When Yves and Martine Naar came to the United States from their native France more than 30 years ago, it was not with the intention of putting down roots: “We thought we’d be here two or three years,” recalls Martine.
Now 32 years later, they are proud to call South Carolina home.
“South Carolina has been very welcoming,” she says. “I don’t know that the transition would have been as easy if we had moved anywhere else. People here are so patient.”
The Naars eventually settled in a home on Forest Lake in the early 1990s. While they initially remodeled the house that was originally on the property, in 2002 they decided to tear it all down and start from scratch, with the help of architect Tim Hance and builder Mose Kaufman.
“The design of the house is inspired from the South of France,” says Martine.
While the kitchen may be Americanized, architectural details include arches throughout along with French doors and French-style windows.
“The windows were more of a challenge because, while they are the norm in France, there aren’t many manufacturers of French-style windows in the States,” Martine says.
While the house is large, the overall feel is still cozy.
“It’s not a house where you feel lost,” Martine notes. “The rooms are inviting to conversation, which is big in France – very European,” she says.
Each of the rooms is filled with art the Naars have collected over the years from their travels, from paintings to carvings and statuary. Each piece holds a special memory.
“When Yves and I were dating, he took a trip to Turkey. On his return, when he showed me what he had bought, I realized that this was how he told me about his trip.”
Those stories have continued over the years.
“We remember where we were when we bought many of the pieces we now have. There’s a conversation that goes on with each piece,” says Martine, who still has the first piece of art – a glass vase – that she collected at the age of 15.
Their love of art from across the globe is evident from the moment you walk through the front door. Matching curios of stone and glass hold several pieces of African art, while a Vietnamese settee reflects the French influence of that nation. A tapestry of Magritte’s “Peace” hangs along the curved staircase.
A Vietnamese settee and pieces of African art greet guests as they enter the Naars’ front door.
Standing guard in the living room is a Samurai warrior in full ceremonial dress. The helmet of the warrior dates to the 16th century. Across the way in the dining room stand German wooden carved statues believed to be of St. Peter and St. James. These statues date from the time of Christopher Columbus in the 15th century. A clock made by Andre Hoy in Paris from the mid 17th century still keeps time. Another favorite piece is a Mother & Child statuette from Europe, dating from the 15th century and actually bought at an auction in Columbia.
The living room is filled with art the Naars have collected over the years from their travels.
The dining room walls are covered with hand-painted wallpaper copied from a 17th-century style. The ceiling is finished in Venetian plaster, and a crystal chandelier is suspended from a ceiling medallion on which angelic cherubs dance in the sky.
Martine and Yves also enjoy local art in their home. The sunroom features beautiful hand-painted lattice work and garden creatures by Christian Thee. The artist, known for his unique style of trompe l’oeil, also painted a representation of the Naar estate as one would imagine it from a time long ago.
The stairway to the basement is trimmed with gold-tone horizontal-striped wallpaper and features more paintings, including one that depicts the area where Yves grew up in Paris. At the entry to a small office, a beautiful Jewish stained-glass window from a synagogue up North is backlit to accent its brilliant colors.
The stairway to the basement is trimmed with gold-tone horizontal-striped wallpaper.
Further demonstrating their love of travel, the Naars have a collection of travel posters that were commissioned by Air France in the 1960s. The series was painted by lyrical abstract artist George Mathieu.
To help with the challenges of incorporating her art into the décor of their home, Martine turned to her longtime designer Linda Burnside of LGB Interiors. Martine first began working with Linda when they bought the original house in 1991.
“I came across an article in which Linda was quoted as saying ‘You start with what you love,’ and she did that with our home. Linda came up with a plan on how to put what we love all together,” she says.
Over the years, Linda has helped decorate several homes for the Naars, including their apartment in Paris.
“Each room has its own personality, but they flow together,” Martine says.
Martine credits Linda with helping her become more adventurous in her decorating choices.
“Linda allows me to be more creative, whereas I don’t really trust myself,” says Martine.
No matter the room in the Naars’ home, it always possesses a European, elegant style.
Art isn’t limited to just the indoors. The large veranda overlooks gardens that extend out to the lake. The landscaping is inspired by Ephrussi de Rothschild Villa & Gardens, located on the French Riviera, overlooking the bay of Villefranche. Three reflecting pools, fountains and Greek statuary, along with pergolas and a covered sitting area, provide an opportunity to relax and unwind.
Martine has been a student of religion and says that much of their choices in art stem from religious roots.
“We like what we find in religions and culture,” says Martine. “Art was originally commissioned to educate the people, to tell the stories of the Bible. That changed with the Renaissance.”
While they have great admiration for works of art in museums, Yves and Martine both have a personal connection to their own art.
“While it is wonderful to go to a museum to enjoy a beautiful piece of art, art is made to be lived with and to enjoy every day.”