Artist Visit: Heather Chontos’s 17th-Century Barn Studio in Southwest France

A mere three-and-a-half years ago, artist Heather Chontos purchased—sight unseen—a run-down 18th-century farmhouse in southwest France. During a year of lockdown, using found and vintage materials, Heather entirely refashioned the place as her own, transforming it Bloomsbury style into an extension of her art.

For Heather, who grew up in Upstate NY, the biggest appeal of the property was the fact that it came with a 17th-century stone barn twice as big as the house: a dream studio. We recently featured Heather’s living quarters; we’re returning now to tour her enormous creative space.

We had to act fast: Heather isn’t someone who stays put. After nonstop work perfecting the property—the first she’s ever owned—Heather says she’s ready for her next big project: “I feel like I finished my story here and I need to create a new story. It’s as simple as that.” Last March, Heather announced on Instagram (@hchontos) that she was ready to sell her compound directly to someone who will love it as is, serious queries only. She fielded 150 responses and the place ended up going to a friend, a fellow artist Heather “met on a barstool in Brooklyn 20 years ago,” who will share it with his father.

Heather and her 15 year old daughter, meanwhile, are in residence a bit longer—real estate deals in France require months of paperwork—and they welcomed us back.

Photography by Heather Chontos (@hchontos), unless noted.

located in the hamlet of la tour blanche cercles in nouvelle aquitaine in south 14
Above: Located in the hamlet of La Tour-Blanche-Cercles in Nouvelle Aquitaine in southwestern France, Heather’s stone house is linked (but not connected) to the barn, which was built a century earlier. The back garden, shown here, was “a pit of sand, plastic, and nettles” when Heather started working on it. The paving stones were stacked in “a heaping mound of sand, plastic, and dead snails. It was quite a job. The previous owners seemed to have planned to put in a swimming pool.”

Heather planted lavender, herbs galore, squash, radishes, and pumpkins (“I eat pumpkin religiously”), wisteria (that’s what’s growing on the arbors), and bay leaf, plum, apricot, mimosa, olive, and cypress trees —”I just wanted to see what would grow.” She hired a traditional stone mason, a neighbor who’s now retired, to install the barn windows: “It required old-school structural work, so amazing to watch. The window frames are made from cut stone; the oak at the top are old beams from the barn.”