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Features > Summer > Conversions & Renovations > Chéri Hélène Drake
AC091: Chéri Hélène Drake
Photos: Alun Callender / Narratives
Text & Styling: Abigail Edwards / Narratives

Artist Chéri Hélène Drake moved from England to France after falling in love with the Charente region whilst on a family holiday and now lives in the small village of Vibrac with her partner Gilles and children.
Chéri Hélène was initially looking for a holiday house but ended up moving to France full time. “I instinctively felt at home here and wanted my children to experience the same sense of freedom that I associated with her childhood in Africa.”
Just before moving to the new house Chéri Hélène met and fell in love with Gilles, who owns a local vineyard. Gilles moved in and they did the renovation together. “I am really grateful that I had someone to help me with the work this time,” says Chéri Hélène. “The house had a roof and two floors, nothing else. There wasn’t any water or electricity or windows. Literally nothing. Structurally I knew what I wanted to do with the house and when I told Gilles, he looked at me like I was totally mad but he is really happy with how it has turned out.”
Adjoining the house was a barn that was sold as part of the property, Chéri Hélène and Gilles divided the empty barn in to two storeys, added windows to the blank walls, and broke through the adjoining wall on each level creating doorways to connect the house as one unit. They kept the room layout of the original house as it was and this now houses the kitchen, living room, bedroom, and a new mezzanine bedroom for Matthew. And the barn now has three further bedrooms and a study. The renovation took 8 months to complete and in 2006 the family moved in, camping out for three months during the build once the bare necessities were plumbed in.
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