Work in Progress: Le Mas des Poiriers – Avignon, France

I recently completed a 2-year interior design project just outside of Avignon, France called Le Mas des Poiriers. This post is the first of 4 discussing the restoration and decoration of this project and the team of professionals that collaborated together to make it a success.

My long-time US client from Connecticut loved Provence and it was a dream of hers to purchase and restore a property there. She and her husband purchased an old 18th Century Mas (Provençal farmhouse) and enlisted restoration specialist, Alexandre Lafourcade of Lafourcade Architecture and me to oversee its renovation and interior decoration. Alexandre is well known in France for his thoughtful restoration of elegant old Provence properties.   Having a love of old classical homes, I was thrilled to work with such an esteemed professional to restore and elevate the style of this existing mas. It was also wonderful to observe celebrated landscape designer, Dominique Lafourcade re-imagine and design the exterior gardens.

Though the house was previously occupied, the interior layout was disjointed and the rooms were dated.   Our client had a defined vision for the house and wanted to expand the interior footprint and incorporate the attached livestock barn areas shown on the far left of the top photo above within the new interior. With this extra space, Lafourcade proposed changing the location of the entry and reversing the existing stairway to improve the flow of the house. The photo above shows the stair before the renovation.

Working together on the interior layouts, we finalized a plan that combined the best of a grand French interior and one that worked functionally for a large US family. For example, Lafourcade designed lovely sightlines through multiple double doors running the length of the north and south sides of the house. The development of those doors is shown here.

I suggested squeezing in elements like an informal powder bath on the back stair landing for easy access from the Kitchen and Family Room. Breaking through the wall – the beginnings of the bath.

Watching the French construction teams at work was fascinating. The thick stonewalls were knocked away and carefully rebuilt amongst metal supports.

The classic style Provençal iron railing was built and welded on site.

Jobsite visits were always fun. One time a truck pulled up with a variety of antique stone sinks for us to choose from for the Powder Bath.

Lafourcade’s team would have antique doors and cabinets delivered to the site for us to choose from for built-ins. For example, the Formal Powder Room and the Mudroom slatted cabinets are old doors we chose and they fitted to the space. Above are the Formal Powder doors before and after installation.

The house painting process was unlike that in the US. Using Farrow & Ball paint colors as our guide, the local painter Jacques would hand mix the colors on site and match and refine the shades.   The entire interior wall color in the Mas for example is what we call – “Jacques Crème”! Because technical details can often get lost in translation, for the complex painted line details that I proposed for the bedrooms, we would sketch and label each room’s painting scheme together at our site meetings to ensure Jacques had a clear plan.

I truly enjoyed the process of working closely with the Lafourcade team and their craftsman during this restoration to renew and refine the interiors. It’s always fun to do interior design in another country, work with the materials indigenous to the area and learn about the traditional structural details. For example, I quickly learned about the door and window hardware, millwork details, classic terracotta flooring and exterior façade and shutter colors.   It was exciting to collaborate on the design of the bathrooms and interior cabinetry. My client and I used Pinterest extensively to share ideas on French Country style. Also, I referenced often one of my favorite books, Compendium Architectural Antiques to propose paint colors, millwork details, and bathroom designs.

Check out Le Mas des Poiriers after we finished our renovation. I will discuss the interiors in more detail in my next 3 Journal posts.

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About

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by design and the subtle impact of our surroundings. Some of my earliest influences still resonate – I think of the dark woods and textured lodens of my father’s shooting club, the smell of fresh paint on a new canvas, and the bold symmetry of the Philip Johnson Glass house just down the street. For me, it was a natural path to become an Interior Designer. I love what I do. I’ve created this Journal to share my thoughts, finds and design inspirations. I hope you enjoy it!

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