CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

An amazing property renovation in Brittany

PUBLISHED: 17:11 19 December 2017 | UPDATED: 17:11 19 December 2017

The house before and after the extensive renovations took place

The house before and after the extensive renovations took place


Renovation expert Matthew Chalk tells us about an ambitious project to restore a prominent village house in Brittany

As a builder specialising in rural renovations, I’m pretty good at looking beyond the debris in derelict old properties and recovering the charm. But when I took on a project in central Brittany recently, I swiftly realised this was going to be tall order.

At first glance, the house in the small village of St-Gouéno, certainly had the wow factor. But on closer inspection, it was clearly just months away from collapse, due to rotten carpentry and decades of neglect. Every step you took had to be carefully considered, to avoid falling through the floor, and the scale of works needed was not for the faint-hearted…

The buyers

Luckily, my client Vicky and her partner Julian were up for the adventure. The couple didn’t want anything too remote or rural, but neither did they want to be in a large touristy town, as they wanted to force themselves to socialise with French people and learn the language.

While on holiday, they came across this house in St-Gouéno and immediately fell in love with it. The village has a quaint picture postcard quality about it and the house is in the heart of the village. It just seemed perfect.

Vicky was sure that, with some work, the house could become a super family home.“We were happy to take on a bit of a project,” says Vicky, “although this house may have turned into a larger scale project than we initially thought!”

The aim of the project was two-fold. Firstly, we wanted to create a fantastic home within the historical layout of the original floor plan and secondly, we wanted to ensure that the 100m² loft could be converted in the near future for additional bedrooms.


Don’t miss...

How to find a good builder in France

I wish I’d known that before buying my French property


Starting the renovation works

The early stages of the renovation consisted of preventing the building from further movement prior to demolition. To achieve this, we strengthened the roof carpentry and used decorative tie bars. New granite lintels and joists were fitted to ensure we were safe to continue. This is really the stage of the renovation where you will come across unexpected problems and will need to be prepared for extra unwanted financial costs. In reality, once you are past this point you are back in control.

Monochrome tiles gives the bathroom a modern finishMonochrome tiles gives the bathroom a modern finish

Surprises along the way

During the renovations, we found a tombstone down in the cellar! Luckily it ended there and no skeleton was found! A low point during this period was being burgled of tools, a reminder that even sleepy villages have their moments. In total, three houses being renovated in the same village were broken into for tools and materials. The irony was that the burglars made off with a box of security fittings. You have to laugh.

The first few weeks passed quickly and we reached that satisfying moment when you start to put materials back in to the house instead of taking them out.

The finished bedroomThe finished bedroom

New building work must comply with a complex set of energy efficiency regulations called the Réglementation Thermique 2012 (RT2012). We insulated the house above and beyond the required standards in anticipation of any future amendments to the rules. This will make the house far more comfortable to live in and save on heating bills. Vapour membranes and sheer walls have also been used as have reinforcing joists with plates.


Don’t miss...

Things to consider before buying a renovation project

Ways to save money when renovating a property


The kitchen has been transformed into a light, bright and airy spaceThe kitchen has been transformed into a light, bright and airy space

Saving key features

One of the key features Vicky wanted to save was the staircase. Winding its way up to the attic, it is made from solid oak and has been beautifully plastered in a curve underneath by the original artisans. The good news was that the rot had not affected the stairs as much as was thought and the plaster work has been minimally repaired to leave it just needing a lick of paint. The staircase survived!

Happy ending

At the time of writing this we are still considering panelling the hallway to get that extra wow factor when you walk in but, other than that the house is done.

“We have spent far more on the renovations that we initially anticipated, but it is totally worth it,” says Vicky. “We love the place and have absolutely no regrets.”

Vicky chose to only tweak the original room layouts and went for a classic design within the bathrooms to achieve a really elegant finish throughout. It is so nicely laid out that you want to look into every room. It is a gently flowing and warm house. This was achieved by doing what is hardest for people – very little! By not going in gung ho and stamping your mark too forcefully, you can have a classic house that will better stand the test of time.

Matthew Chalk runs Brittany-based building company MC Renovation See the renovation process in the video below!

More from French Property

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Don’t get caught out – it’s as important to understand your legal obligations when selling a property in France as it is when buying one

Read more
Buying guides
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ruth Wood looks at the French property hotspots where British buyers search for their dream home

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Seen a bargain French property that just needs a bit of work to turn it into a dream home? If your heart is set on a renovation project, do your sums first, advises architect Nick Adams

Read more
New-build property in France
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A new apartment development is available for investment in the Alpine expat haven of Annecy in Haute-Savoie

Read more
French Alps
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Why your trusty high-street bank might not be the place when it comes to getting the best currency deal

Read more
Buying guides
Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Don’t be bamboozled by strange foreign exchange terms – this handy currency transfer jargon buster explains all!

Read more
Buying guides
Yesterday, 16:02

Do you know how to safeguard your UK property from con artists while you’re living or holidaying in France?

Read more
Thursday, August 23, 2018

Is a ‘notary public’ in the UK the same as a ‘notaire’ in France?

Read more
Buying guides
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

With income tax soon to be deducted at source in France, how might this affect you?

Read more
Working in France
Friday, August 24, 2018

Find out how the new flat tax of 30% on income from financial investments works in France

Read more
Subscribe for

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now