IDEAL HOMES : PROPERTY

PAMELA, LADY HARLECH CHAIRMAN OF THE ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET Shares a house with her daughter in west London
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The Independent Culture
LOCATION: Southern France, in a valley near Albi overlooking marvellous hilly countryside. Albi is a glorious town and I would often visit its cathedral and Toulouse-Lautrec Museum.

ESSENTIAL AMENITIES: The food market in Gaillac for fruit, vegetables and cheeses. A huge supermarket in Montauban for everything else.

CHARACTER AND PERIOD: A large unaltered 19th-century farmhouse, set in seven acres. Built of pale stone, with a terracotta-tiled roof and wooden shutters. Large, light rooms with many windows.

BEDROOMS: A large one with a fireplace for me, so I could use it as a bedsit in winter. My bed would be 6ft wide and 612ft long with a TV and video recorder at the end of it. A word processor and fax would enable me to write for various magazines and newspapers: after many years I have returned to my original profession, journalism. A bedroom for my daughter and three spare bedrooms for my many friends.

BATHROOMS: Five - we are all too old to share a bathroom.

RECEPTION ROOMS: Two, one inside and one out. The drawing room would have a huge stone fireplace and a magni-ficent stereo. There would be deep linen-covered sofas and chairs in which one could curl up to read, or sleep after a delicious long lunch. The second reception area would be a large terrace leading off the kitchen and drawing room, where in summer one could sit in the evening drinking deliciously cold white wine and listening to classical music. The terrace would have a built-in barbecue.

KITCHEN FEATURES: The kitchen would connect with the drawing room so I could talk to friends while cooking. There would be a round table seating eight, a French-style Aga, two electric ovens, and a microwave to be used solely to defrost when unexpected guests arrive.

DECORATIVE STYLE: Apple green walls in the drawing room, which look warm in winter and cool in summer. The kitchen would be terracotta, my bedroom French blue and my daughter's room her preference. There would be kelims on the floors, and curtains made from locally produced natural-coloured linen sheets.

VIEW FROM WINDOWS: Rolling green hills and fields.

SPECIAL OUTBUILDINGS: A barn with a drawing room, kitchen, two bedrooms and bathrooms. This would be for any of my artist or writer friends who could stay for a month or two. A hexagonal folly with many windows to catch both morning and early evening sun.

LUXURIES: Swimming pool.

GARDEN'S BEST FEATURES: A front drive lined with laurel or cypress trees. A fish pond surrounded by scented shrubs and flowers. Evergreens with berries and trees that turn golden and red, so winter would not seem so bleak. A potager where I would grow tomatoes, basil, asparagus, strawberries and nectarines.

NEIGHBOURS: Artistic people who love good food and wine, good conversation and laughing. No politicians and absolutely no one on a diet!

MOTTO OVER THE DOOR: Only kind, considerate, amusing and appreciative people allowed.

WHAT IT WOULD COST: Keith Sneddon of Headland Overseas says that family houses in the area favoured by Lady Harlech are always snapped up at once because of the glorious climate. He estimates that she would have to spend £150,000 to secure her dream home.

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