My love affair with France started over 20 years ago when I picked up my first Peter Mayle novel, Toujours Provence. I instantly was enamored with his stories of this enchanting region. His description of life in the South of France captivated me. The bleu hues of shuttered country estates and villas captured my imagination. I was smitten by the large urns of topiaries, vines clinging to ancient stone, warm croissants, truffles and the color palette that painted this lavender laden landscape.
South of France My Inspiration
After years of reading and dreaming about Provence I was able to spend two delectable weeks at a hilltop village perched outside of Apt. Saignon was filled with beautifully weather worn homes with window boxes of red geraniums and cobbled streets. I savored every moment there and embraced the ambiance that hundreds of years old buildings exude. The gurgling from the centuries old water fountain in the courtyard, the aroma from the bakery and the scent of purple lavender viewed from the upper window of our dwelling all filled my senses.
All this accumulated imagery and décor played a vital role in the revitalization of my home this year. Our Home Owners Association had deemed the decades old vines that wrapped my home as no longer acceptable due to their bylaws. I was so saddened to see the vines torn down. My cozy English Cottage sans the thatched roof lay bare with pitted stucco and the magical greenery which created such warmth and beauty was gone.
As I have said many times my life is an collection of experiences and encounters that have influenced my thinking and my style. The hundreds of chapters of Mayle novels and my trip to the South of France became the rock bed of inspiration on how to remake the exterior of my home. If I couldn’t have a vine covered English Bungalow then I would have the distinct bleu shuttered stone home reminiscent of the South of France.
The hunt was on to match the bleu hue so vibrantly displayed on the homes in Provence. I had tried earlier in 2015 when I painted the entrance way of my home to find a paint chip that represented the best version of this color but alas I settled on a blue more reflective of the Greek isles.
This time I tried several American companies that sold European colors but decided in the end to go right to the source. A French friend of mine enlisted her sister in law to procure me a Paint Fan Deck from Paris. When it arrived in the mail I instantly painstakingly looked at the assorted varieties of bleu and settled on B33-c.
Before And After
The makeover began. The house was painted in Stone Lion SW 7507 which most reminded me of the stone colored homes in France. The shutters typical on most homes in Provence were painted in the classic bleu hue that I had procured. Its all about the details. So I added an ironwork-look outdoor wall light whose curved edges and seeded glass would be seen in the French countryside.
Even the House number had to resemble the distinctive Cobalt Blue Ceramic Parisian Address plaque which arrived from Europe custom made.
The Landscaping proved the most challenging. I ended up attempting a Knot Garden which is a very formal design in a square frame.
I chose to use culinary herbs as my plants. This traditional and formal method places greenery in an attractive pattern. I chose the classic inverted triangles in a 8×8 space dividing each section with river stone and mulch with a centerpiece of a double ball topiary. Pots of shrubs dot the French countryside so I added a tall single ball topiary to the left of the garden. I had purchased large terracotta pots years ago so they now had an old world patina which added greatly to the ambiance I was trying to create. They were perfect for a trio of Olive Trees placed at the entrance way enhanced by aged flagstone.
Fait accompli. I miss my vines but I take solace that I can have a little bit of the South of France in Central Florida. My 1,800 square foot home evokes the splendor of a French Countryside villa in its own sweet way. Home sweet Home.