French TV presenter Sophie Davant wanted to create an oasis of calmness where she could escape the busyness of of Parisian life and enjoy the beautiful coastline; so when she renovated a house on Normandy coast, she was sure to create something that ticks all the boxes. It took a year to renovate the house, which she visits during weekends and when she gets a break from work. Initially the property was a small house with a workshop built around a courtyard.
Sophies’s signature style is stamped all over the gorgeous abode which is as peaceful as they come. There’s nothing ostentatious about the décor, instead it marries traditional and contemporary themes to result in the perfect beach retreat.
“The key thing, for me, was that it was close to the sea and I loved the internal courtyard,” she says. “When I realised I could unite the house and the workshop with a courtyard at the heart, like a Moroccan riad I knew I wanted to live here. What’s really nice is from the street you can’t see anything. The two reasons I chose the place are that it’s safe and I wanted to be able to come here alone and not feel threatened. As I am a celebrity in France so my privacy is very important.”
Sophie presents two TV programmes each weekday C’est au programme and Toute une histoire and has written a number of books, including a couple of cookery books with different chefs.
“One is a daily morning programme, live at 10am,” she says. “It’s on for an hour and is aimed at women. The other is an hour-and-a-half long programme every afternoon. Ordinary people come on and share issues in their lives. The talk about issues that come with life, such as pregnancy, relationships, children, work any aspect of life really. People bring their experiences and we also have psychiatrists and professionals who can help. I am like Oprah Winfrey in France, but not so well known!”
Sophie recently underwent a major life change upon reaching the age of 45 when realised that she had everything but still didn’t feel content. In her slightly depressed state, she decided to speak to one of her friends, a psychiatrist by profession, who explained that what she was going through was quite normal – referring to it as a second teenage crisis. Sophie explains, “The first half of your life is about developing yourself according to society’s view of you. The second stage is about ‘actually how do I feel within my family and my work, what is me?”
This experience was the catalyst for Sophie’s well-received book, Ce que j’ai appris de moi, Journal d’une Quinqua.
“I started from my own experience to build up these questions and thought about how I could help others.” This revaluation of life has certainly worked for Sophie; there is serenity to her and quintessential French glamour women from other countries spend years and much money trying to achieve.
In writing the book she learned a lot about herself, including her need to cultivate her own space. She deemed it important to have a break from the fast paced life in Paris and the new house was a place to have some quiet time with family and friends away from the hustle and bustle of city life. When she’s here, it’s all about living simply, walking on the beach, cooking good food and spending time with those she loves. The kitchen was designed as the heart of the home – something that unifies each half of her home.
“If I’m cooking I can still be with people either side of the kitchen. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. It is designed to be able to cook and for people to be able to sit at the bar.”
Taking centre stage is a 5-oven Aqua AGA Dual Control cooker. There were many things about having an AGA cooker that attracted Sophie.
“First of all the colour,” she says. “Then the retro side and just the fact that it’s a beautiful object. I wanted the English touch here, because Normandy is quite linked to England. It’s quite cold and damp so having this living thing that is warm and welcoming is really nice. When I go for a walk along the beach it’s lovely to come back and stand close to the AGA. It really attracts people as it makes them feel looked after. I am changing my way of cooking and using the ovens to do things like slow cooked lamb, roast chicken, osso bucco. The AGA is great to cook for a lot of people, to have a big table with many friends and not to spend two much time in the kitchen you can give the food to the AGA to look after and get on with other things.”
“All my neighbours come and bring their own food so they can try it in the AGA. They are very curious. I am still a beginner as I am only here at the weekend and I don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen, but in the summer I will be spending more time here and I will certainly be spending more time cooking.”
Food is a high priority for Sophie and some of her friends are even involved in the management of Parisian restaurants.
“So when my friends are here they keep a close eye on what I am doing,” she laughs. “When we don’t have much time pre-prepared food is also great and the AGA is really good at just warming things up. I find that with the cast-iron ovens, leaving food warming up it gives it a better taste. The juices and sauce have time to cook and it makes the flavours stronger.”
Balance is important to her in every aspect of life. She knows what she loves to do, but also what she needs.
“I love doing TV it’s really my core thing,” she says. “But I also like writing a lot. Every morning, when I am on holiday, I write. Otherwise I would have no time for it. I’m lucky that I don’t need to write every day like a full-time author. What I really enjoy, though, is walking along the beach from Villerville to Trouville. I can walk for three hours without seeing anyone. I did that yesterday and it was sunny and fantastic”.
For more information or your local stockist visit: www.agaliving.co.za