Operating a gite and classic trend museum in Dordogne | Actual life

PUBLISHED: 11:18 11 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:21 11 February 2020

William has transformed a barn into a showcase for Vanessa's fashion collection © Vanessa Howard

William has reworked a barn right into a showcase for Vanessa’s trend assortment © Vanessa Howard

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Vanessa Howard and William McDonald have created a classic trend museum at their French residence to present their gîte enterprise a innovative


“I believe you must have some extent of distinction in any other case everyone seems to be doing the identical factor. You want a USP.” And as USPs go, Vanessa Howard and William McDonald’s is actually distinctive. The couple have created a non-public classic trend museum at their residence in Dordogne, the place additionally they run gîte lodging. The advantages are twofold: the museum provides their friends an extra expertise that they are unlikely to search out elsewhere, and permits Vanessa to proceed to indulge her ardour for classic trend, which started with the acquisition of a pink Edwardian lace shirt from an vintage store in Chelmsford within the mid 1980s.

Vanessa and William purchased a 19th-century stone-built coach home located within the village of Mialet, and the property ticked all their containers by way of worth, location and the potential for gîtes. Whereas they have been lucky sufficient to have bookings for the entire of their first summer time in 2018 and final 12 months was profitable too, Vanessa felt they wanted to supply one thing completely different to assist them stand out within the crowded vacation lodging market, and utilizing her classic assortment gave the impression to be the best resolution.

Vanessa Howard and William McDonald at home in Dordogne © Vanessa HowardVanessa Howard and William McDonald at residence in Dordogne © Vanessa Howard

It occurred to them that an outdated barn on the property may very well be was the right showcase for Vanessa’s assortment, and carpenter William was simply the person to rework the area. With a number of home renovations within the UK beneath his belt and having already labored on the gîtes, he took on the problem of renovating the barn over the winter and put his expertise for inside design to good use.

Vanessa has a specific curiosity in women’ nightwear and the items she has collected over time are on show alongside equipment together with hats, gloves and purses, and there are a number of nods to one among her favorite designers, Chanel, which in flip offers a hyperlink to her assortment of French fragrance bottles. There’s additionally an early French stitching machine that belonged to the girl who beforehand owned the home, and a corset bodice from the 1900s that was given to Vanessa by one among her French neighbours after she gave her a tour of the museum.

The gite is comfortable, bright and spacious © Vanessa HowardThe gite is comfy, shiny and spacious © Vanessa Howard

The native brocantes and vide-greniers have supplied the right searching floor and Vanessa has been ready so as to add extra objects to her assortment, such because the white cotton cap that was a part of the nationwide costume of Limousin. “It is good to incorporate issues from France too,” says Vanessa. “Hopefully as we present extra individuals round they’re going to see it isn’t nearly a British particular person exhibiting them British issues.”

Vanessa hopes that the museum can be what units them aside from different gîtes and that it’ll additionally assist them to draw extra friends outdoors of the height vacationer season, in addition to these with a specific curiosity in trend. The situation they’ve chosen works nicely for that too because it has robust connections with the style trade – luxurious model Hermès has a manufacturing unit half an hour away whereas close by Limousin is understood for the manufacturing of leather-based items from its eponymous cattle. There isn’t any scarcity of classic occasions within the space both and Vanessa and connecting with these is subsequent on her to-do record.

Guests enjoy a touch of luxury in the gold bedroom © Vanessa HowardVisitors take pleasure in a contact of luxurious within the gold bed room © Vanessa Howard

“We’re planning to ask the maire to return and go to and to talk to the native vacationer workplace,” says Vanessa. “I am hoping we would entice individuals who run classic retailers within the UK too who need to spend a weekend right here and may simply fly from a UK airport into Limoges. The extra those that discover out about us the extra alternatives there’ll hopefully be – alternatives we do not even know exist but.”

There’s nonetheless loads of work to do on the property and one among William’s subsequent duties is to finish a second gîte with the intention to develop the enterprise once more this 12 months, which by extension may even enhance consciousness of the museum. They’re additionally contemplating turning a second barn right into a health club and video games room for friends to make use of.

“We’re comfortable to be right here, to be a part of the native tradition and to play our half,” says Vanessa. “It modifications your thought processes dwelling right here and we’re studying one thing new every single day. So far as we’re involved we have modified our life and that is the subsequent chapter. We now have beautiful French neighbours who typically deliver us a basket of home-grown fruit and greens, and there are such a lot of issues to get entangled in within the village.”

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