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The stylish art of French family living

For her new book, Siham Mazouz met French families in their stylish homes. Here she presents two favourites.

30 May 2018
By Connexion journalist

Jessica and Vincent live in the beautiful city of Bordeaux with two-year-old daughter Olympe. They moved two years ago, after living in a small village near Montpellier.

When Jessica was pregnant, she felt the need to go back home where she grew up and her family still lives. “It was important for me to get closer to my family for support as a new mom, and to raise my daughter in my native region,” confides Jessica. Jessica owns a successful interior design company, BOH, which caters to the hospitality industry. She’s also in the process of creating an event rental business.

For her new apartment in Bordeaux, she completely changed the décor from the vintage industrial style of her loft in the Montpellier area.

“Each home calls for its own style,” says Jessica, who feels that the current flat (above), inundated with natural light, needed a more contemporary look and vibe. “Because we have so much light, I wanted to add colour accents and gradually added pieces that inspired me.”

There is no formal recipe in the way Jessica decorates her home. In contrast to her job, where decorating a hotel or a bed and breakfast is dictated by clients’ requirements and stricter rules of interior design, decorating her own home was more a labour of love for Jessica.

She kept a few pieces from the old house, like the industrial-style dining table, but added flea finds and contemporary elements.

Jessica and Vincent travel a lot around the globe, and they love to bring back treasures from their trips to Bali, India or Gabon to decorate their space. These curated elements, from mixed and matched eras and locations, bring an authenticity to the interior. Jessica mentions that she despises total look interiors.

While she is the decorator and makes decisions about the décor, Vincent validates or vetoes her choices. “I mostly agree, but sometimes, I have to veto it. I have to stop Jessica when we go to flea markets, for example, because she wants to buy everything on impulse, especially vintage chairs.”

Vincent’s favourite room in the house is their living room, where the family spends most of their time. He also cherishes the collection of tribal masks they brought back from a market in Libreville, Gabon.

Jessica is very attached to her artwork: she used to manage the gallery collection of a contemporary art museum, so art holds a special place in her heart. When asked what piece in her interior she couldn’t be separated from, she replies: “If there was a fire and I had to save something, I’d grab my wall art. No, scratch that! I’d run to my closet to get my grandmother’s collection of vintage ball gowns. This is irreplaceable!”

 

Aix marks the spot

Ilaria, her husband Jérôme, and their two sons, Thomas and Tristan, left Paris three years ago to move to the South of France.

Ilaria was originally from Milan, and after thirteen years in Paris, she and Jérôme were thrilled at the prospect of life in sunny Provence; but finding a home (left) in the coveted city of Aix-en-Provence was no joke. Eighteen months of intense searching led them to a 1970s home located near the Parc Jourdan.

At first, the 1,290-square-foot property seemed outdated and charmless, having never been remodelled since its 1969 construction. But Ilaria saw a huge potential: the natural light and the patio and garden the house featured.

The family embarked on a two-month remodelling, during which Ilaria connected with local craftsmen to renovate the space: walls were taken down to allow a free flow of natural light, electricity and plumbing were updated to code, and the original parquet was sanded three times to give it a modern look. Ilaria worked extensively on letting the natural light in and opened up the space to allow a more natural flow between the indoors and outdoors.

In the living areas, which receive lots of light, she chose to canvas the walls in white and then progressively added touches of colour. In the darker areas, like the hallway and the private rooms, she chose a darker colour palette: a deep petroleum-blue paint punctuates the space as a parti pris for the lack of natural light.

In her decorating, Ilaria worked with the furniture and accessories she already had. She didn’t want to acquire a lot of new things. “I wanted the house to feel like a vacation home, where pieces can be moved within the interior throughout the seasons, and also moved indoors and outdoors,” confides Ilaria. So she carefully added elements that would remind her of a vacation home: the woven pendant light over the dining space, storage baskets, and plants add a Mediterranean feel to her Scandinavian furniture and accessories.

The kitchen got a major design lift. Ilaria worked with local craftsmen to create a modern kitchen, open to the living space, without the constraints of smelly odours diffusing into the living area. Jérôme, a native of Lyon—a region known for its love of good food—enjoys cooking, so the couple opted for a sliding glass and wooden door that allows a visual flow but inhibits the smells and fumes of cooking food.

The kitchen cabinet structures are generic, from a major Swedish retailer, but Ilaria had the façades custom made in an exotic wood called frake from West Africa; she loved the texture so much that she decided to keep them unfinished. Her countertops are Corian, an easy material to clean and maintain. The divider between the living room and the entryway is also made from frake wood, keeping consistency.

Ilaria masterfully mixes Scandinavian pieces with a Mediterranean flair. She recently updated the upholstery of a vintage chair to embrace the urban jungle trend and give the interior an “exterior” feel. (The French spend a lot of time outdoors, and a garden is usually seen as an extra outdoor room of the house). The TV, an eyesore according to Ilaria, can easily be hidden behind the rolling plant when not in use.

 

 

Buy the book

Photographs by Siham Mazouz from How the French Live, reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith.

 

Get the look

Why not take inspiration from Jessica and Vincent, Ilaria and Jérôme, and source similarly chic home deco items on the French high street. Prices and availability are correct at time of going to press.

Totally tropical
If the full house plant and plant-print chair combination is too much for your taste, opt for a tropical detail with this jungle-inspired Cacatoes cushion, €17.99 from www.maisonsdumonde.com

Light lunch
With over 36,000 lamps and shades to choose from, Luminaire is ideal for adding a modern flourish to your dining room, at all prices. This Soberbia design is by Johan Carpner. €1,187 from www.luminaire.fr

Trolley service
Far from being a naff remnant from yesteryear, drinks trolleys are back in vogue. Ideal for handy access at apéro time! This Wadiga bamboo model measures 55x32x 62.50cm. €80.24 from www.laredoute.com

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