La Min-sú de Terrasson

retreat, reflect, refresh

Our story

Our story began in the mid-nineties when we met as students. Sze studied at the European Dance Development Centre and Joost studied Natural Resources Management in Arnhem, The Netherlands.

After finishing our studies Sze went back to Hong Kong while Joost worked in Botswana and the Philippines where he worked with indigenous peoples on the sustainable use of their natural resources (Sze joined him after married). Afterwards we lived in a remote part of Ghana where Joost worked on resolving resources conflicts in and around national parks.

Ten years later we moved to Hong Kong so Sze could pursue her interests in art and dance. Sze founded Breeze Across Us, a dance troupe experimenting with the relationship between dance and the sensory. Sze received the Hong Kong Dance award in 2004, and Special Award for HK Dance Film Maker in 2008.

Another 10 years on, and we were evaluating our lives again. We sought a way to create a space to share our experiences. After travelling through North-East Asia the idea of a retreat or min-sú started to take shape, but one with a twist...

We found an old house in a small French town that could provide space, it just needed a little work... Our renovation year.

dance minsu on facebook

Watch the video: Dancing with the min-sú!!! (on our facebook page)

Our renovation year

After our search for the house in 2013 we zoomed-in on two possibilities in the town of Terrasson. In early 2014 we spent a month making arrangements, and were able to return for the final signing and hand-over after 3 months.

As the house was old and in very bad condition we had to restore it, and in the process upgrade and put in place facilities that meet the standards for a modern min-sú.

Please find below our month by month '(b)log-book' with pictures that illustrate the extent and amount of work we undertook.

We are ready!

July 2015

Dotting the i's and crossing the t's

June 2015

Awaiting the work on the shower rooms we completed our renovation year and got an extra month to finalize the details for opening.

We got some help again with the cushions and curtains. The last wall and ceiling in the living room were painted. The space under the stair (Harry Potter's room) was turned into a wine cellar, the metal railing of the stair to the actual cellar was stripped and painted. Plinths were fitted, treated and installed, lots of things to 'finish'.

The fireplace got its last layer of paint as the living room took shape. Some of our Ghanaian furniture pieces found their place and we could finally start to unpack our books and CDs. We confirmed our first bookings, and will be open for business in July!

Our renovation year is coming to a close

May 2015

Looking back at a full year, we could have almost closed the renovation phase and opened the minsu. But some design trouble with the showers made our initial repair measures futile. We will have to postpone the opening for a few weeks to allow a serious overhaul.

When it became clear we would have to wait for professional help with the showers, it also took some of the time pressure off. We were granted more time to finish the deck, kitchen, entrance and dining room. The extra time proved a blessing as it allowed for some extra work to purpose build a space for our collection of African beer pots.

The dining room saw the unveiling of the table and chairs we bought half a year ago as a carpenter in the next village (5 kilometers to our west) was preparing to close his workplace. The table is made of 'Perigord oak' from the sawmill about 5 kilometers to our south, where the sawmill harvests trees at a radius of 20 kilometers in any direction. It is a chunky and heavy table, so it would not do for the carpenter to transport it much further.

The pre-existing cabinet got re-done showcasing the ' Limoges' tableware we found at a secondhand store. Once a blooming industry, it's now more of a fading memory...

Two upper floors down (and the down floor's up)

April 2015

The month started with the help of Joost's parents and brought us to the Netherlands to buy a nice car. But back in France the administrative hassles started again... Nice weather allowed for the garden deck to finish and flowering plants for the summer to be planted.

In the house the first floor got finished, all painted and initial problems with the showers fixed. The washing machine connected and quite some work in putting all finishings in place. But with the beds prepared the min-su is starting to take shape.

The unpacking of our African stuff, some stored for many years, is like meeting 'old friends'. The kitchen arrived and is all boxed-up awaiting our attention..

Entering the 'home stretch'

March 2015

The last month saw quite some progress: on the bureaucratic front we celebrated Sze's residence card, and with the basic functionality of the house in place, a home starts to take shape.

But in reaching this stage we had to finalize lots of 'small things'. Chris tied all the electricity together, and with help of Joost's parents we put in place the windowsills, framed the back windows, put up the heaters... Joost's parents had worked on the 'Persian' shutters for the first floor at home, and put on the last layer of paint before hanging. We still have to clean the outside wall and the flower boxes await to complete.

With the first floor in base-paint we put the last pieces of ceiling in place and Sze continued her battle at the ground floor. First preparations for the garden deck were made, exciting to see how things come together...

Light at the end of the tunnel

February 2015

February saw some progress on the bureaucratic front and quite some progress in the house. We finally managed to get Sze into the French insurance system (after 5 months), we have a letter to 'attest' to the fact ; the actual card might take years...

We hired professionals to tile the 'a la Italien' bathrooms with actual Italian tiles, and some nice detailing on the drains. With the washing basins and toilets in place they now await the fittings and final touches. Sze finished the first floor walls and ceilings including the technically demanding arch. Joost finished the stairwell, got up the ground floor walls and started with the ceilings. Still a lot of filling and finishing, but at least the outlines are becoming clear, and there is an end in sight.

We made a trip to Bordeaux to find furniture, before the car developed a technical fault which turned out to be too expensive to fix. After a few days grounded, we borrowed a car, but will have to take some time off the coming month to look for the mini-van (pick up & drop off guests) we had planned to buy after all the work (heavy/dirty and potentially damaging transport) is over.

Grinding on...

January 2015

The New Year took-off were the last one ended. After celebrating the finalization of the studio we got back into what seems to become an 'endless' routine.

The walls for the first floor were up. To put up the ceilings all electric, water and air pipes had to be in place, which ate the second 300 meters of wire. And all these surfaces had to be filled, sandpapered and finished.

But we got the ceilings up as planned, and the bathrooms are ready for tiling. We also used the 'New Year's Clearance Sales' to buy some nice things at good prices. Our struggle with the local bureaucracy continues...

Two steps forward one step back...

December 2014

December proved to be a 'short month', especially consumed by bureaucratic 'problems' that dragged us away from the house. But we managed to finish the studio, though the filling, sanding and painting took a long time.

We got some tips and new materials that made the work on the other floors much easier. Cleaning the filler and paint from the wooden beams proved a challenge... the results are all worth it.

The fire place got its insulation and cover, topped off with an appropriately sized Christmas card from our 8-year-old nephew and home-made decorations. Our walnuts were sufficiently dry to provide a 'Christmassy' atmosphere.

The studio, fire place and guest rooms take shape

November 2014

Work on the studio continued, the ceilings and walls needed filling, finishing and sanding to prepare for paint. Sze took the lead.

As winter is approaching a new pipe was installed to line the chimney, the wood stove set up and the fireplace rebuilt to fit the stove safely. We still wait for the firewood to arrive, but have quite some leftover bits to burn in the meantime.

Work on the guestrooms also started by lining the outside walls, rebuilding the interior walls and mixing the concrete for the bathroom floors. Lots of water, drainage and electricity to put in place on this floor.

We hope to pull all of this together in December... including the ground floor. To be continued...

Treating floors and starting work on studio

October 2014

The new floors need three layers of 'glass' and sanding between each layer. Lucky enough Joost's parents have lent a hand.

After the floors were treated and the glass hardened, they were covered with temporary protection.

Rebuilding started in the dance studio: walls and ceilings got isolation for climate and sound. Mirrors were installed on one of the walls.

New floors, wiring and drainage

September 2014

The existing floors were in various stages of decay. New floors were constructed at all three levels and so the studio got its hollow floor.

As the middle of the house had sunk significantly over the centuries, there was space to put new wires and drainage between the old and the new floors.

With the ground floor opened the new support pillars were installed to make sure the weight of the new bath rooms could be supported.

New windows and doors

August 2014

After chipping away the plaster the natural stone walls were sand blasted, and filled. A lot of work but the results are very rewarding.

Windows and doors were installed by a qualified carpenter; the strangely filled-up window was opened up, though this required some changes in the existing stairs.

As required by the local planning ordinance the doors and windows are in wood, though due to the new double glass some changes to the exterior are allowed for the benefit of the general environment.

Structural works

July 2014

With all the junk out of the way we got a better idea of the general condition of the house. Structurally it's not too bad, actually chipping away the plaster revealed some beautiful natural stone walls, but also some surprises... the back of the house was built using a wooden frame.

At the ground floor some 50 years ago (or so), washing basins had been mounted, and water had seeped into the wall ever since. It was judged necessary to erect a new wall, and to do so we had to construct a new concrete beam to spread the weight.

Some of the wooden floor beams could do with support work, and two new wooden support pillars were ordered for the ground floor.

Cleaning, breaking and stripping

June 2014

After some 3 months arranging the paperwork we could at last sign the final contract and were handed the keys. First official act was to attach our names on the door, a condition for receiving mail in France.

After that the real work started: digging through a century of dust and dirt, stripping / breaking / chipping away the added layers.

And all the rubbish had to be transported to the environmental facility, sorted by category: metal, organic, glass, stone, chemical, and lots of undefinable sooth...

The house as we found it

February 2014

Though the house was still occupied, nothing had happened to it for some 20 or so years (except collecting lots of dirt), but as they say: 'you have to see through that'...

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