Pat Akin was hooked on all things French after just one trip to Europe a few years ago. Since then, she has returned for a number of extended visits, acquiring an in-depth appreciation of the country’s fabled decorative arts.
“The French have a knack for taking the most mundane items and making them into something truly beautiful,” Pat says. “Whether it’s fabrics or ceramics, they render them in a beautiful, interesting way.”
So when Pat and husband L.J. purchased an eight-year-old house as a weekend retreat in Big Canoe, Georgia, it was a foregone conclusion that the lakeside getaway would be a celebration of French country style.
Luckily, the original builder had imbued the house with Continental appeal. Outdoors, French trail lights illuminate porches and decks. A 20-foot-high arched window frames a view of Lake Pettit from the great-room. Brick-and-heart-of-pine flooring reinforces the old-world sensibility. In a passageway between the great-room and study, an antique copper bucket serves as a bar sink.
Building on these elements, Pat and interior designer Cheryl Stanley commissioned decorative artist Susan Barbour to embellish the walls of the great-room, pass-through, and study. In the great-room, Barbour ragged the walls with what she calls a “nicotine gold” glaze. A variation of the ragging treatment created a leather effect in the pass-through and study. “The look is soft and muted – very old-world,” Stanley says. “The walls look as if they have been there forever.”
Against this backdrop are grouped furnishings and accessories reflecting the relaxed atmosphere of the French countryside Pat loves. Antique farm tables are laden with vintage accessories. A French writing desk beckons Pat to pen a note to friends. Imported baskets recall shopping forays to outdoor food markets. In true French country fashion, basket-wrapped bottles that were originally used to store vinegar in early 1800s France make everyday items suitable for display. Toile pillows accent traditionally styled upholstered goods in the study.
Like a vacation in Provence, time seems suspended when the family gathers at the lake. Spring and summer days are spent canoeing or lazing on a large deck off the great-room.