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
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