Talking to Daniel this week I found myself stroking a staircase, never happened in my life before, I want you all to know that this is not a regular thing for me. However you too would want to stoke our new staircase, it is palpable and tactile. The words "Arts and Crafts" come to mind because this has been made just for the farmhouse, out of oak. Benjamin our project manager introduced us to Daniel, who is a "menuisier" or a joiner, I'd call him an artist too. He made all the components in his workshop and then brought them to the farmhouse and with an assistant he has built our staircase over the course of a week. The staircase traverses three floors and it is just right.
When we first viewed the farmhouse the stairwell was rather dark. Some very black, ancient oak, open tread, stairs led down to the ground floor. They rested upon blocks of cut stone that provided the last three steps. These solid pieces of rock hung around for quite a while at the early stages if the renovation, the truth was that they couldn't be removed from the house, they were so heavy. Finally a few rugby playing roofers managed to lift them to a spot just outside the door on the patio, and that is were they still are for the time being. When we looked around the house prior to buying, an Eisteddfod chair stood at the bottom of the stairs, proof that a welsh family lived here. We just loved the ancient steps, which once, I am sure, would have taken the farmer to his living quarters on the ground floor. I guess the downstairs would have been cooler in the hot summer months. We have kept the old stairs and hope they will re-appear elsewhere on the farmstead at some point. The stairs up to the loft room were more modern and closed in, but they still needed to go. So as we modernise and prepare the farmhouse for the next phase of its life, we greet this new staircase with awe and wonder and in appreciation of one mans craft.
On the east elevation, a window frame has been put into the window, it was made to match the other one and will now have to be painted. It does seem a shame to paint it because it looks as if it could equally be stained but then it wouldn't match the other one! It's good that the room is now water-tight, with the stairs in, the oak floor can go down. Its all been about getting the levels right. There are old oak floors in existence and we thought long and hard before deciding to cover them. The problem was that they were not level and when I say not level I mean by a good eight inches from one side of the room to the other. Chairs would slide and there was an uphill walk to the bathroom at night. Crevasses and joins between the boards meant that cleaning was a challenge so the decision to replace was made.
We do have a small wood at the Farmhouse and it is mainly filled with oak trees, an important resource in days gone by and still needed today with all of the wood burning stoves that we have, (regular readers, can you remember the french word for wood burning stove?) We have not as yet even attempted to manage the wood, it's a job that's well towards the end of the list.
It is very appropriate that oak is coming into the house as oak trees are in abundance in this area. Infact the ancient reigon of Quercy, where the farmhouse is, is actually named after the latin name for oak-which is quercus robur.