French Essence: My French Life

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Mas de Bernard – the centuries old country farmhouse in Provence that author Vicki Archer completely restored.  Above, a dining table hides under the vine covered pergola.   The house is so wide, it’s hard to get it all in one photograph:  the façade continues to the direct left – seen in the next picture!

 

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Another view of  Mas de Bernard:   here the photograph shows how this rough stone faced building connects to the smooth faced façade of the photo above.

 

New Years Day 2011 has come and gone, and hopefully everyone settled in for the weekend!  I know we were feeling cozy here in Houston around the fireplace.  Thinking of something to start the new year with, I came up with the newest Skirted Roundtable interview with author Vicki Archer of  the French Essence blog.   I first heard about Vicki and her fabulous life a few  years ago from the Australian blogger Absolutely Beautiful Things.  I then ordered her book, My French Life, and wrote about it back in 2009.   Vicki’s first book was followed up last year with her latest - French Essence.   Both books are filled with the exquisitely beautiful photographs of Vicki’s friend Carla Coulson (most of the photos shown today are by Carla.)   I was thrilled to have Vicki on the Skirted Roundtable if only to have the chance to show you some photographs of her fabulous house! 

Vicki lives a life that most of us can only dream about.  Born in Australia, her husband and three children were living in Sydney when they took a vacation to Provence in 1999.  A quick visit to see a decrepit farmhouse totally changed her life.   The 17th century house, Mas de Bernard, stands on 50 acres and was once an fruit farm.   But when Vicki first saw it, it was a complete wreck.  The house had been added onto over the centuries and parts of the farmhouse are estimated to be over 500 years old.   Vicki immediately fell in a trance when she first saw the property and without much thought, it was quickly purchased.   She can not explain the intense attraction except to say it was love at first sight.  Indeed, she can not logically explain what made her decide to totally uproot her life – all for a run down farm, but this is exactly what she did.  After buying Mas de Bernard, the family next moved from Australia to London in order to be closer to France.   It took three years before the restoration was complete enough so that the family could even move in.   Today, they still technically live in London where her husband works, but holidays and summers are spent in Saint-Remy-de-Provence.  The change in their lives has been profound.  The family did not even speak French when they became farm owners, though since, they have learned the romantic language.  Vicki’s three children have now left the nest and she spends even more time in France.  Today, the property is a successful, working olive farm.  Their olive trees are a major concern – along with her helpers, Vicki picks the olives herself, a back-breaking process that takes up to a month to complete. 

How many of us have ever dreamed of following our hearts and picking up roots?   It’s amazing to think that Vicki with 3 young children and a husband, moved halfway across the world – all for the love of a run down farmhouse.    This is her story – as told to the Skirted Roundtable.

                               

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In a winter snow, the house looks magical.   Le Coup de Foudre – Vicki’s motto:  The thunderbolt or being struck by a love at first sight.

 

 

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A concrete river, or rill, runs from the house down to a fountain. 

 

 

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The concrete river, or rill, ends in a circular pond.   The property is surrounded by the picturesque Alpilles mountain range.  Beyond the lavender garden are the olive trees.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here, next to the flowering garden is the front entrance to Mas de Bernard.

 

 

 

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The front doors, framed in roses, urns, and lanterns. 

 

 

 

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Inside, the stone stairs are dressed for Christmas.   Simple votives rest underneath a gorgeous gilt antique mirror.

 

 

 

 

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Vicki’s living room has been through many different arrangements.  An early picture shows the beautiful doors and staircase in the back, flanked with contemporary bookcases.  

 

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The blog Absolutely Beautiful Things showed this view of Vicki’s living room – with matching sofas.   Today the room looks entirely different.  I love how Vicki is just like all of us – always rearranging things.

 

 

 

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Here is the living room restyled with the silk striped sofa and two chairs and yellow ottomans.   The matching mirrors flanking the fabulous fireplace are a constant, as are the matching glass coffee tables.  Notice the stone floors and the ceiling beams (seen in the mirrors.)   What a fabulous room!

 

                                                                                                                 vickiarcher2Redesigned again, here the gateleg table is moved into the fireplace area and the two chairs are separated.   The contemporary painting has been removed and lamps are added onto the side tables.  I love this arrangement – especially with the gilded candlesticks and canon balls.   So beautiful.

 

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Vicki recently showed this picture of her Christmas decorations.  And wow – things have really changed again!  The oriental rug is gone in favor of this monochromatic one.   The furniture has been recovered with a cream colored fabric.  There is now a contemporary print above the fireplace.  All the creams really make such a difference.  It just looks so beautiful.    Also, I had never realized that there was this fabulous steel window/door in the room.

 

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In this photograph, Vicki shows her trio of Martini tables sitting next to one of the newly recovered chairs.

 

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The dining room – here terracotta tiles cover the floor.   I love how all the rooms have such great fireplaces.

 

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Vicki’s kitchen has a extra long, fabulous table in the middle of the room.  Notice the cabinetry.   There are no upper ones either!   The groined ceiling is especially wonderful.  Can you imagine cooking in this room??  I think even I would love to cook here!

 

 

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Looking the other way towards the cabinet.

 

 

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A stone eutility sink is perfect for gardening.   Love this!

 

 

 

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This bedroom has an antique French headboard, covered in Bennison.  Sigh.   That side table, the mirror, the lampshade!

 

 

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A close up look at the same room.  Notice the urn in the niche, instead of shelves – love that idea.

 

 

 

 

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A peek at the master bedroom with its fabulous headboard and duvet.   Unreal!

 

 

 

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Here is a close up of the same room.   Vicki has such great style.  I could be very happy waking up in this room each morning!

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

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My favorite:  her daughter’s bedroom with an antique bed with its original damask fabric and bedspread.   I adore the chair and the night table too.   Perfection!!!!

 

 

 

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Outside:  Vicki took this picture one morning.  Here a table is set up next to the rill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Snowy white upholstery covers these day beds set up on the terrace.   Such beautiful landscaping.  

 

 

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And the same terrace set up for a party for Vicki’s daughter. 

 

 

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I love this picture:   the daybeds are styled for an afternoon party.   Soooo cute!!!

 

 

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A rose covered pergola.

 

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Next to the pond, more styled daybed seating.   Notice the hammock at the back corner.  So dreamy. 

 

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A view of the mountains and an old stone house on the property.   Too beautiful!  I’m not sure I could ever leave and go back to England.

 

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The lavender garden with the olive trees in back.   Carla Coulson is such a great photographer.   How would you like this to be your view out your windows??  Can you imagine???  Wow.

 

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The very same view in winter:  olive tree orchard is in the back; the lavender garden, and pruned plane trees in the front.  Even in the dead of winter, the view is still spectacular.

 

 

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Here’s the photographer, Carla Coulson walking with her Italian groom to their Parisian wedding.  I love how fashionable she looks here – including the shoes and leopard hat.  Tres chic.  To read her blog and see her web site, go HERE

 

 

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Vicki’s first book:  My French Life.   All photographs by Carla Coulson.

 

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And her newest book, French Essence, again with photographs by Carla Coulson.

 

 

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To listen to the new Skirted Roundtable with Vicki Archer, please go HERE.  

 

To purchase either of Vicki’s books, just click on the title you want below:

 

       My French Life           

 

 

 

To go to the Skirted Roundtable interview with Vicki, go HERE. 

 

AND, here’s wishing all of you and yours a happy, safe and healthy 2011!!!!!!!

 

 

WOW!!!!!!

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Thank You!!!!

 

A huge, huge thank you to all who so kindly donated to the Woodbourne Christmas Wish List.   Together, bloggers and readers raised over $10,000.00!! 

Last year we raised over $6,000, so this year’s increase is all the more special given the poor economic climate. 

Thank you, again, for opening your hearts and wallets.

 

 

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To read about Woodbourne or to donate, please go HERE

Before and After Lessons

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December is a lonely month for Jewish bloggers.   All the other bloggers are busy showing off their holiday finesse, while we sit in the darkness literally and figuratively.   Who knew that when we signed that covenant with God all those eons ago, we were forever signing away our right to evergreen trees and twinkling lights?    Even though I can’t indulge in the fun, I certainly appreciate its beauty.    One of this season’s prettier, yet very understated and modest holiday displays, was seen in this month’s Veranda.

 

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Poor, lonely Hanukkah Harry!

 

The cottage shown in Veranda was designed by Lisa Luby Ryan of Dallas, Texas.  An interior designer, Lisa is also the well known owner of the décor shop Vintage Living HERE, and is a designer for Arteriors.   Through the years, Lisa has garnered much press – her own house has been published several times, beginning when she was into the cluttered English Country Manor look.  Today, Belgian and Sweden are her countries of choice.

 

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Lisa Luby Ryan’s Vintage Living features Swedish and Belgian furniture, new and old. 

 

The Veranda holiday house only shows glimpses of the cottage designed by Lisa  – not nearly enough to satisfy.   The closely cropped photographs leave you wanting to see more of these quietly elegant rooms.   Luck would have it that the Vintage Living web site does show the entire house – before and after – a sort of tutorial as to what to do when remodeling a bungalow with priceless antiques.

The house, built in 1951, is located in Highland Park West, in Dallas, Texas.  It is a mere 1,600 square feet with just one bedroom – a second bedroom was turned into a dining room.   The new homeowner was recently divorced from a man who didn’t like antiques, so this house was her first chance to decorate for herself and herself only.   She chose Lisa Luby Ryan to help after visiting Vintage Living, where much of the furniture and accessories were ultimately purchased.  The pair also took two trips to the South of France in search of antiques.   The change is substantial, only four pieces remained from the homeowner’s previous possessions.    The house also underwent structural changes with a new dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and back porch – along with its own fireplace.   The homeowner is thrilled with her new décor – she stayed at a hotel for a few days while Lisa put it all together for the “big reveal.”    Lisa also installed the Christmas finery at the same time to coincide with the magazine photoshoot. 

 

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From Lisa’s web site:   the bungalow started out with red brick which Lisa painted white.  A wooden gate was added to create a front courtyard.

 

 

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The Veranda spread opens with a tantalizingly unfocused Swedish desk and chair.

 

 

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Veranda:  next, this glimpse of a peeling painted Swedish day bed leaves you wanting to see more! 

The tree and presents were color coordinated to the house décor.  Lisa was insistent there be no typical red and green scheme. 

I love the burlap bags and the Tiffany blue boxes – so cute!!!!!

 

 

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Here is a picture of the entire living room.   Long and narrow, the soothing room is broken into two sitting areas by the Swedish day bed. 

Another pair of matching arm chairs are seen on the opposite side by the fireplace.  

The chairs’ tall backs bring a much needed vertical element to the long horizontal room.

 

 

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Veranda:  a close up of the blue chest that sits opposite the front door in the middle of the living room.   I love all the holiday flower arrangement – they aren’t the typical usually seen.

 

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The Swedish day bed divides the room into two seating areas.   A large seagrass rug covers the hardwood floors.  At the window are printed fabric curtains – the same fabric is used in the living room and dining room for continuity. 

 

 

 

 

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Here you can see the antique French wine tasting table used as a coffee table.  

The surprise is the modern art work – whose colors are just perfect in this room.

 

 

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In these pictures you can see exactly what Lisa did to transform the room.  The mantel is an addition, as are the window treatments.  The walls appear to be painting a very light blue. 

 

 

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The opposite end of the long living room.  Here you can see the dining room through the antique wood doors purchased in France.

The dining room was once a bedroom.     Pictured here are the two other wing chairs, along with a beautiful pair of antique Swedish arm chairs. 

I love the pop of zebra against all the muted colors – Lisa is really great at accents. 

 

 

 

imageVERANDA:   we only got this one small look into the dining room.  

I love the blue and white vases filled with white flowers – such a refreshing change from red and green decoration. 

Notice the framed documents that take up one wall – so interesting.

 

 

 

 

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Here you can see the Belgian styled table with the Swedish dining chairs.

I love the crystal chandelier used with all the rougher elements. 

This room is just so pretty. 

 

 

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Veranda:  Lisa gutted the existing kitchen turning it more into a room with its beautiful cabinets.  

The rough wood table is fabulous paired with all the white marble.  I especially love the silver Louis Philipe mirror over the sink!

The back wall is perfectly symmetrical  - another great detail Lisa added. 

 

 

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In this picture you can see more of the layout.   The wood table is so large and is a very important element in the room.

Just beautiful!

 

 

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The kitchen before.  Here you can see the windows and how they have been changed into doors.   

 

 

 

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One more before and after of the kitchen.   An amazing transformation!!

 

 

 

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Veranda:   The breakfast room as shown in the magazine.  I just love this!!! 

Here’s another look at the antique Swedish sofa and chairs, along with a marble topped iron table.   Beautiful!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

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From Lisa’s web site – a view of the breakfast area, before and after.   It is so elegant!

 

 

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From Lisa’s web site – a view into the lone bedroom in the house.  Simple elegance.

 

 

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Again from Lisa’s web site, the bathroom is remarkable.  Notice the antique doors that close off the vanity area.

The chair wears a darling slipped cushion with ballet leg ties.  Great vanity skirt. 

 

 

 

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The vanity has a sink recessed into a Swedish chest.  Notice the wall treatment – so muted. 

 

 

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And finally, the bath yard with its fabulous fireplace!!!!!  This is like a room itself.  Just wonderful!  

 

 

Lisa Luby Ryan:  Before and After

 

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On Lisa’s web site, there are many pictures from other houses showing before and after.   I really enjoyed seeing these pictures because Lisa is not afraid to make small changes that other designers might let stand and not bother with.  For instance – in this hallway, the décor is fine and doesn’t really need much changing.  But Lisa didn’t agree and went the extra step, which really is much, much nicer:  new lanterns, a set of intaglios, and curtains make a hallway come alive.

 

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In this dining room – the décor was fine, but not to Lisa.  She had the walls painted in a Swedish inspired mural.  She moved the chandelier to another room and installed crystal lights instead.  Next, she slipped the chairs.   The lamps were changed out, as was the screen.   Many designers would have probably kept the dining room as is, but Lisa changed it to bring it up to date. 

 

 

 

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In this vignette – she removed the red and blue oriental rug in favor of a muted textured one.  The TV cabinet was changed out for a painted French version.    The hanging screen from the previous dining room was moved to this room.   Notice in the next room, the brown stone was painted cream.  These changes Lisa made really brings this room up to date.  

 

 

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In this room, Lisa didn’t just redecorate – she changed out the fireplace to make a huge statement.  Then she added antique paned doors.   The bookshelves were updated by adding louvered doors instead of plain cabinet ones.   Many designers would have just changed out the furniture, but Lisa changed the architectural elements to truly make a huge difference.

 

 

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The same room.   I love her slipcovered furniture.  Notice how she fauxed the cabinets to make them look like Belgian limed wood.

 

 

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Here  - a new muted rug, a raw wood table, new velvet slipped chairs, new chandelier and curtains – what a huge change!!!!   The new table makes such a difference in updating the look for today.  Notice the wing chairs – how the pointed wings look so much fresher than the rounded wings from the before picture.  A small detail that makes a big difference. 

 

 

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In this living room – four chairs surrounded an ottoman.  Again, the décor was not bad at all, but Lisa brought it up to date by changing out the rug accented with the zebra.   The framed documents add so much more warmth than the mirror – which I never thought I would say.   The four chairs were moved to the family room – and a sofa and two chairs were added here, along with a Mora clock. 

 

 

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Another view of the same room.   The fireplace looks so much better without that screen!!!  

 

 

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Finally, look at the changes in this entry hall.  The wood floor becomes elegant marble tile.   A muted rug on the stairs tones down the contrast.   The plant is changed out for a collection of shells.   The small pictures are removed to declutter the look.   Small solutions that make up a big difference.

 

 

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Looking at the other wall – this made me really think.   Would I have made the changes that Lisa did?  The console and mirror aren’t bad.  Would I have just let it go because the owner already owned these pieces?   What Lisa replaced the furniture with – a much larger chest that fills out the space much better – a more substantial mirror with sconces – there is no doubt that the space looks much better with what Lisa did.  I would love to see how she presents these changes to her clients:   “what you own is pretty, but I can make it prettier!”    I really admire her work and her skill with her clients.   It’s not easy working with clients, but Lisa certainly knows what to say and knows how to get the job done.  

 

 

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And finally – we are off to the country to celebrate Christmas with Ben’s family.   Here’s wishing you and yours a healthy, happy and safe holidays!!!!