On Restoration Challenges and Comtoise Clocks

Provence holiday home lounge

Any restoration project brings its share of challenges, especially in old French properties with their individual quirks and charms, and some out-of-the-blue discoveries too. Those finds that instantly leap out at you, that you know will just fit so perfectly in your new holiday home in Provence. That was certainly the case when we were fitting out our le Muguet house in Uzès.

While speaking with Dan on our new Muguet landline, he casually mentioned how many weekend visitors walk by the petanque court (where games of boules or “petanque” are often played in the square right below the house) and then stop and glance up to our imposing terrace. They stand, they admire, and they gawk. Rightfully so – this is an amazing house. With that in mind, prepare to be dazzled when you enter the completed “le Muguet.”

Restoring ‘our Lady’

Buffet ensembleIn spite of the blazing nightmare of getting the telephone and internet hooked up so that garage sales could be googled and telephone numbers accessed, Dan and Francesco have accomplished an amazing amount of transformation in the last 2 ½ weeks. From the irresistible baby crib from the 1870’s for only 60 euros (currently painted in 1970’s psychedelic fuschia ) to the neutral colored Ikea sofa bed, our “lady” is being lovingly restored. As our re-modelers had earlier remarked ”We are having difficulty finding a good sofa bed in less-than-horrendous styles and sky-high prices.”

Upstairs or downstairs?

An interesting factor most of us would not anticipate came from the vendor who delivered the queen-sized iron bed frame for the master bedroom suite; “You do realize, don’t you, that no queen-sized mattress will fit up this spiral staircase.”  It is this variety of interesting challenges that spice up our days.

With a plethora of wonderful flea markets, Dan and Francesco continued to find (and bargain ruthlessly for) wonderful bits and pieces like the antique round dining table, six cane-seated chairs, a small bureau, a tole lamp, an alabaster lamp, a gilt mirror and, our time piece de resistance- a WONDERFUL Comptoise style grandfather clock which is the first thing you see when you enter the house.

Baby bedSome of the markets they visited include Villeneuve, L’Ile su la Sorgue, Beaucaire and Carpentras – nirvana!

The Alabaster lamp was negotiated down to 12 euros but they had to buy the shade and replace the plastic cord with silk.

The Comptoise clock (in running condition) was bargained down to half its stated price of 720 euros by Francesco and that included delivery too! No wonder we are high five-ing!

I had to look up the definition of a Comtoise clock which I will include below. In so doing, eBay had three circa 1800 models for sale for a mere … $2875.

Comtoise Clocks

Gaine_ComtoiseComtoise clocks, also known as Morbier clocks or Morez clocks, are a style of long-case clock made in the French region of Franche-Comté (hence their name). Production of these clocks began back in 1680 and continued for a period of about 230 years.

During the peak production years (1850-1890) over 60,000 clocks were made each year. Features distinguishing this style are a curving “potbellied” case and a greater use of curved lines. Often a heavy, elongated, highly ornamented pendulum bob extends up the case (see photo)

Many Comtoise clocks can be found in France but they are also frequently found in Spain, Germany, and other parts of Europe, less in the USA. These clocks were very popular across the generations; they kept the time on farms throughout France. Comtoise clocks were also exported to other countries in Europe and even further, to the Ottoman Empire and as far as Thailand. The metal mechanism was usually protected by a wooden sheath.

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