Following a recent trip to the South of France, I was inspired by the beautiful French style: wooden shutters, high ceilings, panoramic views and pretty pastels. No better place depicts original French design than the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Villefranche.
The rose-coloured house lies on the top of a peninsula overlooking either sides of the sea surrounded by nine distinct immaculate gardens, each designed by the original owner Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild’s travels around the world; from the English rose garden, to the bamboo-clad Japanese garden and the Stone garden.
So much inspiration can be drawn from these French interiors. I wish we could take the shutters back to England, but of course they wouldn’t suit the types of houses we have developed over the last 100 years in the UK. We can of course adapt such inspiration; internal window shutters add softness and dimension to a room and have been a trend for many years now, particularly due to the versatility of suiting many room types.
The original wooden flooring is a personal favourite. Living in a new-build home, you don’t get the traditional, worn-in feel like you do from period properties. The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is home to an array of floor designs; many different varieties of parquet but also mosaic tiling dating back to the early 1900s. We’re lucky that in today’s world we can get our hands on reasonably priced replica flooring, although deep down I feel it doesn’t beat the original. Reclamation yards often stock authentic floorboards and eBay lists plenty of options, from an old school gymnasium floor still with the outline tape intact to a selection of oak boards; all of which can be laid, sanded and stained to the desired colour required – you just have to be patient to find the right type.
And it doesn’t stop at flooring: the ceiling architecture at Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild also inspired me. The bathroom was designed with gilt chestnut slats which formed a trellis-like dome.
The original wooden coving, so immaculately perfect, added symmetry to each room. It almost looked like someone had iced a cake with a piping bag. And to complement these fine details, beautiful hand painted silks could be found lining the chairs, beds and even wall coverings. So much so that they were even used for the dog beds!
The original owner gave up the house in 1934 and donated it to the Académie des Beaux Arts division of the Institut de France and it is now open to the public. Open houses and gardens like the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild give all of us the opportunity to gain inspiration from original design and architecture as well as letting our imagination go beyond Oka’s latest catalogue or Dunelm’s reproduced styles.