A Guide to Revamping the Home and Garden in France

Whether you've bought a new permanent home, a holiday house, an investment property, or simply feel it’s time to update your house, refer to these practical tips and suggestions for plans to renovate, remodel or refresh the home or garden...

Budget

Most work is governed to a large degree by the available budget; this should be identified at the outset.

An important factor when considering budget is "contingency". The amount of contingency to set aside depends on the scale of the plans, but for anything more than cosmetic changes, at least 20 percent of the original budget should be reserved as contingency.

Money can be saved by doing some unskilled work without hiring the services of a professional, and by shopping around for the best price on materials.

House Interior and Exterior

Decide on the scale

Before beginning, decide on how much work to take on:

If you're not planning to stay in the house for more than a few years, fresh paint, new carpets and matching furniture might be enough. Surprising results can be achieved with the creative use of a few simple accessories such as bed-sets, matching towel sets, throws and scatter cushions.

If you plan to spend many years in the property, a more intensive update may be preferable. When performing a thorough makeover plan the entire job from the beginning.

Consider the impact of any investment made on renovations on the final value of the property; if the property is already at the top end of its price band then there is less likelihood of seeing a return on investment. However in the case of a "basic" property bought at a good price, there is a chance to realise profit from even minor improvements.

Improvements to the kitchen and bathroom usually offer the best return on investment. A fitted kitchen gives a modern and sleek look while a country-style kitchen often comprises free-standing units which provide the flexibility of being able to move things about and the option of taking it away if you move.

General cosmetic house improvements also pay dividends: a fresh coat of paint, utilisation of storage to generate more space, and a consistent theme in furniture and décor. Good returns can also be made from investment in the garden with careful landscaping and the addition of features.

Choose a style

You may already have a style in mind, however reexamine it before beginning work, looking at new ideas and imagine how the finished room should look. Refer to home decoration magazines and interior design books (available from a library) for extra inspiration. Good furniture shops often "dress" their showrooms to demonstrate how a piece may look in situ. They stock comprehensive ranges of furniture and accessories, and provide a one-stop shop to furnishing an entire home in a consistent style.

Most styles can be broadly grouped into one of the following categories:

  • Country: rustic, farmhouse, cosy and warm
  • Traditional: chintz, formal, with rich fabrics
  • Contemporary: modern and dramatic, with clean lines
  • Romantic: effeminate, elegant, soft, with ruffles, lace
  • Oriental: red or black lacquer ware, bamboo, red and gold silks
  • Ethnic: earth tones, textures, artifacts

When choosing a style, it often helps to ask how you would like a person to describe being in the room: for example, if the room feels warm and inviting, romantic and sensual, invokes a sense of elegance, or creativity, or if it has a warm, country charm.

Create a plan

Try to focus on one room or area at a time. This means that real progress can seen if a room is fully completed before moving on to the next. It also helps to identify any conflicts which may arise between the desired look and the actual lifestyle, allowing time to make adjustments to the plan before moving on to the next area.

Assign a priority to each room being redone: consider which rooms get the most use and which rooms might provide the most immediate benefits from a revamp.

Consider the impact that further improvements may have on improvements already completed (for example, don't lay carpets when construction work is still in process on the property).

Finally, set a completion date for each planned stage, and set a final completion date for the whole project. These dates help to gauge progress and assess whether all works are likely to be completed by a given deadline. If work is falling behind, steps can be taken to speed up progress or make necessary provisions for missing the deadline.

Gardens and Outdoor Spaces

Planning a garden

First consider the terrain and dimensions of the garden or land:

  • Which areas receive the most sun and the most shade
  • Which areas are most exposed to the elements
  • What the natural drainage is like throughout the garden
  • Consider the privacy needs
  • Consider the position of the house within the garden

It's recommended to walk around the garden and note down ideas. The overall workload can be minimised by working with the natural features of the land rather than trying to turn terraced slopes into a flat lawn, or landscaping a viewing terrace if the garden already has a natural plateau.

Purpose of the garden

Decide what is wanted from the garden:

  • Whether it is to be used for outdoor socialising and relaxing
  • Whether some of the garden is to be used to grow fruit and vegetables
  • Whether a lawn or a bright, colourful flowerbed is preferred

If you're keen to plant lots in your garden, it will really help you to read up a little on the types of plants you have in mind; will they grow well in your soil conditions, is the climate right for them? It's always recommended to use plants native to an area as they have evolved to adapt perfectly to the local conditions and so should be quite easy to grow.

Remember that a garden can work for you as well as being your own oasis and growing some of your own food can really help (and it does taste much better than shop bought produce!).

If you are planning a "working" garden work out how much space to give over to the vegetable plot or fruit garden and consider installing a greenhouse, polytunnel or cold frames as they help to get the most out of every square inch of working land.

Maintenance considerations

The maintenance of the planned garden must be considered: for example, an elaborate ornamental garden demands much work, as does an large lawn.

Maintenance can be reduced by minimising "mower unfriendly" corners and obstacles in the lawn; by covering the flowerbeds with mulch or a plastic membrane to reduce weed growth and by installing raised beds which are more accessible and easier to attend to.

A garden can benefit from ornamental additions such as rose arches, arbours, ornamental planters and plant pots as well as garden ornaments and even sculptures.

Home and Gardening Glossary and Terminology

Home Improvements Glossary
Gardening Glossary
Bathroom Salle de Bains
Autumn Automne
Bedroom Chambre (à coucher)
Bird Table Mangeoire
Bricks Briques
Chainsaw Tronçonneuse
Brushes (paint) Pinceaux
Composting Bin Bac de Compostage
Carpet Moquette
Garden pond Etang de Jardin
Ceiling Plafond
Grass Gazon
Cement Ciment
Grass seed Graines de graminées
Cement mixer Bétonnière
Greenhouse Serre de jardin
Cinderblocks (breeze blocks) Parpaings
Hedge trimmers Taille-haies
Cushions Coussins
Landscape gardener Paysagiste
Dining room Salle à Manger
Lawn Pelouse
DIY Bricolage
Lawnmower Tondeuse
Floor Plancher
Orchard Jardin fruitier
Hallway / Reception Entrée
Raised beds Plates-bandes surélevées
Interior designer Ensemblier
Spring Printemps
Kitchen Cuisine
Strimmer Débroussailleuse
Ladder Echelle
Summer Eté
Lighting Eclairage
Trees Arbres
Living room Salon
Wheelbarrow Brouette
Roller (paint) Rouleau
Winter Hiver
Rugs Tapis
Undercoat Sous Couche
Varnish Vernis
Wall Mur
Furniture Glossary and Vocabulary
Armchair Fauteuil
Display cabinet Vitrine
Bed Lit
Drawers Tiroirs
Bedside cabinet Table de chevet
Furniture Meubles
Bench Banc
Lamp table Bout de canapé
Bookcase Bibliothèque
Mirror Miroir
Chair Chaise
Shelves Etagères
Chest of drawers Commode
Sink Evier
Coat Stand / Hooks Porte-manteau
Sofa Canapé
Coffee table Table basse
Wardrobe Armoire
Console table Table console
Washbasin Lavabo
Cupboard Placard
Writing desk Secrétaire
Information provided by Pin Francais and P&A Gardening