Once upon a time the perfect client walked into my design studio and said the magic words that make up a designer’s dream: “Will you help me design my dream home? Better yet, we want a country French house with all of your ideas poured into it.”
Could this be real? It took me a while to realize that what I had worked so hard and long for had just come true. Here was a client who not only put all of their faith into my being able to deliver, but the confidence to believe in me.
We worked on the drawings to get it just right and then I suggested that we go to Paris where we could find a lot of the furnishings. My client replied that we had not even started building the house yet. How did I know what she needed?
I told her that I had her house permanently imbedded in my brain and that I walked through each room every night in my sleep. Believe me, I can show you everything you will need and it will be the real thing.
So, here you are looking at the finished product – a French country villa. I don’t want to bore you to death with every tiny detail that went into this home, but I will tell you that I aged everything, and I do mean everything, to look as if it was instantly 200 years old. This included spraying 70 gallons of strawberry yogurt to mildew the exterior stone.
Carvings of leaves and grapes in Mexican pinion stone started as sketches on napkins in a restaurant. Every door reflects the detail usually reserved for vintage armoires and cupboards. Oops, too many details?
I had this vision from my travels in the south of France and only I knew how all of the materials should look and go together. The path was chocked full of obstacles. I must have heard a hundred times, if not more, it can’t be done, it can’t be done.
My client did not want the traditional dining room so you can now eat in the company of Dickens and other famous writers. Nothing is prettier than beautiful plates displayed with books. All of the walls are textured and glazed to give the patina that only the passing of time can deliver. I call my look “A Dusting of The Centuries.”
The floors are 100 year old 12″ wide heart pine that we threw nails and screws onto for the workers to walk on before we finished them. Why you ask? To distress them more. When everything is already aged, it subconsciously makes you relax. You should be able to put your feet up no matter how grand the home. European Fireplaces in the past were placed higher on the wall many times to cook on.
The door looking into the master suite blurs the line between the past and today. Inside the bedroom an old carved wood arm which once held a shopkeepers sign now proudly keeps the canopy afloat.
I hope to do a book on this house one day and ramble on and on about the other thousands of details that went into the lovely house. I hope you enjoy seeing a part of it.
To gather more inspiration from Leo Dowell’s designs, watch this video, Home Design Ideas: An Authentic French Country Village – In the U.S.
Photos by: Joseph Laperya Photography