Provence Style – A Book Review


Provence Style

I have to tell you, my heart skipped a beat when I first heard about the upcoming release of a book titled Provence Style – Decorating with French Country Flair. 

You see, the concept of Provence Style took me straight back to my earliest Francophile days* when I first read Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence and then subsequently discovered Vicki Archer’s book My French Life. I especially fell in love with Vicki’s story which was so beautifully captured with Carla Coulson’s photography

Back then, I was completely enamoured with the very thought of renovating a blue shuttered French Mas (the word translates as farmhouse but they’ve always seemed grander than that to me) in Provence. 

And it seemed as if Provence Style was going to deliver another taste of French style. This time it was coming through the vision of Shauna Varvel and the documentation of her collaborative renovation of Le Mas des Poiriers and it’s beautiful gardens.

So it’s fair to say, I was looking forward to Provence Style coming to a bookstore near me. 

With that as background, you can imagine how excited I was when Vendome Press, the publishers of Provence Style offered to send me a copy. I was like a kid waiting for Santa to arrive. And I spent way too much time staring out our front window, looking to see if a courier might have pulled up out the front of our home. 

It turns out that the wait was absolutely worth it. Provence Style delivered on the potential I’d hoped for. And it definitely confirmed the idea of renovating a stone property can still capture my imagination.

Title: ’Provence Style: Decorating With French Country Flair

Author: Shauna Varvel with Alexandra Black. Photography by Luke White.

Published: 2021 by Vendome, Hardcover,  257 pages.

What I Liked:

  • The inspiration. For me, Provence Style is packed full of inspiration – and it arrived right when I needed a decent dose. There are stories of a Provence being an escape for Shauna, her husband and their five children as well as insights into the artists who felt called to capture the landscapes.  And I loved reading about the herbs and other edibles that grow so well in the gardens of the region.  Then there are all the decorative elements of the home – both indoors and out. Scotty was understandably concerned that my reading of Provence Style could have resulted in some major redecorating activity at our place.
  • The Provençal garden design, which Provence Style showcases so beautifully. When we got our property landscaped a few years ago, I very much took inspiration from gardens in the south of France. And this book makes me want to get back out in our own garden and freshen everything up. The colours, the use of pots, the clipped hedges – everything on show in Provence Style looks stunning.
  • The actual book itself. Is this an odd thing to call out? Perhaps. But Provence Style is a substantial, impressive tome. It’s dust cover is glossy and it’s paper has a premium feel about it. It’s the sort of book that deserves to be on show, and that’s why it’s currently adorning a coffee table in my office.
  • The gorgeous photography. Even when you’re working with a beautiful subject, it still takes skill to capture images in a way that gives readers a real sense of place. Luke White manages to do exactly that over and over again with his glorious shots of Le Mas des Poiriers. And each photo in Provence Style showcases perfectly what I like to call the Provençal Palette. Think washed out siennas and terracottas. Sun baked olives and sages. Faded sands and salmons. Oceans and ceruleans – but pretend someone has taken to them with peroxide. They’re all on show in Provence Style.

What I Wasn’t So Sure About:

  • As I noted above, Provence Style does provide some lovely insights into living spaces, building materials and the artists drawn to the area on its pages. But I found myself wishing for more words about the area and Shauna’s personal experience. Let’s face it – I’m a sucker for back-stories and behind the scenes snippets. So now I’m crossing my fingers for an equally exquisite second book that will satisfy my need to understand more about how this sensational renovation came to life.

Have you picked up a copy of Provence Style yet? Did you find it as impressive as I did? And do you use books as decorator items around in your home? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

And until next time – au revoir.

* Stay tuned for some stories of those times – they’re coming soon xx 

While all opinions are my own, I’d like to thank Angela Niles and the team at Vendome Press for sending me a copy of Provence Style.

Image credit: Luke White, provided.


About Janelle

I believe that everyone can bring French elegance and inspiration to their life, no matter where they happen to live in the world. They only need to learn a secret or two to be on their way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll have access to the secrets that allow you to bring the best of the French lifestyle into your everyday life. I’m talking about things like style advice, recipes and book reviews. And you’ll also receive regular doses of French inspiration, as well as travel and packing tips galore.

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4 thoughts on “Provence Style – A Book Review

  • Virginia

    Hi Janelle, I admit to loving look of ‘Provence Style’ as captured in several books but I could not actually live with most of it. I don’t like animal skulls or overhead pots and pans or things being too ‘rustic’ BUT I do love the use of colour, the material prints for tablecloths and the use of flowers. I also like most of the garden designs to some extent and I admire the discipline it takes to maintain them, I am too old for that now but the general ‘look’ and atmosphere is lovely. Here in Sydney’s west, sitting outside in mid summer isn’t really an option, too hot and plagued by flies, somehow the flies in France always seem to be far better behaved!

    • Janelle Post author

      Hi Virginia. I agree that this look doesn’t necessarily suit the Australian lifestyle. Which is why I let the pages of books like Provence style inspire me to take on bits and pieces rather than dictating a whole look. A touch of copper here, an Anduze pot there and you’re much more likely to get something that works with our climate (and our creepy-crawlies). I hope you’re doing ok in your Sydney lockdown. I have to admit that we’re a bit over it in Melbourne. Take care xx

      • Virginia

        Hi Janelle, Yep lockdown sucks here in Sydney and is no-where near as bad as what you in Melbourne have experienced. One day I might get to have a haircut!

  • Joanne Long

    I have a collection of books about France, French decor and French cooking. They decorate my living room de temps en temps and they transport me in times when I am unable to travel. I love Provençal looks and My bedroom was a vibrant blue and buttery yellow for many years. I’ll have to buy the book.