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« Adding Country French, Giving Traditional a New Warmth!! | Main | New York Design Meets Houston »
Friday
Jul082011

Parisian's Escape from the City

My cute intern for the summer, Amanda, is going to school in Milan and getting her Master's degree in marketing and management! I've had the best time hearing about all of Amanda's travels and  wanted to share Amanda's photos of her friend’s parent's home in France.  Next week we will be back in the US seeing a home we just completed which is WONDERFUl!

It’s hard to believe that you can drive only one hour from the hustle and bustle of Paris and find a quaint, quiet town to relax for the weekend or holiday.  Many Parisians have second homes in the countryside to escape the tourists, traffic, metros and noise of the city and their busy weekdays. This retreat, in the charming little town of Treuzy-levelay, is hidden in the French countryside, far away from tourists. Wouldn't that make a fun car!

Like every proper French town, this petite village has a beautiful church, several outdoor markets and at least two bakeries. Built during the 17th century, the church shown here – Eglise Saint Marin - was one of the first churches to go against traditional Catholicism and promote the French Revolution by supporting Agnosticism.  

This building, built in 1836, was once a tile roofing and pottery factory, but now-a-days parents bring their children here on the weekends to make creations of their own. 

Amanda was lucky to stay with her friends parents, Francis and Eclaire Avanturier, in their lovely brick and stone home from the 1880s.  It was inherited from Éclaire’s grandfather who purchased it in 1950 for only a few euros.  Wow - that would have been the time to invest!! The house is covered in stunning vines that give it such a charming, homey feel. I love the entrance floors- I'm sure Chateau Domingue, a wonderful Houston shop that imports similar treasures, would love to purchase these!!

As an avid reader and book collector, Mr. Avanturier began adding libraries to all of the rooms in this house once he ran out of space in their Parisian apartment years ago. He goes to book fairs all over the city to buy, sell and trade used books.  I love these interior walls that are the same as the exterior stone, but then slathered in plaster. 

The bones of this room are wonderfully charming and quaint!!  It is so fun to see how the Europeans have inspired us.  The plaster, old stone walls and antique beams give the space such warmth and character. Notice the door with the mirrors installed in them - a wonderful look.  We have made new doors look old at several of the homes I have done and then antique mirror has been installed.  The light fixture too is something I'm seeing a lot as it comes back in reproductions. And, of course, I just love the paint finish on the chest by the stairs!!

The old floors leading into the kitchen are mix-matched in a way that adds so much character.  In Europe, it's quite common to add onto spaces using whatever surface might be available for the work. The end result is always charming and unexpected!!! These handles on the stairs are intriguing too - I wonder what they might have been used for!

Most of the surfaces throughout the home are original, like these beautiful wooden floors!  I would love to see them uncovered!! Adding to that historic, old world feel, the house is filled with antique treasures which are still used like this sewing machine (there are actually two side by side).  “The Avanturiers were shocked that I was so intrigued by all of their ‘junk’," smiles Amanda. "If I could pack it all into a suitcase and fly it back to the States, I would!!”

 

The attached garage/shed is actually bigger than the house itself. The family plans to renovate and turn it into a large family room on the bottom floor and three bedrooms/bathrooms on the top floor. I suggested that they sell all of the wonderful antiques in the shed to cover the cost of renovations—they just need some buyers!!

The gardens in the backyard are exquisite! Year-round, they keep the landscape green and covered in flowers or autumn-colored leaves. With apple, pear, cherry, plum and hazelnut trees, the family has lots of fresh ingredients to pick in the fall. Yum!!!

The old wooden beams in the loft on the top floor are from the original construction, infusing the space with a natural age-old look.

There's Amanda with the Avanturiers after lunch. They always eat outside in the back gardens. It's one of their favorite spaces, where the grandchildren play football, soccer, or handball while the parents read and sunbathe.

A short 5 minute walk takes you to these beautiful yellow fields, full of flowers that are almost as tall as you. It makes you feel like you’re in a painting. These are actually Colza plants, used to make an oil that's similar to canola oil. 

For a real Parisian treat (arguably the best treat in the world!), you should try these lovely little macarons… Though they can be difficult to make, they're well worth a try.  I'm so happy to share this family recipe from the Avanturiers. To find additional recipes, Mowielicious also has an amazing blog with even more authentic, French macarons -- and some really great photos like the ones shown here!

Chocolate Macarons Recipe

Yield: 15 Cookies

Preheat oven to 350

Macaron Batter Ingredients:

1 cup powdered sugar

½ cup powdered almonds

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

6 tablespoons granulated sugar


Chocolate Filling Ingredients:

3 teaspoons light corn syrup

½ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon butter

5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips or chopped

To make Macaron Batter:

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch) ready.

Grind together the powdered sugar with the almond powder and cocoa in a food processor or blender until there are no lumps

Beat the egg whites with mixer until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about 2 minutes.

Fold the dry ingredients into the beaten egg whites with a rubber spatula.

When the mixture is smooth, scrape the batter into the pastry bag and pipe it onto the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), one-inch apart.

Tap the baking sheet a few times on the counter top to flatten the macarons.

Bake 15-18 minutes and let cool completely, then remove from baking sheet.

 

To make the chocolate filling:

Heat the cream in a small saucepan with the corn syrup. When the cream just begins to boil at the edges, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute, then stir until smooth. Stir in the pieces of butter. Let cool completely before using.

Take two macaron halves and add the filling to one side, simply put together like seen in the images. Et Voila! 

If you really, really like macarons as much as Amanda does, you can make massive ones like these! Thanks, Amanda,   for sharing your amazing experience with us - It definitely makes it seem hard to come back to the states!!

Next week, we'll be looking at a wonderful new home in the Memorial area with a ranch, industrial feel. Have a great week and stay cool--hehe--if possible!! 

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