By Olha Romaniuk
October 13, 2020
Designed by Jessica Barouch, this villa in the idyllic French countryside celebrates its history and remains steeped in a pastoral context
Located in the northwestern part of France, the coastal region of Normandy is an area rich with history and cultural traditions. From lively beach towns and cheese farms to the iconic Mont St-Michel island monastery and the site in Giverny where Claude Monet famously painted his gardens of water lilies, the region is a beloved destination for gourmands and culture connoisseurs alike.
So it’s hardly a surprise that French interior designer Jessica Barouch would take inspiration from this French villa’s quaint countryside location in Normandy. The homeowner, who works in the fashion industry, gave Barouch an open-ended brief that only asked for a home that was suitable for family living.
Capitalising on the property’s enviable position atop a hill with unforgettable ocean views, Barouch crafted a home that basks in the surrounding landscape and brings nature into its interiors. “It was essential to conserve the authenticity of the house,” says Barouch of the renovation. She took a year to turn the seven-room mansion into a cosy abode that the family can now call their own.
The architect’s first misson was to preserve certain original elements of the house. She kept the terracotta floor tiles in the living and dining areas as well as the foyer, and also retained the massive structural timber frames that are typical of the buildings in the region. The original double-leaf main entrance doors and the main timber staircase that leads to the private quarters on the upper floor were also preserved.
In the lounge area upstairs, which serves as an entrance to the master bedroom, the exposed timber frame soars upwards to highlight the double-height sloped ceiling. The bleached timber structure is balanced by the subdued interior scheme and paired with modern furniture pieces, allowing the structural frame to serve as the highlight of the space.
The architect’s other goal was to improve the spatial flow of the home while retaining the original layout. Barouch connected the kitchen to the dining and living areas, organising them around the central brick-lined hearth and bringing light into the interiors. Combining the social areas into one contiguous zone, the architect chose an oversized low table by Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek as the anchor piece of the living room.
Similarly, Barouch envisioned the kitchen and the dining space as extensions of each other to facilitate family interactions. She designed the cooking area to face the dining table for an effortless spillover of activities during family meals. Placing the central island counter parallel to the dining table was another deliberate move in creating an arrangement conducive to social exchanges across the rooms.
Throughout the home, Barouch established a pared-down aesthetic that adds a contemporary touch to the villa’s historic bones. Selecting organic and natural elements to complement the original material palette of the house, the architect created seamless connections between the villa’s existing structure and its contemporary facelift.
In tribute to the traditional building techniques of the Normandy region, Barouch used light textured paint on the walls in the common spaces, and handmade rope or silk wallpaper on the walls in the bedrooms. “Wood, stone and ceramics are recurrent in many of my projects,” explains Barouch. “The mix of materials and textures in this house was selected to emphasise its connection to nature.”