Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Interior Design Inspiration and Home Tour with Vicki Archer, Author of 'My French Life' and 'French Essence'

Come on over... sit down and relax... Welcome to Vicki Archer's magnificent farmhouse in the South of France. Have you ever wondered how to get the "most bang for your buck" in home decor? Or, where to even begin when decorating? How to choose colors? Vicki shares all...

Vicki Archer, author of My French Life and French Essence, has so very kindly agreed for share a few interior design tips with us. Many of her blog followers, like me, have seen her luxurious and stately farmhouse in France in her posts and have loved following her through her life vicariously on her blog French Essence. Her book My French Life was a APA Book Design Awards-Illustrated Book Winner- 2007. Her second book called French Essence (click on highlight to view book details) is a celebration of life in Provence, one of the most charming regions in France. Vicki reveals the underpinnings of that famous French ambiance and sense of style, and offers inspiration to all of us who want to understand the beauty, experience the lifestyle and emulate the interiors of this exquisite part of the world. Ten years ago, Vicki bought and restored a seventeenth-century property in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, and told the story in her book My French Life. Now, in collaboration again with celebrated photographer Carla Coulson, she shares with us her love for Provence. The book is Published by Penguin and available in Australia at the send of September. The dates are pending regarding it's release in the UK and U.S.A. So, I was so pleased to hear she would take time out of her busy schedule to share with us her design philosophy.

So, the premise was she was to assume a guy or gal is starting out in life with nothing and hasn't made any design decisions for their home. So, here we go...

Where do you think they should start?

The most important thing for me is to know what you like. I know that is a very simple statement but many people don't know what they like or if they like something they don't know why it is that they like it. I don't for a moment think that everybody can be a designer or have knockout personal style but with enough time and energy we can all learn. Before starting a project I think research is the key. Read every magazine available, borrow books, wander antique fairs and contemporary exhibitions- learn what you like and why you like it.

Do you have any advice regarding the design style or philosophy?

My design style is eclectic and I change my mind on a daily basis. I re-arrange my furniture endlessly and I pour over design magazines, blogs and interior books in my quest for new ways to reinvent my comfort. Home should be the most comfortable place in the world and I think sometimes people forget that. Comfort is easy to create it just takes time and a little thoughtfulness.

Where can we skimp?

Skimping can equal clever.
Do loads of things yourself and search out interesting objects in flea markets and on your travels. Fabric is one place to save money; there are many inexpensive materials that look wonderful as long as there is lots of it. But never skimp on flowers... the best rooms always have a personal floral touch- even if it is a few leaves from the garden artfully arranged.

Where to splurge?

I recently wrote a post entitled 'all stars no chorus line' and what I was trying to say is that for a room to be great it only needs one 'star' and the rest 'chorus line'. A room needs an anchor and a major piece should do the job. For example, nothing looks more interesting than a beautiful antique commode with an unknown artist hanging above. Splurge on one thing and have fun with the rest of the shopping.

What to look for in the major investment pieces of furniture that may stay for years?

The same rule applies; only buy what you love and those things that you can't live without. I waited until I could afford the sofa I wanted because it is an investment that will last forever. I think the shape of the sofa is also important- a classic, simple shape will work in most rooms and can be covered and recovered as moods change over the years. A sofa should be generous of proportion and above all comfortable- a sofa should invite you to sink into it and make you want to curl up and stay cosy forever. My bed philosophy is the same- don't spare expense when it comes to comfort- find the best mattress, pillows, duvets or blankets. There are a lot of waking and sleeping hours that we spend sitting on our sofas or lying on our beds, we need to make the most of them.

Would you suggest tackling the design "room by room" or take on the entire house in the beginning?

I think it is possible and practical financially to take on a house room by room, but I think to have an overall plan to work with at the outset is best. When we renovated our farmhouse we had an overall plan but we tackled it in three stages. A thorough and well thought out plan can be the difference between a great result and a disaster. Planning saves money in the long run and enables you to turn the house that you have bought into the home of your dreams.

How many colors do you recommend to use in each room or in the home?

I guess there are many schools of thought on this; I prefer a single palette with tonal differences rather than a different colour in every room kind of look. I do believe the style of house/apartment and the climate dictate what works best. I live in an open plan style of house where it is very hot half of the year and very cold the rest of the time. This presents major decorating challenges and I am still trying to figure out what works best. My wall colours are neutral with lighter or darker hues depending on the sunlight in the individual rooms. I love colour and tend to add that by way of soft furnishings and art works. In winter I bring out the rugs and the throw blankets and in summer I roll them and fold them away again.

How do they decide on what colors to use in their home?

The first thing is to go with the colours that you are familiar with and that you love. Pick a base colour for the walls, whether it is paint or wallpaper and accessorize them from there. Experiment with different colours- be brave, buy sample paints and don't rush. Remember that colours change when they dry and that they alter in the shade at certain times of day. If you have any doubt or concerns that the colours you have chosen aren't working then it is not the right choice. Never settle for what you think is just ok; take the time, start again from the beginning and your colour will appear.

What to expect as a timeline in creating a home?
About double the time that is estimated (and double the cost)!

Any other bits of advice to give?

Trust your judgement above that of others. You are the one who has to wake up every morning and live with your handwork. Have the courage of your convictions; you will be surprised how clever you are.

Vicki doesn't actually have a formal design background, but studied History and Psychology. She says "I guess I just know what I like and secondly I really care about my surroundings. As for fashion- I don't know if loving beautiful things is a curse or a blessing..."
~~~I could leave the rat race behind and live in this in this farmhouse. How about you? Are you inspired? Learned anything new?
Fabulous Finds Gal


janettaylor said...

WOW! Lovely!


Anonymous said...

What a treat to read this interview with Vicki Archer~~she lives the life I dream of! Thank you both for sharing this wonderful corner of her world & talent with us!


Kristin said...

I love that she says trust your judgment over others! We ARE the ones that have to live there! And I totally agree about the mattress. I spent way more on that then the actual bed. Ah ha

Duchess of Tea said...

Hello darling,
I am back and have missed you terribly!! I have a post on my blog that explains my lengthy absence but enough of that, I just wanted to stop by and see how you are doing and to wish you a lovely day. I am now off to read the posts that I have missed and to look around your gorgeous blog.
Love & Hugs
Duchess ♥♥♥


all is so fabulous!!!

Many kisses and hugs,


Couture Carrie said...

What gorgeous spaces and suggestions! I need these books!


Alicia said...

wow i LOVE her style!! and her advice is fabulous!! i've never read her books but now i totally want to!


Vicki's house is magnificent always enjoying seeing it. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! Have a great weekend.

Kitchen Remodling in Los Angles said...

Its look like attached with the nature, fantastic idea to make living natural.
Thanks for this nice post.