Monday, March 18, 2013

A Bit of Provence in My Neighborhood

A few years back, there was a cute little ol' house in our neighborhood that had an English cottage sort of vibe to it:

I passed by it every day as I walked my pugs. I admired the funny little popped-out kitchen nook:

...and the British-phone-booth bright red door:

It had an unfortunate hodge-podge of a garden, with everything from primroses (English cottage!) to banana plants (so not!):

After 60 years of continuous ownership by one family, the house was put on the market. Dumpsters and workmen appeared. One day, I saw the house's five beautiful diamond-pane, leaded-glass windows tossed on the trash heap:

Most suffered from broken glass, but one escaped undamaged. I asked the foreman if I could have it. He not only said Yes, he loaded it into his truck and took it around the corner to my house!

It now hangs above the dining-room bar in the home of Lovely Daughter #1:

The little old house went through quite a transformation. From funky English cottage, it emerged as a beautiful, spare country home that evokes the hot landscape of Provence:

Its grounds are planted with olive trees and lavender bushes. In place of the higgledy-piggledy garden out front, there is now an interior courtyard with decomposed-gravel:

These gorgeous ceramic balls are set next to the front door and function almost like a beautiful pot or planter:

Now the house is behind a wooden fence, and I can't see in to the windows much. What is visible has a spare, architectural sense.

But I always wondered what the inside might look like.

And now I know! The house was featured in an article in Country Living's February 2012 issue. The interiors are just as spare and arresting as the exteriors. The lady of the house is actress-turned-decorator Amanda Pays. She's married to actor Corbin Bernson. They've done a beautiful job of carrying a certain look throughout their home. Here is the kitchen:

I love this rough little cabinet stocked with simple yellow and white dishes. You don't have to be wealthy or famous to steal this look!:

Here is the living room. I love the oversize painting on the back wall, and the casual assembly of four paintings off center from the left-hand couch. (And look how one hot-colored pillow and a vase of flowers balance out all those neutral colors):

This is another bit of the living room. I have sometimes seen the little bust in a front window; Ms. Pays must like to move things around a bit. (Or maybe the stylists for the shot did?) The whippet is "Digby," and the pugs and I see her a lot, trotting elegantly around our neighborhood on her daily walk:

She even matches the interiors!

Below are some shots of the upstairs, which Pays and Bernson built (the original house was one story). The wicker chair, the simple pouf, and the vintage map make a great little spot to sit and read (or pluck the guitar):

Here's an easy idea to copy. They turned this utilitarian box into his-and-hers laundry sorters by setting two hampers inside:

Love, love, love a clawfoot tub. It must be delicious to soak there and gaze out the window at the tree tops:

I can see this little cone-shaped lamp from the street, but I never knew what was under it. Now I do: a nook with a sink:

When this property was for sale, I walked through it. I fell in love with this space, below, which was a ratty old garage/workshop that stood at the back of the property, separate from the house. It was dark, dripping with cobwebs, and lined with rotting tar paper. Little cardboard boxes of rusting nails and odd bits of this-n-that lined the entire back wall. I could imagine it redone as a beautiful art studio. Ms. Pays made it into a separate living quarters for two of her grown sons to share when they visit:

Here's the whole family in their back yard. The decomposed gravel in the front courtyard reappears here, as well as the simple, spare furniture, some of which was made by Bernson:

All the photos from the Country Living shoot are from the talented hand and eye of Max Kim-Bee.

Well done, neighbors!

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