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The Insider's Guide to Luxury French Villa Rentals

A Q&A with Tom & Judy from SJ Villas


Tom & Judy | SJ Villas

Founded over 17 years ago, SJ Villas stands as a boutique family-run business situated in the heart of London. Judy and Tom bring together two generations of passion for travel, local expertise, and wanderlust. What began as a love for France spread rapidly to global destinations. Judy and Tom pride themselves on finding some of the most characterful holiday houses in places we love, from Barbados to Sri Lanka and dozens of points in between.

"this is understated chic, laid-back living."

What are your top tips for finding the right villa?

Find a specialist whose standards align with yours and who knows their houses inside out, and then hold on to them for dear life. There’s nothing more disappointing than being oversold on a villa. Ensure they have traveled the world and seen the villas in person, and then let them surprise you with locations you might not have considered. At SJ Villas, Judy and I have visited all of the houses that we recommend and love to bring undiscovered gems to our guests.

What to do and not do during your stay?

Respect the check-in and check-out times; the house team needs the time to make the house perfect for the next guests.

Manage the kids 😊

Consider the chef; one menu with a vegetarian option and a simple kids meal is manageable, more is not…

Be mindful; every action helps. Conserve water, switch off lights, and air con when leaving the house.

The concierge needs to sleep too. Try to keep your calls to office hours.

Tip well!

What to expect when you book with SJ Villas

If you book with SJ Villas, expect to be wowed and to find a villa that has been personally picked with our discerning eye. You can look forward to summer lunches outside with local food to share, sundowners on the terrace taking in the view, and family meals in the evenings. Bliss! Please, don’t expect quiet beaches in Europe in July & August.

Unsung French regions

The southwest of France – this is understated chic, laid-back living. It’s a real personal favourite of ours, the surf is great, you will find long sandy beaches, great food, and wonderful markets, without the business of the Cote d’Azur.

What is your best villa?

A very difficult question! For 2024, we have a stunning new beach house in Hossegor, South-West France. This is true ‘pied dans l’eau’, beautifully designed and managed by a young dynamic team

What is your best villa for families?

My favourite is a hidden private estate in the hills behind St Tropez. Hundreds of hectares of private land, lakes with paddle boards, a floodlit tennis court, heated and gated pool, tree house (which I helped build!), and a boules pitch, perfect for sunset game with rosé from the neighbouring Whispering Angel winery.

Your best villa for adults

A private house on the exclusive ‘Domaine de Sperone’ in Corsica, with a wonderful French chef and a stunning beach only accessible to those on the domain. We often organise boats to pick guests up in the morning and take them for lunch to hidden Corsican ‘paillote’ restaurants or the exclusive Domaine de Murtoli.

What is your favourite place for French dining?

The southwest is full of fantastic places to eat. I like ‘La Ferme Ostalapia’ in the Basque hills for shared plates of steak and delicious homemade ‘frites’.

What is the most common 'Faux Pas'

Not putting down the parasols when it is windy!

What are your top French beach towns & countryside hideaways?

Where to start; they all have their individual style:

Biarritz: glamorous surfing at its best.

Ile de Ré: bikes, buckets, and spades, laid-back chic.

St Tropez: beach clubs, shopping, and glitz.

Cap Ferret: Barefoot luxury, traditional boats, wine & oysters.

Cassis: Authentic, chic, hidden in nature.

When to go & when to avoid travel

If you can, travel in June or September when the prices are lower, and schools are in session. If you can avoid it, do not travel around the weekend of the 15th of August; this is a big departure day for the French, and all the roads are blocked.

Image Credits

Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus