Renaissance of an Ardèche farmhouse

In the early days of les Sarziers we imagined a steady stream of visitors coming to enjoy the rural life for a bit and incidentally giving us a hand with the restoration work. We pictured industrious sunny days during which our ruin would slowly emerge from its chrysalis of neglect and reveal itself as the gorgeous butterfly of our dreams.

The reality of course was somewhat different. We soon realised that guests understandably prefer a minimum in the way of running water, windows and electricity and that not everyone wants to spend their country holiday making concrete.

We slowly came to appreciate the enormity of the task we had set ourselves as we spent weeks at a time battling electric cables through walls four feet thick, exchanging massive beams, laying floors, plumbing, plastering, tiling and so on, and all apparently to very little effect, so huge was the project we had undertaken. We are now immensely proud of what we have achieved but it took much longer and much more effort than we could ever have imagined and the weather was often very far from what we had pictured in our early flush of idealism.

But this is not to say that we had no help from our friends. Sometimes it was more enthusiastic than truly helpful as on the occasion when we had popped into Lamastre to buy a kilo of nails and returned to find that our guests had demolished their bedroom ceiling because they thought “it looked a bit old”!! But many people did chip in with both restoration work and general advice and encouragement which kept us going over the years.

However if it were not for our friends Jane and John, we would still be squatting in a building site! We would have no bedroom floor if they and their children had not spent one summer throwing the old one out of the window, (crying “timber” as they did so) and then replacing it. The staircase would still be a jigsaw puzzle of perilous boards, the pink room would neither be a room nor pink . . . the list is endless.

Recently they spent a week with us on their way back from Italy and after a few days John was clearly getting restless. He and Markus went and had a serious look at the barn. We need more storage space and the beams and floor above the rear stable were definitely looking ropey. Serious discussion followed the inspection. Something had to be done.

Two days later the old boards were out, the rotten beams replaced and we took a trip to the sawmill to order new timber. Sadly the boards would only be ready after John had left and although he seemed tempted to change his train ticket, wiser counsels prevailed.

Nothing daunted he and Markus attacked another project which, as you can see was very necessary, but rather far down our to-do list.


Et voilà! By the next day he had constructed a new stable door for us which is not only beautiful and functional but, in a very satisfactory manner, is made out of planks salvaged from the barn floor.


John is used to massive undertakings, having restored his property Treowen which he now manages (click here to get an idea). His advice and expertise have contributed enormously to our own restoration project. Merci infiniment!

One thought on “Renaissance of an Ardèche farmhouse

  1. It’s quite exhausting just to read this but the result is quite lovely. Our trials with this townhouse 35 years ago seem so trivial in comparison. The film about Treowen is also most interesting.

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