Nor­mandy re­treat

In our ex­tract from Per­fect French Coun­try, we take a look in­side an­tique dealer Fiona Atkins’s house in Orne

Living France - - Contents -

Ev­ery three to four weeks Fiona Atkins drives from her home in Is­ling­ton through south Lon­don and across Kent to the Euro­tun­nel cross­ing at Folke­stone. When she emerges in France she drives an­other four hours through Nor­mandy, past Caen, un­til she comes to a small, quiet vil­lage with two streets of old houses built in stone the colour of set honey, and a sturdy church un­der a steep roof of dark brown clay tiles. Usu­ally she is on her own. Her hus­band, Clif­ford, is a lawyer, and has lim­ited time to spare. So, although the house fills up on high days and hol­i­days, and their two grown-up daugh­ters come when they can, Fiona is the most regular, con­sis­tent vis­i­tor.

The build­ings of this for­mer farm date from three pe­ri­ods; a 19th-cen­tury barn (not seen in this pic­ture) that bor­ders the vil­lage street, the 18th-cen­tury, dou­ble-fronted farm­house, and a 17th-cen­tury sin­gle-storey build­ing that once housed both the farmer and his an­i­mals.

Left: Be­yond the kitchen is a room that was once the fro­magerie where the farmer’s wife made cheese. A new open­ing from the kitchen leads to this room, which is now the liv­ing room. The fro­magerie re­tained its beau­ti­fully worn floor of clay tiles but is un­recog­nis­able as a for­mer dairy thanks to the el­e­gance of its fur­nish­ings, which in­clude a mar­ble-topped side ta­ble, and a gilded, 18th-cen­tury sofa, both French.

When Fiona and Clif­ford bought the house, the room that is now the kitchen had been di­vided to make a small down­stairs bath­room and a cor­ri­dor. They re­moved the par­ti­tion walls and in­stalled a new floor. At the cen­tre of the room is a round ta­ble made from a painted metal clock face, per­haps from a town hall or a church.

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