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Friday, January 18, 2013

A "Petit Godin" for the Flophouse

As we settle into our new house in Porchefontaine we have one project that is still in progress:  putting in a wood stove (un poêle).

Why do we want one?  Well, we had a tiny fireplace in the old apartment which was utterly useless for heating but was so nice to have on those cloudy, rainy, damp days that are the usual winter weather here in Versailles.

Our house, built in 1929, has two chimneys but no fireplace.  When we drew back the old carpeting on the floor, however, we found spaces (concrete slabs on the floor) where some sort of wood or coal stoves existed at one time.  We found three in all:  one in the living room, one in the dining room and the last in the front bedroom.  From what we know of the house, the old stoves were removed (along with the original wood panelling) and the chimney blocked up sometime in the 1970's during a modernization project.

Since that time other houses have sprung up on either side of ours which means that the original chimney is too short.  We asked for (and received) authorization from the mayor's office here to have it extended.  Our contractor even found us a mason to do the work.

While all this discovery was going on we started looking for a stove.  We drove out to many a showroom in the 78 and consulted with several experts in town.  Quite a selection to choose from these days - what I saw bore no resemblance to the wood stoves of my childhood in the U.S.

But I wasn't very happy with what I found.  The modern ones sure look spiffy but it seems a travesty to put something like that in an 80-year old house and frankly the room is so small that most of them are just too big and give off too much heat.

Then one day around Christmas we were driving through Saint Cyr and we saw a billboard for a shop that specializes in wood stoves.  We stopped and on the second floor I found exactly what I was looking for.

It's called a "Petit Godin."  This is a wood stove first created back in the 1800's and was made and distributed by a company owned by Jean Baptiste André Godin.  This fellow has a fascinating biography.  He was an industrialist/philanthropist and he invented and patented this little cast iron stove, perfect for small spaces, which could be had for a reasonable price.

Believe it or not, they still make them in France.  The showroom in Saint Cyr had several models but I fell in love with the original.  Small (5 kW) and round and fits perfectly in our living room.  Good price, too.  And it appears that this little stove will heat our entire first floor so we can burn a lot less oil.

For those of you who never had the pleasure as a child of being responsible for chopping wood and feeding the family fire as I was, here is a short video that shows how it works.


P Moore said...

Wow, that is absolutely a thing of beauty. Perfect for an older house.

Christophe said...

Very cute. My parents had one. They put it in their relatively small kitchen, and it sometimes got very hot in there. You have to learn how to "regulate" it.

Just me said...

A lot more attractive than my wood burning stove.