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Home + Garden - Interior Design (4)
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Painter and Decorators in France

If you have been to the local DIY shops such as Mr Bricolage you will have noticed, I am sure that paint is very expensive especially when you look at the well know makes such as Crown or Dulux (and I have found them to be a different quality to the paint purchased in the UK).
 
There are now several independent paint suppliers in France who offer English paints at reasonable prices along with wallpapers etc. They are located in most regions of France now and if not in your region it really is worth the trip to the nearest one to get good quality paint.
Most of these paint suppliers can be found in the local press or on the many classified French websites that are now online and offering professional advertising to local companies.
 
For exterior paint, again I would recommend getting a good quality English weathershield paint or other similar brand. I have used the best available French exterior paints and to be honest they are not nearly as good as the best English brands available.
 
Wallpaper is available in the various DIY shops but it is hard to find a good anaglipta paprer or even a good backing plain wallpaper doe not seem to be readily available to buy in the French DIY shops.
 
All in all I have personally found it better to buy all decoration items even down to the paint brushes in the UK as the quality seems much better and cheaper.
 
If you are looking for good wood treatments then it is pot luck as I have had very little experience of buying these in France other than the standard wood stains which seem to do the job fairly well on interior projects, sorry but no comment on exterior products.
 
Thankfully the most basic needs e.g sandpaper is of a good quality to get you started in the right direction so take my advice and where possible get you paints form a UK paint supplier here in France or pick up a tin or two on your next visit to the UK.


Renewable Energy in France

Renewable energy is one of the hot topics in France and the government is encouraging homes to install different means to ensure that renewable energy is used as far as possible.
 
There may be various grants available under the governments many schemes and from local funds so get a good translator to assisit in this as it could save you a fortune at the end of the day.
 
There are many forms of Renewable energy products available in France to help you reduce your home running costs. Amongst these are solar, wind and hydro devices.
 
Many renewable energy companies operate throughout the different regions in France so you should have n problem finding the right company to assist you and in fact there is every chance that they will also be able to advise on the types of grant currently available to help reduce to overall cost involved.
 
A small wind farm may be a good solution for people living in rural areas who have available land for installation and obviously living on a hill helps with the much needed wind source. Solar power should be available to most if not all households in France and although the initial cost can be high you should more than cover these costs over the next few years.
 
For those living on the banks of a stream or river then hydro electric power may be an option if you have the rights to use the source.
 
You can find renewable energy companies listed in you local press or by doing a search on the web or of course by looking at the different advertisers using the many French classified websites.


France Home and Garden Furniture

When you buy your home in France, if its in Brittany or in the mid Pyrenees, chances are you will buy your new house unfurnished. The house will look completely different from any other house you have made your home or holiday house and will probably want to keep it looking ‘French’ rather than ‘English’. If its your holiday home and you want to rent it out as a holiday Gite when you are not in France then you need to think carefully about what tourists will expect from their French holiday home. They won’t want to come to France, no matter if its Normandy or Provence, to find their French Gite fitted out in English MFI, will they.

You have a lot of choice, visit your local Brocantes, you might be able to strike a bargain if you want to purchase a lot of old French (local furniture of your region) or Breton items. There are many brocantes that are English owned so you won’t have to worry about the language if you are new to France. It’s a good idea to try to keep it in keeping with your local style. A lot of French furniture is dark so you might want to mix it a little with some lighter wood. Look out for local adverts that are selling pieces that might be ideal for you. If you are buying second hand furniture in France check carefully for woodworm and other termites.

If you want to fill your home with modern, light, furniture there are plenty of shops to choose from local French owned chains to worldwide now even an IKEA in Brittany. If you are selling your house in the UK to move to your new home in France then you will probably want to bring your furniture to France with you. You can buy beautiful French dressers here, and most people I know have one of these in their maison usually in their kitchen. In Brittany, I think every house has one and are ideal for storing everything! The old Breton style has a lot of carving (curved) in their design often telling a story. You can sometimes get a very good deal in the brocantes for these as the French, and Bretons, don’t want them any more because they don’t like all the polishing around the carvings. It was our local Breton brocante owner that informed me of this. This type of local French furniture was often given as wedding presents so they usually have an interesting story that goes with them.

There is a lot of wood furniture produced all over France and there are many outlets for hand made pieces including kitchens. So if you want that lovely authentic ‘French Country Kitchen’ you will have a lot of choice. A lot of the shops do offer a made to measure service so take your measurements into them and let them do the hard work for you. If your French isn’t great it might be a good idea to take along a French friend with you as you wont have any come back if you translate something wrong.

If you don’t have any French friends so early on in your move you can always hire someone to take with you. There are many services that offer translation and will go with you to sort out situations like this. Its worth paying that little bit more to get it right. There are many English businesses that offer made to measure furniture and kitchens so look on this website to see if there is something suitable for you and give them a ring. You will also be able to find translators to help too.
 


France Home and Gardening services

If you have a holiday home in France, whether it is Brittany, the mid Pyrenees or any other region of France, you will need someone to care for your garden inbetween your visits to France.

If your holiday home, gite, is in Brittany or Normandy your grass will grow at an alarming rate due to the rain fall especially northern Brittany towards the Brest area. Some people fall into the trap of only hiring a gardener once or twice a year but as he will have to tackle a jungle you are better off getting it done on a regular basis. That way he will only spend an hour cutting instead of a whole day if not more.

Disposing of garden rubbish

You are not allowed to burn your garden rubbish if you live in the centre ville, so you must take it to your local decheterie. Of course if you arrange to have a gardener you will arrange with him about that. If you live in the countryside you are allowed bonfires certain dates but you need to chack at the Marie as all communes are different. Its is important to hire a registered business. It is illegal to hire someone on the ‘black’ and if caught you will be in more trouble than him. When hiring a gardener or garden services from a company always ask to see their insurance as well as their siret number. Just because they have a siret number doesn’t always mean they are covered to do that job so its just as important to see their insurance.

When people buy a house, gite, longere, manoir etc they can get carried away with the amount of land they will be the proud owners of. You need to remember its a lot of work and expense, there are lots of by laws so its worth checking them out at your local Marie. For example, purple thistles have to be cut down on your land before a certain date, before they flower. You can end up with a hefty fine if you don’t remember this.

For those of you who live on a permanent basis in France you may still need the services of a gardener from time to time to help with any heavy work that you may not be able to do by yourself. Just look in the local press or online at the many French classified websites that offer services that you need.
It is good to know that in France you can generally buy a home with a good sized garden, but remember if you will only use it for holidays and possibly for renting out then when you don’t use it you will have to get the garden maintained.

Depending on where you have a property in France will also determine what you can grow in your garden, as an example in Brittany and Normandy the weather is very similar to the Uk weather so most things flourish and vegetables can be grown very easily. If you have a property down south then of course you can grow more sub-tropical plants.
 


Home and Garden Tiles and Flooring

If you have bought your home in France to live in as your primary home you will probably have different flooring to what you were used to in the UK.
If you are renovating you will need to think very carefully about what you envisage your new French lifestyle is going to be.

Chances are you will have land or at the very least a large garden.
Do you have dogs, cats and possibly other animals such as chickens etc.

If you are a gardener and have animals you might want to seriously want to consider having the floors tiled and then having large rugs on top.
Tiled floors are the norm over here in France and I don’t think I have ever seen a carpet as soon as you enter any-ones house. To sum up, tiled floors are much easier to keep clean and more hygienic. If you really like carpets why not just have them in the bedrooms.
There are many tillers in France and you can get English tillers that have been in business here for a long time so you can check out some of their work before hiring them. They can advise you on what type of tiles to buy and you will have a massive choice.

You can choose from tiles that are rustic, very French looking, mosaic, modern, classic or funky. The colours are vast as they like colour in France from clothes to modern furniture.


If you are buying tiles for your kitchen walls and for splash backs you will be met by a massive range that will be hard to choose from. They have everything from plain colours to the most amazing story designs that you just wouldn’t believe but alas these can be very expensive.
You can hire someone to tile for you or lay laminate flooring if you choose this material. There is plenty of different laminates to choose from as this is a good alternative if you don’t want tiles which can be cold if you are not used to them. Laminate is warmer and also easy to keep clean if you have dogs and cats or your husband wont take his dirty shoes off outside! Great if you have children too and most are liquid spill proof too.


There are also English carpet fitters in France which you can find on the various classified websites that cater for business advertising for both French and English registered businesses and in other local papers if you want to purchase carpet or buy some nice rugs for your tiled floors.
If you are renovating you newly purchased house in France you will also have to think about heating. So if you are bring wood and logs into your house you don’t want to be picking bits of bark etc out of a carpet but if you are having radiators you won’t have this problem. Speak to people ask them for their stories and advice before rushing into anything. The British here will love to tell you about their experiences, you can learn a lot from these people who have experienced the French way of life for longer and might save you from mistakes.
 


Pest Control in France

If you live in any region of France, or have a holiday home, gite, chateau,manior not matter how small or large you will have a pest problem at some time. It could be fungal infection of the oak beams, dry rot or mice and even rats!
If you keep chickens rats love these so keep a look out for signs. That way you can arrange some pest control before it gets too large a problem.

Depending on what type of problem you have you can call the experts in for help and advice as well as going to the local DIY shop and buying treatments yourself.

There are many mice and rat options from sonic devices to a choice of different traps. Flies can be a big problem especially bad if you are near cows, so country dwellers beware. There are very good fly nets available for installation on your windows so at least you can have the windows open in the summer and still keep the flies out.

If you have to treat wood, it’s a good idea to get expert help as the wood treatments are very toxic and there have been cases where home owners have done this themselves gone to bed with the window open and still have died in their sleep due to the build up of fumes!

Don’t forget to hire a registered firm and check their insurance. It is illegal to hire someone on the ‘Black’ and you could be prosecuted if caught.

Getting help from the experts in pest control could save you a lot of wasted time and money in the long run. Don’t forget to check with them how long their work is guaranteed for.
 


Translation Services and Professional Services in France

Just imagine, you have now moved to France or at least bought a property to use for holidays or maybe even to retire to when the time is right. How are your French language skills??

One important piece of advice on choosing the right person or people to do the job

You will probably end up at some stage having to use a translator to help you with different things that you do not fully understand.

PLEASE NOTE: It is actually illegal to employ anyone in France who is not registered and you would be liable to fines or worse if you get caught employing people on “the black”. In addition it is always best advise to check the persons or companies insurance certificate.

Translators

There are many French translators who offer their services in the local press or of course in the many classified websites dedicated to the expat community in France. You can generally find a translator to help you with all the little things that are need to be done to make life a lot easier when you move to france. You may need help in setting up the most basic of services, electric, water, phone, gas just to mention a few and of course you will generally receive letters from the various official bodies regarding the different taxes that have to be paid.

As time goes by you will generally find that you become more conversant in French that you may no longer need the services of a translator to help you but it is always good to know that they are available for those times when you just can’t sort it out yourself.

Professional Services in France


If you are living in france you may need the services of a French accountant to help you on a yearly basis, you may need a solicitor at some stage and of course many of the other professional services that are available throughout France.

You will of course have to insure you property and belongings and you will find that your bank will offer a full range of insurance as will the local insurance agencies which are generally found in most towns in France.
These can all be sourced locally through people you know, the local press and of course online via the internet.
 


Plumbers and Plumbing Companies in Brittany France

When you carry out building work on your home or holiday property you will probably need a good qualified registered plumber. There are of course many good qualified plumbers both French and English who are registered to carry out work for you in Brittany and across France. Please make sure that you use only qualified plumbers to carry out work as bad workmanship could mean that a leak or worse occurs and your property and even your contents could be badly damaged by leaking water in the home, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED….

One important piece of advice on choosing the right person or people to do the job

It is always best practice and a legal obligation to use only qualified and registered plumbers in France, as this means they are insured to do work in your home and the work they do is fully guaranteed. We would never advise you to use anyone who is not qualified or registered as this could, and probably will cause you problems during your building project and could cause further problems after the work is finished. Don’t forget you can always see a badly finished wall or a decorating job that is not done to a good standard; it is not always the case with plumbing work as all you normally see is the water tap or end product (toilet, wash basin, bath etc.) you never see what’s behind the wall like the water pipes.

PLEASE NOTE: It is actually illegal to employ anyone in France who is not registered and you would be liable to fines or worse if you get caught employing people on “the black”. In addition it is always best advise to check the persons or companies insurance certificate.

Quotes

It is considered an important issue that you get a written quote from any plumber or plumbing firm who you are considering using and as a bit of advice you should always get two or three different quotes from reputable plumbing companies. You can then view and review the quotes and decide which plumber or plumbing company best suits your needs. You should always ensure that the quotes you receive for the work are “like for like” as we have found on numerous times that quotes can and do vary but when you investigate you will usually find that one plumber will quote for everything required and will usually allow a set amount for fittings but another one could leave out the fittings in his quote as fittings can depend on the customers wishes as an example why quote for basic sanitary ware and fittings if the client wants a gold plated finish for the bathroom taps.

Time to do the work and the quality of workmanship


If you are here in France then it is often the best way to ensure that your work is done on time and that you will be able to move onto the next phase of your project. People have often found that if they are not there then the work seems to go a lot slower. For quality of work a registered tradesman will usually provide a good level of quality work. In addition you do have legal rights and recourse should the work not be up to a recognized standard. So many people have in the past used businesses that are not registered and invariably the standard and finish of the work is usually not up to the same standard as you get from a registered plumber in Brittany.
 


Language Courses in Brittany and the Rest of France

There are many schools and institutes who offer French language courses to expats across france and they vary greatly from an online correspondence course to sitting in a class-room one or two nights a week.

The main issue with an online correspondence course is that you will have to sit down with a book and several tapes or CD’s and this of course means that the only person who can motivate you is you!
It is sometimes a lot easier to put off learning French or any other language if there is no pressure on you. The benefit of going to regular lessons means that you generally have a much higher level of motivation and probably you will have some homework to do from the previous week’s language lesson.

You may find that you need or want face to face lessons on a one to one basis and these can be arranged fairly easily by looking at the local English newspapers or by looking for a private language tutor on the many classified advertising sites that are for expats living in the many regions of France.

There are many well know language courses/schools such as Berlitz who offer many different forms of language courses and languages and I would suggest that you consider the pros and cons to all courses and schools offered as you may find one that suits your needs may not suit anyone else so it is not always easy just to ask a friend who they used to improve their French.
Prices do of course vary from course to course and you may find that there are very reasonably priced course available in your local town, you may find that the courses that offer tutorials and CD’s are more expensive but remember these can always be passed onto friends, children or they can be sold via the local press, notice boards in your local supermarket or of course via the many classified websites online.

So learning French or any other language can be achieved in many different ways and at different costs, you may be a natural at learning a new language or as I have found it can be difficult to get that new language under your belt. We found that our children learned much easier and quicker than we did so it may be that you end up getting that much needed help from your own children.
 


Buying Properties and House Hunting in France

When you decide to buy your property in France, it could be a dream home to move the whole family to or maybe a holiday home for personal use or for renting out for holidays there are lots of things to take into consideration.
How to find the property of your dreams! You can find many good English speaking estate agents on the internet who have many properties for sale; we list many of these on our website all across France. You can go into the local Notaire’s office and you will normally find that there is a property sale board which offers properties for sale directly from the owners. This may be a good option as you will not pay any agents fees and you may find as we did that the property is on sale in an estate agents window for a much higher price that in the Notaires office.

However saying that the agents do a lot of the paperwork etc. on your behalf so it may be easier to use an agent if you are a first time buyer, the choice is yours, we did for our first property purchase in Brittany.

Important advice and tips on choosing the right property in the right area

Ok so you have now made the decision to either move to France or at least buy a holiday home, so what to do to make the dream come true. I would suggest that you decide on the right area of France. Should you look for an area which still gives you easy access to the Uk, this might be needed if you have to return on a regular basis so for people in this category it is advisable to look at Airport and ferry port distances from the place you want to buy.

Property in FranceYou can still find many bargains in France and it is possible that you look for and find a great renovation project with a few acres of land and this could be ideal for you but you have to think about a lot more that first impressions.

A few acres of land sounds great, and brings to mind ideas of getting a few animals, horses, sheep, chickens who knows you could even dig your own lake and fill it with fish and offer fishing holidays if you have barns to convert to gites or holiday homes, maybe even a part of your home could be used as bed and breakfast.



So what’s it really like to take on a building or refurbishment project in France


Well we have been there and done it all and although it sounds fantastic it is not all plain sailing by any means. Imagine the process, we went to Brittany some 9 years ago looking for our dream home to buy and move the family to from Jersey in the channel Isles. I was working in Munich in Germany at the time so we agreed to meet in St Malo to start our search of Brittany. We viewed properties all day with a property agent (not an estate agent) and although I had seen a property advertised as “livable with fishing lake” it was far from this, but you learn from your mistakes.

So we looked and kept looking and on the second day of house hunting in Brittany we went with the agent to see the last property of the day (not that it was on our list of properties to view) as he had to do a check for the English owners (maybe it was a ploy by the agent but it worked well) and that was it we saw it and said we wanted it, a bit rash you may think but we had made up our minds. A Bretagne Longere with out-buildings and a large unused wing of the house and to top it off 7 hectares of land all around the property.
All sorts of thoughts were racing through our heads, converting the barn to a gite, using the wing of the house to create a bed and breakfast section and as a keen fisherman I wanted to create my own fishing lake and with over 10 acres what could be easier.
We bought the property and moved in 2000 and set about doing some work to create our dream.
We found a great French registered English builder and a French electrician/plumber who speaks perfect English after getting several quotes for the work to be done and the work started.

On my side I rented a JCB and set about creating a lake on the land, not as easy as it sounds but operating the JCB was one of the best weeks entertainment I have had, talk about big toys for big boys.

PLEASE NOTE: It is actually illegal to employ anyone in France who is not registered and you would be liable to fines or worse if you get caught employing people on “the black”. In addition it is always best advise to check the persons or companies insurance certificate, we did and never looked back as the work was finished to a high quality and on time.
 


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