Artist Heather Chontos at Home in Her 18th-Century Stone Farmhouse in Southwest France

Heather Chontos’s restless verve is writ large all over her paintings. And her bright abstract paintings are all over her farmhouse in Southwest France: brushed and drawn directly on the walls, patterning the upholstery, and tucked inside old wooden drawers. Raised in New York’s Hudson Valley, Heather says her gusto is in response to a year of being ill and temporarily losing her sight at age 14: “There was no clarity about what caused it or if it could happen again. I emerged with a sense of urgency to travel the world—to see and taste and smell everything.”

At 16, after finessing an early high school graduation, Heather took off for London, where, among other things, she earned a BA in art history and conservation at University College London; interned at The World of Interiors (“when Min Hogg was on the way out and Faye Toogood was a junior editor”); showed her art for the first time at Maureen Doherty’s cult favorite store, Egg Trading; and worked as a fashion illustrator and prop stylist.

Early along the way, Heather also became a mother: she has two daughters, now 24 and 15, who she has raised on her own as global citizens: they’ve lived in Paris, New York, Barcelona, Maine, and Montana, with extended visits to Tanzania and New Zealand.

The family were based in Berlin when Heather had a sell-out show at Voltz Clarke Gallery in NYC in 2019, which enabled her to go house hunting for the first time. At, she came across a number of astonishingly affordable options in Southwest France, a part of the country she’d never been to. “I was looking for an old house with wooden beams, a fireplace, and a barn for a studio—that was my criteria.” She found her place in the hamlet of La Tour-Blanche in Nouvelle Aquitaine, and, unable to visit while her daughters were in school, “took a What’s App tour and said ‘I’ll take it.’ The broker thought I was crazy, but I figured: what’s the worst that can happen? I’ll just fix it up.” Come see the results.

Photography by Heather Chontos (@hchontos).

the stone farmhouse dates from the 18th century and is linked to a vast 17th  14
Above: The stone farmhouse dates from the 18th century and is linked to a vast 17th century stone barn, both of which had long been uninhabited and were in grim condition: “the furniture was covered in mold and there were holes in the walls; the rooms felt like caves.”

Buying a house in France is an extended process and Heather didn’t move in until the very start of the pandemic. At the time, her daughters were temporarily away and she was in Bolzano, Italy, with her now-former partner, Luis. As Covid hit, they decided to flee to France by car, crossing borders in Austria and Switzerland as they were literally just closing. They planned to work on the house for a couple weeks—and ended up spending a year in lockdown with no Wifi or telephone and little access to materials. “Fortunately, just before we got to the house, we stopped at Leroy Merlin, France’s Home Depot, and bought a shit ton of white paint and spackle,” says Heather. “It was the best thing we could have done.”