Strictly research: a day out in Brantome

One of my all-time favourite places – Brantome – is under an hour from Le Manoir Saint Gervais. The locals call it the Venice of the Périgord.

It is a great place to visit with friends and family; the town boasts an abbey, caves and picturesque river walks (the town is encircled by water). Why not have lunch while watching tourists navigate the small rapids near the mill in their bright yellow kayaks (first-timers never quite make it down in one go)?! There is also a regular boat trip in the summer months with a French guide.

The shopping isn’t extensive but there are a few choice shops perfect for small gifts (cards, ceramics, vintage signs, soaps, hats, gourmet food, wine, etc.). The tourist office is central and well-stocked with leaflets and posters.

For lunch in August I tried and liked pop-up restaurant: La Guinguette. It can be seen from the cave/abbey side of the river but is accessed from a back street. And don’t forget ice-cream… there is quite a choice. SC

IMG_9487 IMG_9616IMG_9486IMG_9485

Kitchen renovations: first stage

The kitchen has had its fair amount of attention over the past few weeks… a damp wall needed to be re-plastered as well as areas where I had removed old kitchen tiles and of course left huge holes.

IMG_6668photo 4photo 2-1photo 3-1photo 2IMG_6727photo 1-1IMG_6725

The plaster has since dried out and I’ve applied two coats of white paint which has freshened up the room. I’ve chosen a copper pendant to hang over the central island and add warmth to the room. There’s still woodwork to finish and the worktops/cabinet doors to change but we’re making progress! The new larder freezer arrived today too so there will be plenty of room to store home-made goodies. SCH

photo 1IMG_6724IMG_6726IMG_6728




Renovations part two: downstairs guest bathroom

Changes to the downstairs bathroom are well underway! We’ve removed the old wall cupboards and washing machine unit, knocked through the wall under the stairs and begun the (long, arduous) task of removing two layers of wall tiles and all the floor tiles.

There has been one small change to the design plan; the toilet is going to move to the side of the old under-stairs door to allow for a streamlined look to the built in units under the window. I have also decided that one sink will not be enough – we need two!


Here is the revised rough sketch of how the downstairs guest bathroom will look when finished:


Colour wise I’m trying to stay away from neutrals… but that’s always tricky to do! SCH

Renovations part one: downstairs guest bathroom

First on the renovation list for autumn 2014 is a downstairs guest bathroom. The current layout of the house means the only option for visiting guests wishing to use the toilet and wash their hands is to use one of the ensuite bathrooms (which means heading upstairs into a bedroom).

However, downstairs there is already a small utility room with a washing machine and toilet (no sink) which is ripe for conversion:

photo 4photo 1-2photo 2-2photo 5photo 2photo 3-2photo 3photo 4-2

The plan is to move the plumbing for the washing machine into the cupboard under the stairs, close off the current door opening so that the washing machine is accessed from the other side (just before the entrance to the room), build a unit under the window to house a toilet and sink (or maybe two sinks – I haven’t quite decided yet!), retile the floor, put in a tiled splash back, move the door to its original location opening up the area under the stairs.

Here is my rough sketch of how it will look when finished:

photo 4-1

The only thing I haven’t quite decided on is the overall scheme/colour… it’s probably time to consult Houzz and Pinterest. SCH

A day wandering around Limoges

The temperature gauge dropped to 14 degrees today so my South African guests and I jumped in the car laden with jumpers and gilets to do a little more exploring in the name of research.

A trip to the Limousin region wouldn’t be complete without a trip to its administrative capital, Limoges. This large town is very much a modern working one but also has some impressive medieval-style architecture, quiet pockets of calm and some great shopping.

From Le Manor Saint Gervais it takes around 45 minutes by car and there are lots of underground parking options. Don’t forget to visit the old Butchers’ Quarter (Quartier de la Bucherie) with its tiny chapel (Chapelle Saint Aurelien), the undercover fruit/cheese/veg/meat market near Place de La Motte, the gothic cathedral (Cathedrale St-Etienne), the town hall (Hotel de Ville) and also the impressive train station. SCH

IMG_5407 IMG_5408 IMG_5409 IMG_5419 IMG_5384 IMG_5410 IMG_5411 IMG_5412 IMG_5418 IMG_5415 IMG_5414 IMG_5417

Time to explore: La Rochefoucauld

Less than 30 minutes along the D10 is the pretty town of La Rochefoucauld. It is home to a fabulous chateau, some lovely restaurants and a selection of small shops (pharmacy, bakery, butchers, gift shops, antiques shop, etc.). As part of our research for guests, we took an official tour of the chateau and then wandered around the many family rooms, the original kitchens and the underground grotto at a more leisurely pace. Photos of the current family were casually placed on tables and made the place come alive; cleverly connecting the ancient past to the present time.

Grassy lawns surround the chateau and make an ideal spot for a picnic. Since this was our first time in La Rochefoucauld we chose to have lunch at an open air restaurant at the base of the chateau called Chez Steph. It specialises in Limousin beef; the steak did not disappoint. All in all, a lovely day out and one I would definitely recommend as part of a stay at Le Manoir Saint Gervais. SCH

IMG_5029  IMG_5047 IMG_5027 IMG_5010 IMG_5025IMG_5024  IMG_5009IMG_5023

Sunshine, guests and gardening

The weather is too warm to be stuck inside – it’s only April, however, temperatures have reached 25 degrees during the day. Despite needing to sort out the essentials inside the house (i.e. plumbing in the washing machine and finding curtains long enough for the enormous windows), it’s the garden that has received the most attention this week.

The first thing I did was rearrange the open part of the barn so that the logs are stored at the back next to kindling collected from around the garden. The previous owners left an old table at the back of the house so I’ve repurposed that and placed it in the front of the barn as a potting table. It has been a very busy week yet I’ve somehow managed to sow some tomatoes, French beans, lettuce and a selection of herbs. The rest will have to wait!

An army of family arrived on Thursday too and have wasted no time tackling the big garden jobs; over the last three days the beds have been weeded, the trees pruned and hedges shaped and the grass has been given a very good haircut by the village farmer’s 18 year old son. What was starting to look like a meadow is now a nicely manicured lawn… however, I am going to have to invest in a sit-on mower – that first cut took the poor chap four and a half hours with a small petrol mower! SCH

IMG_4394  IMG_4392 IMG_4380  IMG_4381  IMG_4456  IMG_4433  IMG_4429  IMG_4359

Exploring the house and garden

We are finally here. In France. In the house!

It is all we could have imagined, and much much more… It is BIG and echoey at the moment as there isn’t much furniture in it until the container arrives next week. But that doesn’t matter – it really is one big adventure.

The previous owners are living near by and have been on hand to answer questions about the house as well as living in France. On Thursday we walked around the garden together taking notes of the various trees, shrubs and plants:

– Honeysuckle; Clematis (Montana); roses

– Acer; yew; monkey puzzle; hazelnut; acacia; laurel; Christmas; Japenese maple

– Holly; Magnolia; Lilac; privet hedge; box; copper beach; Rhododendron; roses; lavender; hydrangea; peony

Aromatic herbs:
– Sage; oregano; rosemary; curry plant; chives; mint; bay tree

Fruit trees and fruit:
– Apple tree; Mirabelle plum tree; cherry tree; fig tree; olive tree; grape vine; wild strawberries, kiwi, blackberry bush

Next steps are to draw a garden plan as well as work out where the allotment and compost heaps are going to go. My gardening-mad family arrive next week so no doubt they will want to help out! SCH

IMG_4351  IMG_4387  IMG_4364  IMG_4391

Social media ramp up

With less than three weeks to go until we move into the house, we’re in marketing overdrive. Le Manoir’s Facebook and Pinterest accounts are now live and I’m adding material to them every day.

Pinterest is an excellent source of inspiration… from practical interior design insights to practical ‘how to’ craft ideas. For example, if you need a reminder on how to under stitch a neckline, simply search that term and you will find helpful photos linking back to original blog posts containing step-by-step instructions. If you love a cushion or headboard featured on a Pinterest board, odds are you will be able to click through and find out where to buy it (or the fabric to make your own).

Below are snapshots of Le Manoir’s Pinterest account which has boards on sewing, interiors, crafty spaces, gardens, etc.:

IMG_4211  IMG_4214  IMG_4215  IMG_4217

Which social media platforms do you use to gather home ideas and inspiration? Are there bloggers you follow regularly? I know I couldn’t live without my daily fix of Pinterest and Houzz. SCH

We’re changing names!

From today, ‘The Little Grange’ is simply to be known as Le Manoir Saint Gervais.

Initial feedback suggests The Little Grange doesn’t bear any relationship to the offering… a boutique B&B that also runs vintage craft courses… and was perhaps a tad confusing? I really value feedback and have taken on board these comments. We now have a new URL for the website ( and will run the B&B business and courses together under that name. I must say it is starting to make life a whole lot easier!

With the name changed we now have a Pinterest account set up ( as well as a Facebook account (

I was very fond of The Little Grange as a flexible concept (The Little Barn; La Petite Grange, etc.), but recognise it came about very early in the development of the business when a UK property was still a distinct possibility. Who knows, maybe we will get to use the name one day in another part of the business?! SCH

IMG_0526 IMG_0537 IMG_0542 936030_597010860322883_151866844_n