“Country Homes Around The World:” Charlotte Reiss of Vivi et Margot

by ally redmond

woman in a field of sunflowers

It is with great excitement that I welcome a new blog series – “Country Homes Around The World” – where each month I’ll be spotlighting an inspirational country home and homemaker from around the world.

For March, I’m excited to invite you into the beautiful residence and life of Charlotte Reiss, owner and founder of the French homewares brand Vivi et Margot.

After falling in love with the French lifestyle, Charlotte launched Vivi et Margot in 2015 while transforming a 150 year-old rural property into a gorgeous and welcoming second home in France. An online marketplace that hosts frequent pop-up shops across the US, Vivi et Margot offers an exclusive collection of French homewares, textiles, antiques and a variety of – their most popular item – market baskets.

I had the chance to ask Charlotte a few questions about her impossibly chic country lifestyle and what home in the country means to her.

What part of the world are you in, and how would you describe this part of the country?

Our home is in the Deux Sevres region of Western France. When we originally started the house hunt, we had no specific region in mind, although we knew realistically the South would be out of our personal budget. Not wanting to forsake the warmer summer months, we ruled out the Northern regions such as Brittany and Normandy, and looked a little more closely towards the Bordeaux area. We found the house after narrowing it down to about 10 properties online, with my husband flying over to do a road trip to view each. As I had a newborn at home, I relied on FaceTime and instinct (and husband trust!) for each viewing. The home we selected was about the fourth one he viewed. It had the “bones” we wanted in an old house (attic space and outhouses), with the right amount of land and proximity to town for our budget (which was 80,000 euros).

country home on a sunny day in France

Tell me a little bit about the character of your home. How did it come to you?

The house was actually very dark, drab and plain when we purchased it, but the appeal, as I previously mentioned, was the huge attic space (my husband was able to tell had vaulted ceilings hidden under the drywall). The land was a manageable size to maintain from our home in America, and we just loved the fact that it was so rural. Although many would say it had no character at all (formica and linoleum everywhere), to me the original beams, fireplaces and old barn (which became our laundry room) had great character. This was important, as I wanted to restore and renovate a very traditional French home.

flowers on a counter

How old is your home, and how long have you lived there?

The house is approximately 200 years old, and from what I understand from research with the Maire (mayor) is that it was a barn where baskets were fabricated for the village. I don’t know if it was used for living quarters or not at that time. The top floor (which is now our bathroom) has the original barn doors visible where hay/ straw would be stored, and the outhouse/barn has the original oven in the wall. We bought the house 9 years ago now from a gentleman who had lived there alone with his dog for about 10 years.

al fresco table outside of french country home

How did you ‘meet’ your house?

We completed the entire transaction from the USA and first went together to visit as a family, including my daughters, about four months later. The house was uninhabitable at that time, so we had to stay in a hotel. My husband flew over a few times, and slowly we gutted the property and began the rewarding, but time-consuming, project of the remodel. Each visit we would stay there and work on new areas of the house, as some were inhabitable. Our first Christmas, I remember we had plywood on all the floors, a garden table in the living room, a mattress on the floor and the most makeshift kitchen you have ever seen, – and yes, we hosted Christmas with our families! It was interesting to say the least!

two women cook in the kitchen

Who do you share your home with?

We don’t rent out house out, it is solely for us.

What is your favourite room or space in the home and why?

Without a doubt, the kitchen is my favorite room, and my favorite space is the pool terrace that we added about three years ago. The landscaping and pool was a huge expense that we saved for, but the best thing we ever did .

french kitchen with long wooden table, green walls and copper pots and pans

How do you create spaces for family life?

We don’t have a separate dining room, so all gatherings are in the kitchen. We often host multiple family members, and therefore have large expandable tables that can seat 12 both in the kitchen and outdoors. The garden is split into three levels, and in the summer we spend all of our time outside. We eat on a travelled patio space under the wisteria outside the kitchen back door, we play and dine on the middle terrace where we have the kids’ swings, outdoor table and chairs, BBQ and more. And on the top tier, where the pool is, I created a large entertaining area with more tables, chairs and double loungers. We have evening drinks up there and love to host family and friends.

long wooden kitchen table with french bread, jam and table setting

How would you describe your style of decorating?

I am not sure if I have a style per se, but I do believe I have kept the house very country traditional. Classic clawfoot tubs, the use of wallpaper, fabrics and textures, and my favorite – the reclaimed tile (that was a huge expense, but so worth it) that we put in the mudroom, guest bathroom, kitchen master and kids’ bathrooms. I think my English Country roots come to play quite often, as I really love the home to feel lived in, loved, used. This is a home you curl up on the couch with, cook barefoot and just completely relax. I have an abundance of vintage pottery and books in the living room.

antique bath tub with gorgeous tiled flooring

What is your favourite season at home, and how do you celebrate?

SUMMER! My parents live five minutes away in the next village, and my sister and her family always come and visit from Dubai. It’s my absolute favorite time of the year. Every window open, every shutter, no one is wearing shoes or worrying about makeup. It’s kaftan time, cooking, talking, going to the markets, sunbathing, the sound of kids everywhere. In summer the kids stay up until about 10pm, as it doesn’t get dark until then, and we love to spend this time completely unwinding and creating new memories.

two little girls sitting on a windowsill

Do you have any special tips for creating the feeling of “home?”

After about two years of trips over, once the rooms were taking form, I started bringing personal items over for  the girls and myself. I keep a complete set of clothes, toiletries, toys – everything you can think of – there, so we can literally walk through the door and step into daily life. We have talked about moving there full-time, but the reality is that my girls are currently in schools in America, so for a few more years our stays can only be seasonal. I also obviously do a lot of sourcing and shopping for our online store, and the house is filled with treasures that I just love to look at.

teal cabinets with beautiful bouquets of purple flowers

What does “country home” mean to you?

Lush green views, surrounded by nature, the sound of gravel underfoot in the driveway, the windows and doors all open (no screens, so yes a few frogs and bugs get in!), bread delivered to the house, each meal at least two hours long, no traffic, no TV (we have two but rarely watch), being able to go on long, slow, ambling walks with my children, the smell of fresh air and the ink black skies at night from no street lights around. It’s magic, it really is.

Thank you so much for sharing your gorgeous home with me, Charlotte!

mother and two little girls walking through a field

All photography by Charlotte Reiss.

I hope you enjoyed the peek into Charlotte’s country home! If you’d like to see more, follow her on Instagram at @charlottereiss and @vivietmargot, and check out her gorgeous website HERE.

For more on all things country homes and living – subscribe to My French Country Home Magazine.

Interested in being featured in my new “Country Homes Around The World” series? Let me know in the comments below!

37 comments

Judy Wadsworth March 4, 2020 - 5:35 pm

I really enjoyed this piece! Thank you so much for sharing with your viewers. Lovely photos and text.

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Marty Moore March 4, 2020 - 5:43 pm

I loved it! Thank you for sharing this wonderful French home with us.

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Leslie March 4, 2020 - 5:45 pm

How lovely! Thank you so much.
Leslie Alexander

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kathryn amoroso March 4, 2020 - 5:49 pm

Beautiful! I look forward to more blogs!

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Theresa Pittman March 4, 2020 - 6:00 pm

Thank you for my morning vacation over coffee !

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Nancy March 4, 2020 - 6:03 pm

What a beautiful home, as well is yours. Thank you for sharing.

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Connie Ivey March 4, 2020 - 8:08 pm

Love new blog…seeing into real peoples French life. More please!

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Wanda March 4, 2020 - 6:21 pm

As always enjoy reading about experiences from your beautiful countryside. Please don’t stop.

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Darlene March 5, 2020 - 1:42 am

Thank you for your magazine. I found the March issue at Barnes and Noble. Keep it coming to the book store.

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Marie Cote' Batson March 4, 2020 - 6:32 pm

I loved this article! I am of french ancestry but never found it possible to visit and now nearly age 80 so won’t ever happen. Your articles give me such joy and warms my heart for sure. Thank you!

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Suzana Borlovan March 4, 2020 - 7:39 pm

What a great new blog post. Love looking into others lives in their personal surroundings

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Rita Key March 4, 2020 - 7:51 pm

Love your new blog Sharon, esp this one!

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Kimberley DeBastos March 4, 2020 - 8:28 pm

Such a gorgeous space! Thank you for sharing the story behind the transformation. Best, Kim

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Taste of France March 4, 2020 - 8:38 pm

The best thing is to find a wreck and fix it up. No having to undo somebody else’s cache-misère, And French artisans are very professional. My husband and I did two renovations with local workers and were very satisfied. Charlotte did a fantastic job. Gorgeous house.

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Vicky from Athens March 4, 2020 - 9:00 pm

Sharon, what a delightful post! I really enjoyed the glimpses of French country living – the home looks so comfortable and inviting. I look forward to visiting more country homes around the world but I’m so glad you started in France!

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Susan March 4, 2020 - 9:55 pm

I look forward to “visiting” more country homes, as lovely as this one!

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Marian Somes March 4, 2020 - 10:23 pm

Wonderful post. Delighted to see the photo of the window shutters as we are in the process of trying to find a tradesman to make some for our French farmhouse style home so now I will have a great picture to show them.

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Colleen Taylor March 4, 2020 - 11:13 pm

What a charming and idyllic home Charlotte has. Lovely post Sharon. X

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Lisa D. March 4, 2020 - 11:24 pm

It certainly is a beautiful country home. I love how relaxed and imperfect it is, which is what gives it it’s beauty and charm.

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Melinda March 4, 2020 - 11:39 pm

Sharon, You never cease to amaze me!
This new blog post is delightful and brought me such reading pleasure today.
Merci, Merci for your tireless work at bringing your readers new and interesting topics to bless our days.
❤️ this post! The photos add lovely visuals.

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Holly Lollar March 4, 2020 - 11:40 pm

Beautiful! I would love for you to feature my French home. What is the best way to send you photos? Loved this post.

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Robert March 5, 2020 - 12:34 am

The house is absolutely charming!! Love the kitchen….so warm and inviting. Also impressed with the way the owner has used hydrangeas in the kitchen and white gladiolas in the bath to enhance the decor. We are working on a house in Haute-Vienne
so we may contact you in a year or two…..to see if you are interested in a medieval village house.

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Susan March 5, 2020 - 5:47 am

I am thrilled about the new blog. Look forward to the next one.

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maude ciardi March 5, 2020 - 3:09 pm

I just loved the new house blog! It was one of my favorites.Thank you for sharing. I will probably never visit France so this was delightful

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Monique March 5, 2020 - 11:15 pm

Never say never.you actually do, ever time you open this blog,

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PATRICIA YOUNG March 5, 2020 - 4:22 pm

Thank you for a great addition. Loved this feature. We have a home in an old hill village in the Luberon if you would interested.

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Holly March 5, 2020 - 8:33 pm

This is lovely – how i have missed you and your french girlfriends. Now we go travel and have world girlfriends! thank you for sharing xo

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Monique March 5, 2020 - 11:12 pm

What a lovely way to put it.

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Susan March 5, 2020 - 9:43 pm

Love this new addition to your blog and look forward to visual touring of more beautiful homes.

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Monique March 5, 2020 - 11:11 pm

How absolutely beautiful! I found it interesting how all of the flowers there I grow in my garden in Edmonton Alberta Canada, we are north of the 49th parallel but still can grow amazing flower gardens. I grow roses, my passion. Also hydrangeas, gladiolus, dahlias and many many more for cutting and bringing in to enjoy. It is wonderful of you to bring us into homes that are overwhelmingly inviting. There is always something we can add to our homes and gardens and you make it available in your special way of making us a universal family with love and beauty as our template. Thank you again

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Suzanne March 5, 2020 - 11:19 pm

Wow! Such a delight to read and see this new addition to your blog. I can only dream about the joys of living in this gorgeous French country home and having the life of this very fortunate family. I will definitely enjoy the articles as they appear and continue to live in that dream.

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Nancy Brantley March 6, 2020 - 8:27 am

Thank you so much for this new blog! I love seeing homes inside and gardens…keep the blogs coming! This is a lovely French home. If you like photos of my house and garden let me know?

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Weekend Reading #44 - Making it in the Mountains March 6, 2020 - 12:01 pm

[…] These country houses are the things that dreams are made of! {sigh} […]

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Mary March 6, 2020 - 9:01 pm

Loved all of this and adored France when we visited a few years ago. Huge hugs from NZ

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Kay kennedy March 8, 2020 - 12:33 am

Loved this blog today. Thankyou

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susan fiden March 9, 2020 - 9:46 pm

I ordered My French Country Home magazine-January-February issue (and was charged for) on 5 February 2020. I have not received it as yet. What happened? Please advise. Thank you.

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Mary Anne MacMorran March 12, 2020 - 1:09 am

I’m so glad you’re doing this series. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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