Step Inside a French Fairytale Farmhouse

Marie-Caroline gives an old French farm on the outskirts of Bordeaux the charm of poetry, a dreamy aesthetic and a place for childhood memories.

Shabby White French Living Room
Several shades of white, with minimal layers of pink and gray, create a textured and romantic atmosphere in the sitting room.

The French countryside has a dreamy and charming appeal to all who visit. One woman, in particular, went above and beyond to make a French fairytale farmhouse in the small village of Tresses, France her own.

Shabby French Writing Desk
A set of vintage doors make a beautiful backdrop for this desk corner. Their patina adds character to the space and is still a viable surface for the oval portrait frame to be hung.
Shabby French Fireplace
High above the discontinued fireplace, the narrow space between the ceiling beams and wall moulding is cleverly utilized as a bookshelf for assorted antique volumes.

Of Swiss descent, born in Algiers and raised in Nice, Marie-Caroline is a cosmopolitan woman. In her travel journal there have been many destinations and Italy was among her favorites. Fifteen years ago, with the idea of finding a new piece of heaven, Marie-Caroline visited an old 18th-century farmhouse near Bordeaux. It was love at first sight.

 

Shabby French Dining Room
Traditional toile-patterned curtains add color to the room and give this farmhouse a classic French touch, while other items were added for casual comfort, such as the linen bedsheet-turned-tablecloth.

“Strangely, I said yes from the very first moment. I didn’t even take the time to sell my previous home, and I had no idea how I would do it. I did not even have time to warn my husband!” she says. “The interior decoration was in a style typical of the 1970s, an atmosphere that I did not appreciate at all, and it was soon clear that my daughters didn’t either. But this place offered me so many ideas. Everything is so dreamy in here!”

Shabby Vintage French Hutch
Due to its size, this hutch could easily dominate the dining room. However, the wash of pale, matte blue-gray paint gives it a subtle and aged appearance that suites the space without overwhelming.
Shabby Vintage French Dining Room
Surrounded by ornate vintage objects, a white-washed trunk sets a sentimental scene at the fireplace, filled with antique letters, black and white photographs and other mementoes.
A stone skink basin sits above carved cabinet doors with a white-washed and worn patina in this shabby vintage French kitchen.
A stone skink basin sits above carved cabinet doors with a white-washed and worn patina.

Stunning Transformation

Today, there’s very little left of that old, dusty house Marie-Caroline’s daughters disliked. White, chippy furniture; chandeliers and wood floors have replaced the old torn wallpaper and the orange floral carpet. “Everything is a game, and all I do is have fun,” she says. Her playground was ideal: the house, with its solid stones, has kept all its centuries-old charm.

An ornately carved sideboard painted in blue-gray provides extra storage for kitchen necessities.
An ornately carved sideboard painted in blue-gray provides extra storage for kitchen necessities without compromising on Marie-Caroline’s aesthetic.
Surrounded by so much stonework, the glass-toped kitchen table with mismatched chairs, two of wrought iron and two caned wood, adds an airy outdoor feel to the kitchen space.
Surrounded by so much stonework, the glass-toped kitchen table with mismatched chairs, two of wrought iron and two caned wood, adds an airy outdoor feel to the kitchen space that balances the overall look.

Since an object’s usefulness is not a necessity in the rules of the game, everything can become a pretext for her special displays. Objects are found in situations where they wouldn’t normally be, and the beauty justifies it: an old linen bed sheet turns into a tablecloth; a pile of ancient books transforms into a small side table next to the sofa.

Situated opposite the library wall, a cozy offers the perfect spot to read and reflect.
Situated opposite the library wall, a cozy offers the perfect spot to read and reflect.
French Library
Rows and rows of antique books line this wall of shelves, starting at the floor and reaching between the ceiling beams.

The 18th-century farmhouse is ideal for all of Marie-Caroline’s creative ideas. “I dreamed of an old house with stone walls and an upstairs floor. My needs pushed me to prefer charm over volume; this case wanted me to have both,” she says.

Vintage Shabby French Bedroom
“In some of the bedrooms, I covered the plastered walls with a lime-wash paint in a Mediterranean color palette to match the warm tones of the bare stone,” Marie-Caroline says.

Restore and Renovate

As the space already offered a predefined configuration, the charm offered great potential that the homeowner exploited. To achieve this goal, Marie-Caroline took advantage through various discoveries during the renovations. “We discovered, under several layers of plaster and wallpaper, a beautiful blonde stone typical of this region. My original idea was to paint all the walls white, but I immediately stopped the carpenters and asked them to leave the bare stone as it was.” This adds a natural and welcoming feeling, thanks to the warm colors that echo in the interior and on the exterior façade.

A pair of antique and weather-worn salvaged doors create a headboard behind the bed. Purple toile fabric was added to the insets as a fresh update. A swath of the same pattern hangs from the center of the dressing screen.
A pair of antique and weather-worn salvaged doors create a headboard behind the bed. Purple toile fabric was added to the insets as a fresh update. A swath of the same pattern hangs from the center of the dressing screen.

“In some of the bedrooms, I covered the plastered walls with lime-wash paint in a Mediterranean color palette to match the warm tones of the bare stone,” Marie-Caroline says. But the work did not alter the home. “There were no major renovations, only a meticulous restoration of the walls and floors,” she says. “We removed the carpets and exposed the original hardwood floors, and we freed the fireplaces from a faux-wood structure that covered them entirely. The floor of the living and dining rooms have been remade with a rectangular stone.”

Marie-Caroline chose a lacy fabric to surround the bathtub instead of the typical shower curtain. Behind the bathtub, a wall of cerused wood adds another level of texture to the space.
Marie-Caroline chose a lacy fabric to surround the bathtub instead of the typical shower curtain. Behind the bathtub, a wall of cerused wood adds another level of texture to the room.
Canopies are a motif throughout Marie-Caroline's home. The artfully draped fabric adds old-fashioned drama and a cozy, yet luxe, look to each space.
Canopies are a motif throughout the private rooms in Marie-Caroline’s home. The artfully draped fabric adds old-fashioned drama and a cozy, yet luxe, look to each space.

These renovations were enough to restore the ancient atmosphere of the house. “I think I felt the same joy of an archaeologist who digs up hidden treasures,” Marie-Caroline says. “It was so nice to see the house breathe again!”

“My passion for the romantic metamorphosis of things was not transmitted to me by a fairy godmother, but by a benevolent godfather who, as a child, gave me wonderful fairytale books with beautiful illustrations. I dreamed of reproducing their magical atmosphere in my life,” Marie-Caroline says.
“My passion for the romantic metamorphosis of things was not transmitted to me by a fairy godmother, but by a benevolent godfather who, as a child, gave me wonderful fairytale books with beautiful illustrations. I dreamed of reproducing their magical atmosphere in my life,” Marie-Caroline says.

White and Bright

Marie-Caroline wanted bright interiors and predominantly white tones, as she comes from very sunny cities. Her admiration for the arts of the 18th century have progressively oriented her taste toward a style that is at once simple and opulent.

A white ladder acts as makeshift shelving on the upper rungs, with the lower providing a convenient spot to hang blankets.
A white ladder acts as makeshift shelving on the upper rungs, with the lower providing a convenient spot to hang blankets.
A lamp stand assembled from antique books and a vintage suitcase
Marie-Caroline assembled a lamp stand by stacking antique books on top of a vintage suitcase with leather details.

Every detail is a pretext for a new mise en scène, a setting, which is connected to the general atmosphere of the house through one simple guideline. “In my opinion, the basic element of the shabby [décor] style is the white color: It can be [used] in many different shades and can be applied to any support, furniture or object, enriching it with magic,” Marie-Caroline says. This magic is the perfect base for the appearance of colors. “I like to introduce romantic pastel tones, sometimes a little ‘dusty,’ through details such as cushions, lampshades, ornaments or flowers,” she says. And thanks to these details, contrasts can be added to the décor.

A lush setting, lacy details and vintage accessories create a whimsical atmosphere in Marie-Caroline's backyard in the French Bordeaux region.
A lush setting, lacy details and vintage accessories create a whimsical atmosphere in Marie-Caroline’s backyard.

Perhaps what Marie-Caroline is displaying in her farmhouse is her love for times past; the time of history but also the time of childhood. “My passion for the romantic metamorphosis of things was not transmitted to me by a fairy godmother, but by a benevolent godfather who, as a child, gave me wonderful fairytale books with beautiful illustrations. I dreamed of reproducing their magical atmosphere in my life,” she says. Today, childhood memories and present events are but one: as in Proust, time has been regained.

The color enhances both the natural surroundings and the home's French fairy tale aesthetic.
The soft and feminine color palette present inside is carried to the outdoor accents as well. Marie-Caroline had the barn doors and shutters painted in a lovely shade of dusty lavender. The color enhances both the natural surroundings and the home’s French fairy tale aesthetic.

 

French Style Magazine Summer 2018

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of French Style Magazine. Pick up your copy today for more elegant French country inspiration!



Get the French Country Look from Vivi Et Margot

Give your home the vintage French touch it deserves with brocante style.

This vintage French kitchen has the brocante look you've always wanted
Charlotte designed her kitchen in France with French linens and light wood-finished chairs, bringing color from outside to inside the space. Cabinets, custom-made by Neptune kitchens, serve as the backdrop for the space.

The French countryside has significant influence on its visitors and one visitor in particular, Charlotte Reiss, used that influence to create an online shop. Originally from Morborne, England and a frequenter to France in her youth, Charlotte Reiss moved to the U.S. in her early 20s.

Watching House Hunters International one day, Charlotte fell head over heels for France and wished for a country house there. Within a month, that wish came true with a 200-year-old farmhouse in western France near the Bordeaux, Deux-Sèvres region.

The French country home of Charlotte Reiss of Vivi et Margot
Its a beautiful day in the French countryside at Charlotte’s 200-year-old farmhouse near the Bordeaux region.

The French flea markets played a key role in the start of Vivi Et Margot. Traveling back and forth from Los Angeles and France over five years of construction and renovation on the house, Charlotte was drawn to the flea markets, or “brocantes,” of the area.

She searched and found French items to decorate her country home and overtime, her affinity for these vintage pieces grew and grew. Ultimately, she brought back items such as market baskets, vintage wooden spoons and French linens to decorate her Los Angeles home.

A pink bathroom in the French country home of Charlotte Reiss of Vivi et Margot
A pretty shade of pale pink is a romantic touch set against the creamy white shades of the wainscoting and the bathroom’s accessories.

Originally started as an Instagram page with photos from Charlotte’s home in France, Vivi Et Margot gained popularity quickly and many of her followers wanted to see more French items. Visitors to her home also had such curiosity about where and how to get similar items that Charlotte asked herself, why not open a store focused on making these treasures more accessible to everyone?

A pale green/gray shade highlights the old home's woodwork and ceiling beams.
A pale green/gray shade highlights the old home’s woodwork and ceiling beams. Other soft shades of silvery gray and cream create a relaxing atmosphere.

During her second pregnancy, Charlotte decided to open her online shop, Vivi Et Margot, to sell “beautiful things” from France. The traditional French homewares store, named after her daughters Vivienne and Margot, combines vintage items and pure French authenticity.

“I don’t consider myself to be an interior designer, but I have a passion and love for all things French and maintaining that authenticity with the items I sell,” Charlotte explains. With various products offered from tea towels and market baskets to ceramic pots and wood bowls, the store offers that sophisticated French touch that any home can incorporate.

 

Give your home that authentic and antique French touch you've always wanted.
Olive-oil soap, French linens, and other authentically-sourced items from Vivi Et Margot add that perfect French touch to any home setting.

“Everything sold is originally purchased in France and imported to the United States,” Reiss says. She curates 100 percent of the items and that way, she is able to “keep the authenticity of the brand.” A veteran of French brocantes, she’s well-acquainted with what’s offered, how to get the best value on items and what to look for.

During the summer months while she’s in the country, Charlotte strategically plans entire days around visiting four or five of the best markets in the area. She buys what she would like to see in her own home and what she believes others would also like.

A market basket is the perfect accessory to add to your closet!
Offered in ten different styles, French market baskets are Charlotte’s best-sellers.

Typically, she looks for items that match her white-and-gray color palette, aren’t damaged and are also popular among customers, such as café-au-lait pots and linens. However, her favorite and best-selling items are the French market baskets (offered in ten different styles) because of their versatility, durability and functionality. “I use them for everything, and they never fall apart,” Charlotte says. And with free shipping within the U.S., the only response is Oui! For more information on Vivi Et Margot and to purchase her items, visit Charlotte’s website: Vivi Et Margot.

To explore more stories on French country style, check out The Ultimate French Country KitchenGet the French Country Cottage Look, and The French Farmhouse Look.



Sharon Santoni’s French Country Home

This country home in Normandy is a garden lover's dream.

Sharon Santoni's blue barn door
The bold blue hue of the barn door pops against the aged stone walls.

The rustic charm of French country décor is a coveted look many homeowners who love the romantic style strive to create. For Sharon Santoni of My French Country Home, living in Normandy makes it all the simpler. Her house lies in a valley just an hour outside of Paris, nestled between farmland and a forest.

Linens hang to dry in the Normandy sunshine.
Linens hang to dry in the Normandy sunshine while Sharon’s pup plays nearby.
Sharon Santoni's garden
The garden provides an endless supply of fresh flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outdoor entertaining in Sharon Santoni's lush garden.
Lush greenery and fresh flowers create a beautiful ambiance for outdoor dining.

Her flowers, food and even the décor are all determined by the seasons. If you’ve ever wondered how you can have the French country look in your own home throughout every season, follow Sharon’s example.

French country living room with garden flowers
Peonies from Sharon’s garden add a colorful touch to the sitting room.

Pops of Garden Colors

Flowers bring a liveliness to every room. Throughout Sharon’s home, fresh blooms pop with color against white walls and porcelain pitchers, and all of the flowers come from Sharon’s own garden.

“I see my garden as a palace of colors,” Sharon says. “The only time I buy flowers is in the winter, when I can use fresh greenery from my garden, but not flowers. From early spring through the end of September, I use my own flowers in all my decorating.”

The tables of Sharon Santoni's entryway are full of flowers

Seasonal blooms stand out against her neutral backdrop of white and gray. On her dining room table, soft white linens and napkins emphasize her colorful blossoms all the more. “All of my linens are vintage or antique,” Sharon says. “I have cupboards and cupboards of linens. I love linens.” The vintage quality and embroidered hems make them simple, elegant tablecloths or napkins for any dinner party.

White linen adds to the formal, yet natural elegance of Sharon's outdoor space. A chandelier adds to the ambiance.
White linen adds to the formal, yet natural elegance of Sharon’s outdoor space. A chandelier adds to the ambiance.

Tasty Décor

It’s impossible to accomplish the French country look without including food as part of the decor. Almost every table in Sharon’s home is decorated with seasonal fruits, vegetables and homemade treats.

Plein air painting and picnic.
“I’m a messy painter,” Sharon says. I only paint in the summer because I can paint outside.” When the weather permits, she will spread a thick quilt in her garden, set up her canvas and paint away.

Although Sharon grows some of her own produce, she also purchases food from the local farmers near her property. Plus she always eats what’s in season. “We like to eat food that is in the right season,” Sharon says. “We grow some fruits and vegetables in the garden. For example, right now we’re eating a lot of strawberries. I like eating food in season because you can look forward to it as the seasons come around.”

Colorful flowers pop against the black linen tablecloth
Colorful flowers pop against the black linen tablecloth.

Aside from growing her own food, Sharon and her husband also enjoy cooking. She shares some of her favorite recipes in her book, My French Country Home, and decorates many of her tables with freshly baked tarts and scones.

Sharon Santoni's French kitchen
Food and flowers are Sharon’s decor of choice, as long as both are fresh.

“Entertaining is such a big part of everyday life here,” Sharon says. “My husband comes from a long line of great cooks, and these are my family’s personal recipes.” Adding croissants and seasonal fruits to your breakfast table next to a pitcher full of fresh blooms goes a long way toward creating the French country feel in your home.

Sharon Santoni's dog in an armchair
A home should be comfortable, according to Sharon. She is not against muddy boots in the kitchen or her dog resting on an armchair.

The Precious and the Rustic

When it comes to maintaining the French country look throughout the seasons, Sharon offers a bit of advice. Aside from using seasonal blooms and decorating her tables with vintage linens, she always suggests keeping it real. “The French country look is a mix of old and new,” Sharon says. “It can’t be too rich or precious. It has to be real. We raised four children and two dogs in our house. A little bit of shabby does no harm at all.”

French linen bed
A pretty, feminine bedspread in the guest cottage brightens up the room and makes each of Sharon’s guests feel right at home.

Also, don’t overthink it, she suggests. In the end, your home is just meant to make you feel at home. Change with the seasons, and let fresh blooms be your centerpiece for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Purchase fresh fruits and veggies from your local farmer’s market, and bake breakfast pastries or desserts to go with them.

Sharon Santoni's puts fresh flowers in the guest room as a welcoming gesture.
Fresh flowers by the bedside are a welcoming gesture toward guests, making them feel right at home.

Make the most of neutral colors such as white, off-white or gray in your napkins, tablecloths or runners to emphasize your floral centerpiece. This approach will brighten up your home and make it appear all the more welcoming. The French country lifestyle is carefree and spontaneous, and your home can be too.