From when we first moved here in 2015, we had always planned to have a studio set up for my printmaking and other art/craft activities and we even discussed the possibilities of running printmaking workshops and courses….. However, while our idea was for it to be located inside the big barn, we knew it wasn’t a priority and would have to wait until the house was fully habitable….  When we were gathering quotations for the new roof on the house and repair of those of the two barns, we also obtained costings for constructing the studio in the right-hand compartment of the barn – it seemed a reasonable place to have it, and a new door on the other side of the building would allow more light into the space….

Of course, over time, plans change and evolve and our deteriorating relationship with our builders (13 weeks to replace the house roof, instead of the 4 weeks they promised!) made us think again.  Maybe the studio could be built from scratch inside the main part of the building, allowing more natural light to reach the space and meaning the design would be less affected by existing structures and problems facing us in the right-hand compartment of the barn…

Edward had already built a studio for me when we lived in England:

 

So he wasn’t particularly daunted by the prospect, it was just going to be on a grander scale!  In September 2016, before we knew it,  we’d hired a van and gone shopping….

  

Buoyed up by the fact that we weren’t relying on anyone else to do anything for us, work started on the construction just three days later!

The basic framework for the 7x4m structure went up quite quickly…

But as part of the wall at the back of the barn is under the soil level, we decided a plastic membrane underneath and part way up the structure, with a 50cm gap between the back wall of the barn and the back wall of the studio, was prudent…

 

I couldn’t resist trying it out for size!!

Throughout October, Edward made great strides in constructing the studio, gradually rolling out the plastic membrane as more floorboards went down and the outer framework with them…

 

New frames were made to fit the old windows that came out of the house and we bought new doors for each end of the studio….  It looks relatively straight forward (says the non-carpenter!!) but each window was a different size and must have been bespoke-made for the house…

 

 

 

By the middle of the month, Edward had started cladding the outside of the structure – the idea being that having a ‘sealed box’ would be a good state to be in for the coming winter months and would mean that items that weren’t sensitive could be stored out there temporarily…

 

And that’s about as far as we reached before winter set in…. We had other projects to get on with around the house and garden, not to mention the Sejours for French students over Halloween and Christmas, then we had some really cold weather (minus 8 degrees Celsius for several days), which put paid to any further work out there for the time being…..

Despite the cold and damp, Edward resumed work in January, putting up insulated plasterboard inside the ‘box’ walls and above the ceiling beams….

 

  

By early February, the ‘box’ was insulated in the main part and some of the spot lights were installed – now we could use it for temporary storage, to free up space in the house!

 

While progress, at times, seemed slow, on reflection, not rushing the job was a good thing, as plans and ideas were always changing or developing…  Where the pink plasterboard (fireboard) is situated, we’d always intended to install a wood burner but the practicalities outweighed the desire and we think the electric wall heater we have instead is probably far safer and cleaner…. We certainly don’t want to burn down the barn!!!

In addition, we originally thought to leave the beams uncovered and just painted but after a while, we decided that cladding them with tongue and groove panelling would not only double-insulate the space, but would be more aesthetically pleasing too….

As the space we would have in there became more apparent, the idea of using it solely for an art studio/workshop changed and we envisioned sharing it for leisure-time too – the purchase of an old leather sofa was for just that – relaxing and enjoying the studio, while the old kitchen unit, just visible in the picture above, when ‘refurbished’ would house some of Edward’s own art equipment, along with his fishing gear…

March and April came and went, with no activity at all in the studio, as we busied ourselves around the garden, fence- and gate-building, border-making, archway-building and creating new garden areas, not to mention hosting Easter Sejours….  May too was out of the question, as we happily received friends and family coming to visit – the first of the season – taking them out to see places of interest around our home and surrounding areas….

In June we had a great boost, when our dear friend, Victorine came to stay for a couple of days, offering to help with anything we needed around the property.  Luckily for us, she was a dab hand with a paint brush and we soon had the front of the studio panelling painted!

 

Day two and a second coat makes all the difference…

 

While we painted, Edward continued panelling the ceiling inside…

    

It all starts to take shape about now but then (July) more visitors, a lovely sejour with ‘our girls’, Philippine, Coline and Valentine and further works in the garden meant that the studio was neglected for another month, all but for a lick of paint on those awful brown windows!

The break, however, seemed to do some good as for quite some time we had been debating what to do with the interior walls – have them plastered, joint and skim, fill the joints and hope for the best (?!)… each option had its pros and cons but neither of us are particularly skilled when it comes to plastering…. Eventually, we came up with half panelling with tongue and groove, before Edward had the genius idea of covering the plasterboard joints with stripped down panels….

We’re really pleased with the results and think the chalk-painted plasterboard sets it all off nicely…

Of course, by this stage, when the timber construction is beginning to resemble a room, it’s easy to forget all the work that has gone on ‘behind the scenes’, so to speak.  We have three light switches, two at one door and one at the other, each operating a different set of LED spotlights – some over each work bench and some over the middle area of the room.  In addition, Edward has installed two wall lights and my beautiful dandelion pendant light, all operating on separate switches…. Electric cabling for these and for umpteen plug sockets along all the walls is now hidden behind the wooden panelling.

A particularly testing job for Edward came near the end, when he had to fit panelling and insulation around the doors and under the windows, making sure not to trap wiring, while fitting window sills and trim to finish it all off, when none of the windows were the same size!  It seemed to take a long while, in comparison to the panelling job!  So, while Edward was occupied around the windows and doors, I made a start on up-cycling some pieces of furniture we had previously bought for the studio…

First up was an old wooden, glass-fronted armoire, purchased from our favourite brocante

 

Painted inside and out with home-made chalk paint, I then waxed it on the outside for protection and on the inside, lined it with some tree-printed wallpaper, which I intended to use as a theme throughout the studio…

Next up was a small kitchen dresser I picked up in EMMAÜS for 20 Euros!  It was full of old woodworm holes and the base was falling out, but with more chalk paint, paper and a new base, thanks to Edward, it now has a new lease of life 🙂

 

The third cabinet to be sorted out was one I bought last year in England – found in a charity shop for £15!  Instead of using chalk paint, I used a satin-finish gloss and gave it similar treatment with the wallpaper.  I had also found some grey wood-effect sticky backed plastic, which was just right for the shelves and lining the drawers.  New handles finished it all off….

The feet were removed to ensure it fit the space under the window!

So finally, I came to sort out the plan chest.  Originally an old piece rescued from being thrown out by the MOD (drawers dated 1959!), my mother gave it to me when she needed more space in her own studio.  I was thrilled to bits with it but on getting it back to France, was less sure I would be able to use it…. Damp had warped some of the drawers and they would no longer fit in the runners, so we stored it in the dry barn and hoped that eventually the wood would dry out and shrink back to fit….

 

At least a year later and it came out of the barn, ready to be revamped!  Old paint removed, carcass and drawers wire-wooled, and top sanded down, it started to look something like…  I painted this too with satin gloss paint and used the same tree wallpaper in the panels along the sides.  Finally, we tried fitting the drawers… It took a bit of doing – Edward had to spend some time on one in particular, which had to be planed down on each side to even fit into the runners.  I used a candle to wax all the runners to help the drawers run more smoothly and eventually, it was ready to be brought inside.  With the top waxed, it will double up as a coffee table too!

Meanwhile, back in the studio, Edward had finished installing plug sockets, panelling below and above the windows, creating window sills and trimming it all off.  Time for me to wallpaper the panel where the heater was going….

Before preparing to paint all the windows and their frames…

 

What a difference white window frames make!

By this stage, it all felt like we were getting close, especially when Edward put up a work bench….

And I started painting the floor….

  

By the end of August, the paint was dry and we were able to start bringing in furniture and equipment that had been stored in the house, with a few little tweaks here and there and the odd set of TV and CD shelving made to fit a space…..

 

It all got a bit messy before it started looking like a studio but after a few more days, we could call it finished….

To celebrate, we took a couple of days off – I spent some time playing with my press and managed to start printing an edition of my linocut of Mouse, while in the evenings, we watched some films!!  We love our new creative space in the big barn…♥