La Maison du Frene

Vence, Cote d'Azur, France
Book from GBP Book from £122 per night

La Maison du Frene

Vence, Cote d'Azur, France

A traditional old stone townhouse filled with gorgeous contemporary art and collectibles, at the edge of Vence's picturesque old town

A traditional old stone townhouse filled with gorgeous contemporary art and collectibles, at the edge of Vence's picturesque old town

Matisse lived in Vence and painted it repeatedly, while Soutine drew this actual house. Fitting, then, that this utterly beguiling home is packed with original works by all the best names. Owner Thierry grew up here, moved to Paris and became hairdresser to the stars. Now he's back for the peace, and to enjoy his fabulous collection. Marvel at works by Hockney, Arman, Gilbert and George, pop-art, pastiches of Picasso and Lichtenstein, mid-century modern originals including a Charles Eames couch, and a terrific canvas above the sofa by a local Hockney-trained artist.

Beauty also filters up to the four capacious and individually presented suites: Marilyn screenprints, a black bed, gold ceramics and exquisite old oils. Mickey Mouse is gilt-framed on the vibrant red walls of the terracotta-tiled staircase, a Rennie Macintosh chair waits halfway up, and a candle chandelier hangs at the top. Colour and detail is everywhere: wallpaper, chairs, cushions, vases. The beautiful exterior is the only understated part of the house, which stands opposite the contemporary art museum and gateway to Vence's charming old town. Even breakfast cannot escape the artist’s touch – elegantly served on royal Limoges crockery and eaten under white painted beams in the impressive salon.

Highs

  • The stupendous salon – a private art gallery stuffed with sculptures, paintings, busts and abstract art – is a real jaw-dropper
  • The large suites are works of art in themselves; each one is unique
  • Great value for money for such a very special space
  • Vence is a small town, not a big village; there’s lots to see, and some night life. Many prefer Vence to busy (and more famous) St Paul de Vence down the road
  • Thierry and his partner Guy are incredibly welcoming; staying here feels like you’re visiting one of your oldest and dearest friends

Lows

  • No garden or pool, but there are gorgeous beaches a short drive away
  • You’ll need a car to make the most of the area, but there’s no on-site car park
  • Vence’s old town can get pretty busy in high season

Best time to go

The area is packed with holiday-makers in July and August so best not to come then. The hotel is open all year, and Vence would make a lovely short break in early spring or late autumn.

Our top tips

Keen to see more art? Fondation Maeght is a museum of modern art (with more than 12,000 works including ceramics, sculpture, paintings and collages) on a hill overlooking the medieval town Saint-Paul de Vence, a mecca for artists and musicians for 100 years just 5km south.

Great for...

City Style
Romantic
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 4 rooms
  • Breakfast only (restaurants nearby)
  • Only over 12s and babies accepted
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • Beach Nearby
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Car recommended
  • Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • WiFi
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

Each of the four Suites is individual. Pop Art has a vibrant tea pot above the big black bed with its jazzy orange and patterned cushions, and a Campbells soup with harlequin painting above a vintage sideboard. There's a giant swordfish hanging on the bathroom ceiling. The sitting room is a treasure trove of original mid-century furniture.

We stayed in the huge, blue and white La Chapelle, up on the top floor. A kingsize bed has ornate wrought-iron bedheads plus armchairs and sofa. It also has gorgeous ceramics, and a wonderful bathroom with a big walk-in shower and wide basin.

Inspired by the colours of Matisse and Provencal in tone, Chateau has turquoise floral wallpaper throughout, classic armchairs, carved wood bedheads, a bust on the black marble fireplace and a sofa bed in the living room – a good option if there's three of you.

With a nod to the Riviera of the 1950s Vallauris also has florals as a theme, in this case seen on walls, cushions and armchairs. A pink Persian-style rug, ceramics, chandelier, wrought iron coffee table, and mirrored chest of drawers add interest.

All Suites come with crisp white Linvosges linen, quilted Provencal bedcovers, curtains, shuttered windows, wood desks and tea and coffee making facilities. Bathrooms are excellent, with huge cymbal-sized shower heads, contemporary porcelain sinks, heated towel rails and fluffy white bathrobes to pad around in.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • TV
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast (included in the price) isn’t a rush. You eat in the salon with its eye-catching art, decanters on plinths, colourful collectibles and a white beamed ceiling above you. A couple of baguettes are laid neatly across the bread board, tea and coffee is served to order, there are baskets of croissants, yoghurt, pretty glasses filled with freshly-squeezed juice and various local jams.

If you want to eat out at the poshest place in the area, head 5km down the hill to St Paul de Vence (an impossibly pretty hilltop village which is besieged in summer by tourists) and try to bag a table at Le Colombe d’Or, where the beautiful people like to hang out. Wildly expensive, and it might have had its day, but still the reputation lingers. But there's plenty of choice in Vence itself. Try L’Amoise for exceptional fish, or Le Clemenceau, a simple bistro in the old town for good local food and reasonable prices.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • The Museum of Modern Art is bang opposite the front door in the Chateau de Villeneuve. Lots of contemporary exhibitions pass through and its shop will satisfy all post-card needs
  • Also on your doorstep is Vence’s old town; beautiful, old narrow stone streets, arches to duck under, windows to shop in, and churches to pop into (the small Cathedral has a fine mosaic by Chagall)
  • While Matisse lived here he decorated the ceiling of the Rosary chapel. It’s just out of town. Walk over and take a look, then walk back to Vence and get the best view of the town up on the hill, its houses seemingly clinging to a stone wall. Pick up pamphlets in the tourist office and follow in his footsteps, see the spots he painted. If you want to go the whole hog you can take painting lessons in the master’s old house
  • The beaches of Nice, Cannes and Antibes are worth a day out. You can hire a sun-lounger on a private beach, be served on hand and foot, saunter down to the clear blue sea and dip in a toe. Try La Garoupe on the Cap d’Antibes for the real Riviera experience. Fabulous
  • Nice has museums dedicated to the works of Matisse and Chagall. There’s also the flower market and the old town is worth a peek
  • Markets. Biot, Tourette-sur-Loup, Valbonne - all ancient small towns of impeccable architectural beauty to which the loveliest of local produce comes. You’ll find a nearby market for every day of the week. Wander, stop for coffee, watch the beautiful people pass… Vence has a small broquante market on Sunday mornings

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Historical sites
    • Museums / galleries
    • Nightlife
    • Shopping / markets
    • Traditional cultures

Kids

Teenagers aged 12+ are accepted, but do be aware that there are valuable art works everywhere!

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Suite La Chateau can host a family with two teenagers on extra beds.

Kid Friendly:

Location

Maison du Frene is situated in Vence, which is about 8km north (inland) from Cagnes-sur-Mer on the Nice-Cannes motorway in the south of France.

By Air
Nice Airport is very close (20km, 20-30 minutes). Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving this airport.

From the Airport
Grab a cab or hire a car (see below).

By Car:
Car hire is available at both Nice Ville station and the airport. See our car rental recommendations. There's an underground parking garage 2 minutes walk away.

By Rail:
From London you can take the Eurostar to Lille, then change for direct TGV trains down to Nice Ville. London to Nice takes about 9 hours.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.

More on getting to France and getting around

Airports:

  • Nice Cote D'Azur 20.0 km NCE

Other:

  • Beach 10.0 km
  • Shops 0.1 km
  • Restaurant 0.1 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 5 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
9/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
9/10
Overall

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Rates for La Maison du Frene

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