In September 2003 we purchased our very own Hammer House of Horror in Vermenton in Burgundy, a beautiful spot on the Yonne river. We had come from a one bedroom house in Hastings, so we were, to say the least, rather lacking in furniture to completely furnish this 19-room house and turn it into a upmarket bed and breakfast business.
Once we had signed our sale agreement, I dashed round to our local market to see if the Bed Man was there, and providentially he was. This was not your usual Divan Man, but a local craftsman, specialising in hand made oak furniture.
The beds were perfect, light oak, Louis Philippe style, exactly what we needed for our dream of the best B&B in the area.
When I started to talk to him, he was delighted at the prospect of making 4, and promptly offered me 18% discount on the beds ,sommiers and mattresses.It was too good an offer to refuse, they worked out at £700 each and would have cost at least double that in the UK.
Monsieur Lit came and assembled our beds for us, one by one, as we were ready for them, and maintained a cheerful and friendly attitude throughout.He wrapped them in blankets to protect them from the electrician, who was determined to wreck everything in the house.
Having spent so much on the beds, we then had to do some serious bargain hunting, it was difficult because:
a) the beds made everything else look very cheap
b) we needed 8 bedside cabinets, each costing a stupid amount of money–and tended to have ghastly marble tops and needing lots of work to renovate.
So we searched all the local troc ventes, and the furniture shops. We were armed with large lists and looking like tramps as we were in serious decorating/cleaning mode at the time.
Amazingly, astonishingly, we got plain white furniture, very simple , in a local cheappie shop called Foirre Fouille for 40 euro per chevet, matching mirrors 14 euro. These have proved to be perfect, and can be spray painted each season if required.I also found that the furniture shops were very willing to give quite hefty discounts for bulk purchases, and buying six armchairs and four fridges at a time from some of the smaller companies gave me quite a bit of bargaining power. I would suggest to people who are on a limited budget that it might be worth going along en masse and buying in bulk.
We have found the vide greniers to be overpriced, and tatty, but perhaps that’s just our area.
I have been told that many English people have a ‘feel’ for French houses, and restore them more sympathetically than the French, who tend to tile everything. If anyone would like the advice of two who have achieved good results, it would be to keep it simple, go for cool comfort, and conserve all that you can. Our painter saved us a fortune with the maxim ‘putty and paint make it what it ain’t’.
Old panelling was filled and painted and we used LOADS of toille de verre, which is a sort of fibreglass wallcovering ,can be painted over, and hides lots of faults. I have also become an expert on Tommettes if anyone needs advice on them.
Lyn can be contacted at [email protected] She now has opened for business and guests can see the results of her thoughtful restoration and furniture quest. She says she is happy for people to contact her!