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When you arrive at Pauline Chardin and her husband François’s house in the South of France, don’t bother looking for the front door. That big sliding window, which sends you right into the middle of the house, is the entrance you should use. It’s an untraditional welcome, sure, but nothing about the couple’s Provence home—and how they ended up there—is ordinary. 

“We found it by chance in the classified ads,” shares Pauline. After having lived in Paris for 15 years, the couple (she’s a photographer and artistic director; he’s a book editor) had grown tired of city life. Pauline, in particular, found herself happier and more creative when close to nature. So when she spotted pictures of a plot of land in the paper, she knew she’d have to go check it out. 

The land had been on the market for a while at that point, and Pauline’s hunch was that the sharp hillside and untamed vegetation was the deal-breaker for other buyers. But for her, it was the draw. “I was set on building a house on stilts on a steep land, so I loved it immediately,” she says. The landscape is garrigue, or made up of a mix of shrubby vegetation common in dry Mediterranean regions. Cutting through the pines, evergreen oaks, thyme, and scorpion brooms are rock formations surrounded by sandy soil and a tiny stream that forms during winter. 

What they wanted was fairly straightforward: a one-story, narrow rectangle building with a covered terrace on two sides. But the feeling they hoped to achieve from such a structure was much more special than that. “I remember reading about the Case Study houses and how they embraced their specific surroundings and seized the opportunity of a warmer climate,” says Pauline, name-checking architects Charles and Ray Eames, who constructed their 1948 Case Study house with minimal materials and maximum volume, all without disturbing the meadow on the property. 

So, at the heart of it all, Pauline and François built the living room and kitchen, which offer views of the landscape in all four directions. Take a left and you’ll find a wing with three south-facing bedrooms (including their 1-year-old’s nursery), a bathroom, and a cellar. Go right and you’ll discover a large office space that the pair share on days they work from home. 

A rug by Giancarlo Valle for Nordic Knots sets the scene for the vintage Danish dining set and George Nelson pendant lamp.

Despite how sleek the house looks, built to seemingly float over the hillside, it’s all about warmth as soon as you step in. The kitchen shelves are lined with Japanese ceramics sourced on their travels, and the cabinet doors are tinted okoumé wood. (Pauline admits they tested their carpenter’s patience by having him experiment with stain color after stain color until they found the perfect one.) A lover of mid-century design, she decided to splurge on the A330S Alvar Aalto lights over the island. “I love the idea of a design from the ’30s that is still in production and relevant today,” says Pauline. 

The okoumé cabinets continue on the wall opposite from the kitchen, right where guests enter the house. It’s their mudroom of sorts, although there isn’t much room left inside the cupboards for friends’ jackets. “My husband and I share a passion for outerwear that has gotten a bit out of hand,” says Pauline. 

The pink sofa in the living room is an IKEA score that the couple swathed in new pink upholstery. Along with the Cesta Lamp from Santa & Cole, it’s one of the only nonvintage pieces in the space.

Even though the central living area is meant to feel open and expansive, Pauline laid down a patchwork of three rugs to achieve a cozier atmosphere. Shortly after they moved in, they decided to turn their one big sitting room into two smaller lounge areas. “Maybe it’s because we had lived in smaller spaces for years?” Pauline ponders. “Dividing felt more inviting.” 

The couple’s travels to Asia have influenced their design choices as much as California modernism. In the living room, they hung a kantha, a light quilt made from used sari fabrics, to add color and texture to the walls. The polished cement look of homes they encountered in Sri Lanka inspired the floors, while the brass accents were an idea they brought back from India. The dark wood tones, copper rain chains, and verandalike terrace that shields the house from the summer sun are more design decisions that stemmed from special memories. 

Antique kimono fabric serves as art in the nursery, near a 1940s lamp that Pauline repainted.

A patchwork of antique fabrics are sewn onto the velvet drapes in the nursery, which stars a crib on wheels—their “secret weapon” when they wanted to put their son to sleep in the early days of parenthood. Pauline has an inkling that once he reaches the point where he can run freely outside, nap time will be fuss-free. Adventure is exhausting, after all. “I’m very excited for him to grow up to what feels to me like a kid’s wild paradise,” she says.

The couple’s bedroom is their zen retreat, complete with built-in nightstands clad in the same micro-cement material that covers the bathroom, too. This space is the exact opposite of the small, windowless one in their old Paris apartment. Here, the views are never-ending and Pauline can catch everything happening in the wildest side of the garden. “Sometimes, as I shower, I see a hare, a deer, or a fox passing by,” she shares. 

The matching bath mat and towel are from Autumn Sonata.

We don’t blame the couple’s four-legged “neighbors” for sticking around. The abundance of tall grasses outside provide natural habitats for animals. In the couple’s five years of owning the property, they have kept most of it intact, only substituting some of the plantings for more drought-resistant, self-seeding varieties that can have a life of their own. They have also avoided putting up a fence, which allows wildlife to get up close and personal. “We even saw a wolf the other day!” says Pauline. 

When selecting a place for the swimming pool, Pauline chose a spot that is surrounded by tall trees, which help keep the area cool and heighten their awareness of nature while taking a dip. On one side, they built a sculptural wall that’s ideal for lounging on and looking at the reflection of leaves in the water. Finding a good spot to enjoy the sunset is a must, too, but it varies depending on the time of year. “Sometimes it may be in the shower, in the kitchen, on the terrace, or up in the back garden,” says Pauline. 

Breakfast by the pool can be enjoyed at a vintage travertine table with CFOC pillows.

Growing up in northern France, Pauline remembers her earliest experiences with the outdoors as being cold and uncomfortable—it wasn’t a place where you’d simply hang out. “I wanted to create the exact opposite,” she says. “In this home, nature is the backdrop everywhere, light is plentiful, and the outside is almost as comfortable as the inside.”

The Goods