23 March 2008

SPRING FEVER AND THE SOUTH OF FRANCE

 

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With the gorgeous weather that Houston has been enjoying (and let us please enjoy our few days of gorgeous weather!) spring fever is definitely in the air.   Now that Daylight Savings Time is in effect, thoughts of roses and bluebonnets and hydrangeas are replacing those of roaring fires and early, dark nights.   It's time to start planting spring gardens and planning summer vacations.   Those who are lucky to be taking a trip to France this summer, might just want to think about visiting St. Remy de Provence.   A small hamlet built on Roman ruins in the south of France, St. Remy is where Europeans of means have summer homes and where American tourists come to soak up the sun and  go antiquing in the surrounding areas.   It is here that Diana, the Princess of Wales, was once rumored to be buying a summer house and it is here where  Princess Caroline of Monaco and her children came following the death of her second husband.  The famous seer Nostradamus was born in St. Remy.  And it's most famous resident, Vincent Van Gogh, was treated for mental illness at a psychiatric center here.   Another famous summer resident is Pierre Berge, longtime partner and once lover of Yves St. Laurent.  Berge  has spent the last two decades remodeling and refurbishing the two homes and gardens that make up his summer estate.  Originally, the estate consisted of the Farmhouse Theo only.   Over time, neighboring gardens were added.  In 2002, another addition brought the Farmhouse Vincent (the houses are, of course, named after Van Gogh and his brother) into the property.  Berge hired the architect Hugues Bosc and landscape designer Michel Semini to make the disparate farmhouses and gardens into one glorious country estate.   Here, thanks to Cote Sud and the photographer Nicolas Matheus , are pictures of his summer paradise:

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The Farmhouse Vincent, the larger of the two, is built of native limestone.  Note the quaint birdcage and white doves on the right.  I love the potted plants going up the stairs on the left.

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A covered porch serves as an outdoor dining area.  Today, the famous pink roses of the estate are being arranged on the metal garden table.

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The property is made up of two houses surrounded by extensive gardens.  Here, to the right, is the smaller farmhouse "Theo."  The pool house, with arched doorways,  over looks the "Pink Garden"  and swimming pool.    At the left, a statue, Neptune, surrounded by yellow irises, was purchased at Sotheby's in New York.  

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The farmhouse "Vincent" overlooks the aromatic gardens with views to the Alpilles mountains.

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An arbor holds up the estate's famous pink roses, Pierre de Ronsard, which are planted throughout the property.  Note the candle lanterns that light the way at night.

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In the large living room of the Farmhouse Vincent, slipcovered furniture is by Christian Liaigre.  The floor is made up of ancient Burgundy flagstone. Most interesting are the niches that are carved into the walls flanking the fireplace.

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The kitchen at Farmhouse Vincent has cabinets made of stained glass.

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The smaller Farmhouse Theo is more provencal in appearance and furnishings than Farmhouse Vincent.  The furniture came from nearby antique haunts.  The plate above the mantel is signed by Picasso.  I love the traditional French decor in this room.

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A bed is piled high with typical provencal quilts or boutis.

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Portrait of St. Joseph and the armoire were found at Isle-on-the-Sorgue,the famous antique destination in the region.

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The bathroom has a tiled floor and claw foot tub.  I love the European bath fittings, including the sponge and soap holder across the tub.

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Under the shade of old mulberry trees, a long cement bench is made more comfortable with antique Army mattresses.

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An antique cement pergola is set in the gardens outside the Farmhouse Theo.  Lunch and dinner are often served here.

 

Apparently,  Pierre Berge has decided to spend more time at his St. Remy country estate.  He recently sold his American Pied a Terre, located in the Pierre Hotel, NYC.  The $7,500,000 (plus monthly maintenance fees of $7,080)  abode was designed by a trio of famous men:  Jacques Grange, Peter Marino, and the late Jed Johnson (wonder how that went down and who did what?)  Interestingly enough, Berge, partner and former lover of Yves St. Laurent, sold the apartment to Giancarlo Giametti, the business and life partner of Valentino.  Thanks to the Real Estalker for the information.

 

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View of Central Park from Berge's Pierre apartment.

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The entry hall of the apartment.  Mahogany woodwork creates a masculine club-like atmosphere.  The bench is a gorgeous antique.

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The living room with French empire antiques and blue leather upholstered sofa!

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One of two master bedrooms.  This bedroom has a gorgeous antique rug.

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Whereas this master bedroom has a leopard carpet!   Notice how the bathroom door is screened off.

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Both bathrooms are fitted out with marble and mahogany.

Need I ask?  If you won the lotto, which property would you buy:  The  St. Remy country estate OR the Pied a Terre at The Pierre Hotel in New York City?   I'm sure I don't have to tell you MY choice!