Our French adventure began many many years ago, we’ve lived in the north in Normandy and the south in Provence. And now here we are with five children in the Charente Maritime in South West France. We’re just a few kilometres from the coast, far enough inland to escape the summer crowds, and rural enough for an enjoyable French country life. We’re close enough to the ocean to have seagulls circle overhead, and fortunate that our home and garden benefit immensely from the area’s unique micro climate.
When we moved here we took on the enormous task of completely renovating not one but two houses, our main house and the guest cottage. Nothing had been touched for decades and the garden had been totally neglected. It was a huge job and years later I look back and wonder how we did it with a young family as well. I’m not sure we’ll ever consider the house totally finished, I think we live with old houses rather than just in them, attending to their daily needs and upkeep.
Rural life is nothing new to me or my husband, I grew up on a working farm, surrounded by open countryside. I always hoped for a big family and we are both very hands on parents and we wanted our children to be able to enjoy some of the things we took for granted as kids.
What really drives us is our passion for living a slightly simpler, more natural lifestyle and a desire to feed our children good food that if we haven’t grown ourselves we know where it comes from. There’s definitely a focus on family life here and free time and weekends are
When we bought the house one of our first jobs was to start work on the vegetable garden. Whilst we were still camping inside with no permanent kitchen and only one working bathroom we were already planning our potager.
I cherish my garden, the fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. Everything is organic and pesticide free and we are now adopting biodynamic practices more and more.
With so many fresh ingredients and local produce on sale in the many markets it is only natural that we put great emphasis on cooking. We eat around the kitchen table or outside on the terrace together at every meal possible. Breakfast under the shade of the ancient lime trees during the summer holidays is an absolute favourite; it always feels slightly decadent and the ultimate luxury despite being so incredibly simple !
Nearly six years ago our first guests stayed with us in our cottage. Since then we have welcomed hundreds of visitors, people who arrive as strangers and leave as friends. We were both involved in a roundabout way in the hospitality business before our French life and its really been great fun getting back into it, we take great pride in our gite and this in turn has led to us offering individual workshops and guided tours to make the experience of staying even more enjoyable.
A natural progression has been to start helping other people find their own homes here. We’ve made every mistake in the book when it comes to buying and selling in France and some very costly ones at that, mostly through ignorance and lack of information. But with this has come a wealth of knowledge that we are keen to pass on to others to help them avoid some of the many pitfalls when finding the perfect property.
My other passion is brocantes and over the years I found myself buying more and more things and filling our house with little pieces of French history which coincidentally sit quite comfortably alongside our inherited English furniture.
Gradually I started sourcing a few things for friends and family and that’s when we came up with idea of making the vintage treasures we fall in love with available to everyone. Everything we sell we have sourced ourselves and every item is something we either have or would want in our own home. There are thousands of cheap ‘French’ imitations in various home-stores around the world and online but they’re not a patch on owning the real thing, complete with a previous lifetime’s wear and tear that can be passed on to the next generation.
We have really strived to make our antiques affordable and to supply as much history and provinence we can with every piece we sell. Sadly there are a lot of fakes on the market, people selling cheap junk, chipped and painted to look old and offered as special vintage French collectors items for a lot of money. What really upsets me though is that so many people are tricked into thinking they are buying the real deal.
This is the basis of our philosophy behind all we do, whether it is buying a house, renting our gîte, or purchasing an antique, we believe in integrity, rather like our attitude towards our food, we believe everything should be honest.