For the love of France

By Zoe Walker

Homewares buyer Sonia Watts' aesthetics sway towards the Gallic. Viva takes a look at some of her treasures.

Sonia Watts at home. Photo / Babiche Martens
Sonia Watts at home. Photo / Babiche Martens

Sonia Watts established French Country Collections 25 years ago, reflecting her personal passion for French antiques and objects and interior design. Many of the products found in homeware stores come from furniture manufacturers like French Country Collections, who select and import products to wholesale to other retailers and interior designers. Watts, whose two daughters also work in her business, has her own outlet stores selling direct to the public. Further to her long standing interest in interior design - she started the company with garden love seats made from manuka - Watts also has a passion for ceramics. Namely, Quimper Ceramics from Brittany - part of her motivation to start French Country Collections was she wanted to import them to New Zealand customers. She tells us about some of her favourite things, from her garden sanctuary to French chooks.

10 FAVOURITE THINGS

1. Perfume collection
One of the loves of my life is beautiful scent. I have an eclectic mix of perfumes on my bathroom table and love searching out rare and special perfumes to add to my collection.

A few unusual shaped bottles make a good statement and add to the ambience in a bathroom.

2. La Chamba
One of my favourite things to use in the kitchen is our La Chamba cookware which I found in South America 14 years ago. This traditional cookware naturally withstands very high temperatures, and most importantly food looks incredible in it.

3. The art collection
Collecting art is an amazing experience for me. I always seem to find a way to indulge this passion even though sometimes I probably shouldn't. My last purchase was a gorgeous Heifer by Daniel Smith; she gazes down with her big cow eyes at me each morning while I have my cup of tea.

4. My garden
My garden is a sanctuary to me. It is a peaceful place where I can create to my heart's content and totally relax. I love hanging out with the birds as they follow me, searching for worms while I weed.

5. The embroidery
This embroidery piece was made for me by my very dear late friend, Betty Carew. It represents my garden, my two young daughters with dear old dog Lucy, and our family home of 26 years which was surrounded by roses and doves.

6. My mother's marble and bronze French bust
This is a real treasure from my childhood. It was in my mother's art collection and has been in my life for as long as I can remember, so it has great sentimental value.

7. My silver and blue party shoes
These shoes have been in my life since my 20s. I can't bear to part with them, not only for sentimental value but also as a decorative item. They look lovely hung on the bedroom door knob or on the wall but sometimes I just sit them on my dressing table.

8. My French chook
Chooks have always been dear to my heart at our family home. I named my chooks after my special girlfriends. The chooks I have now aren't real but over the years I have collected many. One of my favourites is one I collected while rummaging through a small, crammed interior decorating shop in Paris.

9. Dragonfly dinnerware
I just love decorating and designing products. One of my favourite designs is the Dragonfly Collection which was inspired by my fascination with dragonflies. The collection's casual, versatile pieces have become some of French Country Collection's most popular and enduring products.

10. Music and travel
I love music and I often find some amazing music while travelling. I adore my latest find by French jazz pianist, the late Michel Graillier. And when travelling, the one thing I can never leave home without is my Standard Issue cashmere hoodie.

- NZ Herald

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