Friday, 30 December 2011

Ramparts of Dinan

This panorama shows the prominent position occupied by the building on the medieval ramparts in Dinan.  At far right is the Chateau, with the Constable's Tower in the centre of the image.  The Petit Manoir is to the left.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Proposed Elevations

The architect on this project, Andrew Allen, has drawn up elevations of the proposed restoration for submission to planning control.  As the building is in a highly sensitive historic area of Dinan it is essential that we retain a traditional style for the exterior joinery.

Our hope is to be allowed to use unpainted oak for the exterior - this reduces future maintenance costs and will gradually weather to match the grey stonework of the house.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Look away now...

The point at which a structure is completely stripped back to the essentials prior to restoration can have two effects on the way you feel about it.  On the one hand is the excitement of seeing the building in its raw state, full of potential and promise, one the other is the rising panic that comes from the realisation that every single square centimetre, inside and out, needs attention.
To be fair, we did feel the former during our first visit to the house last weekend - subsequent visits, in poor light and freezing weather tended to encourage the latter.

The clearance of dry-lining and stud walling has thrown up a few unsuspected problems with the building - none of them major, but all needing to be budgeted for.  The ceiling to the ground floor we had hoped would consist of decent old beams - behind the plywood cladding, however, the beams are badly degraded, and will never look good, even if they prove structurally sound.  Given that a third of the ceiling has been replaced with modern joists at some point in the past fifteen years, we are looking to replace this floor entirely - probably using oak beams with new oak floorboards over.

The simple, modest panelling that has been revealed in places hangs on to scraps of old wallpaper - faded and decaying, these scraps are layered over each other, and it is interesting to speculate on their age - the patterns suggest nineteenth century origin.  Elsewhere, plaster has crumbled, stonework has become loose as the lime mortar decays and the shadows of water staining and fungal growth decorate the flaking paint.  There's the picturesque decay of, say, Venice, and there's out-and-out decrepitude: I think we are dealing with the latter here...

With final decisions on the layout and materials and finishes to be made over Christmas, we are looking forward to our next visit to inspect the house once the wood has been cleaned and the worst problems solved.  The trick, as always, is to restore the building while retaining its charm and unique atmosphere.


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Current thinking...

With everything to consider, there are dozens of decisions to be made when renovating a building in its entirety.
Our builder, Matthew Tucker, has had the house stripped out completely - all the accretions of dry-lining, unnecessary cheap joinery and defunct copper piping have been removed and the house is a shell. 
The clearance has thrown up some interesting developments - it is apparent that there has been a fire in the house at some point, and the plywood cladding to the ceiling on the ground floor which we hoped was covering ancient timbers was in fact just hiding some modern softwood joists.  There will be an extra expense involved here if we are to restore the ceiling to its original state.
We already knew that the timbers had insect infestation, but apparently there is one roof timber which is in need of replacing - the others are structurally sound and will respond to wood treatment, so there is relatively little to worry about there.
In the interval since our last visit we have been drawing up plans for the kitchen and bathroom layouts, and beginning to think about issues such as lighting - this last needs consideration surprisingly early in a project if you are going to end up with sockets for lamps and light switches in the right places.

There will be more about the finishes such as flooring and exterior paving in the future, and we will be collating ideas for the interior styling of the house in the spring - hopefully by then the reconstruction will be well underway!  In the meantime I hope you like these first views of the computer model...