Grand Designs Creuse

Restoring Chez Jallot in France

Deni Daniel and Doug Ibbs turned a dilapidated manor house in Creuse into a B&B

By Laura Snoad |

Chez Jallot in Creuse, France, was constructed around 1870. Deni Daniel and Doug Ibbs bought the manor house in 2003 for £36,000, and embarked on transforming it into a B&B with four en-suite bedrooms and two self-contained ‘gites’. Here, Deni shares her Grand Designs Creuse experience and her top tips for renovating abroad.

What’s your advice for those wanting to tackle a Grand Designs project?

Just go for it. We get a lot of people here who spend years traipsing around house-hunting, but you just need to think about what you actually need.

Don’t be seduced by a grand building with huge acreages of land, which is quite cheap – it will cost a lot of money to renovate. We know quite a few people who have discovered that the beams of their massive house are rotten, and the roof has had to come off.

Manor house exterior with blue railings and balcony

Deni and Doug’s Grand Designs French manor house in Creuse. Photo: Mark Luscombe-Whyte

What’s the best way to find a property abroad?

Visit the country you’re looking to buy in and rent somewhere for a month or so. By talking to people in the area, you’ll find places that don’t even make it on to the internet.

The Grand Designs French manor country kitchen with mantlepiece

Photo: Mark Luscombe-Whyte

Do you have any advice for renovating abroad?

Go with the local system. We used a French artisan builder who knew the stone and the lie of the land. Some people want to use English builders because they’ll be easier to talk to, but they don’t have local expertise.

We found it was also important to use a French architect. They can draw up plans that will get immediate approval, whereas English architects tend to do things like insert iron girders (frowned upon in France). You’ll end up paying €2,000 to get a French architect to amend them.

Cantered blue bathtub with towel rail in stately home bathroom

Photo: Mark Luscombe-Whyte

How easy is it to manage a project abroad?

In our case, we did it all ourselves, living on site. Dealing with local artisans and architects, you’re much better off doing it directly rather than bringing in an English project manager.

The Grand Designs French manor house valley view

Photo: Mark Luscombe-Whyte

What are the highlights of living in France?

It’s great to have a house that’s big enough to invite the whole family round – we have about 11 bedrooms. We also get to meet people from all over the world. I would say that 95% of our guests know the property from the TV programme – the first question is always, ‘What’s Kevin really like?’.

Cat in library in stately home wood table

Photo: Mark Luscombe-Whyte

Have you changed anything since the show?

There was a decrepit barn to the side of the house, and it came to the point where we needed either to knock it down or build it back up. Doug had always wanted to build a timber-framed house, so he repaired the barn and built two timber holiday flats within it. The wood came from three miles along the road.

The Grand Designs French manor, wood burning stove and reading nook armchair

Photo: Mark Luscombe-Whyte

Any plans for another project?

In two weeks’ time we’re celebrating having lived here for 10 years – we always said this would be our 10-year project. If someone came along and loved the house as much as we do, I think we would sell it and do another project; a smaller one, but locally. Not so local that we could see this house, though – that would be heartbreaking!

Garden exterior in French stately home with flowers and stone walls

Photo: Mark Luscombe-Whyte

Grand Design Creuse homeowner profile

  • Who are the Grand Designers? Deni Daniel and her partner Doug Ibbs
  • Where is Chez Jallot? Creuse, central France
  • When did the episode air? Grand Designs Abroad, Series one, May 2006 – watch the 2014 revisit episode on Channel 4