Looking at a Stunning Home Renovation in the French Countryside

Stephan Julliard

When redoing her family’s home in the French countryside, Marine Bonnefoy knew she had to take her time and get it just right—because Mom and Dad were watching.

This is not just a family home. It’s also very much a family affair—as Philippe Bonnefoy (a retired telecommunications technician) and his wife, MarieLaure (a psychologist and former local politician) enlisted their eldest daughter, Marine, an architect and rising design star, to oversee the interiors. Just 30, she has been elected to AD France’s list of top 100 decorators for the past two years, and her projects to date have included a madeleine store in Paris’s Ninth Arrondissement and an apartment in the tony Palais Royal district. Passionate and principled, she cites the likes of Axel Vervoordt and Swiss architect Peter Zumthor as her design heroes and takes a slow, almost meditative approach to her practice. “When I get a new project, I don’t do anything immediately,” she says. “I simply go about my daily business, and it matures in my mind. I think about it when I’m cooking, when I’m walking, when I’m clothes shopping, and it’s only after about three weeks that I start drawing.”


Stephan Julliard

That said, she had a rather spontaneous reaction when she first visited this house in France’s Beaujolais wine region in the fall of 2014. “As we were going up the stairs, I turned to my mother and said, ‘Oh là, it’s divine,’ ” she says. “And when I saw the view from the sitting room, of the vines, I told my parents, ‘You’ve got to buy it!’ ” Built in 1867 for a family of silk producers from nearby Lyon, it shares many of the same architectural elements as the grand apartments of that city: beamed ceilings, herringbone parquet floors, and marble fireplaces. In 1919, the property was sold to a family of wine producers as both a house and winery; they installed a large vat on the ground floor and a hidden trapdoor above, through which they would surreptitiously add sugar to the wine during fermentation—a practice forbidden at the time.


Stephan Julliard

The Bonnefoys bought the property from their descendants; the last occupant was an elderly woman who lived in only part of the house. There was no running water, no sewage system, and just one small, coal burning stove for the whole house. “As an architect, I saw it had amazing potential,” says Marine. “It was so well designed. Despite the lack of heating, there was no humidity. And it had incredible decorative details.”


Stephan Julliard

The renovation work took three years, but from the get-go Marine established a pact with her parents. They would give her carte blanche to decorate the house as a means to help her launch her career. Marine also insisted they used none of the furniture from their former home. She ended up making very few structural changes; the primary one was transforming a series of maid’s rooms into a master suite on the third floor. “You have to remain humble as an architect,” she says. “I always like to keep the beautiful things from the past.”

In the public rooms, her aim was to foster a “gentle, dreamlike atmosphere” with a palette inspired by the surroundings. The gray-blue color in the living room was drawn from a pine forest visible from its windows. The kitchen was also inspired by views, this time of the vineyards: Marine created a wall installation of bricks salvaged from a local factory to evoke the orderly lines of the planted vines.


Stephan Julliard

She picked up six chairs by 20th century French designer Colette Gueden for a song, and acquired 1940s Hungarian chairs for the living room because of their unusual shapes. Among her favorite artworks is a series of three discs covered in shards of colored glass by Vincent Beaurin. “Their hue and intensity change with the light,” says Marine. “You can stare at them for hours.”

Joining the mix are a few of her own designs—a curvy Dialogue dining table and an arc-shaped ceiling light above it. The prototypes of each were made by her father, who was very hands-on during the project. He laid floors, installed the kitchen, reupholstered chairs, and did all the painting. “And there was not just one coat, but several,” says Marine. “All the credit for this house goes to him and my mother.”