Introducing yourself is quite a complex exercise! I love life. Celebrating it at every moment, dipping my hands in flour, sitting around a table with friends, wine, people, art in all its forms, laughing, loving. I established Maison Joumana in 2020 in Bordeaux. It’s a place that combines art and cuisine with a good, strong dose of Lebanese hospitality.
I grew up between Beirut and Paris with an epicurean father who loved to party and entertain friends over good food and good wine. My childhood was punctuated by the laughter of friends and the clink of glasses despite the suffering and drama of war and exile. He was an art lover, sensitive to what we call beauty, but above all, he passed on to me this ability to grasp happiness in every corner where it could be found and to see beauty everywhere. My mother, following the war, was more downbeat. With her, I learnt to face and look at the darker side of us and to tame it. She was the first female criminologist in Lebanon and defended women’s rights. She was an early feminist. It was from her that I inherited my independence of spirit and my taste for freedom. I enjoy surrounding myself with beauty. Furniture, paintings, for example… But what touches me the most is the beauty I perceive in the people around me. I also marvel at the beauty of fruit and vegetables, which is why I love to cook them. The beautiful and the good have always been associated with a form of happiness. So my life revolves around these two axes!
This job seems new from a professional point of view, but it’s what I have always done. So it’s actually more about continuity than novelty. I have always cooked for large gatherings, loved to entertain, welcome and share. Among these friends, there are some artists whose work touches me. This led me to establish Maison Joumana to link everything together so that I could devote my days and not just my evenings to it.
It was a truly magical encounter! I was charmed immediately by this building; it gave me the impression of being in an old Beirut house. I immediately wanted to write part of its story. The ancient interior doors and the lush garden seemed immediately familiar. Just like a bird’s nest, I don’t think a house is necessarily home forever; I’m just passing through. We build something, we grow in one way or another, and we move on to new horizons. I’ve lived in many places, starting with a studio and then a small flat in Bagnolet. After that, I kept moving. I enjoyed refurbishing these spaces, giving them a new lease of life, staying for a while, feeling good there, and then leaving to start another project.
These are two worlds that appeal to me, that bring me joy, that make me feel good. As instinct and emotion guide my life, I naturally wanted to combine these two worlds. It was obvious. So I gathered everything together around the kitchen – life! – and the table, a pretext for meeting the artists who inspire me. Lamia Ziade, a great Lebanese artist, created the logo, and I hope to share other adventures with her. Virginie Clavereau, whose emotional approach thrills me, not only exhibited but also did a residency and a performance. We are continuing to work together on future projects. Ryoko Sekiguchi, whose writing I admire, came to present her book on Beirut, and we organised a Lebanon Japan meal. New adventures will follow with other friends, including Hanna Benmeyer, the graphic designer and ceramist, Tracy Zeidan, a truly multi-talented woman who is also an architect, scenographer and graphic designer, Arnold d’Alger….. and many others, I hope!
I was immediately charmed by this building, which gave me the impression of being in an old Beirut house (...) The old interior doors and the lush garden immediately seemed familiar to me.
You literally welcome people into your home. What does this change, cause, make concrete in your relationship with others?
It’s hard to say because I don’t feel any boundaries, and it doesn’t change anything for me in my relationship with others. You’ll have to ask the people who come (laughs). For me, intimacy is something else. And if it had to be characterised by a place, it would be my bedroom… And at the moment, I don’t receive guests there (smile), well, maybe, but that’s another story (laughs). I’ve always welcomed people into my home, and it’s not a restaurant or open to the street. Meals, meetings with artists and exhibitions can be arranged on a private basis. You have to book beforehand, so ultimately, that’s where the boundary lies. It’s like, for example, Arnold D’Alger from the bazar d’alger (which I love!). He welcomes people into his home for workshops without thinking twice about it. My children were used to having people in the house all the time, so it wasn’t a big change for them either.
It’s eclectic because it wasn’t consciously planned to be beautiful or to fit together, but to respond to my emotions. For this house, where I settled after a long trip to Lebanon, during which I lost my brother and my mother, I wanted to recreate the family home atmosphere that we could never have in Beirut. So I mixed furniture that belonged to my parents with other antique or vintage pieces I found. There are also some things I keep as time goes by. There is a happy melancholic atmosphere, I think.. I like to be surrounded by objects from the past; it allows me to be more in the present moment: the objects carry this history and this trace, and my head can then download it. Although the traces of my past may disappear from my eyes, they remain firmly embedded in my thoughts. Despite appearances, this isn’t a way of being focused on the past but rather my way of accepting it and being here now.
Each room is my favourite, depending on the time of day or my state of mind.
For a pleasant stroll, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Puces de St Michel flea market and the Chartrons district. For a meal, Symbiose, Bibi, au bon jaja, or soif. To eat, buy and drink wine, le flacon st Michel, which also hosts excellent chefs in residence. And out of season, go for a walk along the basin or the ocean at Le Ferret.
In Paris! And if the context allows it, in London, Athens and Beirut of course (we have to start dreaming, don’t we?)
Keeping up with what’s going on, inspiration, a desire to move forward!
Photography: Eve Campestrini – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily