It seems that everything French public relations executive Sophie Douzal decides to do gets done with flourish, style, and a smile. Thanks to some good luck and a few high-profile clients in the luxury sector, she founded her own communications agency 25 years ago. “It was easier then,” she admits of starting her enterprise, which in addition to handling media relations also plans events, such as a pre-lockdown dinner for 300 people at the Decorative Arts Museum in Paris. “It just seemed to happen.”
It goes without saying that this energetic and friendly Parisian also loves entertaining on an intimate scale. And her innate sense of style and knack for decorating comes across loud and clear in her provincial country house. Though she didn’t find the home quickly. “My husband gave me carte blanche to find the house, but he did have three criteria,” Douzal says. It had to be less than 30 minutes from the nearest TGV train station, the ride less than two hours from Paris, and he did not want to see the neighbors. “I went to see 17 houses and was giving up, until I saw this place,” she recalls of the process five years ago. Douzal’s 18th visit brought her to an enormous piece of land with an 18th-century farmhouse that, fortuitously, had not been touched by the previous owners.
Once the family found the perfect spot, Douzal set about installing a tennis court and a pool with a pool house and began painting the seven-bedroom, six-bathroom house pink. “I wanted a pale pink house, but it ended up looking like Disneyland [at first]!” she notes, laughing. “It took a few years [of weathering] and is really pretty now.” She kept the original red tiled floor, painted the existing wooden doors, and infused the interiors with special finds. Finishing touches have just been put on the final addition, a guesthouse—a place for the couple’s four kids and their friends.
Douzal ends up going every other weekend in the spring and summer, leaving right after school on Fridays and arriving in time for dinner in the garden by 8 p.m. “We don’t generally go in the winter but always celebrate Christmas there and have Christmas dinner outside!” she notes. The house, she adds, is usually full of friends and family: “ ‘Buy a house in Provence and you will have a lifetime of friends!’ This is true!”
With the guesthouse now finished, her attention can be devoted to enjoying her real passion, the garden. Douzal worked on it with landscape designer Alexandre Phelip, who is from Corsica, and a local gardener, Benoit Hochart, who is a rose specialist.
One fairy-tale, provincial country house down, Douzal already has her sights on her next project. “I’m on to my second life! I want to buy a traditional French lifestyle brand and develop it to showcase the South of France with pretty napkins, plates, tablecloths,” she shares. “I want a piece of the sunshine!”
Tour This Picture-Perfect Villa in Provence
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest