‘Reloved’ Magazine Article

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Catrina and dogs Catrina and her family have lived full time at Les Rouges Terres since 2004. She and her husband stumbled across the 18th century farm over twenty four years ago when the farmhouse and barns were virtually derelict. ‘The main room downstairs had been used by the farmer to have his lunch and shelter from the rain and had a table and a fireplace but that was about it. The upstairs hadn’t been lived in for well over a hundred years, there was no plumbing, no heating, but loads of potential!’

exthouseOver countless Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays Catrina, Jeffrey and daughter Phoebe (with endless help from friends and family on ‘working’ holidays) gradually renovated the 5 bedroom house and adjoining barns.

Les Rouges Terres is in the heart of dairy and cider country, surrounded by the green fields of Normandy in a beautifully tranquil spot. ‘In the mornings the only sound you hear is birdsong, it’s a real haven’.

chalk4The house is a vintage lover’s dream and over the years Catrina has furnished and filled it with lovely pieces found at brocantes, depot ventes and vide greniers. In the bedrooms old metal beds which were bought covered in rust have been transformed with a couple of coats of paint. ‘They just look so right in the old beamed rooms’ An old mirror that once graced a chateau, was picked up for a song in the local Brocante and looks gorgeous against the old stone wall of a bedroom.

relove3‘It’s not the most flattering mirror, it’s like those mirrors you get at fairgrounds, it tends to make anyone look slightly pear shaped, but I love it and it has this gorgeous aged mottling on it too!’ The 1930’s armchair found in a shed has been recovered in orange velvet and sits in the cosy hallway, which is painted in a warm deep orange. ‘It’s a lovely warm colour called Californian Poppy, the house was so cold when we first came that you had to wear about 4 layers of clothing and so I wanted warm colours, but now there is the luxury of central heating! The walls are about a meter thick and in the summer the house is wonderfully cool.

Collections of Catrina’s favourite finds are lovingly placed around the house and frequently added to and redisplayed.

‘I have a thing about animals at the moment and I’m collecting those lovely Michel Caugant terrines, I have a duck, a moorhen and a pheasant and I’m on the look out for a white rabbit, they are a bit kitsch I suppose, but I like them. I think items from the 30’s and 40’s probably catch my eye the most’. Catrina loves the texture, patina and history of old things, and often wonders about the French family that originally built the house and lived and farmed the land for hundreds of years.

chalk4‘Babies would have been born here, women would have cooked at this fireplace and cleaned these windows, seeing the same view that I can see, and yet their names and stories are lost in time, I find that incredibly poignant’. A lot of the records were destroyed during World War II, so it’s doubtful she will ever find out who the original family was and how Les Rouges Terres got its name. ‘I often dream of finding an old postcard addressed to the house, or a faded sepia photo when I’m looking through boxes of old papers at vide greniers, wouldn’t that be amazing?’

The garden and grounds are filled with vintage treasures as well….a collection of enamel jugs and coffee pots hang from the old stone walls and stand to attention on steps and in alcoves and old clocks and chalkware figurines sit on window sills. ‘I just love enamel, coffee pots and canisters. They come in such gorgeous colours and I think the bits of rust just add to their character, so I display them wherever I can, indoors or out’

torigni furnitureCatrina’s passion for vide greniers grows each year. In Normandy they take place in villages and towns every weekend throughout the spring and summer months. Vide greniers which in French means ’empty your loft’ are the equivalent of our English car boot sales, but so much more fun somehow. Some are held in the streets of the village or town itself with families selling outside their front door, some are held on the village green or in a field or local sports stadium. French families will set up long tables and sell throughout the day and at the strike of noon, everyone gets out their lunch and bread and cheese and rose wine and cider will flow.

‘There is nothing more exciting than setting off for a vide grenier with a pocketful of euros and my trusty wheely trolley in the boot.’ Says Catrina ‘I just never know what I am going to find ……yes, there will be tables selling old toys and children’s clothes but keep your eyes peeled because under that pile of clothes could be a gorgeous enamel ‘Cafe’ canister or a pile of 1930’s vintage Marie Claire magazines that have been sitting in an attic for decades….have a rummage in an old box under a table and you will find some gorgeous hand painted French crockery or monogrammed linen sheets or a gorgeous chalkware Madonna with glorious chipped and faded paint, wander further along the street and perhaps you will see a gorgeous mottled mirror for a few euros, just heaven’ .

Comfortable shoes and stamina are key as well says Catrina ‘I nearly gave myself a hernia last summer, as I found a fabulous old wooden oak framed mirror which I just had to have…but it was so heavy and the car was parked about 15 minutes away, I made it back eventually and now it is painted and hanging in the hallway, so it was worth it.’

After a brisk few hours perusing, bartering and buying, it’s time for a cafe au lait and perhaps if she has walked far enough, a treat of an almond croissant! or at lunchtime, a sandwich bought from a street vendor cooking huge hunks of lamb over a spit or Normandy saucisson sizzling on a barbeque…then, a sit down at a communal bench in the sunshine and munch of an alfresco lunch before heading off for more bargains.

A couple of years ago, Catrina’s friend Cheryl suggested she should share her knowledge with fellow vintage lovers who would love the house as well. ‘I did a search on the internet and couldn’t see anyone doing anything similar and so the idea of Vintage Weekends was born. Now that we live in one of our converted barns, guests can stay in the main house’ Guests arriving on a Friday or a Saturday settle in and relax after a big welcome from the resident dogs, Basil, Dodge and Bertie. Catrina gives her guests a list of the vide greniers that are on in the area along with directions and they can head off after breakfast and shop to their heart’s content. In the evenings, Catrina provides a three course dinner which is served al fresco under the chestnut tree by the lake if it’s sunny or indoors in front of a roaring log fire if it’s chilly. ‘There is no more pleasant way to end a day’s vintage shopping in Normandy than oohing and aahing over each other’s purchases and discussing the day over a pre-dinner glass of wine.’

The Vintage Weekends have been really successful so far and Catrina thinks that unlike other parts of France like Paris and further South where it is harder these days to find that vintage bargain, there are still some fabulous things to be found in Normandy…and she can tell you where! Catrina’s first Vintage Weekenders Kathryn and Wes are booked for their third visit this May! ‘It’s just so much fun sharing my passion and knowledge with kindred spirits and I get to show off our beautiful home as well.’ Catrina says, Vintage weekenders arrive at Les Rouges Terres as guests and leave as friends and what could be better than that!

This article appears in the July 2015 issue of Reloved magazine

Category: General, Press

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