French twist: How one couple brought a touch of the avant-garde to the Languedoc

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Arnaud serpollet has lived in the same house in Uzès in southern France since he was a child. Today, he and his wife Valerie, both antiques dealers, live and work from this remote rural setting – and have transformed the interior of their ancient barn in the Languedoc almost beyond recognition.

During their time here, the couple have brought in a vast collection of vibrant artefacts and memorabilia, dating from the 1950s onwards; these run through the sprawling farmhouse – a labyrinth of vault-like spaces linked by a series of uneven stone staircases and outdoor terraces. The intention, they explain, is to bring a touch of the avant-garde to this traditional stone building.

To this effect, the dining room – one wall of which Arnaud has painted with a fat, tubular U-shape in acid-yellow – is a medley of 1950s plastic-coated tulip chairs, red tile floors and a traditional wooden table; there are antique birdcages hanging at jaunty angles from a wire running along the ceiling, and a set of 1960s model cars parked alongside a collection of pottery and plates, displayed on long glass shelves.

Valerie, a mosaic artist in her spare time, has her own studio in one of the outbuildings adjoined to the main barn. Here, she hoards old plates waiting to be hammered into little pieces, which are used to decorate pots and walls around the house.

Outside, a long balcony covered in mature creepers overlooks a courtyard with great big gates. Next to these, Arnaud has garlanded a tree with strands of plastic beads and butterflies, and adorned the exterior walls of the farmhouse with enamel advertising plaques.

Arnaud's beloved Citroëon DS stands outside the barn door. He says it is his main incentive to leave the house. After all, he observes, with a space like this, who would want to venture beyond the front gate?

'Essentially French: Homes with Classic French Style', by Josephine Ryan, is published by Ryland Peters & Small, £19.99

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