“In order to fully comprehend the art of living it is perhaps necessary to have spent some time among the French” – Robert Adam. Birds sing, the morning sun gently touches the leaves of the large plantain trees dominating the spacious front garden, while the Provencal stone mas stands ever watching over the centuries. Built in the early 1800s in the days of Napoleon, the farmhouse has seen many changes during its lifetime.
Initially accommodating the farm labourers, barn animals and hay loft, the farmhouse was eventually acquired by Philippe and Sylvie and their loving hands haves since brought the home to a new life full of love and joy, shared first with their children and now their grandchildren. The barn has morphed into a comfortable living room with sunken floor and fireplace, the hay loft into a bedroom, and the kitchen relocated.
This home is full of heart – and the heart of the home is the kitchen where meals suitable for the table of a Michelin star restaurant are produced. Fundamental to this is the ‘Les Pianos Gastronomes’ Lacanche cooker; a wooden chopping block integrated into the stone bench top; shelves laden with beautifully illustrated recipe books, and the close-at-hand fresh herbs and vegetables.
You do not have to look far to find a continuing theme of hearts, and each heart has a story to tell. The Bienvenue (Welcome) heart on the door of the guest room was given to the couple’s daughter when she first left home as a student, another a fresh moss heart received from a friend. Philippe has made wire hearts where ivy weaves outside in the garden; others were made for their son’s wedding. “This simple and pure shape, a symbol of love and peace – it is so important to have this in us,” says Sylvie.
Furniture pieces are understated – the walnut armoire in the dining room is a meuble de famille (family heirloom), the former post office timber filing cabinets with small drawers and pigeon holes house all manner of curiosities. The inspiration for the decoration comes purely from ‘coup de coeur’ – to fall in love with that particular ‘something’. The bathroom basin from Portugal was acquired whilst on holidays, two years prior to purchasing the house in 1989. The owners have no desire to live in a museum and as a result there is a minimum of clutter.
Sylvie’s couture skills, acquired from her grandmother who worked for Christian Dior, have diversified to include plastering the walls in the renovated home, making clay roof decorations to replace those broken, creating a bamboo bedhead from the garden, making preserves and jams, and cross stitch. Enjoying the Provencal sun while it shines is obligatory. Stylish outdoor settings grace each side of the home, allowing for alfresco dining at any time of the day. This home with heart continues to be a magnet for the extended family, and Sylvie and Philippe would have it no other way.
Words and images by Janine Waters