Not far from a small tranquil village, which spreads over a plain in the midst of wine country, is a blissful Provençal farmstead. In these last days of spring, owners, Ans and Bert, most generously opened the doors of their home to Hugh and me at Chez Pluie. I can't wait to share with you our impressions of this precious paradise.
The stone farmhouse or mas was built around 1730 in the Tuscan farm style and commands magnificent views of the neighboring vineyards and Mont Ventoux in its constancy and grandeur. Bert explained that there is quite a lot of Roman influence in this area. The iron gates swung open and we swept up the garden path, already enchanted.
Three tall, old cypress pines grace the entrance to the property and extend the visitor the traditional trois bienvenues.
While ambling up the driveway, we caught our first glimpses of the farmstead's stone façade between the umbrella pine trees - and admired the manicured evergreen hedges growing on either side of the long pebble road.
Bert and Ans told us about the history of the property. In the past, the building comprised a modest dwelling, a perpendicular grange for farm machinery, and stables for work horses.
Over the centuries when the property changed hands major works transformed the building into its current layout.
The grange and stables have become a spacious living room and dining room. The double-height dining room has an open fireplace and a mix of décor including wicker baskets, a library ladder, contemporary art, older landscapes, vintage lamps and vases.
Upstairs is the master ensuite bedroom with beautiful English wallpaper and matching curtains. Together with the incomparable view of Mont Ventoux outside the window the room promotes a feeling of relaxation.marché, sat ready for use on cutting boards, a caillette cooking dish, and in rustic baskets on the counters.
Over the course of our visit, we learned how deeply the French couple value time spent over prolonged meals - breakfast, lunch, and dinner - with their family and friends. The homestead and gardens offer many comfortable alternatives for these intimate affairs.
The dining room faces south and looks out over a large courtyard planted with two plane trees, climbing roses, ivy and fragrant jasmine.
The kitchen connects to the dining room, and from there the rest of the bedrooms and guest's quarters follow.
The dining table is set with crystal stemware, linen serviettes, a rustic cutting board and freshly-picked roses. Tucked around the garden table are wrought-iron garden chairs from the mid-twentieth century that are romantically weathered.
The immense garden is well-established with scuptural umbrella pines - prolific all over the Mediterranean - that are the same age as the house. There is also a flourishing olive grove, rows of oak trees that nuture truffles, several blossoming fruit trees and a dream vineyard that promises around 400 bottles at harvest time.
Stones that were original to the property still surround the area which has now been converted into a swimming pool. A fine pair of Anduze urns mark the steps into the water. It is possible to make the most of the slow pace of country life here, relaxing under the shade of blue cypress trees, enveloped by a stone garden wall.
We learned that there is a well 150 meters deep below, the water from which not only tastes delicious and is naturally cool, but also provides for the garden. Provence is renowned for its natural water sources that fill the beautiful village fountains and nourish all the residents, plants and animals alike.
"It's the most lovely place to be!", Bert says.
I hope that you have enjoyed being transported to this heavenly home that embodies the essence of life in Provence.
We extend our deepest thanks to Ans and Bert for opening up their beautiful house to us.
Discover all the beautiful pieces Susannah and Hugh thoughtfully chose to decorate this Provençal home.
Bespoke Anduze planters
Anduze urns have been handcrafted in the south of France for centuries. A range of colors, sizes and styles are available for purchase.
Mediterranean olive jars
Olive jars from Biot are a specialty of Provence. Their traditional use was for storing and transporting olives and olive oil. Nowadays, their smooth and sculptural form makes a unique display both indoors and outside.
Outdoor furniture abounds in French gardens. Crafted with the highest quality wrought iron, French garden tables and chairs are beautiful and practical. Dress up with cushions and tablecloths for extra color and comfort.
Vintage weigh scales from village épiceries are a creative way to add a touch of French country to a kitchen.
Wooden harvest trug
Achieve mise en place with a chic harvest trug for your homegrown vegetables and farmer's market produce.
We chose Demijohn bottles for arrangements of newly budding linden branches to make a lively green focal point.
Antique floral still life
In the kitchen, displays of spring growth, plucked only that morning, alternate with similar themes painted on the walls, two centuries earlier. This serene still life painting depicts a mass of spring lilacs about to be placed in a vase.
Large 'caillette' baking dish
Specific baking dishes are used to cook and serve a traditional Provençal meal consisting of large meat balls, called Caillette. This sturdy dish can be used in the oven for its original purpose, but also as a fruit bowl or large centerpiece.
Marble mortar and pestle
Nothing says homemade more than a mortar and pestle! This huge, heavy marble mortar has a double head pestle and is from the nineteenth century.
Antique confit pots
Typically Provençal, confit pots add a pop of color and classic style to a room and are a joy to collect. They can be used as vases or for organizing kitchen utensils.
Wire egg basket
A romantic way to collect your daily eggs from the chicken coop, woven wire baskets also add a French country accent to a kitchen counter.
Rustic cutting boards
Timeworn cutting boards look splendid grouped together and can serve as platters for bread and cheese.
Le Petit Dejéuner Pitcher
Croissants, confiture and strawberries! I love a French breakfast. This fun pitcher dates from the 1950s and is labelled 'Le Petit Dejeuner' which translates to Breakfast! Perfect for freshly squeezed orange juice.
This footed bowl originally was used for making faisselle cheese. But it can also strain rinsed berries while sitting on the dining table.
Green Biot coffee cups
These vintage green-glazed cups and saucers are from the Mediterranean village of Biot - a fresh way to start the day!
Laurent Perrier Champagne bucket
Apéro time! A Laurent Perrier Champagne bucket adds a chic metallic accent to the poolside setting.
Vintage Champagne coupes
An elegant way to sip champagne, vintage coupes apparently give a fuller taste and allow the champagne to open up.
Terracotta cheese faisselle bowls
These rustic bowls have holes pierced all over as they were originally used for making cheese or faisselle. They are glazed on the inside and left unglazed on the outside. Perfect for sharing nuts, grape tomatoes and other nibbles.
Vintage crystal stemware
Santé! The crystal set pictured above was made by Cristallerie Lorraine and comprises eight champagne flutes, eight wine glasses and eight water glasses.
Riveted bottle carrier
A porte bouteilles is ideal for carrying bottles of wine, water and juice to the table and can easily be placed to the side. This antique bottle carrier has four places.
Damask linen serviettes
These generously sized linen serviettes have a pretty monogram and are satisfying to hold. Happily, the more linen is washed, the softer it becomes.