A London family’s home-from-home in the heart of Van Gogh’s Provence
In the heart of the French countryside and near the town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where Van Gogh painted over 150 of his most well-known works, a London family has created its perfect home-from-home. The detached house and grounds, re-modelled by David Price Design with a new extension, terraces and fun additions - including a boules pitch - feature an interior inspired by the rich colours of the Mediterranean and showcasing a wonderful, eclectic array of furnishings and accessories, variously inherited from previous owners and sourced anew by the home’s new owners via local Provençale markets, Kempton Park Antiques Market in UK and from holidays further afield.
The traditional interiors palette in this part of France has always tended to be cooling white walls, with colour introduced by the furniture and fittings, but the home’s new owners wanted to be a little more daring and contemporary in their treatment:
‘When we first bought the house’ the new owner explained, ‘the rooms already had very individual colours and were referred to by those who knew it as the pink room, purple room and so on. Whilst I loved the idea of colour, the palette was a little too pale and peachy for our tastes, so we decided to be bolder and use some really jewel-like tones, especially in the upstairs rooms, in order to create a richer Mediterranean feel.’
The owners then commissioned British designer David Price of David Price Design - architecture, interiors and landscaping designers with offices both on the Cote d’Azur and much closer to hand, in Les Baux de Provence - to help achieve the major remodelling of the property and grounds that would result in the idyllic holiday home the couple, their young adult daughters and friends now love to stay in, visiting as often as they can to get away from the stresses of city life.
‘It couldn’t be more different in look and feel to our London house, which is completely white on the inside’, the new owner explained. ‘I think city life demands that a home is an oasis of calm once the front door is shut, whereas the minute we arrive here, the accent is immediately on relaxation, entertaining and opening the house up to its natural surroundings.’
The original house was in a reasonable state of repair when purchased, but not yet fit for purpose, necessitating the re-organisation of the landscaping to; new, additional space to be created and for the interior to be re-sequenced to suit the family’s needs. David Price Design was commissioned both to renovate and extend the property; to re-arrange access and circulation; to re-plan the external landscaping and pool area and create a new interior that would serve as a perfect backdrop for the owners’ decorating vision.
‘We designed a brand new two-storey extension’, David Price explained, ‘which was created seamlessly and using traditional masonry techniques, so that the house very much looks as if it was all built at the same time. The big idea for the new spaces was to make the most of the early morning sun in the east, with a new guest bedroom and TV room downstairs and a master suite upstairs, which features the most wonderful yellowy-orange Zellige Moroccan tiling in the bathroom, which catches the early morning sun perfectly. Externally, the ground floor has a gently-arched window, or an ‘anse de pannier’, as it’s called locally, on its southern face, which opens directly onto the terraced area, whilst the first storey features a tall, thin rectangular window. These are both very typical of the region, particularly in the designs of barns or haylofts and are a further way of making the extension fit smoothly with the house’s original feel.’
‘David made the whole process fun’, the new home-owner added. ‘We went together to choose all of the stone, the beams or the flooring for the extension and of course he knows his way around all the best suppliers and reclaim yards in the area. We also used stone that was already in the garden in some instances.’
External works included completely new landscaping for the south-facing gardens, working with and around some wonderful existing trees, including a mature plane tree in the gravelled terrace area; the design of a new boules pitch directly outside of the new extension and a series of modifications to the existing pool house and pool. The stone surrounds of the existing pool were renovated and a new, low stone wall was erected between the pool and the house. The pool house was extended to match the existing building and features a new bruyère covering (made locally from woven heather).
External landscaping also included the creation of new paths and walkways to make the most of views of and access to the newly-reconfigured building, along with a new, shaded car-port area. After leaving the car, guests now arrive at the north façade of the house via a new path with granite binding and lighting, with a newly-planted garden before them full of traditional plants and trees from the region, from rows of lavender and roses to olive trees. The front entrance area has also been reworked, with a new stone surround and skylight above to create more of a sense of arrival, whilst all north-facing windows were painted to match the new door.
Once inside, the most major works, beyond the new extension, concerned the creation of a completely new kitchen and back kitchen, along with adjoining cloakroom and laundry room, whilst the connecting dining room floor was re-laid with Perigord stone. The new kitchen features terracotta floor tiles and bespoke, painted timber furniture (created by David Price Design), as well as further Zellige tiling used around the cooker.
‘A lot of the accessories purchased for the kitchen were inspired by the garden and our immediate surroundings’ the client explained. ‘The wall display of ceramics, for example, features butterflies and plates from Anthropologie with a praying mantis plant design, which were inspired by seeing a praying mantis swallowing a moth in the garden one day! It’s all still evolving and I love the idea of the interior being a really organic mix of things we had made, inherited, found or may find still.’
As visitors pass through the kitchen, dining room and living space into the new extension, light floods from the TV room window into the living area and affords views through and beyond to a grass path, leading to an apple orchard and a newly-laid east-facing terrace with a pergola to catch the early morning sun. French windows also open out onto a small terraced area just outside of the kitchen, as well as a more major south-facing gravelled area also, with several sets of tables and chairs in each place for outdoor dining – shaded or unshaded, depending on the heat – to sit with a coffee and read the papers or just enjoy the garden.
Internally, the house’s progression towards colour begins very gently in the extended kitchen, dining and living spaces, which mostly feature white walls and traditional timber-beam ceilings, with just the odd feature wall, curtain, item of furniture or soft furnishing in colour – in gentle shades of oatmeal, grey or pale blue, using paint colours such as Farrow & Ball’s ‘pigeon’. Large-scale artworks and interesting objects are used sparingly to add drama and include a series of old farming tools from the American mid-west, left behind by Dee, an American painter and the home’s owner-before-last. Wrought-iron rails that turn in on themselves and which are typical of the region were commissioned for the curtains, whilst feature lighting includes large, vintage, industrial shades in the kitchen, nodding to a more urban sensibility.
A sparing hint of yellow in the kitchen in two curtains (with fabrics by Nobilis) and one artwork start to hint at the vibrancy of the guest suite beyond the living room, which includes a bedroom, en suite bathroom and TV lounge, all in the same beautifully-vibrant yellow, which is used for curtains (from Designers’ Guild in London), for feature walls in both the bedroom and bathroom, for the bathroom floor tiles and for velvet cushions in the lounge area of the suite of rooms, with smaller echoes in the vintage light fittings and incidental tables and in the artwork on the walls. A huge-scale yellow artwork by artist and former owner Dee sits above the bed here, for example. The TV lounge also features a set of nine contemporary and vintage, wicker-framed, circular mirrors grouped on one wall, which were sourced variously from Graham & Green in the UK and local ‘brocantes’ in Villeneuve and Beaucaire – also the source of a vintage, geometrically-patterned ceramic side table in this space.
The staircase up to the first floor is lined with framed images from a collection by Paul Smith – numbering eighteen in total, in an eclectic mix of vintage frames – which create another artful and eye-catching grouping, set against a pale grey painted wall with a mid-grey painted balustrade.
To the right, set apart by a narrow corridor, sits the master suite, which includes a very spacious master bedroom in blue-grey tones with hints of pale purple and a linking bath and shower room with the Zellige tiles in a vibrant tangerine catching the eye on the eastern wall, plus a woven light shade in the same colour over the free-standing bath. Basins are set into a long slab in smooth concrete for a more contemporary touch.
There are a further five bedrooms on this floor, painted variously in pale purple, rust and blue-greens, with equally individual bathrooms, decorated in shades of blue with newly-installed wall panelling, for example or featuring existing wallpaper in one instance hand-created from pages of botanical illustrations. The ‘blue’ bedroom has another eye-catching grouping of photos, this time themed around body parts. A variety of terracotta floor tiling throughout has been renovated but maintained.
A London family’s home-from-home in the heart of Van Gogh’s Provence In the heart of the French countryside and near the town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where Van Gogh painted over 150 of his most well-known works, a London family has created its perfect home-from-home. The detached house and grounds, re-modelled by David Price Design with a new extension, terraces and fun additions - including a boules pitch - feature an interior inspired by the rich colours of the...
- Status Completed works
- Type Single-family residence / Country houses/cottages / Interior Design