Family

In the hills above Nice, a family home filled with art and memories

Lucillia Chenel et sa mère Chantal chez elles à Nice

At

Lucillia Chenel and her mother Chantal

In Paris, the Chenel name is a familiar one among art lovers. Since 1999, the Chenel Gallery has been renowned for its expertise in antique sculpture, featuring exhibitions that mix rising stars like artist Victor Cadène, photographer François Halard, and furniture from Maison Pierre Augustin Rose, with timeless classics of antiquity. But their story didn’t begin on the banks of the Seine. Decades earlier, the Chenel family was already making waves in their hometown of Nice. Change of scene: step through the grand gate to the Chenel family gardens and villa, and you're transported to another time. The Mediterranean glistens in the distance under the early summer sun, evoking a soundtrack by Henry Mancini or Ennio Morricone. This elegant 19th-century bourgeois house tells the story of a family's legacy. After the passing of patriarch Alain Chenel, the family has become even closer, with a strong focus on the matriarchal figures. The Socialite Family shines a light on these women: Chantal and her daughter Lucillia Chenel, who share a deep connection to Nice. We met them at Chantal’s home, perched on its promontory, a place always brimming with art, memories, and often the laughter of children and grandchildren.

Location

Nice

Author

Elsa Cau

Photos and videos

Valerio Geraci, Carine Bouhier

La terrasse des Chenel à Nice

"The garden, the terrace? Everything had to be redone when we arrived!" exclaims Chantal Chenel.

Vue depuis la piscine des Chenel à Nice
La terrasse des Chenel à Nice
La terrasse des Chenel à Nice

"The garden, the terrace? Everything had to be redone when we arrived!" exclaims Chantal Chenel.

Vue depuis la piscine des Chenel à Nice
La terrasse des Chenel à Nice
La terrasse des Chenel à Nice
La cuisine d'été des Chenel à Nice
Chantal Chenel et sa fille Lucillia Chenel chez elles à Nice
La terrasse des Chenel à Nice
La terrasse des Chenel à Nice
Chantal Chenel et sa fille Lucillia Chenel chez elles à Nice
La terrasse des Chenel à Nice
La terrasse des Chenel à Nice
Chantal Chenel et sa fille Lucillia Chenel chez elles à Nice
La terrasse des Chenel à Nice
La terrasse des Chenel à Nice

TSF

Chantal, Lucillia, who are you?

Chantal

My sons, Ollivier and Adrien Chenel, are gallery owners, and Lucillia, my daughter, is an art director. I'm an antique dealer's wife. I'm an artist and a jack-of-all-trades. Recently, I have been designing jewellery that I make to order via Instagram. And I'm from the Var and Nice!

Lucillia

I'm from Nice too, but I spent nine years in Paris and came back to live here three years ago. I love living here. In 2019, I co-founded an events company centred around the theme of astrology. I'm an art director, and at the same time, I still create a little content for the networks.

Chantal

I've lived in Nice for 49 years. The only other Niçoise in the family is Lucillia, and she's been claiming Nice as her home since she was a little girl! Ollivier and Adrien, my two sons, were born in the Var, in Saint-Raphaël, in the clinic where I was born - I was the first baby to be registered there!

TSF

How did you end up in Nice, Chantal?

Chantal

I was twenty when I decided to live with my husband, and I joined him in Nice, where he had already been an antique dealer for several years. But we met in Saint-Raphaël...

Lucillia

In an antique shop!

Chantal

Yes, at an antique dealer's. He was a mutual friend of my parents and Alain Chenel! I was eighteen. A friend dragged me to François Biancarelli's to see his new arrivals, but I couldn't have cared less (laughs). Well, after that, I became very interested. Alain arrived from Corsica, where he'd been antique bargain-hunting, with his big estate car loaded with furniture. Ever since then, François has been Lucillia's godfather.

TSF

Your career is closely linked to that of your husband, Alain Chenel.

Chantal

When I met Alain, I was supposed to go as an au pair for my cousin. But I immediately felt that there was something strong between us. I told him, "You go, I'll stay here." I had a feeling I was going to miss the boat if I didn't. He was 26 years old. He was very cautious: at the time, I was underage... but it just sort of happened that way. We started dating very soon after I came of age since Giscard had suddenly set it at 18 (laughs). So there we are; it's my husband's fault I don't speak English! He was already settled in. He started out in the Village Ségurane (editor's note: an antiques district in Nice) with François (editor's note: Biancarelli) and the Frémontiers, the whole gang, who then left for Paris. I was the only one who put up a fight! But even though he bugged me about it for years, I never wanted to go to Paris, unlike the children! We had a fabulous quality of life here... it's not for nothing that everyone comes back, by the way. He was a bit cross with me at the time, but then he admitted that I was right!

Le porche d'entrée des Chenel à Nice

A large vase by ceramicist Léa Ginac stands proudly under the entrance porch.

Vue de la piscine des Chenel à Nice

Our beach towel is making itself comfortable as it awaits its official launch on our e-shop on 4th June.

Chez les Chenel à Nice

A sculpture by artist Janine Jannet (1913-2000) enlivens the entrance of the house and brings back memories for Chantal Chenel (interview below).

Le porche d'entrée des Chenel à Nice

A large vase by ceramicist Léa Ginac stands proudly under the entrance porch.

Vue de la piscine des Chenel à Nice

Our beach towel is making itself comfortable as it awaits its official launch on our e-shop on 4th June.

Chez les Chenel à Nice

A sculpture by artist Janine Jannet (1913-2000) enlivens the entrance of the house and brings back memories for Chantal Chenel (interview below).

Lucillia Chenel chez elle à Nice
La cuisine des Chenel à Nice
Lucillia Chenel chez elle à Nice
La cuisine des Chenel à Nice
Lucillia Chenel chez elle à Nice
La cuisine des Chenel à Nice
Détail dans le salon des Chenel à Nice

Lucillia Chenel

When I returned to Nice, I realised that there were a lot of creative people who didn't know each other. I consider my role as an art director also involves seeking out talent and bringing it together.

La cuisine des Chenel à Nice
La cuisine des Chenel à Nice
Détail dans la cuisine des Chenel à Nice

Ton sur ton dans la cuisine, notre

Détail dans la cuisine des Chenel à Nice
Détail dans la cuisine des Chenel à Nice

Le dernier projet en date de Lucillia Chenel : la direction artistique et l'identité d'une brasserie niçoise qui ouvrait ses portes ce mois-ci, Les Mimosas.

Dans la cuisine des Chenel à Nice
Détail dans la cuisine des Chenel à Nice
La cuisine des Chenel à Nice
Détail dans la cuisine des Chenel à Nice

Ton sur ton dans la cuisine, notre

Détail dans la cuisine des Chenel à Nice
Détail dans la cuisine des Chenel à Nice

Le dernier projet en date de Lucillia Chenel : la direction artistique et l'identité d'une brasserie niçoise qui ouvrait ses portes ce mois-ci, Les Mimosas.

Dans la cuisine des Chenel à Nice
Détail dans la cuisine des Chenel à Nice
Chez les Chenel à Nice

TSF

When did you open the first Galerie Chenel?

Chantal

I arrived here when I was twenty and didn't understand a thing about the trade. All I did was follow my husband to the flea markets, and I used to wait around for hours in the shop... so I took up knitting. The whole neighbourhood was knitting; in fact, all the girls had the bug (laughs). I started knitting! I knew that in Paris, people opened three days a week. We did it: it was great. After that, we had an extraordinary life because we were always on the road. That's why having a fresh, young eye in this business is so important! And of course, in those days, you didn't need much money to fill an estate car with goods... things didn't come at today's prices! We didn't have a shop until 1984. We spent our lives hunting for bargains in Italy! In 1984, La promenade des antiquaires a gallery that no longer exists opened. At the time, in Nice, a system was created that was similar to the Louvre des Antiquaires in Paris. After that, there were a few little crises, and business wasn't going so well.  That's why we stopped working in shops in 1992. We were a bit fed up. Alain and Romain Ginac joined forces. After that, I was mainly responsible for the staging and decorating for the shows we took part in. My husband pushed me a lot because I was always drawing, and it runs in the family: my great-grandfather was a painter. I had a lot of fun: for example, we went to Hong Kong with the Ginacs and all our ceramics. Picasso's ceramics weren't so well known then, and they certainly didn't command the same prices. Alain and Romain bought a lot of them to resell. Romain had found a spiritual brother in Alain, even a father. And yet, there wasn't much of an age difference between them. The fact remains that we lived very close; our children grew up together, and we lived on the same floor.

TSF

When did you get married?

Chantal

We didn't even want to get married, but as I was pregnant... I was 21, and the following year, I had my first son, Ollivier. That's why I was a very young grandmother (laughs). In fact, when I found out I was pregnant, I was happy but also a little sad, I must admit because we were living on the road, and that was going to come to an end!

TSF

Did you have a speciality?

Chantal

We never really tied ourselves down, but at that time, Alain was more into Art Nouveau, the period for which he was recognised as an expert at auctions, and Art Deco, for which I pushed hard when I discovered a passion for the style. But I didn't know anything, it was very spontaneous... he taught me everything.

TSF

Were the Chenels already interested in antiquities, or was it your son Ollivier's idea?

Chantal

Not particularly, because my husband was into everything. Of course, he was already buying Roman antiquities, but among other things, from other eras! Come to think of it, our children have rather adopted the Ginac's taste.

TSF

When the boys got older, they started working with you.

Chantal

Ollivier, the eldest, wanted to be an antique dealer from the age of seven. Adrien wasn't sure, although it was also a possibility in his mind. But he's such an artist. He's the one who is most like his mother (laughs). Ollivier and you, Lucillia, don't talk much; you're quieter, like your father...

Lucillia

I've got a bit of a temper.

Chantal

Yes. Rather... Very grumpy and hypersensitive! But very family-oriented, like your father. Alain was all about family, first and foremost. He had been abandoned. We, and his work, were the great passions of his life. He was still placing auction bids the day before he died. It's like being an actor: it's a job for life. In 1999, things took a turn for the better: Ollivier was 22, and he and his wife Gladys moved to Paris and opened a shop on rue du Bac. I used to come in just to arrange things when I had to do a little staging at the gallery. In the meantime, Alain, Lucillia and I left for England, and we stayed there for two years. We did some very successful antique hunting in England. We enrolled Lucillia at the French lycée, and my husband and I set off on the road again...

TSF

And after these two years in England, you returned to Nice?

Chantal

Yes. And my husband continued to work with Ollivier before passing on the torch.

Une salle de bains chez les Chenel à Nice
Une salle de bains chez les Chenel à Nice
Une salle de bains chez les Chenel à Nice
Une salle de bains chez les Chenel à Nice
Une salle de bains chez les Chenel à Nice
Une salle de bains chez les Chenel à Nice
Une salle de bains chez les Chenel à Nice

La salle de bains et son mobilier sur mesure auront pris plus de six mois à être réalisée.

Une salle de bains chez les Chenel à Nice
Détail dans une salle de bains chez les Chenel à Nice

Au mur, une céramique de Vallauris suspendue au-dessus d'un serviteur muet de Jacques Adnet;

Une salle de bains chez les Chenel à Nice

La salle de bains et son mobilier sur mesure auront pris plus de six mois à être réalisée.

Une salle de bains chez les Chenel à Nice
Détail dans une salle de bains chez les Chenel à Nice

Au mur, une céramique de Vallauris suspendue au-dessus d'un serviteur muet de Jacques Adnet;

Dans le salon des Chenel à Nice
Dans le salon des Chenel à Nice
Dans le salon des Chenel à Nice
Dans le salon des Chenel à Nice
Dans le salon des Chenel à Nice
Détail dans le salon des Chenel à Nice
Détail au sol d'une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice
Dans le salon des Chenel à Nice
Dans le salon des Chenel à Nice
Dans le salon des Chenel à Nice
Dans le salon des Chenel à Nice
Détail dans le salon des Chenel à Nice
Détail au sol d'une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice
Une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice
Détail dans le salon des Chenel à Nice

TSF

And what about you, Lucillia?

Lucillia

I inherited my mother's passion for decorating.

Chantal

She was always behind me (laughs).

Lucillia

My mother used to change the decoration in my bedroom every year at the start of the new school year. We share a passion for themes and interior design. In fact, I always start a design with a theme. It must come from my childhood (laughs): I remember coming home one day and finding my mother had redecorated my bedroom with a garden theme. It was crazy.

Chantal

I'd spent hours tying bows with bouquets of flowers hanging on the walls...

TSF

What environment did you grow up in, and how did it influence your taste?

Lucillia

I'd say... a constantly changing environment.

Chantal

I threw her off balance with all my decorative schemes (laughs).

Lucillia

Now I have to redecorate all the time or move house because I can't stand being in the same environment for long. I need to change all the time.

Chantal

I used to do that at home, too. When we were working on apartments, for example.

Lucillia

As a child, however, I didn't have the same passion for antiques. On the contrary, I didn't like the idea that a piece had belonged to someone else. In fact, I didn't even sit on our sofas! I almost felt a kind of disgust. All my friends lived surrounded by new things, and I dreamed of doing so... I didn't like the old, dusty side of things at all. I'm the complete opposite today: I love hunting for antiques, and my mother and I go bargain hunting together a lot. Every Monday, in fact!

TSF

It seems to me that you’re also really interested in crafts and contemporary art.

Lucillia

I often work with contemporary architects, artists and craftspeople, especially in the region. I like to bring talent together, as I did for the Mimosa Brasserie in Nice, which is due to open soon. I also like to mix the contemporary with the old, it's true, and that's something my mother and I share. We like to recapture the soul of the place.

Chantal

Bringing places back to life, you might say, trying to get as close as possible to what it might have been like at a particular time. But with a contemporary interpretation.

TSF

Lucillia, didn't you ever want to get involved in the family gallery?

Lucillia

I've tried to get away from all that, so I've followed a few different career paths. I had a gallery for a short time, which focused on 1970s and 1980s design, but it didn't last. Was I trying to please my father, to be an antique dealer...maybe. But when it comes down to it, my thing is more the scenography and the settings, and the choice of objects, too. But selling has never been my strong point! I stayed in Nice until I was 22. After that, I went to the United States for a while, where I worked in fashion. I studied psychology, and in that, I'm probably different from the rest of the family (laughs).

Chantal

It's true that Lucillia always wanted to study.

Lucillia

Psychology and philosophy have always fascinated me. Much more so than art! Then I arrived in Paris, but I didn't intend to: it was because I didn't have a visa to stay in the United States. The fashion world in Paris didn't suit me at all. Originally, I wanted to do fashion design. But I soon realised that it wasn't for me. I've tried lots of things, but I still have this problem of wanting to change all the time. That's my Scorpio side, always wanting to be reborn. It was there that I co-founded a gallery, then stopped and co-founded ESO. I felt like I'd found my calling.

TSF

What sign are you, anyway?

Chantal

Taurus.

Lucillia

We complement each other very well. Taurus and Scorpio work well together! It's funny because I realised that Venus is dominant in each family member's astral chart. To sum up very quickly, Venus often motivates creative professions, such as decoration and the pursuit of beauty. For example, we're all very sensitive to certain details: my brothers to light, my mother and I to a reassuring environment made up of objects we love... It's funny that we all have this common denominator in the family. It's almost like the genetics of shared planets. Even on the day of my baccalaureate, I brought things in to put on my table because I was afraid of being in a classroom I didn't like (laughs). Objects reassure me.

Une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice
Dans une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice
Détail d'une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice
Détail d'une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice
Dans une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice
Détail d'une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice
Détail d'une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice
Une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice
Détail d'une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice
Détail d'une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice

Sous un dessin de Jean Cocteau, un serviteur muet gainé de cuir par Jacques Adnet.

Une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice
Détail d'une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice
Détail d'une chambre chez les Chenel à Nice

Sous un dessin de Jean Cocteau, un serviteur muet gainé de cuir par Jacques Adnet.

Détail dans le salon des Chenel à Nice

Chantal Chenel

I miss the trade...I rather miss decorating, you see.

TSF

When did you return to Nice, Lucillia?

Lucillia

I've never really liked Paris, and I always knew I was going to go back one day. In general, the people of Nice always end up going home! It's hard not to come back when you've grown up here.  For my part, things got a bit hectic, and the lockdowns speeded up the return. But it happened gradually. I'm much better here, I love nature, and I really need to be in a world that includes the sea and the mountains. It's vital. Besides, beauty is also a landscape, isn't it? Not just a setting, not just objects.

TSF

How did you find this house?

Lucillia

On Leboncoin, in 2018.

Chantal

Yes, 2018, during Dad's illness.

TSF

So, were you looking to move?

Lucillia

Initially, my parents were looking for a country house.

Chantal

And then, when we learned that Alain was ill, the plans changed, but we kept on looking. Besides, it gave him hope. Because sometimes cancer can be overcome. In any case, when we found this house, we liked it, and it was serene, even though the garden was in an appalling state! They were an American family. She couldn't stand France, but he had tears in his eyes when he signed.

TSF

What did you want to do here, in this house? What atmosphere did you want to create?

Lucillia

First and foremost, it's a family home full of people all the time. That's important for understanding the house. And not just family and friends: this is where I bring together artists from Nice and invite people to private sales. Eventually, we're thinking we could hold bigger events here. We're thinking about it. In any case, the idea is to make it a place that's constantly full of life.

Chantal

I miss the trade...I rather miss decorating, you see.

Lucillia

We love hunting for antiques and bargains and decorating together. We complement each other very well: my mother has more expertise, particularly in drawing, sketching and sometimes even making models. She's very good at envisaging spaces. I'm not particularly hands-on.

TSF

If you had one piece of decorating advice to give someone, what would it be?

Lucillia

To always preserve the original soul and theme of a place. For example, give it a seaside feel if it's near the sea. It always surprises me when I see people doing Mexican interiors, even though they're in the south of France. And I think the second piece of advice would probably be not to follow fashion.

Chantal

Yes, things go out of fashion. And then we get bored.

Lucillia

And a final word of advice... put your personality into it!

TSF

How would the two of you describe your style?

Lucillia

Eclectic. And we're not afraid to be original! All this fashion around the Mediterranean, for example, the coloured ceramics in every restaurant that opens in Paris and elsewhere, doesn't mean anything anymore; I've seen too much of it. When I returned to Nice, I realised that there were a lot of creative people who didn't know each other. I consider my role as an art director also involves seeking out talent and bringing it together. For example, on the artistic direction of the Mimosa Brasserie, I called on the architectural firm Studio Lelaz, whom I met at one of my events.

TSF

Tell us about this shared achievement, which is your bathroom, here.

Chantal

This house dates from the late 19th century. Its architecture dates back to the early days of the Belle Epoque: we wanted to recapture this idea in the bathroom but, of course, reinterpret it in our own way! First of all, we researched the decor of the period. It just so happens that my daughter and I love hotel bathrooms, especially old ones, and we've drawn a lot of inspiration from them. I also thought of my husband, who was so fond of one of the black and white bathrooms we designed a long time ago. It took us over six months to build this bathroom, and all the furniture is made to measure. The tiles on the floor are new, but they have that old-fashioned effect, which also depends a lot on how they're laid. They're not quite straight because neither Lucillia nor I like straight.

Lucillia

I think I hate things when they're really too neat. Besides, I'm uneasy about how perfect new, polished decorations are.

Chantal

We love life!

TSF

Tell us about an object or a work here that you particularly like here.

Chantal

My husband found this wooden sculpture by Janine Janet in a local auction room in the late 1990s. It's Daphne: her counterpart Apollo has disappeared. It was exhibited in Paris at the Salon des Tuileries. It was the centrepiece of a setting I created for the occasion. I'd bought some screens, which I'd painted burgundy red, and attached large roses in red fabric. I'd also designed some sort of large petal draperies. I can't tell you how many flowers and petals I used! (laughs) One year I won first prize for a decorative design, which was actually a drape. Ollivier has always loved draperies in the gallery. Me too. In fact, I like to drape myself. Shawls are among my favourite garments. I love the gesture.

TSF

What's your news, Lucillia?

Lucillia

The artistic direction and visual identity of Les Mimosas in Nice, for which I chose to work with designers from the South of France: studio Lelaz, Umami, Léa Ginac... I also go shopping for the venue. It's a very French brasserie: it's a kind of restaurant that we haven't really had in Nice yet. But as always, the idea was to respect the soul of the place, which is an old beach hut. I was able to express a lot of my inspirations and choose everything from the logo to the teaspoons.

TSF

Do you have a favourite piece from our collection?

Chantal & Lucillia

We really love the white Anna candlestick, which quickly found a place in the kitchen!

TSF

Do you have any good recommendations for places in Nice?

Chantal

My favourite shops are Baobab in Old Nice and Trésor Public. And the must-visit restaurant Davia, known for its Niçoise specialities.

Lucillia

The newly opened brasserie Les Mimosas and the restaurant Les Œillets.

A Nice chez Chantal et Lucillia Chenel
Une tapisserie de Lurçat chez les Chenel à Nice
A Nice chez Chantal et Lucillia Chenel
Une tapisserie de Lurçat chez les Chenel à Nice
A Nice chez Chantal et Lucillia Chenel
Une tapisserie de Lurçat chez les Chenel à Nice
A Nice chez Chantal et Lucillia Chenel
A Nice chez Chantal et Lucillia Chenel
A Nice chez Chantal et Lucillia Chenel
Lucillia Chenel chez elle à Nice
A Nice chez Chantal et Lucillia Chenel
A Nice chez Chantal et Lucillia Chenel
A Nice chez Chantal et Lucillia Chenel
A Nice chez Chantal et Lucillia Chenel
A Nice chez Chantal et Lucillia Chenel
Lucillia Chenel chez elle à Nice
A Nice chez Chantal et Lucillia Chenel
A Nice chez Chantal et Lucillia Chenel
Chantal Chenel et sa fille Lucillia Chenel chez elles à Nice
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