Spare Time


Stéphane Olivier, a noted Paris-based antiques dealer and interior designer, had been looking for a refuge in Normandy for a long time. As if it had been waiting for him, he found a house in the heart of the region’s Pays d’Auge, near the town of Lisieux. The five-hectare (12-acre) estate was surrounded by meadows and apple trees. He discovered presses in the property’s outbuildings that could be revved up to produce cider. It was a house dedicated to its site and the countryside in which it had sat for centuries.

The house is situated in a place known as “Les Poteries,” a reference to a time when the region was populated by skilled potters who, in the 18th century, provided the royal courts with their goods. Upon purchasing the house, Olivier and his partner wanted to pay homage to the land, the house, and to the traditions of those past artisans, without having the changes they made appear too conspicuous. “My goal was to bring this 18th-century house back to life as if there hadn’t been any intervention on my part,” Olivier emphasizes. The undertaking, however, involved a major renovation that required more than two years of hard work. “When we dismantled part of the house,” he explains, “we realized that the building itself was on the ground without a foundation.” Heating and drainage systems had to be redesigned, windows needed to be replaced, and the chimneys required a bringing up to code.

Olivier was adamant about honoring and preserving the home’s original materials—the old brick on the terrace that had been laid in a herringbone pattern, the Burgundy stone used on the ground floor, the half-timbered beams that he had cleaned and sandblasted, and the oak parquet flooring in the primary bedroom suite. For whatever he was not able to preserve, he instead used new natural materials in keeping with the house.

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This story appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of MILIEU.