Sophie and Nicolas transformed a desolate old property into an exciting new home full of light and adorned with vintage pieces and treasures collected over the years
When Sophie de Lestapis first spotted a wild, tattered expanse of land near the centre of Bordeaux a decade ago, she knew it could mean new beginnings for the site and her family. And even though a former home was buried among the mayhem, it had long been abandoned and unloved.
‘We were visiting the house next door when we discovered this desolate property,’ says Sophie. ‘We managed to track down the owners, an elderly couple who had left to live in the country. The poor condition of the building discouraged them from bothering with it and they were relieved to sell.’
With the house in such a forlorn state after years of neglect and a garden resembling Sleeping
Beauty’s cursed wilderness, there was no other choice but to start again. ‘I wanted the exterior to look simple and classic, so it would never become old-fashioned,’ says Sophie. ‘I got my inspiration from the old Seventies pool house in the garden – it looked like a cube and I really liked it. So we designed the main house in a similar way: white, simple architecture, with black metal-framed windows and doors and a flat roof with an awning. It’s timeless and distinguished.’
The theme is echoed inside. Modest white walls and floors act as an effortless backdrop for an abundance of treasures, while an open-plan design gives the family freedom to move easily from room to garden to pool and back again.
Sophie adheres to the ‘something old, something new’ rule, collecting an eclectic mix of pieces. ‘I’ll try putting antiques together with contemporary designs – different styles from different countries – and if it works, it stays,’ she says.
But there’s one region that claims a special corner of her heart. ‘I fell in love with the village of Soorts-hossegor – it’s on the Atlantic coast, at the beginning of the Basque Country when coming from Bordeaux. We go there regularly and stay in a house between the lake and the ocean,’ says Sophie. ‘From the sand dunes, we can see the Pyrenees mountains and the coast of Spain – it’s incredible.’
Sophie has been collecting old Basque tableware for 10 years, which she displays in her dining room’s vast dresser. ‘There’s just something about the way it looks that appeals to me. And because of our love of the Basque region, it has a deeper meaning.’
It seems almost an act of fate that when Sophie first discovered this house, she had no idea the wild garden surrounding it would reveal an unusual Basque treasure to her. When the brambles and weeds were chopped back, the family unearthed a fronton (a walled court) for playing the traditional ball game pelota. ‘It was like a sign that the house was the right buy,’ she says.
All those years after she first spotted that timeworn, mistreated ruin, Sophie now delights in the tranquil haven of her family’s home. ‘Even though we’re so close to the town, we feel immersed in nature here,’ she says. ‘We spend as much time as possible in the garden, by the pool or on our terrace with friends. This slice of heaven, which was once so ignored, has given us so much.’