovating the house single handed?
Pretty much on my own, I have had some of my good friends from the UK come over for a week to help me lay new joists for the floor. We want to rent it out for two months of the year, but I have a lot of work to do yet. We’re in no rush to finish.

How easy has it been to find all the necessary tools and materials?
Finding materials has been challenging. When I lived in NZ, I worked for a builder and knew the products quite well, so I could find whatever materials I needed or at least make a call and find them.

It’s hard to dump your rubbish too. The tips only allow for a certain amount per day, which is not very helpful when you have a huge van full – I’ve taken out walls and removed floors!

Did you require planning permission for anything?
We applied for a roof terrace but were unable to complete the design in the way that we wanted, so gave it a miss. It’s probably worked out better.

Are you aiming for a particularly French look in your property?
I think this house is going to be changed quite a bit by the time we finish it. It still has some original features: the windows, the staircase and the tiles in the hallways. Rachael and I would love to keep the French look.

How long is the renovation project envisaged to last and where are you up to?
The project wasn’t really meant to start – we were supposed to move in and change a few things… Rachael wanted to build her studio in the basement/garage but now her book is out and new plans will take us outdoors more.

We have other ideas for the garage, possibly a studio apartment/summer house. We still have to finish the rooms upstairs and I guess if I had to put a time on things, two years would be when we are almost complete but hey, this is a builder’s house!

Afterwards, do you plan to register as an artisan and work in France as a builder?
I’m not sure what I will do, but I won’t become an artisan and work like I did in NZ. Ideally, we would like the best of both worlds, a house in France and a house in New Zealand.

It’s possible, but will require a lot of hard work. You never know what’s around the corner, we are big dreamers!

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