River House near the Camargue is a chateau in a very quiet and typical French village.
How would you describe Ferme du Vigneron in a nutshell?
La Ferme du Vigneron in the village of Vaison-la-Romaine is the perfect place for a rejuvenating family or group holiday. You'll be in Vaucluse, an area of Provence that is world-famous for its beautiful lavender fields.
With five double bedrooms, each named after a grape variety of famous Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape wines, there is space for up to 10 guests who will enjoy the views of surrounding vineyards and olive groves, and also the medieval town of Vaison-la-Romaine and Mount Ventoux. The villa's design gracefully merges light interiors with vintage chic and lots of space to relax, play, and explore.
Please tell us about the history of the farm please.
Originally, our holiday home was a vintner’s farm that also had some livestock. This road is a succession of farms, many of them now turned into family homes, but the land is still mainly agricultural. We are surrounded by vineyards producing Côte du Rhône wine, and walking distance up the road are some ancient olive groves.
What was your inspiration to buy an old vintner’s farm and turn it into a luxury holiday home?
It is something we had in mind for several years: we were visiting houses in several areas in the south of France. It was by chance that we visited this house after turning down another one that was too small in a nearby village. We fell in love with the size of the house, the views, and the perfect location very close to town, yet with no neighbors. We didn’t mind the dilapidated state of the place as it was exactly what we were looking for: the renovation allowed us to tailor the space to our needs.
Please tell us a bit about the refurbishment and the interior please.
The place was run-down and had been abandoned for about 10 years. It was basically a ruin. We used to live in London at the time. I came down to meet with the architect and builders every month for a long weekend or more in order to oversee the works and choose the materials. The fireplace, the terra-cotta floors of the guest suite, and all of the main house’s doors are reclaimed from old houses. It was very important for me to have some antique materials as most of the original features of the house were lost, except for the kitchen’s ceiling, and I didn’t want the house to look new, but to show some link to its past. The renovation took 12 months.
What has been most rewarding about the whole experience?
I used to be a veterinary surgeon and have recently taken interior design as a profession. People have been very encouraging about my new career as a designer when realizing how involved I am in the interior design of the house. I’ve also had some really nice comments from people who felt at home straight away because they thought the house was so user-friendly.
Please tell us a bit about your eco policy.
I work very hard on having an eco friendly attitude in our house as I think it affects us all in our daily life. For example, our garden is pesticide and fertiliser free. It is planted with mediterranean plants that need very little or no water, that includes our own lavender field :-). Going away from the green lawn model, towards a mediterranean garden has been a project over the last 10 years, and it has proved to be not only eco-friendly but also very aesthetic as the type of plants used have settled and thrived with very little maintenance.
I can also proudly say that we haven't used any biocides on the devastating box tree moth caterpillars, instead controlling it with pheromone traps, when it normally takes 2-3 treatments of very strong pesticides. We compost the grass cuttings, which is the only fertilizer we use and I also compost kitchen waste which I encourage the guests to do as well. So far most have been very pleased with it as it noticeably reduces the amount of waste. It is very easy to separate as there is a dedicated stainless steel bin in the kitchen worktop especially designed for it.
In 2018 I created a landscaped kitchen garden inspired by the "jardins de curé" which produced an incredible amount of vegetables (and fruits with the strawberry square) growing just in front of the kitchen: it makes the soil to pot a reality. The geometric landscaping keeps it enjoyable to look at in all seasons, and as I researched local and organic seeds, the vegetables have been very strong although I obviously don't use any pesticide nor chemical fertiliser, but a variety of green fertilisers, mainly comfrey and nettle. Over all, the landscaping and the kitchen garden have both been very rewarding as the results are really spectacular
What do you particularly like about this part of Provence?
The perched villages of Provence around our area, starting with Vaison-la-Romaine, Seguret, Le Crestet.. have this wonderful feeling of going back in time while strolling through them. Their old stone keep the freshness so they are very pleasant to visit in the heat of summer.
Vaison-la-Romaine is the biggest Roman archeological site in France. It's Roman theatre is very actively used for shows in the summer, and the remains of luxurious villas, therms, high street shops are there for you to explore. They cover a large part of the "new" town, the old one being the perched medieval town.
I never miss the Vaison Dances festival in July, it takes place in the Roman theater and attracts the best of modern dance, flamenco, tango, modern circus etc. — it always has a fantastic program. Also the New Chorégies of Orange are not to be missed for Opera lovers. The setting is really overwhelming, as Orange is one of the rare Roman theatres to have kept its scene’s back wall.
The Dentelles de Montmirail, a stunning chain of limestone hill which rugged hill tops remind of lace, are a beauty, hiking through them will no doubt create unforgettable memories. The dentelle are diamond shaped, with Vaison at the top, Baume de Venise at the bottom, Gigondas and Malaucene on each side, those names give you the clue to why many of it's hill sides are planted with vineyards.
The Tour de France regularly has an etape climbing the Mont Ventoux, which bottom is just 15km away, and the area is a major draw for cyclists. There are miles and miles of roads for cycling accessible directly from our door-step towards the baronnies and pre-alps which are a favourite. It is a bliss in the wildly untouched nature of the Dentelles de Montmirail, or the Mont Ventoux.
Avignon and it's wonders are less than an hour drive, but to my experience, our guests rarely get that far on a first visit as there are so many things to do locally..