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How to transform your home into a healthy, Instagram-worthy oasis—French style


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Photos: Larkin Clark
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When it comes to the art of slow living, it’s hard to not to think of the French. Whether they’re lingering over a weekday lunch (held anywhere but the office) or enjoying chocolate as part of a sustainable wellness ritual, our pals across the pond have an enviable knack for keeping things at leisurely pace and savoring the moment—and that healthy, take-a-deep-breath-and-relax mindset extends to their living spaces.

“The French have a wonderful way of letting their homes slowly evolve, and ‘decorating’ is unthinkable,” explains Annie Moore, owner and creator of Camellas-Lloret, a bed and breakfast in the southwest of France that was recently featured in Wabi-Sabi Welcome, Julie Pointer Adams’ guide to thoughtful entertaining. An American artist, Moore met her chiropractor husband, Colin, in France 35 years ago and the pair has been renovating homes and B&Bs ever since. (Prior to Camellas-Lloret, the Moores lived near the small town of Uzès for 11 years, where they revamped several ruins.)

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Though the Moores themselves are not French, they’ve managed to capture the essence of French slow living in Camellas-Lloret, a visual feast brimming with vintage finds, rustic textures, and cozy tableaux that make you want to grab a book and curl up. The series of thoughtfully curated spaces is what Instagram dreams are made of (recent visitors like Local Milk blogger Beth Kirby and Jamie Beck of Ann Street Studio can attest to it).

So I have to ask: Is there a way to capture that je ne sais quoi in our own homes? According to Moore, yes—but you’ve got to put in the legwork. “It [takes] time and love,” she says. “I think that’s what makes it special.”

Ahead, Moore shares her tips for transforming any space into a French oasis—whether you’re living in a grande maison or a tiny studio.

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Choose pieces that reflect your life journey instead of what’s popular right now

“For the French, the things one chooses to live with are more a reflection of a life well-lived, as well as an intimate portrait of the owners,” Moore explains, adding that she has made this philosophy her own. The key is to not over-plan; instead, curate a collection of items that tell a story and speak to you. “Crystal chandeliers, old silver, wallpapers from the 1850s to the 1970s, books, armoires, Moroccan rugs, modernist Italian and Scandinavian furniture, African art…It’s very French to have all these things coexisting in a very natural way. We buy very little new, although I would love a super-modern, over-scale Italian couch!”

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Add natural textures to create a welcoming vibe

Raw wood, leather, wool, and stone are important in creating coziness, Moore says. “I am a lover of natural linen, and have used it in every room of the house. The slightly rumpled look is an invitation to get comfortable, and I can never have too many squishy cushions.”

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Make sure thrifted items have a unifying element

Moore says almost everything in Camellas-Lloret was thrifted or made from recycled materials. To avoid visual overload and create an underlying sense of unity, she stayed true to her preference for whites and naturals in bold simple forms. That being said, an imaginative through-line is still important. “I do sometimes go for something with an element of crazy, especially in handmade items. I like to use scrapyard industrial pieces to make lamps, for instance—and it helps to know a good metal guy!”

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Create a sense of enclosure or secrecy

“I don’t like an entry where you can take in the whole space in one go,” Moore says. “One of the first things we did after buying the house was to put up a metal framework for DIY bamboo panels (they’re the rolls of bamboo you buy at the garden center) to create privacy and cover on the terrace and garden. Gardens, however small, are very important in creating a sense of well-being.”

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Position your furniture thoughtfully

Putting pieces in a formal layout is a big no-no in Moore’s book. Instead, she suggests focusing on the seating arrangements first, which should be comfortable and inviting, according to the season. “I might move our settee to look out onto the garden in summer and then push it right up in front of the fireplace in winter—never in a stiff setup or, God forbid, pushed against the walls.”

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Don’t ever skimp on paint

To instantly give your space a professional polish, coat your walls with a high-quality paint from a brand like Farrow & Ball, which offers rich, subtle colors made with natural pigments.  “If you can’t manage a good brand,” Moore says, “make your own with natural pigments and lime.” Another way to add visual depth to any room? With artfully placed swaths of wallpaper, as the Moores have done throughout Camellas-Lloret.

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Put in some elbow grease

A little DIY goes a long way in making your space feel cozy and personalized. Plus, it could save you some money in the long run. For example, Moore says the fire pit seating in their courtyard was made from discarded wood found on a friend’s property after his renovation. “We drew up a simple bed design, had the wood milled to size, and Colin put it together. An upholsterer could make similar cushions. I made these, but never again!”

Into French culture? Bien sûr! Discover the surprising news on French women and smoking—and learn the secrets of their perfectly messy hair, too.