To step into Normandy, and then into Sharon Santoni’s French Country Home, the one readers have come to find such soothing beauty and infinite inspiration for bringing thoughtful décor and comforts into their lives, was a pinch-me moment to say the least.
From the love-filled greeting by Gibson and Ghetto from the moment I arrived until I departed, the jovial, relaxed evening aperitifs on the Santoni family’s patio which would lead to dinners full of seasonal goodness and conversations full of co-mingling English and French well into the night, and concluding with a celebration of Les Bleus winning the World Cup for France, this trip of France, that had been so long in the planning, was punctuated in such a way that makes me trust the universe just a little bit more. Magical and most memorable is the best way to describe it.
And it was with Sharon’s ease and kind welcome, to share, to offer knowledge of so much of what she loves and knows well, that I feel fortunate to have experienced. From teaching and showing me the history and care of French linens, taking me to a Brocante market one early Sunday morning, inviting me to join her on a walk through the nearby woods with Gibson and Ghetto, and introducing me to her family, she introduced me to her French country home and way of life.
Sharon has a sincere passion for what she brings to readers on her blog, guests on her tours and subscribers to her seasonal French gift box, which is why I invited her to answer a few questions about, well, a little of everything, but beginning with the tours she offers throughout the year and France, as well as where she comes up with the themes and contents for the seasonal My Stylish French Box. I do hope you enjoy our conversation, and be sure to read through to the end as a special announcement of a giveaway will be shared, as well as instruction about how to enter (you don’t want to miss, I promise).
~Questions are in bold and Sharon’s responses are in italics just below each.
Q: Travelers today are choosing to seek out experiences when they travel as they want to become more immersed in the culture they are curious to visit. Currently, you offer a variety of tours inspired by your lifestyle brand My French Country Home. What types of tours can travellers select and what will they experience?
I agree with you that it is more fun to travel when you have a purpose, and especially when someone else does all the thinking through the schedule! At the present time we offer a Provence tour in May each year, and two brocante and lifestyle tours in September and October. Both events include some antique buying; a cooking class; a floral class; as well as local visits to wine chateaux, a beautiful garden or a local artisan. No two tours are identical because we like to keep it fresh and interesting. We aim to take our clients off the beaten tourist track and give them a uniquely authentic experience of French living, be it in Provence or in Normandy and Paris.
~Learn more about Sharon’s tours here.
Q: What inspired you to organize and host these tours for travelers?
My readers wrote to ask me to take them shopping! That’s how the first tour came to be, and since then we have expanded and widened the activities that we can offer. And even though each tour is different, we can assure clients that they will always stay in beautiful accommodation, and enjoy wonderful meals and great company!
Q: When individuals join you on the tours, they have the opportunity to be exposed to many different beautiful antiques and brocante finds. What is one piece of advice you would give to treasure hunters when looking for something to purchase?
I always say “keep your eyes and your mind wide open”. Never go antique shopping with a list, be prepared to be surprised and tempted by the unusual, and always buy what you love.
Q: Your recent book My French Country Home: Entertaining Through the Seasons offers a season by season glimpse into your life in France (listen to her conversationhere in episode #168about her book). Your eye for beautiful, thoughtful decor is readily apparent in each of the images as you pair furniture and table settings with mother nature’s offerings. Where did your journey and love for decor begin?
I think that growing up in England, my family home and the homes around me were always elegant and comfortable, without ever being intimidating. Raising a family of four children, along with a couple of dogs and a few horses thrown into the mix, our home decor had to be relaxed and liveable. Today my husband and I are empty nesters, and we are loving the way our home evolves to our new requirements.
Q: When it comes to decorating our homes, if I too am seeking to curate a home that offers warmth and that country French aesthetic, what are a few tips you would share to be successful?
I would say to think about layers. Sometimes people think that a specific style can simply be bought new and put into place, but for a home to feel authentic, especially in a French country style, there has to be layers that are built up of old and new. Textiles and colour are important too, nothing too uniform.
~Below: a glimpse inside Sharon’s guest cottage.
Q: You have spoken often on your blog about reinvention, and how having begun your blog in early 2010, it has offered many awesome opportunities. What is the key, you have found, to be successful when it comes to reinventing the life we are living should we seek it?
Follow your heart! Do not be afraid to try something new. I started my blog as a soon-to-be empty nester, at a stage in my life where I really needed some new occupation. Little did I know just how busy I would become. I firmly believe that this liberty to reinvent ourselves is one of today’s greatest luxuries.
Q: I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend time with you and your family this summer. The meals we shared, as well as the conversations, are fond moments from my trip to France. Each time we sat down, the table setting was welcoming, warm and while casual, epitomized to me the importance of gathering for a meal. When you consider how to set your table for any dinner/meal gathering, what details do you include? And what are the essentials for setting such an inviting tablescape?
The most important element to any enjoyable meal is the company around the table, and I have to say how thrilled I and my family were to host you this summer Shannon. Once you have your guest list sorted, I’d say you want the table to be pretty and welcoming, so it puts everyone at ease and makes them glad to be there.
Q: My Stylish French Boxis a luxury seasonal subscription which includes unique artisan products hand-selected by yourself from throughout the regions of France. In each box, each season there is at least one item you found at a brocante market. This must take an immense amount of time and planning to find just the right items. What inspires you as you decide what types of items to include in your boxes each season?
Via My Stylish French Box, I am proud to become an ambassador for some truly wonderful French brands, and also for some very gifted French artisan creators. For each box I decide upon a theme and gradually pull together ideas for items to include. My aim is to finish with a beautiful, sweet smelling curated collection of eight products. There will always be products for the home, for our clients to use personally and of course our famous brocante item.
Q: Life advice for enjoying the everydays?
Pay attention to the details, keep your eyes open to everyday beauty, don’t be afraid to get off the beaten track and always remain curious and interested in those around you.
Q: Favorite book you have read.
Q: Restaurant you recommend visiting in Paris.
I recently discovered the restaurant Benoit in the first arrondissement, I love it! A small traditional bistrot with outstanding food and impeccable service.
Q: What are you most looking forward to enjoying as someone who lives in France with September and the fall season approaching?
I always look forward to the change in season, especially in Normandy where the seasons are so distinct. I love the perfume of Autumn and I love the changing light and colours. And of course September sees the start of my Fall Brocante and Lifestyle Tours, always a highlight of my year!
I want to express a deep gratitude to Sharon, her familiy and Gibson and Ghetto for the warm welcome during my stay, and as well for what she has offered to a lucky TSLL reader during our annual French Week – check out the giveaway below, and have a look at my Instagram Stories to see Sharon’s most recent Stylish French Box being opened just days ago in Bend.
Thank you for stopping by and Bonne Chance!
A Giveaway to one lucky TSLL reader from Sharon Santoni:
- The November box of My Stylish French Box
- the theme will be Noel a la Maison
- it will be shipped mid-November in time for the holidays
- a value of $255
- To Enter:
- Leave a comment on this post by Saturday August 18th (2018) (midnight – Pacific Time)
- The winner will be announced on the final post of TSLL’s French Week on Sunday August 19th.
~To listen to my previous two interview with Sharon, click below:
~episode #168, French Everyday Living with Author & Blogger Sharon Santoni (discussion includes her second book My French Country Home: Entertaining Through the Seasons)
~episode #96, Everyday Living in France: My Interview with Sharon Santoni (discussion includes her first book – My Stylish French Girlfriends)
French Week 2018 – Posts So Far . . .
- Welcome to TSLL’s French Week & a Short Message from Shannon
- A Linen Giveaway from Soak & Sleep
- Claude Monet’s Giverny: My Time with the Famous Waterlilies and Those Copper Pots & Pans
- Cooking in Provence with Patricia Wells
- French Linens: The Fields, The History, and Why It is Truly Luxurious Fabric(and where to find a sheet set of your own)
- #221: Waking Up In Paris Author Sonia Choquette — A Conversation on Reinvention
- A Review of Tish Jett’s New Book: Living Forever Chic
- TSLL’s Tour of Les Jardins de Villandry
- Aix-en-Provence & M.L. Longworth – Talking about the Paris of the South of France
- Find Your Perfect Provence (Simply French) Market Tote
- Giveaway – French Wall Decor Prints from Modvin
- All You Need to Know About the Markets in Provence(and in France for that matter)
- Lunch with Julia Child at La Couronne in Rouen, France
- A Country B & B in the City of Amboise: Le Manoir de la Maison Blanche
- Hôtel Particulier Montmartre – Quiet Luxury in Paris
- Where to Stay in Luxury in France, yet Simply So – TSLL Recommends
TSLL’s 3rd Annual French Week continues through August 19th with at least two posts per day. À bientôt!