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French style

4 July 2018

When Belgian couple Anita and Carlo took on this 18th century house in the south of France their mission was to turn it from a near-ruin into a stunning holiday home for themselves.

Two years later, they were still renovating.

But after the work was finally completed in 2015, and they had made the permanent move from Belgium, they were left with an enviable villa sitting on a hillside in rural Provence. 

Their home, named 'Villa Germaine' was originally built for the marquis of Lyon. It now stands as an excellent example of classic French interior style and is open as a boutique guest house for people looking to experience some southern sun.

Interiors editor Rory Robertson takes a tour of this hidden gem and tells us how to recreate its fail-safe, French interior style.

Living room

When it comes to the upholstery of larger furniture items, such as sofas and armchairs, seek inspiration from the living room of Villa Germaine and opt for a natural canvas, cotton or linen mix fabric finish with comfortable deep seating. Avoid high or upright sofas and choose something that's a simple, classic shape that allows you to sit back and slouch, like our Farrell Sofa.

You will notice there's hardly any contrasting colour in this room - to achieve a similar look, simply stick to a white, neutral paint palette. If you feel the need to add warmth, use hints of natural wood. Keep it casual and choose an item of furniture with a slightly rustic finish to add in to the mix, such as our Bronx and Brooklyn pieces.

Just because we're sticking strictly to a neutral decor doesn't mean that you can't have some fun with accessories. Look out for statement pieces that you can display, such as a collection of interesting neutral-coloured vases or, like Anita and Carlo, rest artwork to create interest and achieve impact. Hints of pretty flora and fauna carved detailing, like on the  console table seen above, can also be worked into the look if you want to add depth to the decor. For an item with a similar look and detail try our floor standing Isabella mirror - it definitely has an essence of Gallic charm and makes a great statement in the living room.



The study

A desk creates a sacrosanct writing space within one of the smaller rooms at Villa Germaine, the study. Not only is it a useful place to work from, but also a wonderful space to sit back with a book.

Not all of us have a room that we can dedicate to housing a work area, but a desk can quite often be incorporated into an existing bedroom or living room, just by rearranging the layout slightly and prioritising a small zone for working.

Display your books on a shelving unit nearby and keep stationery and knick-knacks to a minimum so that you can work and read clutter-free.

Top tip: edit your shelving display so that it's not too overcrowded with objects, otherwise it can start to resemble a jumble sale.


Bedroom boutique

And relax. A boutique bedroom should offer you the ultimate in relaxing spaces. It should be inviting, tranquil and calming. The bedrooms at Villa Germaine offer just that. They have simple elegance, largely due to their neutral decoration. Design ideas, such as the large-scale bedside lamps offer a sense of upscale boutique hotel style. Layer your bedding up, just as Anita and Carlo have done, and keep any presence of modern technology and noise to an absolute minimum. As a finishing touch add a scented candle or diffuser.



The kitchen

The kitchen at Anita and Carlo's villa is typically provensal and made from a mix of characterful reclaimed and new cupboards. The open shelving provides a great way to display a collection of ceramic and everyday kitchen essentials. Just remember to maintain the restricted cream and white colour palette when choosing plates and crockery and you can't really go wrong.

Glassware should be kept equally neutral with clear tumbler and highball styles.

If you have room in your kitchen, then consider adding in similar shelving or a glass fronted cabinet, like our Huntingdon, to house your collection of crockery. It's an effortlessly chic way of showing off dinnerware and proves a highly practical form of grab-and-go style kitchen storage for families.


Al fresco living

Villa Germaine is positioned in an elevated hillside spot with an imposing flight of stairs to the front door. There are various elements to the gardens, one of which includes this intimate courtyard setting, perfect for outdoor living. Take advantage of outdoor space whenever possible and be à la carte-ready with a smart little bistro table set such as the Rive Droite. It really spruces up a bijou outdoor space or balcony.

Store-away in the garden shed during winter months or flatpack into a cupboard or under the bed if you're tight on space.

It's a highly practical addition and entry into al fresco living.



Possibly the pièce de rèsistance of the villa - the rather inviting, secluded outdoor swimming pool. Descending the spiral staircase from the upper courtyard level, you can take in the views across to the village of Chàteauneuf-de-Gadagne. Lazing by the pool or beach is, for many, the ultimate relaxation on holiday. Just remember to take a fresh new towel as part of your holiday packing. There's also an outdoor family dining area which enjoys spectacular vistas over Provence.

Image credits:

Bieke Claessens

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