IDEAL HOMES

Married with three children, she owns houses in London and the Languedoc, both of them built in the 1880s
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The Independent Online
LOCATION: Somewhere not too touristy in Mediterranean France, within half an hour of an airport. I can't quite work out where it would be because so much of Provence is touristy, but I want it to be genuinely rural and just outside a village. My Chinese sister-in-law is a great believer that in a previous life you may have lived in places where you feel very comfortable. I always feel very at home in the south of France but it might be because the countryside is covered in vines.

ESSENTIAL LOCAL AMENITIES: Good markets and restaurants and a good place to buy wine - ideally I'd have a wine nut who ran a shop with wines from all over the world.

CHARACTER OF BUILDING: Definitely old - I don't think I've ever lived in a modern house. Preferably thoughtfully, sympathetically and painstakingly restored quite recently so we wouldn't have to do the work.

PERIOD: At least 100 years old, but more important than the period is that it looks firmly rooted into the countryside. I don't like houses that seemed to have suddenly been pushed up out of the ground. I like them to be surrounded by trees and have creepers growing on them.

CONSTRUCTION: Sound. I am not convinced that the restored farmhouse - the archetypal southern French house and every British person's dream - is ideal. They lack a bit of individuality and the rooms can be very small and dark. I am looking for high ceilings and big rooms. The roof would be tiled and the walls covered with stucco. It's absolutely necessary in the south of France to have shutters and a big design fault of our house in the Languedoc is that the shutters on the first floor bedrooms are on the inside so you have to shut the windows and then the shutters, so the rooms get very very hot.

BEDROOMS: Seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms, because we like to entertain and we have three children.

RECEPTION ROOMS: A quiet adult one and a noisy children's one. A large study on the north-facing side of the house so it would be cool.

ESSENTIAL KITCHEN FEATURES: My husband Nick - the chef in the family. French windows leading on to the garden. The kitchen would have to be big enough for the whole household to eat in - so we wouldn't need a dining room. I'd also like to be able to fit in a sofa, at least one arm-chair and an extra table on which the children could do their homework.

DECORATIVE STYLE: Light with lots of English fabrics. Antique, but comfortable furniture. Window seats and open fireplaces and lots of interesting pictures. I would love to have a house that had dimensions that would take the odd statue - pretentious I know. I'd have things that meant a lot to me rather than great works of art. I always feel very weighed down by responsibility - I would hate to have a single very valuable picture that I had to be very careful about.

LUXURIES: Central heating and a thermostat in every room. Having been brought up in a village in the far north of Cumberland, I never cease to be amazed by the miracle of central heating, and winters can be tough in the South of France. A pretty light room in which I could iron and sew. A pool: I'd lie by it and the rest of the family would plunge into it - I don't like getting my hair wet.

OUTBUILDINGS: A cellar of course - I am not sure whether that's an outbuilding or an underbuilding! A pretty pool house.

VIEW FROM THE WINDOWS: Distant mountains and some vines.

SIZE OF GARDEN: Not too big to worry about: my parents still spend a lot of time worrying about their garden. A bit of it would be semi-wild and some of it would be walled.

GARDEN'S BEST FEATURES: A non-talkative gardener with the same taste as me, who doesn't need to be fuelled by hours of chat. I don't mind making him or her tea, but I am not very good at ruminating. And a vine-shaded arbour just off the kitchen.

NEIGHBOURS: They would live half a mile away, and be funny and greedy and have compatible children.

MOTTO OVER THE DOOR: In vino felicitas.

WHAT IT WOULD COST: According to Arlette Adler, managing director of Villas Abroad Properties Limited (0181 941 4499), Jancis Robinson is unlikely to find her ideal home: the exterior is French but the interior isn't. French kitchens are large, so no problem there, but she is unlikely to find seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms so she would have to convert. Property in Languedoc and Roussillon is lower in price than in Provence and the hinterland behind the Cote d'Azur. She could find an old property with land in Languedoc and Roussillon for anything from FF 1.8 million, depending on the state of repair - she would pay double in Provence. To do the property up to her specifications would cost perhaps FF 3-4 million.

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