I’m sitting in a church, at the alter, surrounded by French style rustic artefacts and furniture, drinking coffee and talking to one of Western Australia‘s inspiring women, Jo McIntosh. Around me is an eclectic mix of beautiful things that I’d (very much) like to own please.
Warm light rushes in through the church windows. A sweet and oh so petite cup cake begs to be eaten as I chat to Jo, owner of Rustic French Living, a woman who has followed her dreams to create her own lifestyle and business of choice.
Jo’s an inspiring Kiwi, who came to South West Australia 14 years ago, and following tragedy she turned her life around, began a lifestyle shop, and in doing so she discovered her true passion.
Read on, you’ll find out how she found herself connected to a town in France in an intriguing way.
It’s jam packed full with French style home-wares and gifts, including quilts and linen, rustic pottery, wrought iron pieces, vintage furniture, pottery and clothing for women and babies.
In August 2011 Jo realised her dream by opening Rustic French Living, believing that the timeless appeal of French interiors with their lived-in country look, would sit well with the lifestyle we enjoy so much in the south west.
She was right because now people flock from near and far to buy her over-stuffed sofas, French styled chairs and countless other nikki-nakki-noos, and pieces echoing design ideas from Paris and Provence in the South of France.
But that’s only the beginning of Jo’s fascinating story.
Her tale really starts with the rumour of a castle.
“There is a chateau in the family you know, my mother said to me a few years ago,” Jo told me.
“It was after our first trip to France in 2008. And during this holiday I had an uncanny feeling that I had ‘come home’.
I asked my mother about our family history and it turns out that my great, great grandfather Charles d’Oridant was French. He moved to Folkestone in England where he married Adeline Painter. My mother showed me part of my family geneaology that my uncle had put together some years ago and within it was a letter from about 1891 from Adeline to her son William who had by then travelled to live in New Zealand.
The letter had an address on it: Villa Madonna, Menton, France.
I was fascinated, and using Google and Trip Advisor I started to add to the information already provided by my Uncle. It turns out that Charles and Adeline had properties in both England and France – one being the former Summer Palace of the Prince of Monaco in Menton. Part of the property was the Chapel of Madonna and the adjacent convent which they subsequently turned into villas.
I hoped that this was Villa Madonna.”
In January 2013 Jo decided she wanted to discover more about her family’s history and travelled from South West Australia to Menton in France with her two daughters and her mother.
“Somehow I was sure that Adeline had died in Menton and that she might be buried there too. We discovered La Chapelle de la Madone – now a ruin but as it is the oldest chapel in Menton, a restoration committee has been set up to restore the building. The palace is now the Art Museum. It was amazing to see the entrance which Adeline had described in one of her letters and to see that it still has Charles’ name engraved in the marble.
After visiting the archives department, we were given a photo of the villas as they once were and then we were taken to Hotel de Ville where Adeline’s death certificate was produced and we were given a number depicting the place where she might be buried in the cemetery.
At the cemetery we found an old faded map on the gateway, and from that we puzzled out where she might be. After studying some of the beautiful old graves, we found her.
I was amazed, and quite emotional. And it was wonderful to have three generations there on the spot when we discovered exactly where she lay.
And so it’s quite fitting for me to have such an interest in all things French! Now I’d like to find out where my great, great grandfather is buried – apparently he died in France where he grew up – but that is another story yet to be lived!!”
I love a good ancestry tale, don’t you? My only claim to fame is that I think one of my great grandies founded The King Edward Potato strain. Ha! What stories to you have of your ancestors?
Read more about Jo in a future ZigaZag Post (why not subscribe to ZigaZag in the box below this post and you’ll receive automatic updates).
Jo will be telling us more about her life changing decision to begin Rustic French, and offer inspiring tips to help other people who are looking to build a lifestyle business.
I’m wondering what sort of lifestyle business you’d like to run if you had the chance?
(Linking today to Our World Tuesday – pop over for some cameos of life around the world)