French home French home

Artist Cher Hélène Drake moved from England to France after falling in love with the Charente region while on a family holiday. She now lives in the small village of Vibrac with her partner Gilles and children Matthew, 24, Tom, 21, Sophia,19 and Samantha, 16, as well as Jack the beagle, three cats, Notch, Kiki and Casimir, cockatiel Sukii and canary Sing Sing. Cher Hélène was initially looking for a holiday house but ended up moving to France full time. “I instinctively felt at home here,” she says. “I wanted my children to experience the same sense of freedom that I associated with my childhood in Africa.”

French home

French home

So in 2000 the family moved to the south of France and bought a big house with lots of land in a small hamlet. Cher Hélène was separating from her husband and initially it was a difficult time. The first house she bought was a complete ruin. Apart from hiring builders to put on a new roof and install electricity and water, Cher Hélène did all of the labour herself, including building partition walls and plastering. The older children struggled to settle to begin with, finding the language difficult, so much so that Matthew, who was further into the English school system than the others,  returned to England to complete his education. Now back in France, Matthew and the rest of the family are fluent in French and blissfully happy with the freedom and sunshine that comes with rural French life.

French home

French home French home

After living in the hamlet for a while, Cher Hélène thought it would be good for the family to have more of a community around them. When an estate agent showed her a house in the nearby village of Vibrac, she jumped at the chance to move. Unfortunately, that house sold before she could put in an offer. However, she was persuaded to have a look at an early-1800s stone house around the corner, which she had previously dismissed as too small. “I walked through the door and just started shaking,” she recalls. “This house did something to me. It was far too small for us but I could see what needed to be done and now it feels very spacious.”

French home

French home French home

This story was originally published in Australian Country issue 15.6. Subscribe to the magazine here.

Click here for more homes and interiors.

Text and styling Abigail Edwards/ Narratives
Photography Alun Callender/ Narratives

More Like This

Douglas Blain

The Extraordinary Journey of Douglas Blain: Preserving the Past with Passion

Douglas Blain’s remarkable life has been devoted to rescuing old buildings and turning them into boutique hotels.

Outback Aussie Tours

Exploring Queensland’s Heartland with Outback Aussie Tours

Alan and Sue Smith, owners of Outback Aussie Tours have been showing Australian Country around the paddocks of Rosebank station.

Montville Mist Springwater

The Collins’ Montville Mist Springwater Success

Alli and Peter Collins juggle raising a family and running, Montville Mist Springwater from their home in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Paper Pocket Australiana

Our Top 10 Favourite Calendars and Diaries to Kick Start Your 2024

Discover Australia’s favourite range of 2024 Calendars and Diaries from Paper Pocket. Keep track of your year, organise your appointments, plan your […]

Date & Ginger Bundt Cake

Date & Ginger Bundt Cake Recipe

This date and ginger bundt cake is an adaptation of my mum’s much-loved sticky date pudding recipe.

Visitors Paradise Home

Turning a 1929 Home into a Visitors Paradise

Aussie wildlife and mushroom foragers are among the many visitors to Sue and Tony Johnson’s paradise home in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills.

Heritage Home Renovation

A Heritage Home Renovation Back to the Origins

After almost three decades of renovations, Darren and Sue Turner have returned their 111-year-old home to what it once was.


Seduced by Simplicity: A Kiama Transformation

Michael and Michele Bell turned a Kiama beach house from the sixties into a stunning seaside home that’s too good to leave.

Follow Us on Instagram