Books: Modern Retro by Caroline Clifton-Mogg

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 front of the wisteria-covered old farmhouse are metal chairs and a round table from the 1950s.

In front of the wisteria-covered old farmhouse are metal chairs and a round table from the 1950s.

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 room has been opened up to reveal the old staircase where the metal steps and rail have been replaced with oak. The sofa is covered with an old quilt, in front of which is a table from the 1950s. Behind an old work bench next to the door is a group of etchings and watercolours by Jean Hulin.

The room has been opened up to reveal the old staircase where the metal steps and rail have been replaced with oak. The sofa is covered with an old quilt, in front of which is a table from the 1950s. Behind an old work bench next to the door is a group of etchings and watercolours by Jean Hulin.

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. 

On the other side of the now opened room, divided by beams, the kitchen is dominated by a vintage table used for food preparation and eating, with vintage metal chairs from the 1950s on either side. The glazed kitchen door leads out into the garden and the summer dining room.

On the other side of the now opened room, divided by beams, the kitchen is dominated by a vintage table used for food preparation and eating, with vintage metal chairs from the 1950s on either side. The glazed kitchen door leads out into the garden and the summer dining room.

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. 

In a corner bound by beams, a small child’s chair and an armchair from the 1950s. The hanging lights are electric glass isolators, making a contemporary mobile. On the wall, portraits of Julie’s family and ink drawings by Alain Bonnefoit.

In a corner bound by beams, a small child’s chair and an armchair from the 1950s. The hanging lights are electric glass isolators, making a contemporary mobile. On the wall, portraits of Julie’s family and ink drawings by Alain Bonnefoit.

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.