French style and shabby chic

Appley Hoare has roamed the world buying shabby-chic antiques, with which she fills her 18th century French home and sells from her London shop. Katie Law enthuses
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When Appley Hoare opened her eponymous, shabby-chic antiques shop in Pimlico Road eight years ago, the established community of traditional antiques businesses took a deep breath. Who, they wondered, was this Australian, come to sell her chipped old armoires and rusty garden furniture.

But within four years, Appley and her daughter, Zoë had found their niche, expanded into the next-door premises to open a flower shop and become part of the landscape - so much so, that when they relocated to France earlier last year, they missed the shop in Pimlico so much, they decided to come back. They have just opened another premises a few doors down from the old one.

Contrary to popular belief, Appley Hoare is not Australian, but English. She grew up in Kenya and was sent to a Swiss finishing school when she was 17, but left to go to the Sorbonne in Paris. During her time there she developed a passion for visiting flea markets and rummaging through junk that has remained to this day. At 22, she married an Australian and moved with him to Sydney, where she worked on an interiors magazine and as a stylist before opening her own stall called Traders in Sydney's main antiques market.

The market stall soon grew into an Appley Hoare Antiques shop. "It was the first of its kind. We sold early Australian country furniture, which no one else was doing in those days, partly because there was so little of it around. So I started going to France and bringing back French antiques to sell. But I did it the hard way."

A pool brings the 18th century farmhouse up to date
© Zoë Hoare
A pool brings the 18th century farmhouse up to date
She recalls once buying an enormous sieve in a Paris market, tying it onto her back with string and getting on the Metro, laden with packages in both hands. "The Metro doors slid shut onto the sieve and I was stuck."

This was in the mid-1980s, a time, Appley recalls, "when limewashes were the height of sophistication and successful people couldn't get enough of the French country look". She, her husband and Zoë moved to the affluent Woollahra area of Sydney, until the recession hit in the 1990s. Within another five years, she and her husband had separated and she decided to move her antiques business to London.

Since then, Appley and Zoë, now her business partner, have never looked back. Earlier this year they renovated a beautiful 18th century bastide (grand farmhouse) in the Camargue region of France, between Montpellier and Nîmes, using a local builder and Moroccan stonemasons.

The upstairs guest room has it's own bath and beams
© Zoë Hoare
The upstairs guest room has it's own bath and beams

Leave well alone



The colour scheme for the interior was inspired by the wonderful tones of the building's original limestone.

One important addition has been the 18th century French stone fireplace. Still with the remains of a delicate blue paint, it was found in an antiques shop just over the border in Spain.

The interior walls have been insulated with terracotta tiles, then finished with off-white plaster. So far the plaster walls have been left unpainted. Appley loves the colour and feel of the plaster. "But one day I may decide to limewash them," she says. The ground-level floors are tinted polished concrete with burgundy stone delineating various spaces and have underfloor heating. Upstairs, the floors have been laid with simple scaffolding boards, painted a similar colour to the concrete floors below.

The soft furnishings also reflect the muted colours of stone - a giant pair of natural-canvas-covered sofas from The Conran Shop provide tons of comfy seating in the sitting room, which is dominated by a huge 18th century Provençal armoire.

Appley and Zoë's traditional grand farmhouse has a lavender garden
© Zoë Hoare
Appley and Zoë's traditional grand farmhouse has a lavender garden
The square side-table is an old wooden sculptor's modelling stand, and the coffee table is a scagliola slab mounted on four 19th century cast-iron bridge finials from Scotland. There is a long 19th century Spanish table against the stone wall, while Appley's favourite 18th century Gustavian armchair stands opposite.

The kitchen is ultra-simple, with only an early 19th century zinc-covered table in the centre, 1930s pressed-steel chairs and a huge dresser with a marble top. The base came from a French convent and Appley had a rack made to house her collection of 19th century plates from the famous Gien pottery, which is still in production today.

A sideboard and drawers is a fine example of disrepair
© Zoë Hoare
A sideboard and drawers is a fine example of disrepair
Zoë’s bedroom is light and airy with natural colour highlighted by red linens and objets trouvés in reds and whites. She found a large set of drawers to house all her belongings at a local dealer; an old red seesaw sits on top of it. The sofa is covered in vintage French linen sheets and cushions covered in pink and red antique fabrics.

Appley's bedroom is also a pallet of natural colours but with accents of grey through to deep purple. There is an 18th century painted armoire that houses linen, and the bedhead is a piece of 18th century panelling.

Pale grey voile curtains on simple iron rods dress the window, while a large 19th century pine trunk from Australia stands at the end of the bed, for woollies in winter and duvets in summer. The little upholstered chair and rusty table were picked up at local street markets and left in a perfect state of disrepair.

An early 19th century zinc-covered table and 1930s pressed-steel chairs take centre stage in the kitchen
© Zoë Hoare
An early 19th century zinc-covered table and 1930s pressed-steel chairs take centre stage in the kitchen
Most of these items form part of Appley's own collection, bought wherever she happens to be, mostly in France. Anything she sells comes to her new London shop, which was previously a laundry. Like the house, it is beautifully distressed, filled with similarly peeling painted cupboards, lichen-covered stone urns, dented zinc bowls, old cream jam jars, foxed mirrors, faded linens and books with bleached-out covers.

The look is not cheap, however - you can expect to pay about £600 for a 19th century pine-framed mirror, from £3,000 for a big kitchen table, and as much as £25,000 for a painted armoire.

The most important piece of advice Appley has for anyone interested in achieving this look is to leave well alone. "We try to find original pieces that need nothing doing to them and have just aged. Anyone can restore a piece and make it look ordinary but once you've done that, you'll never be able to get it back to how it was when you first saw it and fell in love with it," she says.

When they are not in London or in the Camargue, the mother-and-daughter duo travel the length and breadth of France, visiting other dealers, fairs and flea markets, gathering more authentic and unusual pieces to sell to a seemingly insatiable market. It is a look that remains popular and strikes a powerful chord with Londoners.

Appley Hoare Antiques, 22 Pimlico Road, SW1 (020 7730 7070; www.appleyhoare.com).

The French property is available for hire from £500 a day to location agencies and will be available for holiday rentals from next summer. For more information, visit www.appleyhoare.com.

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