16 Apr Rêves français
Homeowners Tom and Paul give us the lowdown on what it took to renovate not just one, but four properties…
Renovating a single house is daunting enough for most of us, but two of our homeowners have undertaken several projects and don’t seem ready to stop yet. We catch up with Antibes homeowners, Tom Van Staey, and his partner Paul about the exciting renovations they have done on their beautiful properties on the French Riviera (view homes). Having vacationed in Antibes for many years, they decided to make it their home in 2010 and subsequently embarked on a journey of procuring unique homes in and around the ramparts of the old town. Their aim is for guests to feel at home, enjoying a wide-array of experiences while living in what is a beautiful and well-preserved historic town on the French Riviera.
Is this area on the French Riviera somewhere you have been coming for a long time?
We started coming to the French Riviera in 2010 and purchased our first vacation home in Antibes in 2011. We moved to the region in 2012.
You have four houses in the area, tell us a bit about the properties and what they were like when you first bought them…
All of the properties we have purchased needed major renovations when we bought them, but all had a great deal of charm and character – something that we wanted to maintain even after the work was completed. Three of our properties are on charming, historic cobble-stoned walking streets within the old town of Antibes. In fact, one faces the Picasso Museum on a street that dates back to the Roman period.
What have you done to make the properties as beautiful as they are today?
When we renovated our homes in Antibes, we wanted to retain the original character of the properties while updating them to include all the modern conveniences expected by guests (WiFi, air conditioning, modern kitchens, designer bathrooms, etc.) We also employ local artisans who utilize traditional methods of construction and original materials such as cement tiles for the bathrooms, repurposed doors and other items to maintain the flavour of the region.
Were you daunted by the extent of the work that needed to be done?
We felt each renovation brought its own challenges, but also enabled us to use our creativity to achieve the best results. We enjoyed coming up with the best ways to achieve what we were aiming for with each renovation.
Had you done anything else like this before? Any previous renovation projects?
I (Tom) was previously based in Hong Kong where I worked in the hotel development and design business and my company has worked on projects such the W Hotel in Bali, the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore, and a variety of other projects throughout the world. I’ve also worked for a company that focused on historic preservation in New York City.
Did you project manage the renovations by yourself? Or have a project manager on board?
We were the project managers for each renovation and hired local masons, electricians, plumbers, etc. to do the actual renovation work. This enabled us to better control the quality of the renovation and to make important changes during the process.
What about the interior design? Did you oversee that or did you have help?
We enjoy creating the interiors of our projects including the colour of the paint, the furniture, artwork, tiles, window dressing, etc. We feel very passionate about the design and overall feel of each of our homes, and are very proud of the work we have done.
Have you always been into interior design? What is your background?
I (Tom) learnt a great deal about interior design during my six years working for a hotel design firm in Hong Kong. In addition, we have developed our interest in interior design after moving to Antibes and building up our business.
What factors were most important to you? Can you tell us what your signature interiors style is?
When designing our homes, we try to make sure to maintain a “sense of place” that reflects the casual, elegant atmosphere that is characteristic of the region.
What was your biggest extravagance?
We want to make sure that our guests are comfortable. We include comfortable, well-designed bathrooms and kitchens and make sure all of our beds are very comfortable. We use the same bed linens as used by the Mandarin Oriental Hotel group.
What was the biggest challenge in making these properties a home?
Each project has its own challenges but there is not one thing that is uniquely difficult. Even before embarking on any project, we start by considering if we would be very happy to have a vacation in the space we are creating.
What makes a successful interior?
For us, a successful interior is one that is comfortable, inviting, and makes the guest feel that they are really on vacation. It is also essential that we capture the flavour intended by the original builders.
Where does your inspiration come from?
We find inspiration for our interiors from many sources. For example, we travel to Maison et Objet in Paris each year to see what the current industry trends are. We also visit many of the antique markets throughout France to find hidden treasures that would add flavour to our homes.
And your favourites places to buy furniture from?
We often travel to L’Isle sur la Sorgue in Provence, Lyon, or Clignancourt in Paris to look for furniture. We also visit antique markets in Antibes, Nice, and Vence for unique items for our homes.
Did you want to keep the interiors in line with the setting?
For us, it is very important that our homes have a very clear sense of place. We want our guests to feel that they are staying in a comfortable, well-designed home with a French-country flair.
What do you feel your biggest success in the house is?
We believe that we are successful if our guests feel that we have created a “home away from home” that encourages them to keep coming back to stay with us.
And which is your favourite area of the house?
We are always drawn to the kitchen and/or dining room because these become the central gathering point for our guests.
Your dream home would be…
For us, a dream home should be well designed, comfortable, be conveniently located, and be full of character. All of our properties have these characteristics.
And to get even more of an insight into the area, and see some fabulous insider tips from Tom and Paul, check out our destination guide to Antibes here