French Muse | Meet Susan Hays of Our French Oasis


Which one of us doesn’t secretly dream of living in France? The small villages, living a simpler life, renovating an old farmhouse… beckons in our dreams, doesn’t it?

Susan, who blogs at Our French Oasis lives in a charming area in the southwest of France with her husband, five children, two dogs, two cats and ten chickens. Susan is English by birth, she comes from a farming family in Sussex, since being married she has lived in the Caribbean, New Zealand and America. Now, Susan and her husband have settled down in France, where they are raising their children.


Susan loves boating, fishing, tennis, walking, nature, gardening, writing, entertaining, cooking and good food, pretty much what you love, too, right? I know that you, like me, are so interested to learn more about her life in France. I’m so excited that Susan agreed to share a little peek into their village and their home and garden with all of us! Susan has graciously written a guest post for all of us to savor…..and see her beloved village and French life through her eyes.


Susan: Many people have a pre-conceived vision of what life in France is;  ancient stone houses with antiquated plumbing systems, sacks of fresh baguettes and croissants, platefuls of cheese and an endless array of wine bottles under the shade of a carefully pollarded plane tree. And while that sort of thing does happen, it’s not all there is to France – even though it is truly a wonderful place to live with a great lifestyle. There are also cultural problems, language barriers, and a different way of life; none of it unsurmountable if a little application is put in, though.


The charming streets of Susan’s town.

We’re a British family of seven who live in south western France close to the coast in the department  of the Charente Maritime, it’s quiet in winter but warm and salty-aired in summer.  Our village is out in the country, above ancient salt water and fresh water marshlands, minutes away from the great rolling surf beaches of the Bay of Biscay behind which lie the famous oyster-beds of the Charente Maritime.



We live in an old farmhouse dating from the late 1700’s which has a great deal of history and it’s an on-going love-affair involving lots of paint and mortar. Renovating a house like this was always going to have compromises, but in order to keep much of the character we have had to live with many of the problems that original architectural features and building techniques can cause in a European climate.


Our front door, which I consider one of the most charming parts of the exterior of the house is extremely drafty in winter and our windows rattle in the wind and have been known to leak on the odd occasion. But amazingly it is still cosy and warm, and it’s a home we have come to adore. We kept the color schemes simple and mostly white so the old stone walls, the beams and the antiques could take center-stage instead.


We have a very eclectic mix of furniture, of which many items are old English pieces; these are mostly inherited items which have passed down through several generations of two families and they’ve survived several trans-oceanic container shipments on the high seas. Our furniture has always (rather expensively) come with us. Once, when packing up a house I jokingly said, “Let’s just sell the furniture, it would be so much easier!” and was pleasantly surprised by the vehement response of the children who all instantly chorused “No, you can’t sell it, it’s part of our family’s history!” As you can see, even at a young age they’re as attached to the antiques as my husband and I are.


We have also bought a few pieces here in France, and when we purchased this house we bought a large armoire which sits in my husband’s study and houses all of our paperwork, and a belle époque-style desk, both of which belonged to the previous owners and so were simply left in situ when we arrived.


The desk itself is nothing special to look at, but it hides a marvellous secret. Our house was purchased in 1936 by a family from Paris as their summer country residence. The master of the household was a physicist,  when WWII broke out he moved the family from Paris to the country house (now our home). Six weeks before the Germans arrived in Paris the monsieur of the family crossed the channel to England in a small fishing boat with a package containing the item he and colleagues had been working on for several years – a multi-cavity magnetron with barium oxide cathodes. This was a piece which fitted into the radar jigsaw the British were working on, and finally allowed a fully operational radar system to be put in place. Some say that this type of magnetron was one of the main reasons the British endured in the Battle of Britain, and so survived to continue the war for the next few years. One can only guess at the thought processes and developments that must have been scribbled across the surface of that desk.


Occasionally I have a yearning for something different; I like painted furniture and have been able to indulge my interest in this with the furnishings for our little guest-house. Here I have had great fun with heavy old vintage items which were either left behind by the previous owners, or bits we’ve picked up at a brocante for next to nothing. They are typically of good quality, but they’re not antiques, and really not worth very much.The reward comes with enjoying something you have brought back to life.


It’s amazing no one wants old fashioned armoires anymore. You can walk into a local second-hand furniture store and literally see 10, 20, maybe 30 of them (depending on the size of the shop) lined up against a wall. Some will be in better condition than others, but they are all big and solid and they are excellent buys if you can get them home!  If the doors don’t shut you can take them off and turn them into the most wonderful vintage book cases; add a coat of paint and they’re unrecognisable.


Our kitchen is a complete juxtaposition of styles and ideas. We have very modern slick white German base units on either side of an old bread-oven and an old marble-topped butchers block. At the other end of the kitchen sits an English Georgian antique bureau from the late 1700’s. It’s a desk I use every day for storing all the projects I am working on; I drag them out and spread them over our large walnut kitchen table overlooking the garden when it’s time to work on them.


It’s easy to be distracted; birds perch outside the window on the branches of our 500 year-old lime trees. I often see one of our cats under the olive trees, crouching low, as it waits to pounce on some poor unsuspecting prey. The whole ambience is very calm and tranquil and a place of great inspiration. In winter it’s warm and cosy with a small woodburning stove permanently aglow in the corner,  in the summer it’s bright and breezy with the French doors flung open. It is undoubtedly my favourite room in the house.


Who wouldn’t love to sit here with a friend and enjoy a glass of local wine?

Join me next time for more from Susan about her garden, and shopping brocantes. {flea markets}

Visit Susan at

Shop for the best in French Antiques, furniture with the patina of age, vintage accessories to delight you and your family & friends, and French Country utilitarian pieces. Treasures that make your home fresh, beautiful, inspirational and uniquely yours. Visit our shop

11 thoughts on “French Muse | Meet Susan Hays of Our French Oasis”

  1. Hi, Lidy,
    This was just lovely, and what a very pretty lady those blue eyes! I loved all of it and I loved France when we were there, Paris and all the quaint town. A good movie to watch on the computer takes place in France called ”MISTRALS DAUGHTER” it was a series of stories made in the 1980s a great story- good acting and the music was so good. I watch it over and over. France is special, thanks for all the wonderful photos of homes and people you show us. I really enjoy them ~ Have a great summer~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    1. Thank you Jean, for the recommendation, and the summer wishes! I wish the same for you.

  2. Yes it is true, we probably all nurture a dream of life in the French countryside…I will not be unhappy if it remains forever only a daydream, the visits there in one’s mind make life beautiful wherever we are! Thank you for sharing Susan’s French home with us x

    1. I love that, Jeanne, you are right, the visits in our mind can make life beautiful no matter where we are!

  3. Thank you Susan for sharing photographs of your beautiful home. I have only had the pleasure of visiting France twice, each time I was able to stay for several days with my mother’s family living in an old converted barn near the village of Puy Le Garde in the Dordogne. I am 10th generation French Huguenot and anything about France has always held a soul attraction for me.

  4. Cate Tuten

    Lidy, you continue to expand the world for us! Thank you for introducing Susan and sharing a glimpse into her charming life!! …………..Summer is on its way here in SC, and we’re making daily trips to the beach. As I stand by the Atlantic ocean, I’ll be picturing life in France on the opposite coast, only a days flight away. Blessings!! Cate

    1. Isn’t it always so exciting to take a peek into another woman’s life? What a pretty picture you paint of thinking of life in France by the ocean….it always warms my heart to know that as women, we really are pretty much all alike. xo

  5. Thanks so much for opening the door to Susan and her beautiful home and romantic life style in France. I love it all and look forward to more postings.

    Thank you as always,

  6. Thank you everyone for your lovely comments, it was such fun sharing a little bit about our life here in France with Lidy and all of you, her fabulous readers. Merci, Susan xx

  7. It makes me so homesick for France, I’ve wanted to live there since I was in Paris for a month in the
    early 2000’s, never did reach the South of France but for sure will do it soon. I visited when I had an Antique Store in CA. I had Armoires lined up in my store with SOLD signs on all them, no more. I can’t let go of mine and can’t put paint to them. My garage is full of the most beautiful of sideboards, hand carved flowers, mirrors,also plain Louis Philippe of the 1840’s side board and night stand I paid a pretty price for back when. Can I paint them, not sure. Can I donate them, NO!
    Thank you Susan for an insight into county living, I want to be there, not in San Francisco, I’m a Kiwi.

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