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Discover the inspiration behind this much needed Christmas renovation

Celebrating Christmas at home is about making the most of two different worlds for this family. Discover how their global ties influenced their revamp style


Meet + greet

Who lives here? Virginie and Stephane Fontes, Lucas, 10, and Sacha, 2. They often return to France where Virginie collects decor pieces to sell. All I want for Christmas… “I am dreaming of a paper sculpture by Australian artist Anna-Wili Highfield,” says Virginie. Favourite space? “I love the courtyard with its eucalyptus tree and all the palm trees around it. It’s a lovely place all year round,” says Virginie.


Even without the additional shine of Christmas decorations, it is hard to imagine the home of Virginie and Stephane Fontes looking anything other than chic. But when the couple, originally from France, bought the two-bedroom apartment more than seven years ago, it was in a dire state. Virginie was keen to renovate and, with Christmas approaching, give it a festive look.

Before any guests could be invited over – even for a celebratory Champagne – major work was needed on the home. “It was so old that we had to do renovations before moving in,” Virginie says. They opened up the kitchen wall that looks onto the living room and installed a new kitchen. The flooring was also changed to add a distinctive French character to the home. And replacing the internal doors added a layer of sophistication, too. Other changes included updating both bathrooms and painting throughout.


One of Virginie’s favourite pieces of furniture is the vintage oak trestle table, which has seen plenty of family meals and celebrations. Tolix stools alternate with traditional chairs around the table. Keeping a wreath simple yet rustic with the addition of zinc stars adds plenty of interest. Schleich animals create a novel nativity scene in a stick house given as a gift to Virginie by some of her closest French friends.


Country chic

The high benchtop in the kitchen ensures that any meal preparation paraphernalia can be kept out of sight of guests. Virginie gravitates towards a French country style with industrial features. She has translated this idea into her Christmas decorations, too.


The makeover 

“The place was a wreck,” says Virginie. “However, it ticked a lot of boxes.” The couple were looking for something to renovate with a private courtyard, which is uncommon in apartment blocks. It also has access to a pool and parking, and it is a short walk to the local beach.

Al fresco

The courtyard was one of the reasons Virginie and Stephane bought the apartment. The space under the eucalyptus tree gets used regularly, especially at meal times or when guests come over. The gold cutlery is brought out for special occasions such as Christmas brunch.


Versatile style

The couple have two young boys and wanted a home that was liveable as well as stylish. They also wanted to ensure the materials used throughout were sturdy enough to withstand tenants in case they decided to take an extended break in Europe. Consequently they chose stainless steel for the kitchen benches and composite wood for the deck. It’s a material that doesn’t need any maintenance – which makes it ideal for a festive celebration, too.

Family traditions

Just as Virginie loves renovating homes – she’s keen to start another project – she enjoys pulling out her collection of Christmas decorations to create a festive atmosphere for Lucas and Sacha.


As the couple’s families are back in France, there are some traditions that they are keen to maintain – namely eating foie gras and duck, as well as ‘bûche de Noël’ (Yule log) and delicacies from southwestern France, where they’re from. The decorations are all in keeping with Virginie’s French country aesthetic – lots of linen and natural materials. It’s about striking a balance between the best of two worlds.

Decor secrets

  1. Keep it natural. Opt for bedding and accessories in linen and natural materials in muted colours of browns and creams.
  2. Get industrious. Give yourself some light relief from the French country look by interspersing industrial chic in the form of lighting, shelving or cabinets.
  3. Groups are good. Get maximum impact by displaying your ornaments in groups of three or more.


Words by: Natalie Walton. Photography by: Chris Warnes/Warnes & Walton/Living Inside

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