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Foyer Mural

Posted on November 12, 2017 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

By Cyn Terese Foyer Redo

Some things are just meant to be, no matter how hard you try otherwise.

I’m talking about focal points. Any interior designer will tell you that a room’s focal point should enhance the room’s most important feature, because that is where you want to draw the eye.

Take this room, for example.


The first thing that attracted my attention was the staircase. With its rich wood tones and winding stair treads, it clearly screams, “I should be the focal point of this room.”

So, I decided that the mural I wanted to paint in the foyer should be on the wall which is directly attached to the staircase so as one entered the room, the eye had no choice but to land on the stairs. (No pun intended)

But the long wall to the left had other ideas. I know you think that I’m merely anthropomorphizing but the wall truly has a mind of its own. You see, when I’m painting, I enter an alternative state of mind where time stands still, and all thoughts vanish. And when I’m finally done, the result’s a surprise to me as it’s to you seeing it for the first time.


I begin all my paintings with a complete white or black canvas. In this case, I painted over the brownish wall paper with a white primer.

The next step, is basically sketching out an image with burnt umber as I really can’t seem to draw more than stick people, so all of my sketches are done with paint and then I build up the images by layering in the color to create the dimension. Sadly, a result of being self-taught.

Remember that I said this wall had a mind of its own? Well this image you see here is really the third time I painted this wall. The first image was supposed to be a monotone light green image as seen through a haze. Instead, I painted a very detailed and busy image far remove from the bland, foggy, scene I had in mind.

So, I took some tan house paint I had in the storeroom and painted right over the image, so I could start again fresh the next morning.

But the following day, it happened again! So, I painted over it once again because it was not going to upstage the focal wall.

Finally, on the third day, I gave up fighting the wall. It wanted to be the focal point and nothing I did was going to change that.



One of the problems I needed to get rid of was all the brown in the room that made it look dark and oppressive. I decided to paint the baseboards and doors (except for my 400-year-old wooden entrance doors) to give the room a bright and airy feel.


My dear friend, Sophie, a very creative person refinishing furniture happened to come by just as I finished painting the baseboards and doors white. Her first words were, “what did you do”? Its ruined!

She says to me that the brown baseboards and doors brought out the dark colors in the mural and that it drew the eye around the room. Now I’m floored because she had a point. WHAT DO I DO??? I needed the brown to go away!!!!!

If brown is what draws the eye around the room, then faux wood trim might do the trick. I painted the door insets with the same tan color that I used to remove the two previous murals and then painted the edges around the insets to make them look like wood trim. In my eyes, it worked but I haven’t shown it to Sophie yet. 

Then I decided to paint part of the baseboards with that same color to tie the doors in with the baseboards and to enhance the stripes on the floor. This, too, I’m happy with.


Now, I’m sure some of you are envisioning me as this chic, interior designer, artist guru or …  Scratch that, like a needle across an LP.

Here I am on a rickety ladder painting the rest of the room the same sky-blue color to finish the look of the room. And, yes, that is a tiny brush for those hard to reach places.

One problem I encountered was painting the stairwell since the ceiling is about ten feet high. Being a person with strong self-preservation instincts, I wasn’t about to try and use a ladder on the stairs. So, with the help from a friend, I taped a paint brush to the end of a metal rod and that was what we used to do the cut ins. That’s painting the edges where the wall meets the ceiling.

And with a regular paint roller – again screwed to the end of a broom stick – painted the rest of the stair walls to finish the room.

Now, to the secondary focal point – the stairs. The mural on the stair wall is of the area where I live, including the church and my three-story house at the end of the street opposite the church.

Notice how there are two walls with the same image but separated by a perpendicular wall and a door. If you stand in just the right location in the room, these two walls line up to form a continuous image. And, no, it’s not from my height perspective. I achieved it by taking pictures and then lining them up as I went along.

People say you should write about what you know. Well, this mural is exactly that, It's a compulation of vignettes (if you could call a Castle a vignette) in the surrounding area near my home, Saint-Germain de Confolens, La Rochefoucauld, Saint Laurent de Ceris, view of the valley from Angouleme's highest peak, view of farmlands near Confolens, La Sonnette River, Moussac Stone Bridge, and the woods near my home.  Oh, and the oldest tree in the surrounding area that is believed to be at least 500 yrs old. Hint, hint - this old tree is not the connifer tree you see towering over the houses on the back wall, which BTW happens to be my favorite tree of all.

Here are the rest of the pictures I took of the finished foyer. I hope you enjoyed my long-winded narratives as much as I enjoyed writing them. Now, off to go soak my finger tips. Kidding!!

Until next time,

Au revoir


Posted on October 10, 2017 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

By Cyn Terese                                                                        on Salon Wall Redo

I wish I could say that the exterior problems causing moisture buildup within the front wall of the Salon were fixed but the sad truth is … Well, let’s just say, they’re not.

Although, Jim Bound, my Sub-Contractor, did find several things that could be fixed such as the unclogging of the drainage system at the base of the stone wall which he did right away, there are still the need for repairing a rain cutter at the corner of the house and installing a drain pipe to redirect the run off directly into the drain instead of back onto the wall. These two items are going to require some serious scaffolding since the house is three stories high and each floor within has 12-foot ceilings.

For now, let’s focus on the wall inside the Salon.

As you can see, Jim removed the part of the wall that was crumbling, primarily the Wainscot section, the lower part of the window trims, the baseboards, and the top trim of the wainscot.

Since I know the Maire will not approve of reconstructing the slope of the street any time soon, I suggested we install wet board instead of plaster board directly onto the wall. Wet board is primarily what is installed behind any tile work in the bathroom to keep moisture away from the tile. If it works there, it should certainly work here in the Salon.

Once the wall was back in place, a new challenge became blaringly evident. The craftmanship of the mid 19th century was truly a work of art, from the thick window and door trim to the little extra thick trim work at the base of the trim around the French door.

As you can see, this thick trim is something not found in stores today. So, Jim and I began brainstorming how we could duplicated it by building up the thickness with various trims. We found a series of round ½ inch trim, square ½ inch trim, flat window trim, and a strip of routed edge that Jim cut off of the top of surplus base trim and began to assemble everything like little puzzle pieces.

What he came up with was something my father, Don. a Master Craftsman, (not to be confused with my brother Don who couldn't tell the difference between a hammer and a nail) would have created. Everyone who knew my father, knew he was a creative genius. Jim came close …

No, Jim was spot on. He did what my father often created in an era when excellence mattered.

Oh, and did I mention that he, Mr. James Bond, also did the electrical work?

Until next time…

Au revoir!

Finally onto the Salon

Posted on September 27, 2017 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

By Cyn Terese Salon Floor Redo

You know what they say about making plans? Best learn to be spontaneous because Murphy is in the house!

Now, before you go wondering who Murphy is and why he is living with me in my house I will only say this, you’ve already met him: he is that invisible little beast that will reign havoc on your best laid plans and make something inevitably go wrong.

Last year, 2016, I had a sub-contractor come by to inspect part of a wall and part of the floor in the Salon that seemed to me to be suffering from wood rot. He explained to me that it was not wood rot that was causing the wall and the floor to crumble but rather moisture seeping in through the 2 ft. thick outer stone wall. Apparently, the slope of the street along with an inadequate drain system was causing runoff to collect at the base of the wall, keeping moisture trapped in between the stone wall and the interior wall panel.

As a result, the wood paneled wainscot, along with the base boards, part of the floor, and joists under the floor needed to be replaced. Since I needed to have the work started immediately in 2016 but being that he was in such demand, I was going to have to wait until early spring of this year, 2017. So, I reluctantly said “Okay, let me know when your schedule clears up and we’ll get started then."

Can you guess what happened? Because I didn’t get in touch with him earlier in the year, he was no longer available to do the work.

As any Contractor knows, construction happens in steps: correct the causal problem outside, then demo the inside, repair the floor joists, install new floor, coordinate with the plumber for the radiators, coordinate with the electrician for the plugs, coordinate with the carpenter for the new interior wall, coordinate with the painter (oh that’s me and I’m flexible), etc. etc. The sequence of work, as they say in the biz.

You know where I’m going with this, right? My entire year was screwed, since I had planned everything and everyone down to the detail and now nothing was going to happen.

So, what did I do? I decided to paint the mural in the foyer instead. Whilst at the paint shop, I asked around and was given a name: James Bound. “Did you say James Bond?” I asked. “No, he goes by Jim Bound,” they said and, “he lives in your village.” I called him and within a couple of days he began the work - squeezing me in around his other responsibilities.

Not only was Jim knowledgeable of what needed to be done, he also came highly recommended and (silly me) had been referred to me by several people when I’d first arrived shortly after purchasing my home. Jim turned out to be my redemption.

Jim began by demo-ing the floor to see the joists and cleared away old rotten wood left behind in the concrete channels of the foundation. 

He didn't react to the significance of the moment, but I was practically in tears. Not because the work was finally underway (well that too) but because it was the first time in over one-hundred years that the earth under the floor had been exposed! 

Now, as any girl will tell you, rocks - especially the shinny and very expensive kind - are a girl's best friend. I, on the other hand, am a sucker for pretty pebbles on a path or fossils under a running stream, so all I wanted to do was push him out of the way so I could see the dirt floor and dig for gems!!!!

But as a grown woman, it would not be very dignified to dig in the dirt so I restrained myself (and let me tell you it wasn't very easy) and merely teared up and pouted for the missed opportunity to collect treasures.

After the new joists were put in place, the new oak floor was installed.

NOTICE THE WALL THAT NEEDS TO BE REPLACED. This is the subject for the following blog post next week. 

As the in-house painter, it was my job to stain the new floor so I worked night and day to get the floor stained as close as possible to the old oak floor finish. I still think it should be a bit darker but so as not to lose momentum on the Salon Redo, that will just have to wait for another day.

Until then …

Au revoir!


Posted on August 7, 2017 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (2)

What's Happening???

By Cyn Terese What's Happening Now  


Since I posted my last blog entry, much has been done on my French Fixer Upper. Although I had to hire out some of the work I couldn't do myself, I did do all the SHOPPING. From picking up paint by the liters only to discover later I didn’t like the color in situ, to the lavender bushes that found a home in my garden.

Very hard work, shopping is, then and now. Especially when I fell in love with large pieces of furniture at very reasonable prices only to discover they didn’t fit in the back of my Peugeot. Of course, delivery was an option at 80 euros a pop, but it wasn’t reasonable to pay that much just to deliver a single, very large armoire that cost much less than the delivery!

How did I handle that conundrum? I went back into the store and bought more - a truck load more, to make paying 80 euros seem like pocket change. As I’ve said before, there is always a solution to any problem. The solution could be as simple as to how you want to handle the problem …

Simple really … Or is it?

Until Next Time ...

Au revoir!

My Passion for Styrofoam

Posted on August 21, 2016 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (0)

By Cyn Terese on Kitchen Redo

I wish I could say that I like to save packing material because I want to save the planet by keeping it out of the landfill.

But the truth is that I find it fascinating. It comes in all shapes and sizes; it looks like an art project all its own; and I can always find an alternate use for it.

For example: By breaking it up into small pieces, I am able to fill almost half of a large flower pot by throwing it down at the bottom before filling it with soil. It helps with the weight of the pot and it also helps with drainage.

During my Dining Room Redo, I also used it to fill large gaps between the top of my window frames and the stone wall behind them.

After I removed the wallpaper in the dining room, I noticed a ½ inch gap at the top of every one of the windows. At first, I debated whether I should leave the gaps or fill them in to minimize drafts during the winter months.

I chose to fill the gaps but since they were so wide I couldn’t imagine using wall mud or plaster effectively. Instead, I cut a half inch sliver of Styrofoam the length of the window and filled each gap with it. Then I sealed the foam in with dap and walla – no more gap! Pardon the pun.

Now, to the most insane use for Styrofoam. 

Notice the wood burning stove in the corner? It made the kitchen smell like a vacation inside a barbecue pit!


After Simon, the plumber, removed the wood burning stove in the kitchen and disconnected the galvanized pipes from the wall, two large six inch holes remained in the wall.

Luckily, I had two circular Styrofoam discs six inches wide stashed away in the closet. I know! What are the odds, right?

I took the discs and jammed them into the holes in the wall. After filling the holes, I was able to cover the area with wall mud and make the foam and the holes disappear.

Once the stove and the pipes were removed, this is how the kitchen looked with all the holes, imperfections, and cracks in the wall filled in with wall mud. I wasn't very neat, as you can see, because once the mud dried, I planned on sanding the rough edges down with sanding sponges.

Now with a fresh coat of paint and a few antique olive oil jugs I found in the attic, the fireplace in the kitchen and the mantle above it, look like they belong in my modern kitchen. 

Well...  It will be a modern kitchen, once I have the cabinets and shelves built in.

Until then …

Au revoir!



Antique Window Panes

Posted on July 15, 2016 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (0)

By Cyn Terese on Windows  



No one really knows how glass was discovered.

Obsidian, the naturally occurring black glass found on the edges of volcanoes, has been used by many societies since the Stone Age to make sharp tools like knives, spears and arrowheads.

As for semi-clear glass, some say the discovery of clear glass can be traced back to 3500 BC to the northern shores of Syria, or perhaps even Egypt.

If you’d seen the movie SWEET HOME ALABAMA with Reese Witherspoon, you’d be convinced that it was a lightning strike on the sand that first created crystal clear glass. Perhaps, that is how glass was serendipitously discovered in the sands of Syria and/or Egypt.

The flat glass making process has undergone several modifications since it was first introduced by the Romans in the first century CE.

The cast process allowed molten glass to cool and harden inside a mold which created a shiny side and an opaque side to the flat glass panel. The actual process has been lost but some believe it was either left to self-level which produced uneven thicknesses or it was flattened in the mold by a moistened paddle and then left alone to harden. This method produced glass with inconsistencies such as wavy glass or glass with bubbles in it.

The crown process was also introduced by the Romans and involved the use of a blowpipe. A hollow sphere was created by blowing air through the blowpipe into molten glass. Then the opposite end of the sphere across from the blowpipe was cut open. Then the sphere was rotated allowing centrifugal force to open and flatten the glass into a disc. Once cooled, small sections of glass were cut away in the form of window panes. The section around the blowpipe, known as the crown, was then used as decorative glass.

This method remained in use through the early twentieth century. It also produced glass with inconsistencies such as irregular thickness in the pane and curved ripples in the glass.

The mouth-blown sphere process was another deviation using a blow pipe. Initially, as with the crown process, a hollow sphere was created by air blown into the molten sphere. But unlike the crown process that was created by centrifugal force, the mouth-blown sphere was created by gravity. Deep trenches up to seven feet deep were created so the hollow sphere could be elongated as the blowpipe was swung from side to side while air was blown into the sphere. Again, there were inconsistencies in the glass such as parallel ripples.

After the early 1900’s, the machine-cylinder method was introduced which was similar to the mouth-blown method but instead was created by a machine that stretched the two ends of the molten glass while air was introduced into the hollow space.

So, while cleaning the window panes in my French fixer upper, I discovered a slightly chipped and very wavy pane of glass. I was amazed at the imperfections I discovered in just about every pane of glass in the entire house: 344 window panes in varying sizes. Thankfully, only one 9” x 11” pane of glass is chipped but doesn’t need to be replaced.

Now that we know a bit more about the various methods used to create window panes – I need your help to identify which technique was used in the window panes of the French Fixer Upper in Saint Laurent. I'll give you a HINT: I found a little peak in the corner of one of the windows that had bubbles in it.

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Until next time...

Au revoir!


Great Sadness

Posted on July 15, 2016 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

By Cyn Terese on  ...

When I first began this blog, I made a vow to myself that I would not use it as a platform to speak out politically – that I would stay true to my mission of informing you on the latest renovations done on my french fixer upper.


But in light of this latest attack in Nice, France, I sit here writing with a very heavy heart – with a sadness that is so prevalent in our homes, in our communities, and in our countries that have witnessed or suffered at the hands of this evil spreading across our world.


I offer my deepest and most heartfelt sympathies for those who have lost their lives in the pursuit of living and to their loved ones left behind who might oneday find a way to live again.


Dining Room Redo Done

Posted on June 26, 2016 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (2)

By Cyn Terese   on Dining Room Redo


We all know that feeling… The feeling when your goals have been met and you sit back to take it all in. Ahh, that feeling of satisfaction because finally your work is done.


For me, that feeling lasts about as long as it takes a cat to dash across a busy road in the middle of traffic. Moments after I sit back and grin because the work is done, I sober up and ask, “Now what?”


Well, before I answer that question, let’s take a moment to reflect. This is the Dining Room as I found it a few weeks ago.



And this is the Dining Room today.


I must admit that at first, when I was scraping my knuckles into a bloody mess and breaking perfectly filed fingernails down to the quick, I did have a moment of uncertainty and feared, yes feared, that I had bitten off more than I could chew and choked for just a moment.


Then I reminded myself that no one was watching and I could do what I want. And that also meant I could paint any subject I wanted to hang on my dining room wall.


Live the life of a painter in France, I said, ala Vincent Van Gogh! But living across from the Church of Saint Laurent, I couldn’t ignore it since its bells ring every hour on the hour. With most days either cloudy or downright thundering and lightening, I decided to set up my easel in front of the open window facing the church.



This, my friends, is as close to plein air painting as I can get, being that I’m a smart person and draw the line at painting outdoors in a thunderstorm.


Now that it is done, it will have to fully dry while hanging on the wall. Since it is an oil painting, it must cure for at least six months before I can seal it with a few layers of varnish.



Now to answer my question… In a perfect world, all I’d have to do is look at my work schedule to see what new goal, what new task, what new room demanded my attention. Well, since I’m living in a one hundred and fifty something year old house, she writes the schedule, not I. So until next time…


Au revoir!


Wood Spa - How to

Posted on June 22, 2016 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)

By Cyn Terese on Wood Spa Treatment How to


The older our skin gets, the more we fuss with creams and lotions, laser and botox treatments, and pamper ourselves with visits to the spa, right? Well, I don’t know much beyond creams and lotions, but you get my meaning. We need to take care of our skin by exfoliating, cleansing and moisturizing it regularly to keep it radiant and youthful.


The same can be said for wood; especially wood floors. They are stepped on, scuffed, scratched, stripped dry by regular mopping, and subjected to changing temperatures, making them dry and brittle when the weather changes outside.


And just like our skin, wood surfaces need to be cleaned and moisturized which can be done with a specialized treatment twice a year. I’m sure you’ve heard of some of these treatments. They cost an enormous amount of money because the solution comes in fancy packaging. Well, forget about buying the fancy treatment because I’m about to tell you how to make your own special solution for pennies on the dollar/euro.



The recipe is simple: one-part turpentine, one-part vinegar, and one-part linseed oil. Although here, in France, I had to substitute turpentine with alcohol (industrial strength alcohol that I bought at the grocery store.) But the recipe remains the same; one-part linseed oil, one-part vinegar, and one-part alcohol. Place the ingredients in a glass jar that can be capped with a tight fitting lid. Once you have all three parts together, shake the jar vigorously to blend well.


Once your floor has been swept and mopped to remove all dust and other debris, apply the mixture with an old rag. Begin in one corner and work your way throughout the space. Try and work your way towards a door where you get out without stepping on your treated floor. Let the solution soak in to the wood. Notice the sparkle in the wainscot?



You’ll notice that older wood will tend to absorb more of the solution. But if you feel it still needs more, you can do it again with less saturation on the rag the second time around. 

On the pantry doors, which are original to the house, I applied the mixture to the lower half. Notice the difference in the treated wood versus the untreated wood. 

This is how the pantry doors look after a single treatment. And - we are talking about 400 year old wood!

Now back to the floor. If you repeat the process a second time, watch carefully that none of the solution remains without being absorbed - just sitting there. If that happens, simply remove it with another clean and dry rag. This is what you'll end up with. 


That’s all there is to it. Let it dry for at least half an hour and you are ready to bring everything back in.


I try and treat everything in the house that is made of stained wood, twice a year – once in the spring and once in the fall.

Even the stairs get the spa treatment. Notice the difference between the gound floor stairs and the first floor stairs.

Ground floor stairs leading up to the first floor have been subjected to the spa treatment.

In this next photo can you see the gray - ashen hue of the first floors stairs leading up to the second floor?

Have no fear it will ruin the luster of the wood because the alcohol/ turpentine will loosen old built up wax and dirt (exfoliate), the vinegar will clean it away (cleanse), and the oil will put back the luster and moisture that is depleted throughout the year (moisturize).

So pamper your wood like you would your skin but don’t forget to wear gloves!

Au revoir!


Seeing Stripes

Posted on June 12, 2016 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

By Cyn Terese on Dining Room Redo


When buying an older home, or as they say here in France, “a character house,” it stands to reason that the home you finally decide to buy has certain features that you found appealing.


In my “character” home, I fell in love with the floors. In the dining room, it was the parquet floor. In the foyer, it was the terrazzo floor with four mosaic stripes bordering the edges; one yellow, one orange, one white, and one black.



Since the foyer leads directly into the dining room, I took a design element from the mosaic stripes and decided to paint the baseboards in the dining room white. I loved the way the white baseboard gave definition and broke up the monotony of the brown wainscot and the brown floor.


But, when I stepped back to get a better look, the white on the baseboard look arbitrary. It seemed as if it had no rhyme or reason, it was just there “because I wanted it there.”


Then I realized I hadn’t gone far enough. The cap at the top of the wainscot also needed to be white, creating another series of stripes on a larger scale as those on the edges of the foyer floor.


I finally understood what I was trying to achieve - my left brain finally caught up with my right brain. And – it looks fabulous! OK, okay, maybe you might have another adjective to insert here, but I’m happy with the results.


Au revoir!