When the interior designer Suzy Dallas approached me to write the copy for her villa website I couldn’t believe how lucky I was – gazing upon beautiful images of interiors, taken by Nicholas Yarsley, and then dreaming up just the right words to go with them. The website is live now and after enjoying this work so much, I now cannot wait to get stuck into more content and copy-writing projects of this kind!
The interiors writer in me cannot resist collecting images of beautiful buildings. Was captivated by these houses on northern French coast..
It’s that time of year again, when we all start dreaming where we’ll go in the summer. I know my thoughts have already turned to the little place we stay in every year on the west coast of France. I took these images last year in the hope they encompass the espirit cabane, one of those French sayings that are hard to sum up – it means fun and freedom and a simpler life. We stumbled upon the property by accident a few years ago and booked it without seeing the interior, expecting the usual brown and yellow flat-pack horror. Imagine our surprise, then, when we opened the door to find the following…I was especially intrigued by the paint colour used on the doors and later discovered (with a bit of help from Cote Ouest magazine) that it is called Atlantic Grey. It’s a colour made for the wild west coast of France but one I’m still determined to incorporate into my own home, if only just to steal a little more of the wonderful cabane spirit!
Standing before Monet’s waterlillies in the Orangerie in Paris is almost a spiritual experience. How could a man who was nearly blind have produced such perfect, beautiful work? Like most people who have been inspired by this artist I was desperate to visit Giverny, the house and garden where, despite the endless tramp of visitors, you can see the views which inspired Monet and even stand upon his Japanese bridge. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to do just that. Yes, there are hundreds of people. But the power and force of this artist is such that despite all this, you can still detect the very beat of his heart.
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.
It may still be January but that’s never to early for me to start thinking about my birthday next month and what I’d like to receive as a present! And what I’d really like is a subscription to Maisons Cote Ouest, which is my favourite French holiday read. The Cote Maison group of magazines focus exclusively on distinct areas of France, East (Est), the south (Sud) and Paris (the capital and the north). It’s a fascinating way to learn more about the architecture, customs and what’s going on in specific areas of France.
My French isn’t brilliant but ploughing through the articles certainly helps improve it and the photos are wonderful, especially when they visit a house you’ve glimpsed as you walk or drive by. I hope someone in present-buying mode sees this…