Finding your interiors entente cordiale
Lucy Haywood reveals how her passion for ‘Country Brocante’ style draws on vintage inspiration from both France and the UK, and also explores a cross-Channel interiors amalgam
What is wonderful about vintage treasures and objects from the past is that you will rarely find two the same – you and your neighbour may have similar tastes, but accessorizing with vintage pieces means your home will be truly individual and unique.
I love to give vintage finds a new lease of life, but I am equally likely to pick up something purely for its nostalgic appeal.
I have always been drawn to old teacups and saucers, particularly lustreware, and have been known to buy cups without handles, jugs with cracks and chips and – my favourites – plates riveted together with antique metal staples, fixed by an unknown hand, totally useless but utterly beautiful.
The Country Brocante fairs are the perfect hunting grounds for these period pieces.
There’s something for everyone, whether our tastes run to old enamelware, vintage kitchenalia or original haberdashery/notions – reels of faded ribbons and sheets of buttons. Some of us simply prefer pieces that speak of a previous life, while other people are inveterate collectors of one particular item – French stoneware, vintage quilts or old-fashioned French cutlery/flatware.
Vintage treasures are perfectly suited to an older home, but such pieces look equally good against the clean white walls of a newly-built property, adding romance, character and charm.
Elms Farm (pictured) perfectly embodies the Country Brocante look. Here, Jenny and Simon Nicole and their daughter Kate have effortlessly combined two very different styles to create a happy marriage of quintessentially English architecture and typically French textiles and antiques.
Jenny and Simon divide their time between Suffolk and France, where they source textiles and furniture for their company Rosehip in the Country, which also sells Jenny’s delicate handmade creations.
Their daughter Kate has followed in their footsteps and started up her own business, Oyster Bridge & Co, for which she produces beautiful paper treasures adorned with exquisite calligraphy, painted artwork and hand-sewn details.
The Nicoles’ boundless creativity is what first brought us together. Upon meeting them at another fair, I set about wooing them until I managed to persuade them to come and be part of our Country Brocante event. As a family, what they create is truly wonderful.
Their home, built in 1640, is a perfect example of a traditional Suffolk farmhouse, also known as a long house.
It has a thatched roof and is timber framed, which affords the house much character thanks to the sturdy wooden beams that adorn the internal walls and ceilings.
While the house is Suffolk through and through, the interior reveals a strong French influence. In every room, brick, stone and rustic weathered wood is combined with an abundance of beautiful vintage fabrics and textiles.
Jenny and Kate have worked hard to create an interior that’s in harmony with the history and atmosphere of this beautiful old building.
The timber framing has been left exposed and is very much part of the decor.
The wooden beams and the stone floors provide a canvas onto which the family has projected their own creative personalities.
Despite the low ceilings, there is a great feeling of light and space here – the off-white walls and the soft tones in the flooring seem to bounce the daylight around.
At the heart of the home is a large room that serves as a studio space for Jenny and Kate. A huge worktable is covered with baskets brimming with lace trim, linen fragments and buttons.
Those with a passion for fabrics would find it hard to resist a rummage through an old painted armoire piled high with French linens in delicious pastel shades and faded florals, many of which retain their original mends and fixes.
The mood here is one of creative chaos, due to the assortment of textiles and the abundance of pieces awaiting use, but there is also clarity and a sense of calm.
This is where Jenny produces her collection of linen dresses, bags and other handmade pieces, which she sells alongside antique and vintage finds. Packages are wrapped in tissue paper and carefully tied with vintage ribbon then set to one side, ready to post.
Wandering the house, I discover a particularly beautiful room with the original plaster still on the walls and faded green oak window frames.
This room embodies the use of raw textures in the house and the way in which they work so harmoniously with the contents.
Drawn in by the collection of beautiful objects, I’m told this space is a stockroom for finished pieces. The space is a collector’s dream, filled with an assortment of mirrors, boxes of china and rails of linen garments.
The house seems to go on and on, each room testament to the Nicoles’ unerring sense of style. In one corner of the kitchen, ancient wooden stairs climb to a secret room – the steepest staircase I have ever come across, only to be attempted at the climber’s risk. t leads to a cosy little room with wonky ceiling beams, home to Jenny’s collection of vintage quilts.
The simple decor offers a contrast to the richness of the fabrics and showcases the textiles to perfection.
Many people who run a business from home create a divide between work and family life. But here the owners’ passion for what they do is evident in every room. The very building in which they live and the beautiful finds with which they surround themselves are an everyday inspiration.
Get the look
The French high street as well as online retailers can provide great alternatives to vintage or brocante finds for your home... Prices and availability are correct at the time of going to press.
Time to go low
If a brocante armchair search proves fruitless, try sourcing a vintage-look contemporary piece such as this Adélia armchair.
Called a ‘crapaud’ chair because of its toad-like, sturdy posture, it currently costs €260.34 from www.laredoute.fr
Jolly up your monotone sofa with a floral cushion such as this fetching flowery number from Ikea called LEIKNY.
Black background with multi-coloured flower print, 50x50cm.
A snip at just €4.99 (cushion cover only). www.ikea.com
Grey furniture earns instant brocante points as it wonderfully complements beige soft furnishings.
This simple and elegant solid pine buffet has two drawers and two sliding doors.
135cm wide, it costs €735.00 from www.made-in-meubles.com