Extracted from Modern Retro: From Rustic to Urban, Classic to Contemporary by Caroline Clifton-Mogg, published by Jacqui Small (£30)
The village of Lyons-la-Forêt, one of the most beautiful in Normandy, revels in a surfeit of charming, seventeenth-century, half-timbered, pink brick houses. Cyrille and Julie Viard’s plan was to reinterpret the genre – adding a touch of industrial fantasy to the traditional charm.
In the heart of the magnificent and imposing beech national forest of Lyons, stands the village of Lyons-la-Forêt, a perfectly preserved, half-timbered Norman village, and nowhere is the charm more pronounced than on the eighteenth-century central Place des Halles, so quintessentially French that it served as the setting for the making of not one, but two, films of Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary (the first made by Jean Renoir in 1932, the second by Claude Chabrol in 1990). As cinema fans, this was yet another reason for Cyrille and Julie Viard, owners of the decorating business L’Empreinte, to make their home here.
The story began when Cyrille, who had spent his childhood in the village, decided after ten years of living in Paris to come back to the region and to rebuy his childhood home, which stood on the edge of the ancient beech forest. Unsurprisingly, the layout and design of the house needed a complete rethink, and before long they had upturned the house from top to bottom. Like so many old, small houses, the narrow windows and small rooms made the interior darker than might have been wished, so Cyrille and Julie decided to open up the rooms, wherever possible, to maximize what daylight there was. Of course, with an old house, the structural beams, both horizontal and vertical, could not be removed, so on the ground floor they took down the wall between the living room and the kitchen, leaving just the beautiful, rough-textured beams. Suddenly the space was opened up and illuminated, and so Cyrille and Julie went further, stripping back the cob wall finish to reveal the original brick, and the beams, once painted, were stripped back and then patinated.
As well as a living room, there is a study and a small book room. The kitchen, which opens onto the living room, is organized around a large table and industrial metal chairs; a glazed door – another device to increase natural light – leads into the garden and a summer dining room. An open staircase, with treads of oak, leads up to the bedrooms – an enfilade of simple rooms, beneath the rafters, with open beams and walls gently tinted with chalk paint.
Cyrille and Julie have used a clever combination of the slightly industrial and the slightly rural, softening the metal and wood, both upstairs and down, with fat cushions and quilts. Drawings, watercolours and paintings, many of them by Julie’s grandfather, Jean Hulin, are hung on walls and up the stairs. The mood is relaxed and comfortable – and perfectly in keeping with the unique atmosphere of the ancient village.
Photographer: Patrick van Robaeys. Stylist: Stéphanie Boiteux-Gallard.