Real home: a medieval French townhouse

Natalie Pède has preserved the rich history of this beautiful home which was unchanged for centuries, whilst filling it with her antique collections which complement the setting perfectly

vintage french wallpaper living room
(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

Sometimes when a house has lots of secrets it's important to listen and wait while for what it might reveal before embarking on a renovation project – and that's just what Natalie Pède has done with her historic French townhouse. A passionate collector, she has in the meantime filled her home with beautiful antiques. 

Read on to find out how she created this beautiful home,  then browse the rest of our real home transformations. Read our guide on renovating a house, too, for more guidance.

THE STORY

Owner: Nathalie Pède lives here. She runs a clothes shop near her home and also makes toys, using some of her antique textiles. She has three daughters and five grandchildren.
Property: A townhouse, with sections dating back to the 14th century, and some 19th century additions. 
What she did: Nathalie decided to live with the house as it was, before deciding what she should update and what to preserve. She also set up a home studio where she creates her exquisite textile work.

Visitors flock to Issigeac in the summer, and no wonder. The small medieval town in Périgord, south-west France, is full of fascinating architecture and wrapped by ramparts built in the 13th century to protect the town during the wars between England and France. The streets wind in a circle round the town and the spiral effect gives the houses at the top a compelling roofscape. 

It was this bird’s eye view that helped Nathalie Pède to find her new home. She moved to the town 10 years ago, at first renting a house where she established a textile workroom and opened a successful teashop. Looking out of her workroom window, she often wondered about the house opposite, hidden behind high walls. 

Nathalie fixed up her workroom as soon as she moved into the house. An unusual wall of windows gives the natural light she needs for her detailed work creating furnishings and toys,
many in antique textiles

(Image credit: Jody Stewart )

When it came up for sale in 2017, she jumped at the chance to see inside. ‘I discovered it was the first time the house had come onto the market since the 19th century,’ Nathalie explains. ‘Nobody lived there and I was captivated by the history of the interior. I made up my mind to sell my business and buy it.’

French townhouse hallway

The elegant stairway leads up to the large unrestored attic, still full of old family memorabilia

(Image credit: Jody Stewart )

Moving into this house was made easier for Nathalie because so much of her furniture and many of the smaller collections sit comfortably here, from sofas and chairs to her pictures, vintage enamelware and textiles. Creating the workroom was an essential first step and while she can wait for a new kitchen, installing an efficient heating system was her next move and, after that, adding a new shower to her en-suite bathroom.

french dark living room

The decoration of the salon takes its reference from the wallpaper that archivists suggest is likely to date from the 1890s and is still in good condition, more than 100 years later. Nathalie brought the elegant chesterfield sofa, daybed, chairs and rug with her, and the armoire and buffet came with the house 

(Image credit: Jody Stewart )

Like many buildings in the town, the history of this house has not been well documented. All Nathalie has been able to discover so far is that it was purchased by a local lawyer or notary in the 1800s and had remained in his family, though no one had lived there in recent years. 

Medieval French townhouse

Looking back to the kitchen from the dining room gives a glimpse of the doorway and steps to the garden 

(Image credit: Jody Stewart )

Everything about the house was unexpected. For a start there is no obvious front door. Instead, you go through a gate in the wall, walk across the garden and up a flight of stone steps to a veranda. 

French townhouse dining room

The large fireplace in the dining room is likely to have displaced the smaller one in the kitchen for cooking, as part of alterations made to the house in the 19th century. The furniture here came with the house except the chairs, which Nathalie added along with the vintage plates and pots

(Image credit: Jody Stewart )

From there a door opens into a tiny kitchen with minimal cooking arrangements and the remnants of its original chimney. Nathalie plans to integrate this ancient fireplace into a more acceptable working kitchen, but to do this tactfully will need thought and for now she makes do with an inherited sink and a basic electric cooker. 

Are you looking to add a new kitchen? Take a look at these inspiring design ideas for traditional kitchen ideas.

Medieval French kitchen

The small kitchen is in the earliest part of the house, thought to be 14th century, and the fireplace would have been used for cooking. Nathalie is reluctant to make alterations, particularly around the fireplace, until she has a plan that consolidates, rather than overlooks, the history and character of this space

(Image credit: Jody Stewart )

French garden room

Steps lead up from the garden to this little veranda fitted with an old stone sink. In summer Nathalie likes to take breakfast
here and look out over the village

(Image credit: Jody Stewart )

The high walls around the garden only allow views of the town’s roofscape from rooms on the first floor, and Nathalie chose an empty room with a wide wall of glazing as her workroom because natural light is so important to her work. Nathalie has a large collection of antique textiles and stores them carefully to prevent fading. She uses them in many of the pieces she makes, including pieces for her home. 

vintage greenhouse

Plants from the flower market fill the lean-to glasshouse 

(Image credit: Jody Stewart )

‘This is going to be a long-term renovation,’ she says, ‘and it has to be carefully considered. My daughter Rebecca has recently moved back to the village and between us we shall find great enjoyment in bringing this lovely old house back to life in a way that does not quarrel with its history.’ 

French bedroom vintage wallpaper

Nathalie’s much-loved 19th-century bedstead features handpainted floral motifs inset at each end. She chose an antique textile that repeats the oval motif to make a cushion for the bed. The 19th-century quilt continues the floral theme from the wallpaper that is believed to date from around 1900

(Image credit: Jody Stewart )

French townhouse bathroom

The built-in marble-topped cupboard and the bedroom chair are 19th century. Pictures of cats and kittens are hung here to appeal to Nathalie’s grandchildren who use this bathroom when they visit

(Image credit: Jody Stewart )

French vintage bathroom

Nathalie loves the higgledy-piggledy fittings she inherited in her en-suite bathroom. She has also had a new shower fitted in one corner of the room

(Image credit: Jody Stewart )

More historic French homes from Period Living magazine