Many years ago when I first started traveling to France, I discovered what I consider the most magnificent, magical and beautiful place on the planet!
Hotel Le Chaufourg in Perigord was the familial home of George Dambier, a famous photographer who died just a few years after our visit. His revolutionized the fashion industry by photographing models out of the studio in the streets of Paris. The photos showed the models smiling, laughing and often in action surrounded by local people adding a new layer of life to fashion!
In the late 80’s, after a very rigorous career, he retired to his familial home in the French countryside and turned it into a hotel. The hotel created even more visual magic through the attention to detail seen throughout the grounds. It is my idea of the quintessential French garden only made more magnificent through the eyes of a photographer!
Elements of a french garden
A few essential elements of a French garden are symmetry, simple color palette and stone throughout. George combined all of these elements with a very loose and informal way that is extremely pleasing to the eye and puts guests at ease.
There are plenty of boxwoods and topiaries and the color palette is mainly white and green. Some may consider this quite boring, but it really is pleasing to the eye and keeps things simple. Lavender is placed throughout for a pop of color with terra-cotta pots around the pool and gravel pathways adding to the beautiful French garden design.
A few years after my visit to Le Chaufourg Hotel, we had the good fortune of remodeling our old French farmhouse in Sonoma. I used some of the elements of George’s gardens for inspiration and implemented them in the gardens here. We tiled the entire pool in deep blue mosaic tiles and placed terra cotta pots with topiaries planted inside and lavender surrounding them.
We have boxwoods throughout the property to create structure and symmetry and limestone patios and gravel pathways throughout. It’s not a 16th Century structure and not in France, but it is home, and I will be forever grateful to George Dambier for his kindness during our stay and his inspiration that will last a lifetime!