A few weeks ago, I traveled to the french Ain department to meet up with my group of five Dutch girlfriends who, like me, have settled in France a long time ago. We had planned to spend an evening together and also visit the recently renovated home of one of them.
The way Heidy and her husband Dominique redesigned this old house, inspired me to share their story and the before-after photos, here on the blog.
There’s plenty of inspiration to draw from their interior, especially for those who want to impliment recycling and upcycling into their interior decorating. And for everyone else, it’s also a beautiful example of how to contribute to a better environment and to sustainability within one’s own home.
The story of the cracked house.
My friend Heidy and her husband Dominique had been living in a large 1970s house on a beautiful plot of land in a village east of Bourg-en-Bresse for about 25 years.
The house, being built on clay, as is the case in many places in the Ain region, experienced severe issues with cracks. With the drought of recent years, the clay material shrank, much like a dried sponge. The ground shifted, and so did the house.
While all houses may sometimes have a few small cracks, in my friends’ home, numerous small ones turned into enormous cracks. ‘We heard snapping noises when it began’ Heidy explained to television channel France 3 when they came to do a report on it.
After years of applying for recognition with the insurance companies, they had to make a very difficult decision: to demolish their beloved home, rebuild the foundations, and reconstruct.
Why the aquisition of a second house that, in addition, needed renovating?
While waiting for the reconstruction of their home, Heidy and Dominique initially planned to live in a rental property during the construction period.
However, they eventually chose to buy an old village house located about a dozen kilometers away. The idea behind this decision was to renovate it as an investment, to either turn it into a vacation rental or to later sell it on.
With this concept in mind, they envisioned the renovation of this old house, carefully considering both the layout of the different rooms and the interior design ambiance.
The renovation works.
As for the major renovations, Dominique did everything himself with the help of their two sons.
He redid all the walls, ceilings, and floors. The small toilet space that was in the kitchen became a pantry or storage room, and he created a new toilet in a corner of the garage that’s adjacent to the living room.
The room with large doors opening towards the master bedroom on the first floor was transformed into a living room. The walls, already featuring exposed stones, and the low-level window create a very cosy atmosphere in this second living space. However, the other walls in this room, which were bright red, needed repainting.
The other room on the first floor, previously used as a walk-in closet, was converted back into a bedroom. The massive bathroom was ingeniously divided into two separate bathrooms.
All of this was conceived and executed by Dominique.
And, last but not least, the large walled courtyard behind the house consisted of two sections separated by a thick old wall. This wall was demolished to create a beautiful outdoor space accessible from both the kitchen and the garage.
In fact, the only thing Dominique didn’t do without the assistance of a professional was the electrical work.
The interior decorating.
Heidy had beautiful plans for this old house.
She wanted to imbue it with a natural, serene, and neutral ambiance whilest simultaneously giving it a soul that resembled both Dominique and her. The interior decoration had to be able, also, to appeal to a large number of people in the case of a vacation rental, of course.
We often messaged between us for me to help her with decorating choices. But she didn’t need much help finally because she knew what she wanted and, most importantly, she put in the effort to bring her ideas to life.
Heidy’s choice was to create a decor mainly composed of retrieved and thrifted furniture and objects. She always searched in a very targeted manner, according to specific places in the house and their dimensions. She was quite uncompromising about it; it had to fit. The searches did not stop at aesthetics; functionality was equally important.
And even though she occasionally sent me pictures of furniture she had found on Leboncoin or gathered elsewhere, I still wasn’t prepared for what I discovered. It was impressive to see how she had managed to transform so many second-hand pieces into decorative treasures. You could clearly feel the effort and hard work she had put into this endeavor.
It was amazing to see how these old pieces of furniture found a new lease of life by Heidy’s hands.
I was in awe of all the work she had done!
The two very original chairs next to the woodburner were made by Heidy’s father.
The duo that was her parents had made other furniture like that together, such as a ‘seventies’ TV cabinet that also ended up in the house. Her mother would imagine them, and her father would execute.
In fact, nowadays, Heidy and Dominique work somewhat in the same way.
What a lovely tribute to have these chairs in their interior (and they are very comfortable too!)
According to a study by Eco Mobilier, every year, 2 million tonnes of new furniture enter French homes, and on the disposal side, the same French people throw away 1.1 million tonnes of furniture. Among all these, some furniture can have a second life.
The advantages of using second-hand furniture:
1. Environmentally friendly:
Buying second-hand furniture helps reduce the environmental impact by limiting the exploitation of raw materials such as wood, metal, and plastic used in the production of new furniture. It also contributes to waste reduction by giving furniture a second life, preventing them from ending up in the trash or landfills.
Finding unique and vintage pieces adds character and personality to your interior, with styles and designs not typically found in every-day stores. You can discover quality furniture that tells a story and is no longer available elsewhere.
Or, you can personalize them to perfectly match your personal style.
Purchasing second-hand furniture is generally cheaper than buying new furniture, offering more affordable options.
Buying second-hand furniture often allows you to find high-quality pieces that have already withstood the test of time, making them more durable and robust than some cheap options available in stores. This helps avoid frequent furniture replacement (and reduces the demand for new furniture production, thereby decreasing the impact on natural resources).
With all these pictures, you haven’t even seen all the thrifted furniture and objects that Heidy used for her interior.
As I mentioned above, the house is furnished with almost entirely reclaimed items. I believe I’m not mistaken in saying that only a few essential accessories and the kitchen were bought new. But if it weren’t for one of their sons working in the kitchen industry, I’m convinced they would have tried to find a way to use reclaimed materials there as well.
Congratulations to my dear friends Heidy and Dominique, and thank you for allowing me to take photos and tell your story.
And now, isn’t it time for some rest?
Where to find second hand furniture and items in France:
- the app Reborn
- website Youzd
- website Selency (! carefull, more design and consequently more expensive items)
- online marketplace Leboncoin of course.
And don’t hesitate to thrift via social media where there are many thrift experts to be found who sell directly. Find them with hashtags like: #mobiliervintage #brocanteenligne #consommerautrement #secondevie etc.
photos: Interior Crisp
& Heidy Verweij-Macret