In a Country Manor
Interior designer Hélène Aumont has created a Parisian-inspired hideaway at her Santa Ynez farmhouse.
Who would guess that Hélène Aumont, who grew up in Paris’s Sixteenth Arrondissement, modeled haute couture for years, designed her own clothing line, owned an antiques import business, has been a sought-after interior designer for 15 years, and for the past 10 years designed a line of furniture that is carried in her showrooms across America, would love farming. Actually gardening. And animals. Especially horses. For Aumont, a connection to nature is integral to her philosophy of life. The 400-acre ranch in Corsica that her parents bought when she was six enabled her, as a young person, to experience the freedom of the countryside in a “bowl of fresh air,” as she describes it. She spent three months each summer and every holiday there. Whereas the family home in Paris was a hôtel particulier with a charming garden, the expansive ranch in Corsica included an old farmhouse, farm animals, vineyards, olive groves and orchards. Having been a sophisticated city dweller Aumont has a fine appreciation for nature and now prefers the beauty and casualness of country life.
Aumont lives a European lifestyle today at her 6-acre Pepper Hill Farm in the Santa Ynez Valley. A former competitive driver of American Saddlebreds in “fine harness classes,” she now keeps two Friesians and rides them strictly for pleasure. Besides trail rides, she has built an outdoor riding arena for dressage. On the lower grounds, surrounded by pastures, Aumont restored a four-stall barn with a tack room and office that she outfitted with antiques and photos of her children. Small animals—her dogs and cats—roam freely, enjoying their country existence.
Her once-barren hilltop is now dominated by lush gardens that exude an earthy, casual spirit. Between the wooden farmhouse and office/studio building there is a rose garden, and in the backyard, overlooking the riding ring, a thriving vegetable garden. Trees have matured since she bought the farm in 1994, and the changes to the house, such as the enclosure and extension of the front porch into a living space, have transformed the “sad little house,” as Aumont describes it, into a spacious, welcoming home.
This is Aumont’s refuge and home base to which she returns from travel far and wide, for international as well as domestic business. This is where she lives with her youngest daughter in a European lifestyle close to nature and where she is visited by her two eldest children, a private chef, and an assistant who works in Hollywood. It is here that Aumont takes time to cook and to sit and share good conversation over dinner every night—she designed the kitchen and dining area in the 3,700-square-foot, four-bedroom house to be conducive to this kind of interaction. The veranda and adjoining living room are also places of ultimate relaxation. The Aumont home is full of life. Though it is beautiful, it is comfortable, livable, and, above all, real.
Written and edited by Kathryn Masson.
PHOTO: Paul Rocheleau