How to autumn like the French

From harvesting girolles to creating a sumptuous living room, founders of French design house Antoinette Poisson share their secrets on how to revel in the harvest season with Gallic charm

Foraged goods from the forest at Maison Lescop

Jean-Baptiste Martin and Vincent Farelly are the founders of Antoinette Poisson. Their new book takes readers inside their historic townhouse on the Atlantic coast to discover a style and art of entertaining rooted in French tradition and elegance, documented season by season. Below they talk autumn foraging and creating an exceptional living room.


The high tides of the equinox signal the arrival of fall, and the shortening days mean we spend more and more time in the living room. The damper weather brings the emergence of the first fungi of the season, encouraging us to head out on mushroom-gathering expeditions. Then, after long walks in the woods, we enjoy watching the flames dancing in the fireplace once more. It’s a chance to huddle around the fire and share our woodland harvests. Our baskets overflow with girolles, chanterelles, porcini, boletus, and chestnut mushrooms.

Detail of the façade of the author’s home, Maison Lescop, dating from the seventeenth century, with its double windows—a traditional architectural feature in Port-Louis.
A teatime table

Rainy weekends provide a perfect opportunity to visit flea markets, where we always hope to unearth some charming objects that might find a place in our house. We have always endeavoured to resist the standardisation of everyday life, which is so prevalent nowadays, and overconsumption is a concern that worries us. The times we are living in make us dream of another era — like a kind of sweet nostalgia that offers us new inspiration. Thanks to the values our parents instilled in us, we have learned to consume little, and to reuse and repair rather than to throw away. Objects from the past, to which we attribute an imagined “life,” have an extra-special quality that we find seductive.

Two eighteenth-century Swedish chairs are arranged around a pedestal table. The statuette on the table—an example of Quimper pottery—depicts a Virgin, unusually without the Christ Child in her arms. This is a “Childbirth Madonna,” used as a candle-holder during labour.

Visits to some private dealers take us further afield, even as far as the département of Finistère. We love discovering Brittany’s parish enclosures, with their majestic wayside depictions of the Crucifixion, known as calvaires (calvaries), as well as hamlets whose delightful chapels house inspiring painted-wood baroque altarpieces. Back in Port-Louis, we have fun deciding on the ideal spot to display the treasures we’ve discovered.

The hall and staircase
The Living Room

The soft autumnal light that lasts until Christmas brings out the beauty of this little corner of Brittany, tucked between land and sea. While the ocean gradually turns grey and the waves are crested with white foam, the oaks and chestnut trees in the forest burst into dazzling colour. Yellows, ochers, reds, and purples create a dazzling spectacle in the gently fading light. These warm colours provide us with inspiration for decorating the house, and we decided to feature them in one of our bedrooms.

The Living Room

The entire decor of this room dates from the end of Louis XV’s reign. In his book Le Port-Louis Revisité (Port-Louis revisited), the architect Gérard Dieul describes the living room as follows: “The original beams and coffered ceiling are an integral part of the decor, because hanging a ceiling beneath the beams would have reduced the height of the room excessively. The windows and doors are linked by a small, high picture rail, which is interrupted by the fireplace overmantel forming the chimney breast. The panelling in most of the room uses recessed moulding, but the large panel over the fireplace features bolection (raised) moulding, including a beautiful, sculpted rocaille motif.” The fireplace in painted wood, made to look like marble, contrasts with the soft green colour palette used on the walls.

José Esteves’s bespoke table in the form of a large serving tray perfectly showcases the objects displayed. Its four legs are sculpted to resemble the branches of a tree. The blue chairs are Swedish and, behind a Louis XV-style bergère, an eighteenth-century screen is covered in domino paper and gouache prints of works by Boucher.

The ancient panelling cleverly conceals fitted original cupboards. One of them, designed to look like a cabinet, hides the stairwell leading to the cellar. One narrow cupboard houses a well within the wall facing the street, bringing water directly into the house from the basement. Such a convenience was particularly unusual at that time. This curious feature leads us to believe that this room was originally a dining room. The owner of the house was a wealthy merchant with a large family, who came from a line of seafarers and merchants; by all appearances, he seems to have liked his creature comforts as much as he did high-quality interiors.

As one season gives way to another, with the arrival of fall we change the layout of the furniture to make the atmosphere cosier. During this period, we like to bring in the two large, comfortable Louis XV-style armchairs from the small living room in the outbuilding. Following eighteenth-century tradition, we use a period screen, echoing the colours of the living room, to protect ourselves from drafts and add charm to our interior. Several indienne fabrics in madder red warm up the ambience, while for the curtains and cushions we have chosen the “Colonnes” pattern from our linen collection (which adorns the endpapers of this book), inspired by a document from the collector and talented Valérie Hubert. Here it is printed on linen for the curtains and cushions.

The Living Room
The entrance hall leads to the garden, with the kitchen on the left and the living room on the right

The flooring throughout the whole of the ground floor had to be modified. In the 1960s, the original parquet was removed, a concrete screed was poured, and black-and-white tiles were laid on top. This created a rather unsightly clash between the graphic floor pattern and the charm of the woodwork. Technical problems regarding the door thresholds and ensuring the doors would actually close meant that the new floor could not be thicker than 4/5 of an inch (2 cm). The antique salvage dealer we usually go to suggested a compelling solution—a solid wood parquet floor made of original beams that could be fixed directly to the concrete. Planks of three different widths echo the eighteenth-century parquet on the upper floors. The result is magical, as if this floor had always been here, from the beginning.

Extracted from A Year in the French Style: Interiors and Entertaining by Antoinette Poisson by Vincent Farelly and Jean-Baptiste Martin (Flammarion, 2023). All the photos are credit: © Ruth Ribeaucourt. €70, Dubray Books,