We were given the wonderful opportunity to work closely with the inspirational writer, photographer, and stylist Sara Silm during the design process of the Le Village collection. Le Village is inspired by Sara and her petite stone chateau Montfort in France, and we truly fell in love with her magical home. We can't wait to share it with you.
But first, let's get to know Sara. Sara is originally from Australia but considers herself a global citizen after many years of traveling and discovering the world. She has over 20 years of experience as a freelance writer, photographer, and stylist. Sara has also taught interior design, color theory, and surface design at the Sydney International School of Colour & Design.
Her proudest achievement is as a mother of three wonderful children. Another admirable achievement is her lovely book, How to French Country, with color and design inspiration from southwest France.
"Take one Aussie girl, a pinch of the Middle East, a spoonful of Africa, and marinade in Russia. Roll in central Asia, then allow to simmer slowly in South West France."
Finding a Forever Home
After years of international leapfrogging, Sara and her family decided to buy a home of their own and settle down in the Béarn region after a recommendation from a dear friend. And they fell head over heels with the area. It just took them a little time to find their little piece of it, their beloved stone chateau in Montfort. Ideally situated in a very rural pocket of the countryside where the pace of life is gentle and slow. When Sara stepped into the chateau, she instantly knew this was where she'd find the coming chapters of her life.
"It's truly heaven on earth, and I'm so grateful for each day I spend here."
The house had been empty for over two decades, and it certainly was a sleeping beauty. Everything was still there. It was as if the owners had just gone to the store but never returned. A true treasure hidden under a protective layer of sheets and dust. Perfectly preserved.
"As laughter and love returned, the chateau shook off its long years of silence and embraced each of us as its own. Floorboards once more began to creak, and the shutters let out a content yawn as they were opened each morning. We were home."
Sara Silm, How to French Country.
The petite stone chateau, otherwise known as a "masters house" or “maison de maître," with two towers was built between the 18th and 19th century by the bourgeois. The chateau was modest in size but oozed understated charm. It came with a beautiful but forgotten garden, a conciergerie cottage, a farmhouse, and many years before, it had also included vast lands and a vineyard.
Before moving in, a renovation was necessary, and they started with the essentials, plumbing, electrics, a new roof, and repairs of collapsed floors and ceilings. Since the family moved in, the entire house has been gently restored over the past 8 years and gorgeously decorated in Sara's lovely french country style.
The house features an entry hall, a lounge room, the ground floor bedroom and bathroom, the library study, a dining room, the kitchen, a sitting room, the butler's pantry, the two tower's bedrooms, sunrooms, and bathrooms, three additional bedrooms, a bathroom, an attic, AND a garden! The chateau might have been modest compared to other castles, but it certainly wasn't as a renovation project!
"I wandered around the house like Goldilocks, removing dust sheets and sitting on chairs, turning keys, opening doors, unlocking secrets."
An interior design style should always be and reflect a balance between the inhabitant, the building, and its surrounding. One of Sara's best interior design tips is to start your project by creating a "feel-board," listing smells, textures, colors, light, memories, and emotions you want to evoke. This will result in an interior that's cohesive and authentically you.
The color scheme of the french country style is defined by grayed-off blues, greens, pinks and earthy ochres, soft creamy whites, and subtle grays.
Sara is a lover of surface design. Fabrics, rugs, and wallpapers. She loves them all! They add rhythm and character to a room through patterns. Patterns are perfect for creating interesting layers, and wallpapers are one of Sara's favorite tools to achieve that elegant but understated french country style. One she's used beautifully in her own chateau.
"Sandberg takes the angst out of matching designs because their wallpapers are a little family, and unlike humans, they always get along!"
We took the chance to ask Sara, particularly about how she chose wallpapers for her home and the wallpapers she helped Sandberg Wallpaper to curate:
How did you go about choosing wallpapers and styling them?
Anyone who comes to my house will know within seconds that I am obsessed with wallpaper! I was extremely lucky in styling the chateau because it has such high ceilings, which allowed me to play with scale and both big and small designs. I absolutely love juxtaposing two designs so that you see one room's wallpaper (or a hallway) in the same view as another room with a different wallpaper. It's a bit like a patterned shirt and a patterned scarf. More is more!
"I feel like each of these designs are family members. I've literally watched them come to life, a few of them were hand-painted by Sara and Karolina at my kitchen table."
Which is your favorite wallpaper in the Le Village collection?
SO hard! Montfort is clearly a very special one because it tells a little story of the Béarn and features our beloved poodle, Adelaide.
Speaking of Adelaide, the design named after her is truly sublime. Its whimsical and old-world Domino style whisks me off to another bygone era.
I also adore Fig Garden - it speaks to my heart entirely, and Turtledove Barn is a homage to the Béarn: its history, symbols, and the little barn I lovingly restored for our guests.
How would you style a room with the wallpaper Annabelle? (Named after Sara’s daughter.)
Annabelle is a fairly large design, so it’s wonderful in larger rooms, especially those with a little extra height. The deep blue colorway I chose to use in Annabelle’s bedroom creates intimacy. It can envelop you in a soft flowing pattern that is dynamic but not overpowering. French organic hemp upholstery and bed linen contrast with the feminine design, bringing an earthy element of countryside texture into the mix, as does natural sisal rugs on the floor. I love a good geometric print to add a bit of structure, so I inevitably work in a few boldly striped cushions or checked lampshades when using florals.
The lighter colorways in this design transform the visual impact it brings to a room, creating a far softer pattern that seamlessly blends into the space. Annabelle is a bit like the little black dress of wallpaper designs; thanks to its varied colorways, it’s equally at home in the living room or hallway as it is in the bedroom. It’s simply up to you to decide where!
Sara and her French chateau inspired the Le Village collection, and she helped curate it. The collection is an homage to the Béarn region and celebrates the connection between the Swedish royal family, the region, and Sandberg as a purveyor to the royal court. The patterns were all carefully hand-painted by Sandberg's talented designers.