A charm­ing 19th cen­tury home, dec­o­rated with an ar­ray of flea mar­ket finds and an­tiques, be­comes alight with magic at Christ­mas time

Chic & Country - - Contents - Pho­tos: C Curt

Black Magic

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 Sainte Colombe, 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 ...

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