How did you get to Côte d'Opale?
Before my husband and I moved to Côte d'Opale, we lived in Lille, where I worked as a retail designer. As for my husband, Jérémy, he was an optician, working in Belgium for many years.
When Covid-19 hit, and we were all in lockdown, we both felt this urge to move out of our small apartment. Well, it wasn't that small. It was comfortable. But we missed having a garden. The idea of being stuck in an apartment in a city that didn't feel alive was enough to make us crave a change of scenery. Besides, I wasn't too satisfied with my job anymore. There were some misunderstandings with a partner, and I felt like the time had come to part ways.
A few months later, we viewed some houses, which is how we ultimately found this old mill. The house was quite large, so it wasn't possible to buy it just for ourselves. And thus, we decided to turn it into a guest house. We left Lille, got out of the city, quit our jobs and became countrymen.
What was that transition like moving from the city? And were you open to other locations when searching for a countryside home?
We wanted to be in the countryside, but it could've been anywhere. However, my husband was a bit sceptical about quitting everything, so we sought to be close enough to his job, which he kept at the beginning of our new journey. Every week, he commuted to Belgium, which, as you can imagine, became tedious. Eventually, he quit his job, and it's much better now.
When we found this house, it was magic. We were very lucky. The property is not only in the countryside but it's also close to the sea—close to the seaside resort of Sainte-Cécile. As a result, many of our friends and family come to stay with us over the weekends.
How long does it take from the city to where you are now?
It’s about a two-hour drive from our old apartment. It’s not too far away at all, which is why people come here to escape city life.
What specifically was it about this house that drew you in? You mentioned it was large and in the countryside, but what was that 'pull factor'?
The house was fully immersed in nature. We wanted to watch the seasons pass by, one after the other. We craved natural noises instead of the city sounds. And we liked that we could have some chicken or ducks here.
When did you officially move in?
In March 2021. We opened up to guests about one year later.
What was your vision when it came to the design process?
The people who lived here before us already used it as a guest house. But it felt so old. So antiquated. There wasn't much life in the place; it was just collecting dust. Plus, I felt their decor didn't correspond to the house's history. They had made some transformations that were a bit weird. So our aim was to restore it back to its former glory.
Could you tell us about the history of the property?
Before we bought it, there was this couple who bought it in the 90s, and before them, it was a family who owned the place. The Maillard family lived there for five generations and worked here when it was a water mill producing flour. So that's how we wished to revive the space—resembling their style.
Hence the name, Moulin Moulin
Yes, exactly. Even before this family, the mill has been here for about 500 years. So it’s very old indeed, undergoing many renovations over time.
How did you go about sourcing the decor items?
We have always been fans of vintage items. In our old apartment, we had this storage room full of furniture and other objects that we couldn't have on display in the apartment because we didn't have space. But I couldn't stop buying things! I figured we'd one day be able to have a bigger house and finally get use out of all the random things I've collected. When we moved to the mill, we decided to decorate it with all these pieces.
In that regard, how would you describe your design philosophy?
I believe in upcycling. There are also no ugly colours. They just need to be used in a complementary fashion.
The rooms are very sweetly named after your grandmothers. Why did you decide on that?
There were always families living in this house before us. The previous one we discussed lived here for five generations and inspired us to make the mill into a family house. But we're two married guys and don't have children. So instead, we're honouring our family history, as if this house has always been ours.
That's why the four rooms are named after our grandmothers. And in each room, some things belong to our grandmothers and us.
That's a special touch! How has it been running the guest house with your husband?
We definitely needed to get used to working together. We have different personalities and experiences, given how different our jobs were. I'm always thinking about the next thing, the next project. I'm always wondering how can we change this or that. But my husband is very much in the present moment, enjoying things as they are.
We had to learn how to work together and combine our expertise. We also had to learn to live together since we were just by ourselves initially with no friends or family in this part of the country. We try to share some tasks when planning our days, but much of what we do between us is different.
Where do most of your guests typically come from?
We are happy to welcome people from all over the place. They can be young or old. But many of our international guests come from Belgium or Germany. Sometimes we have guests from London, for example, a French couple who now live in England have come here three times in the last six months.
And you and your husband both stay on site?
Yes, we share our house with our guests. It was strange in the beginning because we had decorated the house with so many personal items. But it was a pleasure to see how it makes people happy.
We can forget about any type of apprehension when they want to come back and stay here again.
What experience do you hope your guests have when they stay here?
I hope they truly feel connected with nature. I also hope they are free to be themselves. It's definitely astonishing when people can be so transparent with us about their private lives. But I love that.
What is the food and drink like at the house? Can people cook for themselves?
Guests can cook if they rent out the whole house for the weekends or holidays when we're not here. But otherwise, they can eat the food that we prepare for them.
So you cook for all your guests?
Yes—mainly the breakfast. And we cook some regional specialities, like tarte au sucre (sugar pie) or gâteau battu, a mix between a brioche and panettone. We're also big on muscles and local cheese. Beyond cooking, we have a room downstairs filled with various items, like soups, charcuterie, etc. It's self-service.
What are some of your recommendations for things to do nearby?
The closer things include the natural reserves where you can walk or hike. There are also many beaches here, filled with super fine sand. These beaches are great for windsurfing and kitesurfing.
There are also neighbouring golf courses for anyone who likes golf.
What would you say are the best months to come here?
I suppose the summertime if you're looking to do all these outdoor activities. But our favourite seasons are autumn and winter because the dunes are spectacular. We were closed in the winter of 2022 for renovations, as we are adding a room for bikes and Wellington boots. We're also creating a deck on the water with some seating as we're renovating a boat to put on the lake.
And finally, we built a new space for young families. We discovered the house could be more child-friendly, and so for the comfort of everybody, we decided to keep the main house adults-only, while the smaller guest house outside can house two adults and two children comfortably.
When you're not here, where do you like to travel?
Pretty much anywhere. My husband and I love the French Alps as we're avid skiers. We also love going to Italy. Jeremy is Italian, and so we're often visiting them.
We dream of living between France and Italy one day.
Does this mean you may open a guest house in Italy as well?
Absolutely! If we don’t have enough work here. I love hospitality. It’s really satisfying to see smiles on our guests’ faces. We bring them happiness, I think.