TIME WELL SPENT

Bill and Anthea Quick spent years restor­ing and filling their 18th-cen­tury farm­house in Lot-et-Garonne with lots of in­ter­st­ing finds and trans­form­ing it into a real trea­sure

Living France - - Contents - WORDS BY CELIA RUFEY; PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY JODY STE­WART / NAR­RA­TIVES

Dis­cover how one ex­pat couple re­stored a tum­ble­down farm­house in Lot-et-Garonne, cre­at­ing a home with sim­ple coun­try style

Anthea and Bill Quick were re­turn­ing from hol­i­day in Tus­cany in 1990 when Bill sprung a sur­prise. “We were driv­ing through the Mont Blanc Tun­nel,” Anthea re­calls, “when Bill sud­denly said, ‘Why don’t we move to France?’.” Anthea had stud­ied in France, spoke flu­ent French and had al­ways wanted to live there. “As an­tiques deal­ers, we’d noted the move to­wards French taste,” she ex­plains, “and in the early 1990s there was plenty of fur­ni­ture and tex­tiles to buy in France. Our chil­dren were on the verge of in­de­pen­dence and I think we were ready for a move.”

They de­cided to look in Lot-et-Garonne in south-west France where trans­port to and from Eng­land for an­tiques fairs would be man­age­able. An agent sent them to view an old farm­house, doubt­ful they would want it. “We trudged across a field and as soon as we’d cleared bram­bles to get to the front door, we fell in love with the place,” Anthea re­mem­bers. The house had not been oc­cu­pied since the 1950s, the roof was col­laps­ing, floors were rot­ting, and there were no win­dows or in­te­rior doors. There was also no ac­cess road or any elec­tric­ity or wa­ter sup­ply to the house, but the Quicks still bought it.

The ear­lier part of the house dates from 1720 and was ex­tended in 1747. Or­gan­is­ing the restora­tion from their home near Wolver­hamp­ton could have been a lo­gis­ti­cal night­mare but Anthea

and Bill were de­ter­mined not to hurry the project. “We were lucky to find a young builder-re­storer with an en­gi­neer­ing de­gree,” Bill ex­plains. “He was the ideal col­lab­o­ra­tor, to­tally in tune with our aes­thetic and with re­spect for the his­tory and struc­ture of the house.” Lime­stone walls were strength­ened, the tiled roof re­newed, a wa­ter sup­ply brought 900 me­tres across the neigh­bour’s field, elec­tric­ity from the near­est py­lon was run un­der­ground into the house and an ac­cess road laid. The Quicks were in­volved every step of the way, camp­ing in a car­a­van on site for five or six weeks when­ever they came on buy­ing trips to France. One of their tasks was to search for re­claimed floor­ing, doors and stair­cases ap­pro­pri­ate to the age of the house.

As work pro­gressed over five years, an

One of the Quicks’ tasks was to search for re­claimed floor­ing, doors and stair­cases ap­pro­pri­ate to the age of the house

“We share a pas­sion for sim­ple coun­try fur­ni­ture, tex­tiles and pot­tery”

ar­ti­san joiner was com­mis­sioned to make doors and win­dows in the lo­cal style and in­te­rior walls were painted by a friend who spe­cialised in Ital­ian lime­wash tech­niques in­cor­po­rat­ing pig­ment and then pol­ish­ing with liq­uid wax. “It makes the finish a bit more wash­able,” says Anthea who painted a geo­met­ric de­sign on their bath­room floor.

The Quicks had been buy­ing fur­ni­ture for the house and stor­ing it in the barn. “We share a pas­sion for sim­ple coun­try fur­ni­ture, tex­tiles and pot­tery,” Anthea says. “We like the un­pre­ten­tious qual­ity and the mark it car­ries of the peo­ple who have used it.” When they moved into the farm­house at last in 1996, they be­gan to bring pieces out of stor­age. First into the sit­ting room was a French early 19th-cen­tury draper’s shop counter with four draw­ers. “We love it be­cause it’s orig­i­nal, func­tional and un­touched,” Anthea says. “The dealer had a ticket on it say­ing ‘rare’ so it’s known in the fam­ily as ‘Le Rare’.” Next came an early 18th- cen­tury comb-back Wind­sor chair which fur­ther ex­plains their lik­ing for func­tional sim­plic­ity and, as Bill puts it, “for fur­ni­ture that is lovely to run your hand over”.

Bill had al­ready taken a mag­nif­i­cent bath found in Périg­ord to Eng­land in their big truck to have it re-enam­elled and he had ac­quired four antique bed­posts to make into a bed for them­selves, for which Anthea pro­vided hang­ings sewn from li­nen sheets. “Old li­nen sheets sum up the rus­tic sim­plic­ity we look for in all the an­tiques for this house,” Anthea adds. “The old­est are hand­wo­ven and formed part of a bride’s dowry. The qual­ity of light that comes through them when hung as cur­tains is es­pe­cially mag­i­cal.”

The house and its gar­den have re­sponded pos­i­tively to slow restora­tion. “What we love most about liv­ing here is the tran­quil­lity,” Anthea says. “The peace is tan­gi­ble. When restor­ing and fur­nish­ing a house, it’s al­ways good to lis­ten to what it has to say.”

Open­ing pages: The barn at­tached to the house has been con­verted into a gîte with its own ter­race

Above: The sit­ting room would once have been the kitchen, liv­ing room and pos­si­bly where some of the fam­ily slept as well. Bill bought the 19th-cen­tury sofa frame and had it re-up­hol­stered. Cush­ions are cov­ered in early ta­pes­try, em­broi­dery and hand-blocked linens. The early 18th-cen­tury comb-back Wind­sor chair and the early 19th-cen­tury wal­nut counter from a French draper’s shop are favourite pieces. The Bestlite chrome ta­ble lamp is a 60th an­niver­sary edi­tion of the Robert Best de­sign of 1930

In­set: Anthea en­joys the sun in the gar­den

Bill had this bed con­structed around four pil­lars he pur­chased from loose boxes at a château sale in Cler­mon­tFer­rand. The sprigged French wood­block quilt (circa 1850) is from Anthea’s col­lec­tion

The kitchen tiles on the splash­back are Vic­to­rian. The work­top was clad in a sheet of brushed stain­less steel by a lo­cal met­al­worker. The col­lec­tion of early 20th-cen­tury cream stor­age con­tain­ers is a par­tic­u­lar favourite

A vine trails over a per­gola con­structed to shade the ter­race out­side the sit­ting room

The con­struc­tion of the bed com­bined Bill’s tal­ent for spot­ting four bed­posts (circa 1800), while Anthea contributed cur­tain­ing in antique li­nen sheets headed with a vel­vet pel­met with metal­lic em­broi­dery. The block-printed 1840s quilt is part of her col­lec­tion. Bill found the rus­tic late 18th-cen­tury bench which fits across the bed end per­fectly

Above: Bill bought the mag­nif­i­cent bath in Périg­ord and though the in­te­rior has been re-enam­elled, it retains its orig­i­nal paint­work. Anthea painted the floor, in­spired by a de­sign re­mem­bered from a Vene­tian palazzo Be­low: The vin­tage English post­box has been fixed at the ex­act height to al­low the post­man to de­liver the Quicks’ post with­out get­ting out of his van

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