Jean Deniot French Farmhouse
A rustic yet sophisticated farmhouse in the French countryside, designer Jean Louis Deniot and his sister, Virginie, recast an 18th-century Loire Valley farmhouse as an understated, elegant haven for her family. To fashion a suitable country home for the whole family they first decided to extend the house’s layout by building a passage connecting it to the adjacent stable. The entire space was gutted to remove, among other vestiges of farm life, a 23-foot-long rough. On the ground floor, the stable became a living room and an open kitchen, and a bedroom was turned into a library/office. The former kitchen, with its brick hearth, is now Jean-Louis’s guest room; the larder floor was tiled over to create his bath. Upstairs, below the gabled ceilings, there are three more bedrooms, two new baths, and a media room. An under-floor radiant-heating system was installed, and three dormers were built—one in the front and two in the back—to match the existing one, filling the second floor with light. Because the house gets so much natural light, Jean-Louis Denoit chose a dark palette for the walls “to make it cozier,” using paler fabrics to break up the darkness “and give it some air.” He played with textural variation, mixing together tweed, toile de Jouy, sheepskin, rusted metal, and unfinished wood. The idea, Denoit says, was to channel the taste of “someone who had a chateau upbringing but wants a simpler, more rustic lifestyle.” Along the way, the Deniots managed to work some of the original materials into the new design. Octagonal terra-cotta tiles from the ground floor were laid in the new baths, and the main ceiling beams were restored and left handsomely exposed. Dozens of other reclaimed beams were incorporated. For the living room floor, they used square terra-cotta tiles that had been upstairs and the doors were made to order from plain oak planks, with none of the intricate carvings or trim typically found in French farmhouses.
Denoit put in the corner of his bedroom a series of green glass demijohns from 1850's and a Directoire safe. A 1940's sunflower mirror hangs over the living room fireplace and furniture and fabrics were acquired during travels, a terra-cotta vase from Ibiza, Tangier rug in the library/office and a Brutalist C. Jeré brass lantern in the dining area. The design feels deeply French with an eclectic mix from Asia, Denmark, Latin America, and Morocco. The library/office, at the center of the house, conveys sensibility at its best. The walls are covered with a thick tartan and matched with dark wool with curtains of a plaid cashmere. To contrast the antique partners desk with the room’s oak floor and sycamore desk chair, Denoit painted it black. For the master bedroom, an airy loft that once stored straw and hay, the question for Jean-Louis was how to fill the space “to make it feel more human.” He designed an “elaborate-looking” Louis XIV–style bed, with a fringed canopy made of burlap. “We unraveled the edges gently, thread by thread,” he says, imitating the movement with his hands, “until we got it exactly as we wanted it.”