An American in Provence

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Posted July 30, 2013. Filed in Dick Dumas, Provence

As we near the close of the Toujours Provence series of posts today we  go back in time to the late American decorator Dick Dumas’ country house, just outside Ménerbes, in Oppède-le-Vieux, Provence. A restaurant when he discovered the property, Dumas converted it to his personal retreat, set in a 12th-century village with views of the Luberon. It was featured in the January, 1989, issue of House & Garden magazine and more recently written about on The Blue Remembered Hills blogspot, whom I have to thank for laboring to scan this issue’s images.

Photo by François Halard.

Twelfth-century stone houses as viewed from Dumas’s terrace.

Dick Dumas Library Provence

There is nothing particularly striking about this property; however, it exemplifies how simplicity of taste can stand the test of time. Dumas stripped the interior of all provincial clichés, using a warm shade of white paint on the walls and ceilings, simple cotton fabrics in natural colors, and zero artifice. These are easy, relaxed spaces, with book-lined walls and a spattering of personal bibelots artfully displayed. The only trick Dumas employed was hanging a series of mirrors on the walls of the long gallery-like library to open it up.

Dick Dumas Drawing Room Provence

Dumas designed upholstered furniture in modular units, popular at the time, for the drawing room. Their simple lines and uniformity make this awkward space appear more inviting and comfortable. A bronze wall sculpture by local artist Nicky Nicolina hangs on the far wall.

Dick Dumas Provence

The spacious terrace is the best feature of this residence, with views of the village, ample seating and lush plantings. The draped arbor provides shade and greenery with climbing rose. Allusions to the Mediterranean are implied with windows curtained on the outside to ward off heat and trees painted with white lime to ward off bugs – an 18th-century remedy.

Dick Dumas Provence

There is really nothing of note to mention with regard to Dumas’ bedroom, but I thought I would include it. I particularly like the mirror-backed candle sconces flanking the arched window and the potted plant – a gesture that somehow suits a bedroom in Provence.

Dick Dumas Provence.

An American flag sets the tone for a guest room with a pair of four-poster beds designed by Dumas from plumbing pipe painted in faux tiger, all framed in Souleiado chintz.

Dick Dumas-Provence-The House & Garden Book of Living Rooms-1991-Fritz von der Schulenburg

Dick Dumas-Provence-The House & Garden Book of Living Rooms-1991-Fritz von der Schulenburg

*These last two photos of the long living area I discovered much later. I decided to add them to this post for safe keeping.

Next up is the magnificent country estate of Janet de Botton in the south of France, a romantic departure from the spare elegance we have viewed thus far, yet with equal parts style and panache.

All photos by François Halard featured in the January, 1989, issue of House & Garden.

Last two photos by Fritz von der Schulenburg featured in The House & Garden Book of Living Rooms by Robert Harling, Leonie Highton and John Bridges, 1991.