02 January 2011

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!!!!!!!