As promised, here is a copy of the 4-page feature of our holiday home in France published in The Telegraph magazine last Saturday. Just seeing our home again makes me want to go there but unfortunately no time to escape for the time being…
A big thank you to Interior Stylist and Writer Rohini Wahi and Photographer Michael Paul who took some amazing photos of our home making it looks like a lot better than it actually is and the team at The Telegraph especially Homes Editor David Nicholls who has always been incredibly supportive of our little business and the designs we have in our collection.
I had so many nice emails from readers about our home and what we have achieved with BODIE and FOU that I feel quite tearful today so thank you very much for all your support. It is a lot of hard work but moments like these make it worthwhile….thank you again!
A holiday home in Arcachon benefits from a French-kiwi collaboration.
by Rohini Wahi. Photography by Michael Paul
Karine Kong was born in Fumel, a village near Agen, in South-West France, and has happy memories of childhood holidays spent on the Atlantic coast near Arcachon. She and her sister, Elodie, would run around on the beaches, climb the Dune of Pila (the highest sand dune in Europe) and discover little paths winding through the pine trees. They learnt how to swim at Club Mickey and afterwards ate Nutella tartines at their grandmother’s house.
On the other side of the world, Karine’s partner, Steve Kirk, had a similarly carefree upbringing in Waihi Beach, on New-Zealand’s North Island. So when the couple had a daughter of their own, they wanted her to experience the same happy and carefree childhood that they had enjoyed.
In 2006, when Mila was a year-old, Steve and Karine had been living in London for 16 years. One weekend, while visiting Karine’s parents in Arcachon, the pair decided to go for a walk and see what the local estate agents had to offer. They ended up viewing five houses that day and putting an offer in on the one that is now their holiday home. The property, which was built at the beginning of the century, had a good layout, with four double bedrooms and a big lounge. There was also an impressive garden with old pine, apple and cherry trees and huge outhouses spread over 9,000 sq ft and it was only 10 min from the beach.
“But it was in a very sorry state,” Karine says. “The owner had died five years earlier and one of his children had been using the house and the garden to breed ducks and chickens“.
The house had 1970s wallpaper all over the bedrooms (including the ceilings) and there was a sunken bath in a carpeted bathroom. “All Steve and I could see was its potential. We both come from keen DIY families, so with great help from my parents we did a lot of the work ourselves.”
Although local tradesmen were called in to knock down the wall between the kitchen and the lounge, Karine and Steve laid solid-oak floorboards themselves in the new-open plan living area. The garden too was resuscitated. “Steve’s parents have an amazing garden in New-Zealand” Karine says, ‘so when they were over to visit, they also helped us to give the garden a new lease of life, which was greatly needed after the ducks had lived there.”
The result is a Southern-Hemisphere style beach house with a lot of French flairs, which Steve describes as ‘a little slice of New-Zealand in a far-flung corner of France‘.
Walls were whitewashed inside and out to give ‘a relaxed, beachy vibe’, and then personalised with beautiful accessories such as simple ceramic crosses found in flea markets and black and white family portraits.
There is also a good mix of designer items and art prints from the online shop BODIE and FOU, which Karine founded with Elodie in 2005.’The trend now is to mix and match things that don’t exactly match‘ Karine says.
In the kitchen are three bone china pendant lights by Kathleen Hills and in the dining area are second-hand chairs that have been painted in white.
Outside, bright-blue shutters give a sunny, seaside feel to the house and the colour has been picked up inside with light-blue fabrics and wallpapers set against the cool, calming backdrop of whitewashed walls and subtle greys. ‘Whatever the weather outside, these colours always remind me of summer and being on holidays‘ Karine says.
While Karine runs BODIE and FOU, Steve works for an investment management company. So to ensure they both completely switch off when they visit the house in Arcachon, they decided to have neither a telephone nor an internet connection there. ‘It drives me nuts the first days we get here‘, Karine says, ‘but it is refreshing to be able to focus on what really matters, like being together as a family, going to the beach‘.
Breakfasts are long and lazy alfresco affairs, usually with Elodie and her family, who often holiday with them. And before long it will be time for lunch under the trees. ‘When it becomes too warm, we will go to one of the beaches, go out on the boat or take the children to the village. Then, when it’s bath time for the children, the guys will get the barbecue and mojitos going, and we have the most wonderful time until the early hours‘
‘Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work’, Flaubert wrote. I live by this. Being exposed to so many creative, colourful designs in my work, I long for calming, inspiring interiors once at home.
Whitewashing is a sort of tradition in our family. My father swears by it and he has developed his own recipe to get the right feel to the mix, which includes water, milk and limestone powder.
This region of France, the Gironde, is incredibly rewarding, beautiful and rich with top-rated vineyards, amazing food and beautiful landscapes.
We had several wooden tables built locally so we could maximise the sunlight all day long without having to move the table each time from the front to the back of the house.
Stick to white crockery. If something gets broken you can easily replace it with bits and pieces from different styles. The mix of shapes and styles (you can even add off-white pieces and cream) will just add a pleasant, relaxed boho feel.
A couple of second-hand shops I visit regularly are La Trocante and Troc de L’Ile in La Teste-de-Buch (five miles from Arcachon). You can discover some great finds and a good mix of vintage and fairly new stock.
The food market at La Teste-de-Buch on Thursdays and Sundays is a great place to pick up fresh food, oysters and flowers and has foie gras to die for.
A day trip to Cap- Ferret is a must. Go early by road so you can stop at the various second-hand stalls on the roadside or take the boat from Arcachon and cross the bay to taste oysters and chilled white wine by the beach on the other side.