Inspiration

Loved by our inspectors: Design-led villas on the glitzy French Riviera

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Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

5 min read

The French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur, is quite possibly the glitziest stretch of Mediterranean coast. A glamorous beachside destination, it’s chockablock with snazzy yachts, luxury hotels and gilded villas. It’s a food-lovers dream too; bountiful markets groan under the weight of fresh seafood hauls, fabulous fungi, nuts and truffles, fruit and rosé wine. Inland, you’ll find delightful hilltop villages, stunning scenery, bountiful vineyards and colourful flower farms. There are antique and foodie markets to browse, and galleries and museums galore. All this on your doorstep when you stay at one of our inspected and selected villas. Our luxurious collection ticks all the boxes for stylish design, classic architecture and charming character. Here are a few that wowed our inspectors.

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La Bergerie

Once a sheepfold, now a genteel and tranquil place, set high on a hill above the coastal resort of Golfe-Juan with stunning views across the Riviera. There’s a two-tiered terrace extension overlooking the garden with wonderful views down to the sea, options to dine at a big table inside or by the poolside, and wonderful and utterly peaceful gardens. Walk along a stepped path that leads you through giant palms, lemon trees, cacti and ancient olive groves – some as much as 700-years-old. Two rustic-chic bedrooms are in the main house and another two are in a separate attached building with a private terrace. The farmhouse-style kitchen has all the mod-cons you need. It’s a 30-minute walk to the coast to check out the super yachts in the marina, and only 20-minutes to Vallauris which has a Picasso museum and lots of potteries and ceramics shops.

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Maison d’Artiste

Village life is on your doorstep: fresh croissants are a stroll away; butcher, grocer and two restaurants as well. The honey-stone house, once a farmhouse, now extended, is in perfect keeping with the village. It’s all on one level except for a sitting area on the gallery – characterful, roomy and with five French windows so you can drift in and out. Two lead to the patio from the living room and one leads from the kitchen, the hub of the house and astonishingly well-equipped (the owner even leaves a file of local recipes to try). Bedrooms are comfortably furnished with polished wood floors, Thai wall hangings and classic French flourishes; bathrooms are the business. Books, CDs, DVDs, honey, olives, fruits, fougasse, wine… these are the extras. There’s more: walks in all directions, a delicious pool at the front, and the peaceful hum of cicadas in a leafy back garden.

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Le Moulin de Pézenas

The 13th-century mill , stands alone, silent and splendid in the curve of the river. What a restoration! Immaculate interiors, a glorious setting, and a whiff of luxury. The fine proportions of the rooms have been respected and the very best materials have been used. Two apartments combine: one on the ground floor with a large terrace overlooking the river and the other up the wide stone stair. You can cook your own meals in the sociable kitchen or have them brought to you by a local chef. Downstairs, ceilings are high and fine linen curtains swoosh to the floor; upstairs, two bedrooms are on mezzanines with beams and steep stairs. Spend the morning in medieval Pézenas up the hill, long loved for its architecture, boutiques and winding streets. Return to the dappled shade of the majestic plane that guards the bridge to the door, and a cooling dip in the river.

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Villa Alexandra

A fabulous Côte D’Azur villa with views to Cap-Ferrat, a floodlit pool and a short walk to beautiful Villefranche. This colourful, comfortable, 1930s villa stands high above under-the-radar Villefranche, yet the harbour is an easy stroll (15 minutes down, 20 minutes up!). This place is made for indoor-out living: plunge in the pool, barbecue delicious suppers, sleep in glamorous bedrooms. There are three in the main house, and a private apartment in the garden, with an elevated terrace smothered in bougainvillae. You’re halfway between Nice and Monaco, legendary playgrounds of the rich and famous, and one of its jewels is the Villa Rothschild – a ten-minute drive. Hop on the train to Nice or stride the coastal path (4km). Recover over cocktails at Nice’s legendary Negresco, or follow the rollerbladers on the Promenade des Anglais… the most romantic seafront in France.

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La Bastide des Amandiers – L’Atelier

This stylish apartment for two is within the owners’ house but has its own private access. Inside, seaside simplicity and style are the keywords, all softly done in natural materials, duck-egg and taupe fabrics. The Lubéron hills on your doorstep are stunning. You have your own private terrace: you are virtually sitting in that fabulous landscape beneath the dappled sun. The kitchen/living room is well-equipped and your hosts are delightful; they harvest olives, extract essential oil from lavender plants and produce honey from beehives. You might see other guests from the two other apartments but as this is a place for adults only, wonderfully tranquil. You could just laze the days away by the shared lavender-lined pool, go wine-tasting at local vineyards, explore famous villages such as Gordes, Rousillon, Bonnieux, Loumarin and lovely, lively Aix en Provence with its cathedral, galleries and bookshops is less than 30km away.

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Manoir de la Jonquière

In the lush hills of the Var, this is a spacious family haven with serene gardens, a gleaming pool and mesmerising views. Relax in the wooden swing seat and gaze across the valley; watch the lights of Bargemon twinkling in the distance as darkness falls. Reached via a steep, well-hidden drive, this 250-year-old manor house is pleasing to the eye and soothing on the soul. The drawing room is vast, the kitchen is set up for cooks, and the bedrooms are upstairs and down. Set between the villages of Bargemon and Seillans, each a short drive, you are spoiled for things to do. Explore tempting shops and cafés, fountains, markets, and shady squares; head for the hills and the perfumes of Grasse, bask on the beaches at Fréjus. Return to rural peace, and supper under the stars.

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Mas Saint Martin

The house, built in the 17th-century as a wine cellar, sits on a spur with views soaring over the wooded hillsides and organic vineyards of Terrebrune. There’s a light, airy feel indoors and a very comfortable veranda outside connected to the terrace by floor-to-ceiling glass doors, plus a super kitchen with plenty of space. Seek shade under two large trees on the terrace, slide into the lavender-edged swimming pool on the lower terrace, find plenty of loungers and a bottle of local rosé and settle in for a dose of slothfulness. Watch films in the study/TV room after dinner, explore the pretty gardens or find a quiet spot and read. Four bedrooms are up a steep circular staircase and all have views. Stroll down the road to Terrebrune for serious wine tasting and a delicious lunch, stock up on local produce in Ollioules.

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Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

Carmen is a freelance writer specialising in travel. She once lived in a bus in north Wales, skipped off to study in Barcelona, and now calls Bristol home. When she’s not tapping away on her laptop, she can be found reading (a lot), lake swimming (a little), and pottering on the allotment with husband and two kiddos. She’s currently dreaming about cold cerveza and torta in Mexico.

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