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I want to share ways to create a signature style in home design for others by offering ideas and pictures as examples.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Ultimate Francophile

Pictures are not always worth a thousand words. I think there are times when we can appreciate someone's words every bit as much as we can pictures. Traditional Homes magazine's May 1999 issue featured a story  about a couple that in essence is a story that froze their lives in time, because we do not know if they are still living their dream life.

Their name was Powers and the wife, Bonnie was the ultimate Francophile in my book. Her husband  was a OB/GYN and a lover of wine. Bonnie embraced his love of wine. The author of the article, Doris Athineos, did such a fine job writing this piece that I would rather quote her as much as posssible than paraphrase. She deserves the credit. The photographer was Jenifer Jordan and she did a great job on the pictures.

When Bonnie's husband began collecting Burgandy, Boedeaux, and Provence, she wanted to be a good French chef.  At the time, she was 35 years old and had two young daughters. "To some, that would have meant a few cooking lessons at Le Cordon Bleu.  But Bonie studied French history at the University of Dallas, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 1990. She had to have a sense of the French before she could do a good job on cooking. After that, she could speak francais with the kind of accent that would elicit praise from French waiters and shopkeepers."

"Visiting Bonnie Powers in North Dallas didn't require a passport, but it should have. The flavors, fragrances, and colors of Provence would come alive in the French country-style farmhouse that Bonnie built and named Le mas aux volets verts (the house with green shutters). She made sububan Dallas feel like the South of France-even before the Cote du Ventoux would begin to flow. Her secret was to stir the senses the way a sous chef does roux. Bonnie was quoted as saying she "believed French life was all about wonderful tastes, smells, and colors, like the the warm, doughy aroma of freshly baked baguettes."

"In the kitchen cabinet were six different kinds of salt (La Fleur de Sel was her favorite) and sugar in different flavors and colors. She had two refrigerators for condiments like black olives with herbes de Provence, the cognac hard sauce, the tapenade, and green pepper corn Dijon mustard. A dozen copper pots dangled from a pot rack overhead.


"They decided it was more practical to live year-round in a Provential-style home in Dallas than part-time in France. Bonnie, with the help of builder, Chuck Shaw, designed and built a honey-colored stone mas that was inspired by the centuries-old farmhouses found in the Vaucluse area of Southern France. Austin chalk stone was too gray. Provencal  colors were seen throughout the V-shaped house. To mimic the honey-colored stone found in southern France, the Powerses carted rocks from the Arbuckle Mountains in Oklahoma, just north of the Red River. The shutters were painted turquoise, because Provencal farmers were convinced that the color kept flies away."   

"Bonnie gathered potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and garlic from her potager. A sample menu  was Troucha (a Swiss chard omelet appetizer), ragout d' agne au aux artichants (lamb stew with artichokes), and pommes au Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (Provential-style baked apples) with lavender madeleines. For ten years, Bonnie kept a planning menu so her guests were never served the same thing twice. 


"A pottery-shard inlaid tabletop by Robert Bellamy sat amid echinacea, English daisies, and steel blue echinops."

"Aromatic herbs dominated the wild garden known as the garrique. A melange of minty hyssop, rosemary, sage, and thyme added a spicy bouquet. A pebble path would alert the Powers when visitors arrived."

A wisteria basked in the sun.

A Doric column found in the South France.

Bonnie stated, "Hardly anything she grew was for show. She indicated she used everything in her garden." "She said you could almost eat the whole yard." 

She set a beautiful table.


"In the couple's bedroom was a memory board with souvenirs from trips to Provence and Pais. The walnut hunt board, known as a gibier. was found in an antiques shop in Dallas."


To me, the neatest part of this story is that Jim and Bonnie made annual pilgimages to Paris. Bonnie zeroed in on the history of appartments and hotels they planned to stay in. The Dictionnaire Historique des Rues de Paris gave the history of every street in Paris so that you could figure out exactly who lived at a certain address as far back as 1550.

I don't know about you but I am a hopeless romantic and I pray this couple is still living the charmed life!


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