A charming 19th century home, decorated with an array of flea market finds and antiques, becomes alight with magic at Christmas time
From Calvados to the Gironde, from wheat fields to vineyards, Valérie and Bruno are epicureans with a bucolic soul ... “Bruno and I, both from Normandy, came regularly to spend holidays in the Arcachon basin. It is by visiting the vineyards of Bordeaux, in the hinterland, that we fell in love with this land of vines, and the magnificent medieval city of Saint-Emilion, famous for its wines and gastronomy. It was only a matter of time that we would want to try and find a home to entertain family and friends” says Valérie. It was back in 2011 that they spotted an elegant cottage set in the village of SainteColombe, nestled in the vineyards of
Côtes de Castillon. “This beautiful home of the nineteenth century had everything we wanted: an exemplary renovation, an enclosed garden overlooking rolling
vineyards and beautifully proportioned rooms – it really was a no-brainer”, explains Valérie. All the authentic characteristics had been preserved – the Gironde tiled floors, the original fireplaces, the trumeaux and the exposed beams.
After some modest interior work, the home, renamed “La Charmantine” (from the French word meaning ‘charming’), became a cosy nest where it is good to stay .... and receive guests! At Christmas, Valérie goes into overdrive and brings the beautiful country spirit of the home to life. This year, she chose as her inspiration a palette of soft shades with alternating off-whites and silver greys. The pepper grey woodwork and the pearl grey base of the whitewashed walls set the scene. The powdered beige of the entrance, not to mention the antique furniture, painted and varnished in shades of grey, inspired the festive scene. “This home was a real source of inspiration for me that made me want to go hunting in all the flea markets and garage sales of the region!” says Valerie whose finds are evident as we go from room to room: old louvers used as headboards and old bits of furniture converted into bookshelves in the bathroom and kitchen. On Christmas Day, she decided to focus on her love of nature. Two large Medici pots, adorned with holly, mistletoe and wild berries, sit on pilasters that appear magnified in the warm glow of a pair of girandoles. A large, beautifully adorned tree sits in the linen-coloured salon with, at its feet, gifts wrapped in the warm glow of the candles.
In Gironde, the table is a way of life, especially at Christmas, where the wealth of culinary
specialities is always combined with wine tasting. In the kitchen, Valérie plays with flavours and textures like a musician practising her scales. Bruno selects the wines that will accompany the dishes. On the menu: terrines of duck foie gras, turkey stuffed with porcini mushrooms and, for dessert, small delicacies to nibble at – canelés from Bordeaux and macarons (based on an unchanging recipe since 1620 that is made today by Nadia Fermigier in Saint-Emilion). Upstairs, children and adults alike enjoy cosy rooms. First, a real boy’s room has been created on the site of a painting workshop. Its steel canopy offers an unobstructed view of the small twelfth-century church of Sainte-Colombe that, as if by magic, lights up at dusk. The girls’ room takes us all back to our childhoods with its collection of miniature Christmas cards along with its miniature Christmas tree. The twin beds are made up with soft duvets in Liberty fabrics ... a dream of a house come true ...