WORDS & PRODUCTION Laurence Dougier PHOTOS Nicolas Mathéus
Situated on 7.5 hectares in the foothills of the Chaîne des Alpilles mountains in Provence, this spectacular homestead gained from a sharp renovation and bespoke fittings.
One might’ve expected a couple to pick Tuscany as their European home, but it was an area northeast of Marseille in Provence that they chose instead. Dazzled by the beauty of the place and its historical heritage, for 20 years this globetrotting family had rented houses in the area, waiting for the ideal moment to buy their own. A few years ago, they were lucky enough to find a Provençal farmhouse in its original condition that had once belonged to the family of 19th-century French novelist Alphonse Daudet – and its renovation turned out to be a fascinating journey.
Steering the makeover was architect Pierre-Olivier Brèche, head of the multidisciplinary firm POBA. “I was immediately drawn to the wonderful topography of sloping land – it was an opportunity to play with levels of patios, terraced gardens and roof lines,” he says.
Laden with stories, punctuated by bories (dry stone huts) and famously painted by Van Gogh, the area is testament to a constant, soulful flow of energy and life. And throughout this farmhouse, everything was designed, developed and built by highly skilled craftsmen, all immensely proud to apply their knowledge of ancestral techniques.“We are particularly happy with the way our two additions complement the original farmhouse,” says Pierre- Olivier about the harmoniously integrated buildings.“Playing on the succession of spacious rooms, it is as if they had always been there.”
From the outset,Pierre-Olivier worked with landscape architect Jean Mus on rethinking the seven-hectare estate grounds. Jean imagined and designed an extraordinary landscape, displaying various combinations of Mediterranean flora and creating individual spaces that climb towards the surrounding mountains.
Interior designer Marie Laure Helmkampf, on the other hand, only became involved in the final stages of the journey, selecting a colour palette as well as furnishings, fixtures and light fittings, often custom-made, in warm combinations and complementary raw textures. The spacious lounge, for example, is a mix of soft materials and hues with designer furniture, custom-made pieces and vintage finds. In fact, most spaces in the house reflect this wonderful mix of old and new, with the dining room hosting a gorgeous raw-wood table commissioned from Laurent Passe of LPasse Design, as well as vintage Friso Kramer chairs that the owners acquired in Denmark.
“I like the combination of muted khakis and ochres against light shades, of vintage elements, which I ferret out, and contemporary pieces,” says Marie Laure. “It creates strong contrasts. The owners and I took the time to seek out the ideal items for their home.”
The result of these combined creative efforts is a country retreat that both acknowledges its heritage and embraces the contemporary chapters of the property’s story. Pierre- Olivier’s respectful approach, Marie Laure’s cleverly curated combination of the traditional, the vintage and the modern, and Jean’s peaceful Mediterranean landscape have resulted in a home that provides a cool, calm oasis during warm Provençal summers.