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Domaine de Ronsard: The most beautiful farmhouse in Provence

February 27, 2019

Domaine de Ronsard is the ultimate week-in-Provence fantasy – a quite sensational rambling-rose hideaway to take over near Saint-Rémy in the South of France

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If you’re born in Provence, Paul Cezanne believed, you’re ruined for life. Because after living there, nowhere else on earth will do. The grandfather of modern art was Provençal to the marrow. But since then there have been any number of others – from F Scott Fitzgerald and Brigitte Bardot to Yves Saint Laurent and Princess Caroline of Monaco, not to mention Peter Mayle’s many millions of readers – for whom, though they weren’t born there, nowhere else but Provence would do either.limestone-wall-cladding-farmhouse-beautiful-floor-landscape-stone

The nature of its appeal isn’t mysterious. The landscape, the food and drink, the light, the deep history, the sense of time flapping on the mast. True, the winters are short but brutal, the summers long and parched. Flood follows drought. The mistral nags away. There are easier, kinder, gentler places. Yet all this, too, is an essential part of its charm – or at least a part of its charm that can remain charming as long as you’re in a position to take the edge off those elemental extremes with a steady supply of chilled rosé or under-floor heating, as the weather dictates.limestone-fireplace-mantel-living-room-old-houselimestone-flooring-stone-stairs-farmhouse

 

This was at the end of May. There were roses everywhere. They lay as thick as rumpled duvets on their earthen beds. Elsewhere they were entwined with trellises and arches, or scaling walls, or spilling over borders. The pale-pink and white blooms harmonised with the creamy pallor of the farmhouse’s limestone walls and painted shutters, and stood out in pleasing contrast to the deep green of lawn, the sunburnt glow of the terracotta-tiled roof, the dark, jagged silhouette of the Alpilles mountain range in the distance and the cloudless deep blue of the sky. limestone-wall-cladding-farmhouse-provence-villa-floor-stonelimestone-wall-cladding-farmhouse-beautiful-floor-stone

 

Restoring the house, landscaping its gardens and replanting its apple and pear orchards with olive trees would take a further three years of solid work. Less than 12 months into the process, in 2000, the family relocated from Sydney to London. Partly this had to do with developments in David’s work – mostly mining-related – but partly also because of the Domaine, which had become more than just a fixer-upper that could be managed by remote control from Australia. privence-farmhouse-outdoor-garden-beautiful-wall-cladding-limestonelimestone-wall-cladding-stone-flooring

The Provence house is a reflection of her taste and the family’s travels. The interiors are eclectic, inclusive, non-denominational – though displaying great faith in and reverence for cushions and squishy sofas, candles, vases, urns, woven baskets and cut flowers (roses especially, and pale-pink or white roses especially especially). Old and new pieces sit side by side – antique screens, mirrors, chandeliers, bell jars and mason jars, busts and books alongside transparent acrylic coffee tables, angular reading lamps, large-scale and rather lurid oil paintings and monochrome but thickly textured rugs. ‘I like mixing things up,’ Vicki said.limestone-stairs-stone-flooring

There are eight bedrooms of varying shapes and sizes, each with its own character and quirks, most with superb views across the garden towards the Alpilles. The property can be rented with a manager, gardener and two housekeepers, and a chef or chefs as required. The kitchen is stupendous – in addition to the kitchen proper there’s a pantry off to one side, a laundry room with fridges and oversized sinks for flower arranging off to another, and an adjoining corridor with a vast armoire full of glassware and china.outdoor-french-provence-pool-patios-limestonefrance-privence-farmhouse-limestone-wall-cladding

‘We’ve had 35 or 40 people here at a time,’ said Vicki. ‘It’s a house that loves people. The children have had some big parties, with friends camped in tents in the garden.’ She hoots with laughter. ‘But, you know, the only rule of homemaking is that, while looks are important, it’s got to be comfortable. You should feel at home while you’re here. There are slicker places, but it’s pretty cosy.’ The only thing I’d quibble with is the bit about slicker places – Provençal farmhouses don’t come much slicker than this.limestone-wall-cladding-farmhouse-beautiful-floor-stone

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