12 Feb Homeowners of the Month – Nick and Lise Davies
Meet Nick Davies and his wife Lise, our homeowners of the month, and find out all about their delightful home in the Grasse Region on the French Riviera.
This month Stay One Degree caught up with the well-travelled couple. As you travel up a winding driveway and approach the tall wooden doors of the Davies’s beautiful home, you will instantly find yourself in a peaceful haven with the sound of birds and panoramic sea views surrounding you. Set on 1.4 hectares, the grounds are made up of terraces with old stone walls, lavender, roses, and over 250 ancient olive trees, ensuring complete privacy.
What first brought you to this beautiful region?
As a family, we were looking for a better, healthier lifestyle, something that the area can provide. We love having the beach and sea, plus the mountains with the endless skiing opportunities right on our doorstep. It also provides a wonderful opportunity for the children to learn a second language.
Your home is beautiful, how long have you owned it?
Thank you, we think so. We’ve owned it for 13 years.
Did you have to do any refurbishment to the property?
Yes, we’ve carried out quite a lot of renovation work, in fact, it’s taken us four years to get it to what you see today. The property was a derelict chateau whose previous owners were a champagne family – it had been in their family since 1963 and during the last five years of their ownership had hardly been used. We gutted the entire place – we had to put in electrics and the plumbing all needed doing too. We extended the building to replace an old wooden hut, added two new bedrooms and put in a movie room – it needed an awful lot of work. We lived there the entire time it was being renovated, which was quite stressful, you can imagine the dust and mess!
Where do you take your interior design inspiration from? Any particular favourite interior designers?
We have done a lot of travelling in our time, and a huge amount of our inspiration comes from visiting various countries all over the world. We also spent many years as expatriates living in Malaysia, Thailand, the Caribbean, North America and the UK; we’ve taken a lot of interiors styling and ideas from these countries too, with little touches visible throughout the house.
Did you use an interior designer? How would you describe the style / décor of the place?
My wife, who is from Malaysia, did all the interiors – try and imagine a theme and design that has been created out of all the travelling we’ve done in our lives. We’ve bought things from around the world. Our dining room feels like being in the Caribbean because the pictures on the walls were all bought from there. People love it because the mix of furniture and styles have created a real home, with a really lovely, warm and homely atmosphere and a mish-mash of design that’s not strictly anything.
What is your favourite room in the house?
It has to be the lounge. It’s a very spacious, grand room with a mixture of a number of the interesting artefacts and furnishings that serve to remind us of our extensive worldly travels.
Did you buy the furniture and home accessories locally? Or import them from somewhere else?
We have collected furniture over the years from the places we have lived and visited so a majority of what we have in the house now is what we have brought to France with us.
Any particular piece of furniture that you love?
My favourite thing would be the outside bar that sits on the patio outside the dining room. We picked it up in India – it’s old and has a very unique look about it. We also love the coffee table in our lounge, which was originally a bed, that we bought from an antique shop in Bali. We have a painting that we are fond of that was painted for us by a Polish artist. It depicts the view from one of the hilltop villages in the area, called Gassin, and shows St Tropez. Another love is the Buddha tapestry we have that hands majestically in our hallway up the spiral staircase. It was handmade and is very special to us.
What are the main things for holidaymakers to do and see in the area?
There is so much to do, and so many wonderful things to see in the area. From breathtaking, idyllic beaches to medieval hill top villages, there is literally something for everyone. The local Provence markets are a must-visit where you’ll find some great bargains on collectibles that are unique to the region. The perfume factories make for a great day out and be sure to book a wine tour. There are also countless top notch restaurants and bars, it’s a fabulous area for eating and drinking.
I understand that Grasse is known as the world’s perfume capital, any tips on visiting one of the perfume factories?
Yes, they are definitely worth a visit and as an added bonus, you get to take home from great smelling souvenirs or gifts for friends and family! You get to see how the perfume is made, from start to finish, and can even have a go at making your very own perfume. I would say the best perfume factory to visit is Fragonard.
There must be plenty of great local dining spots, any particular restaurant recommendations?
We are really lucky to have so many dining options nearby, here are a few of my favourite that are certainly worth checking out:
• La Clos Saint Pierre
• Bistro Le Bistro Des Collines, La Rouret
• La Colombe D’Or in Saint Paul de Vance
• La Bastide Saint Antoine in Grasse
• Lou Fassum in Grasse
• Daniel Desavie near Valbonne
• De Bacon serves up delicious seafood
• Family has a more relaxed vibe
• Café des Arcades in Valbonne Village
• Resto des Arts in Mougins Village
• Marco Polo on the beach at Theoule-sur-mer
• Pastis in Cannes
• Auberge de Cassouls in the hills of Cassouls
Would you say that the French Riviera a good destination for families? What child-friendly activities are there in the area?
Absolutely, this is a fantastic area for children and families to holiday. There are so many wonderful beaches, parks and water parks plus a range of fun water sports, cycling paths and for little thrill-seekers there’s Antibes Land Park, a great theme park with some wonderful rides.
What’s the shopping like in the area? Are there are local boutiques worth visiting?
I’d thoroughly recommend a day trip to Italy to check out the markets there, plus there are a few local markets that are worth a visit. The nearest market to the French border, in Italy, Ventimiglia Market. Every Friday Ventimiglia holds an outdoor market in the centre of town and along the Lungomare coast. There are around 500 stalls selling everything from clothes to shoes and pans to linens, with a number of food outlets where delicacies vary from sun-dried tomatoes to salamis and pasta to parmiggiano. The Fragonard perfumery in Grasse is definitely worth a visit, they have a beautiful showroom where you can purchase all kinds of simply stunning products from candles and perfume to soaps and oils all of which come in the most special packaging – they make great gifts.
Is there a particular time of year you would particularly advise holidaymakers to consider, and why?
July and August are naturally the most popular months, but June is also a lovely time to visit. April, May, September and October are great months in terms of the wonderful weather, plus there are less people and accommodation prices are more reasonable.
France was recently voted ‘Country of the Year’ by the Economist, do you think this is a well-deserved title?
I do, it’s one of the most visited countries in the world.
We imagine your home must get booked up well in advance, what availability do you have left for this year?
Yes, it does, but we do still have availability for 2018 including the last two weeks in March, 1st to 11th April, most of May, the first two weeks in June, 4th August to 1st September and 8th September into October. So while the main summer months are full, the quieter months, with wonderful weather, are still a possibility.