Authentic French Living

Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
I’ve just returned from spending the month of May in France. My time there was divided between hosting The Academy, visiting friends, and taking a solo French road trip to see new places and have a little creative down time. What I’m always struck by, no matter where I may be in the country, is how authentic the French live. You won’t see homes filled with shiny new items from a big box store or mass produced wares delivered to their doorstep. Homes are collected, well lived in, and speak purely to those who inhabit them. They are unique and imperfect. They are nurturing to the senses and welcoming to all who enter their doors. I had the privilege of photographing one such home belonging to my friend, antique dealer Lou O’Leary. His home encourages me to approach my own decor with a sense of authenticity and meaning. My hope is that it does the same for you.

Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
I feel it’s important to mention that I did not style Lou’s beautiful kitchen in any way. With the exception of moving an electric tea kettle, everything you see is exactly where he placed things and a true representation of how he lives every day. He truly emulates the famous poem of Rumi – Let the beauty we love be what we do.

Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
As an antique dealer, Lou’s keen eye is his secret weapon in finding incredible pieces. His collection of artwork and pottery is astonishing. He mentioned that he’ll hold on to certain items, sometimes for years, until he feels ready to sell them to clients. It’s easy to understand why letting go could prove to be difficult.
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
I was able to visit his home twice this trip, once to buy antiques and another to photograph it, and both times he served champagne outside on the garden patio. What I loved most about his hospitality was how casual and effortless it was. Antique bowls filled with nuts and salty chips were accompanied by glasses of chilled rosé champagne. So simple, yet very memorable. I think sometimes we (myself included) feel that entertaining and hospitality has to be extravagant but in reality it just needs to be thoughtful.
As I was photographing Lou’s cigarette case, a repurposed toffee candy tin, I couldn’t help thinking how his style and love of antiques even translates here as well. I find authenticity so refreshing. Especially while living in an internet era where homes & style often feel like exact duplicates of another. Uniqueness stands out in the crowd.
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
Heather Bullard | French Kitchen
Lou doesn’t have a website or shop but you can follow him on Instagram. I also shared a few more images of his home in my stories, which I saved to my highlights. You can find them here!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on authentic living and style. How do you try and embrace it in your own home? Are you also noticing a “sea of sameness” with all the images we view via websites, social media, Pinterest?

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  • Anna Roberts

    Hi Heather! I love that you shared this. I’m so terribly tired of everyone’s home looking the same! Last summer, we traveled in England and stayed in B&B’s and I noticed how charming and lovely the homes were, in a beautifully imperfect way.
    When my husband and I married (22 years ago!) we started a tradition of buying something- art, books, a regional piece- from our travels and that’s what I love about our home. It’s our style and it makes us happy because these items trigger memories and moments in time and, to me, bring a sense of place. I much prefer that than something bought at PB!

    June 22, 2018 at 9:58 am Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      Couldn’t agree more! Artwork is also one of my favorite travel souvenirs and I know what you mean by the beautifully imperfect homes in Europe. Adore them all!
      I think we live in an instant society – accumulating our homes instead of curating/collecting them. The latter of which takes time and patience.

      June 22, 2018 at 10:29 am Reply
      • Ellen Brandt

        Hi can’t figure out how to comment on this amazing post!! Thank You Thank You Thank You for showing us this man’s kitchen. What a glorious treat to 👀 into this man’s “French” kitchen. I have followed your blog forever and you never disappointed. Many thanks💃🏻

        June 24, 2018 at 6:42 pm Reply
        • Heather Bullard

          You did it! So glad you enjoyed seeing Lou’s home. It makes me happy to see how it resonates with all of us. 🙂

          June 24, 2018 at 6:46 pm Reply
    • Robin

      I have always purchased art as I’ve traveled as well. My favorite thing is to get something from a street artist because it keeps the cost down and they paint what you want to remember in their own unique style. I have oils, watercolors, sketches, and pastels all gathered together in my home and I love it!

      July 13, 2018 at 3:21 pm Reply
  • Debbie

    You’re right ~ so unique, inviting, deliciousness for the eyes! It’s so similar to what the French also do with fashion ~ they take a piece and make it their own. I think it’s innate! So where does that leave the rest of us? Drooling, I guess. Or try to take baby steps, looking at something with a new eye, something ordinary used in an uncommon or unexpected way. I love the simplicity and thoughtfulness in welcoming friends into your home. (Sometimes trying to make things perfect keeps me from doing anything at all! Oh, the pleasures I’ve missed out on!) The sea of sameness, yes. I have certainly fallen victim to it. Heather, thank you for such an interesting, thought-provoking and soul-searching post (oh, and beautiful)!

    June 22, 2018 at 10:27 am Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      The common ground to being unique – buy vintage, antique, one-of-a-kind pieces. Think original handmade pottery or ceramics, an antique chair reupholstered, your grandmothers china cabinet. As much as I love a good deal from say, HomeGoods or Target, we can’t furnish our entire homes with mass produced items. It will only lead to a home without soul and meaning…and feel exactly like your next door neighbor.

      June 22, 2018 at 10:34 am Reply
  • Karen B.

    I couldn’t agree more! It’s so refreshing and appealing to me to see how people live an authentic life. Where their homes are interesting and inviting because it’s a reflection of who they are, how they live. I don’t want cookie cutter perfection, I want a well-collected and comfortable place to call home. Thanks for sharing this.

    June 22, 2018 at 10:56 am Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      I believe there are so many of us craving imperfection and a realness to the spaces we design and occupy. Perhaps a movement towards that will come to fruition in the content we see online.

      June 22, 2018 at 12:48 pm Reply
  • Gabrielle Munson

    Ah, this is lovely. I am usually not one to comment however, this was truly worthy of recognition….so inspiring, peaceful, real and well… just truly lovely. Thank you!

    June 22, 2018 at 12:23 pm Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      All words to describe my natural reaction to his home. So well lived in.

      June 22, 2018 at 12:49 pm Reply
  • katey

    What a beautiful space he lives in. I love the wornness of it all. I like so many styles and I feel like I must stick to one to “fit” in. I’ve decided that if I love it, it will fit in. Thank you for the refreshing thoughts. Katey

    June 22, 2018 at 1:43 pm Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      Sounds like a great philosophy to live by. Without worries of being on trend – you’ll be surrounded by things you love and that represent your style. Love it.

      June 22, 2018 at 2:03 pm Reply
  • Stephanie Williams

    So funny you should mention this I have been thinking a lot about it lately after one of my daughters little friends said “your house is so cozy”. I think that’s because it’s filled with filled with treasures that mean something to us. Memories of where we got them, who we were with, the life they had before, their imperfections, but most importantly uniqueness and beauty to me. I don’t want my home to look like anyone else’s! It’s a reflection of me and my family (which is certainly not like anyone else’s 😂)

    June 22, 2018 at 5:49 pm Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      Cozy is such a compliment when it comes to our homes! Love that your collections bring memories of time spent with your family and loved ones. That’s what it’s all about.

      June 22, 2018 at 7:18 pm Reply
  • Marie

    Living in south of France and having visited a number of homes before buying our own I have to disagree with you – yes, there are French with gorgeous homes (and naturally an art dealer would be one of them) but I feel the real French homes look nothing like the Pinterest pictures. In fact, it seems like many of the Pinterest worthy French homes belongs to foreigners or people that work with interiors or decoration.

    Most of the French homes I’ve seen have plastic chairs in the garden, a TV placed in the middle of everything and often a quite terrible style on sofas, chairs and tables (glass, chrome, plastic…)

    I do agree that they’re probably living more authentic and don’t care that much about interior design but I don’t agree that it leads to beautiful homes in general.

    June 23, 2018 at 12:45 am Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      I believe you’re missing the intention behind the post. It’s not about Pinterest worthy homes. It’s about buying what you love, over a period of time, as opposed to going to a big box store and furnishing your home with mass produced items that everyone else has. Authentic living isn’t necessarily about great design, it’s about surrounding yourself and your environment with items that have meaning and uniqueness.

      June 23, 2018 at 6:58 am Reply
      • Marie

        Exactly. And I think the majority of the French definitely go to a store and buy mass produced items. The cute country houses are all very nice, but I really don’t think it’s representative of France. To me, the French seems quite uninterested in interior design and rather just buy whatever they come across.

        June 24, 2018 at 11:20 pm Reply
        • Heather Bullard

          Yes, I agree that a majority of French families aren’t interested in interior design but again, I’ve been traveling to France for many years and been in countless homes and never once have I felt like they were duplicates of another. Regardless of whether they are a country house or city apartment. What we’re seeing a lot of in the US are homes that are basically copycats of the next. Almost like there is an aversion to being original.

          June 25, 2018 at 6:03 am Reply
        • Giulia

          I grew up in Europe (Switzerland) and I lived in France for many years and I do agree with Marie on this. Plenty of homes are furnished with things found at Carrefour, Monoprix, BHG, etc. and with little interest in interiour design and looking nothing like what you portray here. We seem to value this look of what North Americans consider authentic French or European look, the Mimi Thorrison look of crumbling walls and ancient stoves. While these are fabulous and different it’s not what you’d find every where and to some extent it’s a privilege to be able to define style in such a specific mannger. Just as you don’t find the same interiours here in Canada or the US – I’ve seen plenty of old ‘worn’ houses here in North America, just as I’ve seen places stuck in the 80’s. What getting us here the romantic notion of how people live in France. It’s a small percentage of the population, just as there are fat French people and badly behaved kids.

          June 25, 2018 at 11:36 am Reply
  • Susan Hirst

    I love this collected look. I find myself so drawn to it for it’s cozy feeling.

    June 23, 2018 at 5:38 am Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      I feel the same way. 🙂

      June 23, 2018 at 6:51 am Reply
  • jules

    Good morning Heather! We also spent the month of May in Europe and just last night I relayed your same thoughts to my husband. Europeans truly know how to take time to enjoy life, people and their surroundings. It’s something we’ve always tried to do as well but came home with a renewed energy. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and stories while you were away. Southern France is next on our list.

    June 23, 2018 at 6:48 am Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      Yes, they certainly embrace living well. I’ve been traveling to France for years and always come home with a yearning to do the same.
      What countries did you visit in May? You will adore Southern France!

      June 23, 2018 at 7:03 am Reply
  • Shannon Carbajal

    In love with all of that vintage art! I also couldn’t help but notice all of the fresh produce and how that in itself is art just being piled up in bowls. His home is gorgeous and so authentic.

    June 23, 2018 at 8:27 am Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      I even loved the bowl of radishes soaking in water! 😉

      June 23, 2018 at 12:27 pm Reply
  • Lisa's Creative Designs

    Hi Heather,
    Such a beautiful home. I just took my first trip to Europe in the beginning of June. I spent 3 days in France and traveled to Belgium. I am so in love with the quaint, historical aspect of the whole area. It was refreshing to see small shops thriving and no huge bog box stores every five feet. I am always striving to make my home unique with vintage, upcycled and handmade items. Our homes should reflect who we are and what we love. I hope to go back next Spring and spend more time in Paris. I would REALLY like to spend a day at one of their infamous flea markets.

    June 23, 2018 at 5:26 pm Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      Nearly all of my most treasured pieces were found at French flea markets. You will LOVE shopping them!!
      I’ve yet to make it to Belgium but it’s on my bucket list! 🙂

      June 24, 2018 at 8:44 am Reply
  • Brooke Christen

    I loved this post so much Heather. Your photography is stunning and his home is beyond inspiring. I love that is all collected pieces. This is my favorite style, and just nice to recognize what it does to my spirit!

    June 23, 2018 at 9:10 pm Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      Thank you, Brooke! His home was truly inspiring to me as well.

      June 24, 2018 at 8:45 am Reply
  • Robin

    Truly beautiful photography. Such a great “collected” kitchen, which I love.
    On our last trip to Florence, we followed all your much appreciated tips.

    You are a inspiration.

    June 24, 2018 at 10:32 am Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      So glad to hear you found them helpful! We adored Italy and hope to visit more coastal regions someday.

      June 24, 2018 at 11:10 am Reply
  • Kelly

    This was such an inspiration and always your photography is absolutely breath taking! I do feel as though especially on social media there is a bit of sameness and perhaps it’s the need for instant gratification that has us wanting to get the “newest thing”.

    June 24, 2018 at 4:35 pm Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      Thank you, Kelly. I agree, and here in the US there are giant stores with an avalanche of new merchandise rolling in every season making it ever so easy to be less original. And of course, I say this from experience. Unfortunately. 😉

      June 24, 2018 at 4:44 pm Reply
  • Rita

    Hello Heather, it’s so hard for anyone to not fall into the trap of “sameness” and I can only speak for me….but I can truly say I buy what I love and find 99.9% by shopping thrift stores. It’s amazing the beautiful pieces you can find if you’re patient, look regularly and of course some luck. I’m happy to be me .💙

    June 24, 2018 at 4:58 pm Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      Yes!! You be you! I love a good antique store, thrift shop, flea market…you are my people.

      June 24, 2018 at 5:15 pm Reply
  • Sandra Hatch

    I think if you live with what you love it shows in your home or nest. Thank you for not “styling” his place with your proficient skills but leaving it “as is”. My main complaint about any kind of decor book nowadays is that they are either homes of design industry professionals or over-styled by the author in the current trend. So many times I find them repetitive or homes with no soul. His home has an obvious soul which reflects his life, loves and surroundings.

    June 24, 2018 at 5:16 pm Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      So well said. There’s something emotional about an imperfect space. A ordinary beauty that draws us in and invites us to relax.

      June 24, 2018 at 5:40 pm Reply
  • Jenifer Thomas

    Heather ❤️!
    This is one of the many reasons why I follow you! I am drawn to your design style and love of simple, natural beauty. Your home is every bit as curated and collected as your friend’s European home; both are warm and lovely. As always, thank you for the inspiration. xxx ooo

    June 24, 2018 at 5:45 pm Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      Aw, that’s very kind of you Jenifer. All those treasure hunts eventually pay off! 😉

      June 24, 2018 at 6:44 pm Reply
  • Karen B

    Hi Heather. I have been feeling this way for quite awhile, but I never could really put it into words. I love how you use Authentic to describe the way your friend lives. I have vowed to stay away from mass produced decor because I never really like it in the end. I decorate mostly with vintage and antique items. My home is certainly a mix but people have always said it is pretty. I guess because it’s just what I like and not a set from PB. I also hate that companies copy the latest thing and mass produce it. I was just at the Dallas Market and saw so many reproductions. Well, I could go on with this subject for quite awhile, so I will stop at that. Thank you for the inspirational pictures and topic. Being authentic is something I continue to strive for.

    June 24, 2018 at 7:29 pm Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      Oh my gosh, YES! It drives me bonkers when they duplicate an antique and then flood the market. Takes the soul completely out of the piece.

      June 25, 2018 at 6:09 am Reply
  • Nazanin Karimi Hajari

    Hello Lovely Heather, I truly enjoyed this post. There is so much beauty in being authentic. Every single photo was full of life! Thank you.

    June 24, 2018 at 10:01 pm Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      Nazanin!! So happy to see your comment! Looking forward to seeing you in October. 🙂

      June 25, 2018 at 6:05 am Reply
  • Lindsey

    What a wonderful post! I try to keep our home authentic by incorporating pieces passed down from family members, and by finding things that represent our family and the things we enjoy doing together.

    June 25, 2018 at 6:55 am Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      Love this! We just inherited my mother-in-laws antique grandmother clock. When my husband wound it up and it began chiming he said..”it sounds like home”.
      Now, during the day when I hear the bells softly chiming, it reminds me of Europe.

      June 25, 2018 at 7:21 am Reply
  • Stacy - Sweet Life Farm

    Your friend Lou\’s home (perfection!) and your beautiful photographs of it, caused my heart to quicken! This kind of beauty speaks to the soul. As you said, \”… nurturing to the senses and welcoming to all who enter their doors.\” Your post resonates with me. I\’ve put my 90 year old farm on the market and am house hunting for my next home. I\’m disappointed to say house after house feels soulless to me. So grateful you took the opportunity to spend May in France. Thank you for sharing!

    June 25, 2018 at 3:35 pm Reply
    • Heather Bullard

      Wishing you all the best with your house hunting! I’m sure you will make it feel like home wherever you may settle. 🙂

      June 25, 2018 at 5:36 pm Reply
  • Taste of France

    It feels so good to see a place full of loved stuff. Loved for many reasons, but price tag not among them.
    It\’s a home of layers, like life, and while it seems so simple, it is so rarely successful.
    Much here to think about. Although the photos are very beautiful, if you examine what\’s in them, they are gorgeous photos because of the colors, textures, composition–both the photographer and the resident share the glory. Yet most of the items are not unattainably expensive, nor is everything perfect. In fact, it\’s the wabi sabi imperfections that make the charm.
    As some of the other commenters have noted, this is not how many French live. I think it\’s because many French, like many Americans, Canadians, Germans, whatevers like new things that aren\’t peeling or worn. But when everything is new, a place has no soul. It takes a lot of courage to live with faults.

    July 6, 2018 at 2:10 pm Reply
  • Ann Marin

    Love the giimpse into this stylish, handsome, accomplished Frenchman’s home. Wonderful!
    I did find Europeans in general more comfortable with on-the-fly entertaining as opposed to us Americans, who tend to overplan.
    Thanks for letting me live vicariously through your amazing design adventures!!

    July 9, 2018 at 6:35 pm Reply
  • Tracy

    Love this post. Love everything about it. Love the oranges, the fish salt and pepper (perhaps?) the naked lady. Once had a designer lady tell me I needed to get rid of a chair. I had brought pictures of my living room so (I) could decide what fabric to have new rocker upholsterd in. She said this fabric will match everything I’m seeing except this chair, it has to go! “This chair?” I asked. Oh yes. It has to go. Well we’ve had that chair for 40 years, and yes it’s thread bare in places. But it’s the chair everyone goes for first when family drop in. My dog would never look at me again, as he thinks it belongs to him. So I went with my new rocker chair fabric and the ugly mismatch chair remains!

    July 10, 2018 at 3:27 pm Reply
  • Tracy

    O…and I love Lou’s dog. Lou loves his dog. I like Lou, his dog and his fabulous kitchen. And I love your style Heather. So Lou’s dog, Lou’s kitchen, and your style. Love

    July 10, 2018 at 4:25 pm Reply
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