If you’ve ever dreamed of living in a charming home in the French countryside, you’ll love this inside look into the French Country Life of Sharon Santoni. Sharon, the writer behind ‘My French Country Home,’ ‘My Stylish French Girlfriends,’ and the magazine ‘My French Country Home‘ shares about her love for entertaining, her favorite finds at the brocantes around France and what guests can expect on one of her tours.
You grew up in England, but moved to France after marriage. What was it like adapting to another culture?
I moved to France as a university student, fell in love with a French boy and moved to France. We got married a few years later. I loved living in France and appreciate the space we have here, the quality of life and I still get the Frenchness, but having said that there are many beautiful places to live on the planet.
In My French Country Home you shared about how you discovered your dream home where you would raise your four children. How did it feel to walk into your new home for the first time?
I cried. Literally. Tears of joy. Having taken two years to finalize the purchase, it was a wonderful and emotional moment to walk through that gate and turn the key in the front door for the first time.
When did you first decide to write the book and share your love for entertaining?
We entertain a lot here. I love to lay a pretty table and spend evenings with friends. It was a natural step to share photos of some of my favorite moments.
In My Stylish French Girlfriends you share the stories of twenty of your closest friends who live in ‘grand chateaux, charming country cottages and Parisian apartments’ what did you enjoy the most about sharing their stories?
One of my favorite things to do is highlighting other people’s talents. It really makes me happy. The book was an opportunity to showcase some very gifted people who aren’t normally in the limelight. The shoots were great fun. I love working with Franck Schmitt, the photographer and Gibbs Smith, my publisher, did a great job putting it together. All the girlfriends were thrilled with the resulting book.
You offer a quarterly subscription, ‘My Stylish French Box’ what do you enjoy the most about curating these boxes?
I love curating these small capsule collections each season and I’m very proud that via our box we are ambassadors for some of France’s finest and most traditional brands. We also give opportunities to younger artisan brands to reach an audience around the world.
The theme for August box was ‘Summer Living in Provence.’ How do you decide on the theme for each box?
We try to keep it seasonal but sometimes we are simply inspired by color or a region in France. I always try to make the contents come together visually and there is always something sweet smelling as well, of course, as our trademark antique item in each box.
What are some of the favorite finds you’ve made when visiting flea markets & brocantes?
I love buying paintings. They don’t have to be expensive or masterpieces. I love small 19th century paintings that are often painted on wood. The first antique piece that my husband and I ever bought was a large painting of two women. We had gone to a fair looking for a table and chair that we badly needed and we came away with a painting and still nowhere to sit down.
I buy a lot of antique bed linings that we use on a daily basis. I love the quality of the fabric which we don’t find in traditional shops here anymore. And a heavy linen bedsheet is a wonderful thing, it keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. I couldn’t live without them.
In January of this year, you also launched My French Country Life Magazine. When did you first decide to release the magazine and what is it like working with photographers, writers and chefs who share your passion for French living?
Launching a magazine is not for the fainthearted! It is challenging and has been a steep learning curve. Having said that, it is proving to be an amazing adventure. It is a wonderful opportunity to showcase people all over France and I love working with our contributing photographers and journalists.
One of our regular pieces is about various regions in France. And it’s fun for us to research places to stay, great restaurants, and beautiful gardens and homes to visit.
A feature of the magazine is the truly breathtaking photography. We are very fortunate to work with extremely talented photographers each as passionate as we are to share the beauties of France.
Along with writing for the magazine you also give French Tours. What can guests expect on one of your tours?
Our tours are another way for me to share my love of France. I started with tours in Normandy and now we offer tours in Paris, Burgundy and Provence. Our guests can expect to get off the tourist trail to experience some very special and privileged moments. The tours are very unique in that we really explore French lifestyle. We are invited into homes and private gardens. We cook with French chefs, take classes in floral design. We experience wine tastings, garden visits and opportunities to shop for antiques. Along the way, we also enjoy some fine French cuisine and wine.
What were some of the highlights from the recent Provence Tour?
Firstly, the tour is based at the Château de Moissac. This is a private chateau that is owned by good friends of mine. Their renovation story is inspiring and it is incredible to be able to share this, and the space, with our guests. During the tour, we enjoy several meals at the chateau as well as a floral workshop, and a talk about antique linens. The week includes local markets, some great shopping, fabulous meals, fun antique finds, and special private visits.
Next year for the very first time I will be offering a retreat in Provence, based at Chateau de Moissac, with the talented Sandra Sigman, floral artist and owner of Les Fleurs Andover. The retreat is all about taking a moment for yourself and perfect for those looking into the next steps in their life, whether it be opening a new business, starting a craft, or a big move. We’ll be enjoying wonderful food, yoga to start the day, and a series of talks about creativity, reinvention and entrepreneurship. We will be releasing this new trip soon and look forward to staying in touch with the women that come to see the wonderful new projects that start as a result.
Recent feature in Victoria
Keep up with Sharon and My French Country Home through the following links…
All photos in this post are via Sharon Santoni.