Belle Époque Villa

Vence / France

14 Love 1,928 Visits Published

New lease of life for Light-filled Belle Époque Villa 

A Belle Époque villa in Vence on the Côte d’Azur with an interesting past – it was both the former home of two English artists and the one-time residence of the Dowager Duchess of St Albans, a proponent of ‘Psychological Warfare’ for British Intelligence in WW2 and a famous post-war memoirist - has been given a new lease of life by Nina Laty and David Price Design for its latest owners, a Franco-English couple and their two young children.

The charming, three-storey, six-bedroom villa is situated only minutes from the centre of this famous Riviera town - located high in the hills between Nice and Antibes - and boasts both a south-facing pool and an unusually-expansive garden, given its edge-of-town location. The previous owners had already done major landscaping works to the gardens, softening a previous series of dry-stone wall ‘restanques’ (effectively a form of terracing) into a gently sloping lawn and planting well and intelligently. including some stand-out mature palm trees. The interior of the house, however, was in need of complete gutting and renovation. A new interiors configuration and space plan was devised in order to ensure optimum flow, light and space throughout all rooms and to suit the lifestyle needs and aesthetic preferences of the new owners.

The project initially began purely as an interior design project led by Nina Laty, who initially undertook the renovation as a solo project, but it was soon apparent that major interior architectural works were also necessary and so the project increased in scope and the full David Price Design team became involved, for whom Nina Laty is also Consultant Head of Interiors.

‘The existing house had a lovely overall feel, but the atmosphere inside was a little heavy and stifling’, Nina Laty explained. ‘The client requested instead a light and fresh feel, with judicious injections of colour, especially blue-greens, with some additional yellow and orange, as well as a small amount of pattern in each room. There was to be an overall emphasis on ease of maintenance, whilst fittings were to be a mixture of classical and modern. All the joinery throughout was to be created as a bespoke fit for the space, with new flooring throughout also.’

‘The beautiful, elegant fascia of the property has remained unchanged’, David Price, Founder of David Price Design commented, with reference to the architectural works to the property, ‘with classic shuttered windows and a cast-iron balconied first floor. Changes were made, however, to the extension to the right of the main house as you face it, where the kitchen and dining room are located, subtly increasing the size of the kitchen and putting in new large glass folding doors at the front and a new side window to maximise natural light and create easy access to the garden. At the centre of the house, the bottom half of the staircase was remodelled to make it more elegant, flowing and less angular, whilst the arrangement of the downstairs rooms was also re-organised, with a new circulation route through the space, which involved blocking off some old entrances as well as opening up new ones. On the first floor the size of the master bedroom suite was increased, as was one of the guest bedrooms, whilst the second floor attic, previously a painting studio, has been reimagined as a light-filled 5-bed dormitory for the kids to host sleepovers.’

Design Walk-through:

Visitors enter the house into a good-sized entrance hall with the same generous ceiling height as throughout the property. New floor tiling, in a pale blue and cream pattern from Fired Earth, is set within a cream tiled border to mimic the dimensions of an entrance rug, whilst a large mirror has been relocated from elsewhere in the home to sit opposite the entrance and allow glimpses of the spaces beyond. Nina Laty and the client directly sourced much of the lighting, such as the lanterns at the entrance, from the great antique markets of Nice.

To the right of the entrance hall is the living room, with a long, thin footprint running the entire width of the house and also a large amount of bookshelves, as the clients love to read and believe a house full of books is one of the best ways to make a house feel like a home!

A brand new bespoke stone fireplace was installed into the living space with an antique gold-framed mirror above it. The flooring is a simple stone treatment, as in most of the ground floor space (with timber used for the bedrooms for warmth).  Colour is introduced straight away in this space with the bookshelves pained blue and classic blue wood paneling all around the lower part of the walls. Two Maries Corner armchairs are upholstered in a blue fabric with a cream sofa opposite, also by Maries Corner, sitting on a Holland & Cherry rug with a subtle, diamond-shaped motif in the same two colours, which was hand-made to order. A small antique table and lamp with an old gold shade are to the side of the sofa, with a more contemporary coffee table by JCB in the centre of the floor, directly below a grand and glamorous glass pendant chandelier. A tall and elegant French window at the far end of the space is framed with light, cream-coloured curtains made of Casamance fabric, with a final pop of colour in the room coming from the exuberant ‘fruit salad’ cushions – variously by Dédar and Pierre Frey.

Leading off to the right of the living space is the dining area, with a full-wall, blue-painted, built-in dresser for glassware and crockery against the back wall and seating for six around a light white oak-topped Versailles Ovale table with white-painted timber frame by Vincent Sheppard and six Avery chairs by Pinch. Three pendant lights above the table, arranged at various lengths, feature Julian lead-crystal lampshades from EBB & Flow. The dining area continues directly into the kitchen, which is arranged around a blue-painted, timber-based island unit with a stone top. All the joinery throughout the space is in blue and was bespoke-designed by David Price Design. The blinds in the kitchen are in a pretty white and blue Christopher Farr Cloth fabric called ‘Springtime’.

Moving the other way through the ground floor of the house is first of all is an office, directly to the left of the entrance hall, where an existing fitted unit was extended to make it both wider and taller to serve as office shelves. Next comes the re-modelled stair, painted white with dark timber treads and a cast iron handrail, keeping to the original architectural language of the house, including the first floor external balcony. Hanging over the stair is a Rothschild & Bickers pendant light in blue, picking up on the dominant downstairs feature colour and announcing the darker shades of blue to come upstairs. Completing the downstairs layout are a TV room and children’s playroom, with a further west-facing terrace leading out from the playroom.

The new first floor layout includes five bedrooms with four bathrooms, as well as the dormitory bedroom in the attic on the second floor. The first floor rooms were completely reconfigured to remove one bathroom completely, increase the size of the other bathrooms and use the available space more intelligently to make the rooms feel bigger and lighter.

The master suite itself is a spacious area, taking up the full width of the house. It has high ceilings and is decorated in a dark blue and white colourway, arranged around a four-poster bed designed by Nina Laty and made by a local ironmonger. The timber flooring is a lovely dark oak. Wooden paneling has been added to celebrate the house’s innate grandeur and this is also used for the first guest room, which sits alongside. Furniture here includes a low bench from Thierry Massant, a small antique side-table and striking blue-and-white-patterned curtains from Pierre Frey. The master suite bathroom has blue and white floor tiles from the Cementine range by Fioranese; a claw-foot bath Jacob Delafon; wall lights from Vaughan and white painted cupboards with a dark stone top and antique shaped mirror above.

The children’s bedroom, just at the top of the stair and across the landing, is a fun space with deep bunk beds, bespoke-designed and set into the full width of the room and a feature wallpaper wall on the back wall in dark blue with seemingly randomly-arranged stars, to mirror the night-sky.

‘Although the owners’ children are quite young’, Nina Laty commented, ‘it was important that the room would also be suitable a few years hence and so the paper and decoration respects that and is not too infantile in style.’

The first guest bedroom, at the front of the house, also features a bespoke cast iron four-poster bed, though in a different shape and with particularly stand-out curtains in a Casamance fabric which was chosen, according to Nina Laty ‘for their soft, abstract, almost Monet-like painterly pattern, which perfectly frames the view out and over the garden, as well as bringing a feel of the garden into the room.’

A second guest bedroom really zings with a yellow and white citric décor and couldn’t be further removed from the previous owners’ darker treatment. It features simple wooden furniture, a white-painted wardrobe, yellow and white curtains by Christopher Farr Cloth and a yellow-and-white zig-zag pattern rug that already belonged to the client. The en suite bathroom has been clad on all sides with a striking Spanish-feel wall tile in blues and whites by Fired Earth, which catch the early morning light beautifully, whilst the final guest room has a ‘holiday guest’ feel with a long headboard and jaunty striped wallpaper from Cole & Son.

‘One of the real delights of the house is the final space – the children’s dormitory in the attic’, Nina Laty concluded. ‘Having previously been used as an artist’s studio, it needed a huge amount of work to create this clean and bright white-painted space and it was great fun to decorate, with mix-and-match strong colours for the base of the beds, pillows and lamps, further reflected in a multi-coloured set of light balls near the door.’

The brightly-coloured material in the room, used for both the mattresses and the pillows, is by Casamance, whilst the lamps are from Colonel. An existing exposed brick wall to the rear was retained; a thick comfy carpet was laid for warmth and softness for the children’s bare feet and two low, wicker chairs, purchased at the local antiques market, provided the finishing touch.

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    New lease of life for Light-filled Belle Époque Villa  A Belle Époque villa in Vence on the Côte d’Azur with an interesting past – it was both the former home of two English artists and the one-time residence of the Dowager Duchess of St Albans, a proponent of ‘Psychological Warfare’ for British Intelligence in WW2 and a famous post-war memoirist - has been given a new lease of life by Nina Laty and David Price Design for its latest owners, a...

    Project details
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Single-family residence / Interior Design
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