This old house I have used to be a barn, then it became the village pub, then it became the telephone exchange back in the 50’s and finally it became a home.
It was originally just one large room essentially – the barn. The walls were made of a mixture of torchis – mud, animal dung and straw and one wall is made from flintstone which is a common building material in my area.
Quite when the original barn was created is anyone’s guess but we think it goes back to at least the 18th Century. Since then more and more rooms have been added, a floor was put in to create an upstairs area and the fields at the back were hedged off.
It was a challenging building to take on. The house is built on a hill so the rooms were on different levels – both up and down stairs. Upstairs was almost untouched – apart from someone’s efforts to insulate it by dumping a foot of mud up there which dried into a plaster like substance over the decades, embedded in it were various animal skeletons and a cow’s skull. Some rooms had dirt floors, some rooms were open to the elements, there was zero insulation and single glazed windows – the house was permanently damp.
One of the most complete rooms was just off of the kitchen and accessed via a few stone steps. It was being used as a shed when we moved in. It had no windows and led to another two rooms on the back of the house and it had a concrete floor. It was listed as a buanderie.
I’d never heard that word before and my neighbour told me it means it is a laundry room. I thought only grand mansion houses had laundry rooms but it seems that actually it’s a fairly common thing in these old French country houses. A buanderie or laundry rooms in the old days was where the women would be able to scrub clothes in giant vats of hot water and have enough room to hang and dry the wet garments when the weather was inclement.
I decided to keep the room true to its original purpose and it is still a buanderie today. I have a big old American tumble dryer (a gift from my brother-in-law and I have no idea how he got that back from America), washing machine, drying cabinet, and lots of hooks and rails for hanging clothes. After the wet summer last year and cold damp winter we’ve just been through – the buanderie is no longer a whimsy – it has become an essential.
This room is almost finished – it now has a wood floor, the walls and ceiling are boarded and the cupboards are all built in and I’m on the final decorating stage. I’d love to paint the ceiling like a blue sky with clouds and the walls to look like a garden complete with washing line and washing blowing in the wind, just need to do it now!