In recent years the idea of French decor has tended to cluster round the statement armoire, the terracotta tiled floors of the classic mas, the ever-so-slightly battered Bergere bed and the monogrammed linen of the chateau. So what a joy, then, to be asked to review Romantic French Homes, the new book by writer Lanie Goodman with photographs by Simon Brown.
Yes, there are plenty of armoires, artifacts and sumptuous parquet on display. But the cliches of French decor are left far behind as they take you to assorted chateaux, bastides, and maisons bohemes and paysannes, spanning the entire breadth and width of the nation. Because there is no singular French style; how can there be when to live in France can mean anything from occupying a giant rural mansion, hunkering down in an Alpine village, to seeking shelter from the searing summers of Provence?
This book lays out the true spirit behind the French way of using their spaces; for cooking, relaxing or formal entertaining. It also takes care to explain how the homes’ various owners created their look. I especially liked the restraint shown by French orchestra conductor Emmanuel, in realising that the best thing about his Montmartre atelier was its view of the Sacre Coeur basilica, and arranging his living space accordingly.
Another joy are Lanie’s well-chosen words. Who wouldn’t want to live in a home where; ‘The owners were advised to lime-render the walls with a special mix of lavender and hemp, a frequently used technique of the region’?
If it’s inspiration you seek, or you’re looking to re-create some of what you’ve seen on your French holiday, this is certainly the book to guide your endeavours and nurture your dreams.