Family

An eclectic and colourful family home high up in the heart of Milan

At

Jeanne Labib, Paolo Sarno, Nina 8 and Vera 4 years old

The scene stops you in your tracks, and you experience a pang of envy: in the heart of Milan, a leafy terrace, high up and hidden among the buildings. There, in a burst of springtime enthusiasm, a family is getting busy. The table is set in a swirl of colours. Two little girls laugh and throw themselves at their father, who has just arrived, still in his suit and tie and with a small pot of ice cream in his hand. How much more Italian can you get? Jeanne Labib seems the first to be astonished by this haven of peace that she and her husband Paolo have built in Italy's business capital. The Double J designer strolls around the colourful rooms in a long, shimmering dress, which she says she conjured up as she would a fashion collection. The only difference is that the mannequins are the furniture, objects and works of art from various eras and with different influences that we come across in what is really a house at the top of a palazzo in Milan. With a joyful visit and a light-hearted chat we celebrate the arrival of spring.

Location

Milan

Author

Elsa Cau

Photos and videos

Constance Gennari

At Jeanne Labib-Lamour's place, our

meets an Art Deco desk and a USM metal set.

At Jeanne Labib-Lamour's place, our

meets an Art Deco desk and a USM metal set.

TSF

Can you tell us about yourself, Jeanne?

Jeanne

I've always had a passion for fashion, ever since I was a little girl. For the last three years, I've been working for DoubleJ, an amazing brand based in Milan, founded by the American, J.J. Martin. I'm married to Paolo, and we have two wonderful little girls: Vera and Nina. I've been living in Milan for ten years now. I come from Paris, but people now say I'm half Parisian, half Milanese, so I've almost earned my Milanese stripes! We love our life here, in this town and this house, because we feel like we're living in the countryside. The moment we step out onto our terrace it lifts our spirits, it's a world apart.

TSF

And the terrace is beautifully welcoming today!

Jeanne

This table kicks off our "terrace season"! The crockery is of course from DoubleJ, accompanied by Rainbow tableware and glasses. I've also added our Pineapple plates - a fun, colourful feast for the eyes! I've placed one of our Sicilian ceramic heads here. I'm not in charge of the tableware collections - that's another designer, Julio - I work with ready-to-wear, footwear and leather goods. So we often work together as we can easily adapt the brand's prints to suit different media and therefore create moodboards together.

TSF

Tell us about your background?

Jeanne

I was born into a film and TV family, a pretty crazy and artistic one at that. I've wanted to be in fashion for as long as I can remember. Since I was 8 or 9. I was young when I started doing work placements in Paris: at 14 with Yves Saint Laurent, at 15 with Karl Lagerfeld, at 16 with Sonia Rykiel. And then I went to study in England, at London's St. Martin's College of Arts. I didn't want to study in Paris. I wanted to go to a whacky, eccentric English art college (laughs). So I spent three years studying amid London's fashion school madness. I then travelled around South America for six months. When I returned to France, I worked for Balenciaga in Paris. I then went on to work for various fashion brands, including Giambattista Valli, until 10 years ago when I moved here to work for Moncler. I then changed jobs and I'm now a stylist at DoubleJ, which has allowed me to reconnect with what spurs me on: colour, prints and maximalism! It's a very Italian brand: everything is made in Italy, the silk, the ready-to-wear, the plates and glasses... Italian craftsmanship is at the heart of the brand's DNA.

"I'm a pencil monomaniac," whispers Jeanne Labib-Lamour, who favors a single brand for drawing her collections.

"I'm a pencil monomaniac," whispers Jeanne Labib-Lamour, who favors a single brand for drawing her collections.

Jeanne Labib-Lamour

Here, I applied the same principles as I would for a collection, as in I made a moodboard for each room.

In the bedroom, "I've Got Your Back," a painting by artist Inès Longevial, watches over the couple.

For these photography enthusiasts, snapshots are everywhere, even in the bathroom.

Scattered throughout the apartment, our

make beautiful life companions!

TSF

You were very young when you worked for Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. Why so early in life?

Jeanne

Because I was determined to get work placements! Whenever I had free time, after school, in the summer or during the Easter holidays, my parents would help me send out CVs to friends of friends of friends... At Yves Saint Laurent, I was given this little corner by the library, where I'd watch him. I did this for two years, wearing one of his little white coats. At Karl Lagerfeld, we'd go into Virginie Viard's office, I'd make photocopies, colour in the drawings and make coffees. Then I started to help with the embroidery, followed by the ironing! When I was 13, I started my third work placement at Dorothée Bis, an old knitwear house from the 1960s and 70s. I did all sorts of odd-jobs, I was the studios' Girl Friday. These were my first experiences - I knew where I belonged. So I went on to study fashion design. My whole life has been geared towards fashion.

TSF

How would you describe the style of this family flat?

Jeanne

I guess I designed this flat a bit like a fashion collection. We worked with an architect on the structure, and I took care of the interior design. I applied the same principles as I would for a collection, as in I made a moodboard for each room. There's a common thread of colour: it starts with the entrance, in shades of petrol blue and yellow. All the doors are painted in this verdigris, which also links the flat and leads us to the wallpaper, which has a bold pattern offset by this very soft green. The latter leads us to the next room up to the burgundy bathroom, the kitchen's red and terracotta tones, and so on. There's certainly a slightly Parisian twist: the house is irregular, it goes up and down, it's adorned with mouldings... Above all, I wanted a house that was cheerful, colourful, printed, and not minimalist with just slightly eccentric touches here and there. Paolo designed the kitchen and the bathroom, which he wanted to be very masculine. But I had free rein with the rest and I had loads of fun doing it, just like I do at work. I sourced all the materials in Italy, just as I do in fashion.

TSF

When you arrived here, it needed a total revamp.

Jeanne

Everything! From top to bottom! It had been empty for 70 years. There were even pigeons living in the house! The roof was a wreck, and we had to rebuild a floor. We undertook a total renovation: we changed the floor plan, renovated the parquet flooring, rewired the place, redid the plumbing and insulation, replaced the windows and shutters, renovated the terrace and so on! It was a total ruin, for want of a better word. What's more it wasn't part of our original plan... For starters, I didn't want such a big flat. I was working on a project in China at the time and I saw an advert for an "Apartment in central Milan with a terrace". I called Paolo from China and ask him if he wanted to have a look. He said no, that there were no photos, so it was undoubtedly a wreck. I don't know why, but I insisted. So he had a viewing and called me back saying "yeah, maybe you should check it out." I rocked up, was met by pigeons flying around, and go figure: I just knew this was my future home. It was morning, bathed in light, and there was this terrace that made it feel like a palace in the middle of Milan. It was far too ambitious for us, but Paolo is also a great dreamer... And we managed to make a dream home in just nine months.

TSF

Was carrying out this renovation hard?

Jeanne

The main problem was we couldn't use cranes to lift materials. Everything had to be carried up the stairs - and I'm not just talking about our belongings! We also had some surprises, for example, we had to pour an extra layer of concrete onto the dining room floor as it was in danger of collapsing. It was blood, sweat and tears, but it was all worth it. What's more, decorating the dining room was a bit of a nightmare as it's triangular. Not an easy room to work with. I wanted to turn it into a sort of cave, but with plenty of light, so I came up with the idea of a fresco. So I drew animals, couples, waves and stars on the wall... and this big lion which leads to the terrace. The colours follow the theme of the flat: yellow, blue and orange. These patterns and colours brighten it up and bring it to life. Furniture-wise I wanted to mix materials and periods: the 1970s chairs, the leather table and objects that add little eccentric touches. It's neither a closed or open space!

The dining room, located in a triangular space open to the terrace, was a challenge to achieve for the couple.

TSF

What do your girls think about their home?

Jeanne

They love it. Nina was 3 or 4 when we moved in and then Vera was born. So this is the only home they've known. They particularly love the terrace, which is the epicentre of our daily lives: we live there. They get home from school, and we're out there; we have lunch there, we sit out there with the kids in the evenings. It really is an extra living space. And when the weather turns nice and everything's open... it's like our own little piece of countryside.

TSF

You've clearly got your own distinctive style, both in fashion and interior design. Where does it come from, this style, this taste?

Jeanne

From my mum, I think. We travelled a lot as a family. My mum was a real career girl. You can imagine her in an elegant 1980s Mugler suit, nails done, decked out in jewellery, with colourful necklaces and large turquoise Hermès scarves... Colour and prints have always been part of my DNA, I think. My parents have houses full of works of art and books. Likewise, I travel a lot with Paolo and the girls. So we have lots of paintings and works of art at home. I guess my style is a bit of classic French elegance, with a touch of Italian craziness and some London vibes thrown in for good measure - not to mention all the other trips I've been on! I'm a fairly cheerful, sunny person, so I need colours, prints and a bit of dazzle.

TSF

What kind of environment did you grow up in?

Jeanne

My parents have lived in the same flat in Paris for fifty years! There are art books up to the ceiling and so many paintings that lots are stacked under the beds. They have loads of friends who are artists, painters, musicians, actors and writers. So I grew up in this artistic environment. And their Provence house is the same: lots of books, collages, lithographs and old crockery. We collected things by people we loved. Which is also what Paolo and I do here.

TSF

What was your biggest renovation challenge?

Jeanne

We had a few structural problems. Upstairs, we created a room that didn't exist, so we had to lower the floor level, put in metal joists, build a floor and renovate the roof. The building is listed as a Belli Arti, so we weren't allowed to touch the structure and had to replace old windows with identical new ones. But everything came together, a series of nightmarish glitches, but you soon forget about them...

TSF

What are some things you particularly like about your home?

Jeanne

Loads of things (laughs)! Lots of photographs, lots of paintings. I particularly love the family paintings that we recovered. This painting in our bedroom, by Inès Longevial, a young artist who has since gone from strength to strength, is called I've Got Your Back. It represents two women, but for me, it embodies my relationship with Paolo, who is my rock and reassures me in my moments of doubt and weakness, being the artist that I am (laughs)! There's also this large winegrower's table in the living room that I love. It was my grandmother's, who owned a large wine estate in the south of France. These tables are where the winegrowers used to gather after the harvest for a drink (laughs). I brought it back from the South - and it was quite a haul! It's kind of my own little bubble, and I often draw here. I leaf through my books, and other things that inspire me.

TSF

Is this the only place you work when you're at home?

Jeanne

The office between the entrance and the living room is also one of my corners. My research and fashion books are in there, arranged alphabetically and thematically - that's my OCD side! I love the contrast between the ultra-modern, slightly seventies yellow USM cabinet, this understated bookcase, the striped Rotondo armchair from you guys, and this old-fashioned desk that could be a Ruhlmann... who knows? It's a family mystery. My grandfather was an architect, who designed the Walter buildings in Paris, which were entirely furnished by Ruhlmann. I inherited this desk from him... On the walls, you'll see a small Marie Laurencin painting that my mum gave me; it was hung in her bedroom, and it was a very sweet gift from the heart. And then paintings and drawings by my parents' friend, Jean-Paul Chambas, sketches by Jean Vérame, and photographs of Tibet by Matthieu Salvaing and Stephen Tayo, who’s work I discovered at the Rencontres of Arles. As a family, we now give each other works of art for every birthday.

Paolo Sarno, on the other hand, wanted to give a more masculine touch to the kitchen.

In the living room and in the office area, paintings and drawings from a family friend of Jeanne Labib-Lamour, Jean-Paul Chambas.

In the living room and in the office area, paintings and drawings from a family friend of Jeanne Labib-Lamour, Jean-Paul Chambas.

The best-kept secret of this apartment is indeed its large terrace, nestled opposite its entrance.

TSF

What currently inspires you, what's your latest discovery?

Jeanne

I recently went to see an exhibition in Paris of early colour fashion photographs from the 1920s at the Musée Galliera (ed. Galliera: Les couleurs de la mode, Autochromes du Salon du goût français, 1921-1923). The clothes and the colours enthralled me! I had to get my hands on the catalogue. When I design a collection for La DoubleJ, I always start with the colour and the print, rather than the cut or the shape.

TSF

What does The Socialite Family represent to you?

Jeanne

Firstly, it's a lifestyle blog about families and apartments that I always enjoy, and it's also a cool, colorful, and desirable design brand!

TSF

What is your favourite piece from our collection?

Jeanne

Your Cavallo armchairs, which I have in two different velvet colors in my bedroom, my Rotondo armchair in green and ivory striped fabric that I adore, the centerpiece of my office-library!

TSF

What are your favourite spots in Milan ?

Jeanne

The "B" Café, Piazza Borromeo, on the most beautiful square in Milan for an aperitivo, Marchesi, the classic and historic Milanese café for a lively breakfast, Corso Magenta and Wait & See, a true Aladdin's cave in the 5 Vie district, Via Santa Marta...

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