START­ING OVER

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

Living Etc - - HOMES - Pho­tog­ra­phy ⁄ Julien Fer­nan­dez Styling ⁄ Aman­dine Berthon Words ⁄ Jenny Tucker

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.’

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