The First Floor of This Family’s French Farmhouse Used to Be Reserved for Barn Animals
While the original staircase remains, now it’s a favorite hangout spot.
Updated Feb 24, 2023 12:57 PM
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At first glance, interior designer and photographer Anne-Sophie Bost’s Basque country farmhouse looks much like it did when it was built back in the 1950s—from the outside, anyway. “The rules are strict for the exteriors,” says Bost of the historic homes dotting the landscape of Bidart, a cozy seaside town wedged between Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Biarritz. “We have to conserve the Basque style and use one of three authorized colors: red, blue, or green.”
Such stringent regulations might have scared off another prospective buyer, but the classic whitewashed facade and weathered woodwork were part of what initially drew Bost, her husband, Lawrence, and children Esteban (15) and Eden (12) to the property after living in various locations throughout France. “We’ve always dreamed of making a home on the Basque coast,” she says. When it came time to select their dream property, the choice was easy: “Houses ‘speak’ to me. I just knew.”
Before she could work her magic on the interiors, however, she had to get through a serious renovation. When the home was first built, the ground floor was reserved for farm animals, while the family lived upstairs. Bost started from scratch, working for six months with a local firm to make both floors not only habitable but thoughtfully designed for her busy family. She didn’t mind the construction. “The more I can break, the happier I am!” she says of cracking open the structure to let the bones inside shine.
The only original piece Bost kept was the living room’s staircase, which has become a favorite hangout spot, thanks to her clever use of the space beneath it. She designed a cozy sofa to fit perfectly in the nook tucked under the stairs, as well as a custom bookcase stocked with photography, architecture, and art titles. “Although I’m a minimalist, I have at least 20 boxes of books with every move, because I can never part with them!” says Bost.
During the renovation process, Esteban and Eden were involved as much (or as little) as they pleased. “He doesn’t care at all about decor, so I did what I liked!” Bost recalls. “She, on the other hand, absolutely wanted a cabin bed.” The built-in berth in Eden’s room fits snugly beneath the sloped ceiling (another effective use of an awkward space), which is wallpapered in an oversize floral print that took Bost months to source. “I wanted the flowers to be large and to find just the right color to match the sage green,” she notes. Eden also helped her mother pick the art lining the walls of her now-treasured hideaway, including the most-teenager keepsake: pages torn from a magazine, then framed. “It’s an evolving process,” Bost says of their (so far very happy) collaboration.
Bringing her vision for an “elegant, beachy” look to the rest of the home, Bost peppered in a mix of brass accents, sculptural ceramics, wood, leather, and colored glass details, alongside lounge-ready furniture in a washed-out palette of dusty rose and light gray. Above the dining nook, panoramic wallpaper depicting a desert scene by artist Haby Bonomo and a vintage bird mobile set a breezy scene. “When I designed the space, I was traveling in my head,” says Bost of the Art Deco elements, African craftsmanship, and maritime themes that inspire her. “Everything just came together in my mind.”
When selecting artwork, Bost admits to also operating mostly on instinct. “I never think about it—if I like something, I buy it, and I know that I’ll always find a place for it,” she says. Among her more unique pieces: an old wood plank printed to resemble a Chanel silk foulard, which hangs in the guest bedroom, as well as a large-scale painting by Bordeaux artist Denis Perrollaz. “Lawrence and I discovered his work in a gallery in Biarritz a few years ago, and we had a crush on it,” says Bost. “I told Denis, ‘I want your vision of the ocean.’” Rendered in a range of moody blues, the custom creation inspired her to mimic the watery shades throughout the main bedroom.
Many of the objects in the home remind the family of their favorite trips—Gabonese statuettes, Tunisian wedding blankets repurposed as curtains, and tablecloths placed at the foot of the bed to serve as accent throws are just a few of the treasures that have made their way around the world before landing at the farmhouse. “I’ve always loved handcrafted things,” says Bost. “As a student, I was buying saris at the Indian shops in Paris to put on my old sofa; I would bring back basketwork and plates from Morocco.”
That sense of wanderlust brings the warmth and ease of a vacation escape to the coastal home. Now settled, the family is enjoying the nearby beach—Eden recently started surfing and loves it. “It’s just different from the other houses where we used to live. There’s a story behind it,” says Bost. “We’ve made this dream come true.”
This story was originally published in our Fall 2020 issue with the headline “Basque Nouveau.”