The story of Hadrian Bartherotte is intrinsically linked of Cap Ferret. It’s the land that his well-known...
A world without colour is unimaginable for Louisa Rowland. The Children’s Clothing Designer behind the brand ABC123me was born and raised in England. And if you look closely you can detect the little hints of her heritage in the details of the fabrics she chooses. A very English heritage inherited from her mother who had deep admiration for the traditional style of Colefax and Fowler. Cap Ferret is the place where she and her family have set up a base for the school holidays, a base which has become a home. Louise built this natural haven herself with reused wood, and it is a veritable ode to creativity and simple pleasures. Immense photographs accentuate the imposing spaces, while the odd tile here and there brings an imprint of the unexpected to a bathroom in muted tones. Modernising, energising, Louisa Rowland’s reworked Bartherotte cabin exudes serenity. You can imagine dashing out to catch the surf, board under arm, on a tropical weekend in July. With the beach a stone’s throw away, so tiny it’s almost inaccessible, you simply have no choice but to go. Salt in the air, summer breeze in your hair, a well-deserved ice-cream at the Buffet de la Gare is on the cards, before collapsing on the jazzy cushion on the terrace next to a cool blue swimming pool. Pack your bags for a British family adventure in the most gorgeous of French settings.
Louisa, could you present yourself?
I’m the mother of 9 year old twins – Hardy and Elodie – who are the loves of my life, the wife of a very busy lighting cameraman and the owner of a beautiful but excessively demanding Siberian cat. Workwise, before I began ABC123me my career was in television, starting as a researcher and then finally as a casting director. After I had the twins and saw the choice of boys’ clothing on the market, I decided it was time to start a new chapter!
Tell us about your lifestyle?
We live between our homes in London and Cap Ferret in the school holidays – although I try to avoid August there because it’s so crowded and the village changes its personality. The way we live? We live very busy lives in London, the children too, and so Cap Ferret is our escape, our downtime. In Cap Ferret we stay home, play in our garden, read, go to the market and eat in restaurants where the food is good and the people are kind. It’s also a place where we get to invite and spend time with our friends and neighbours.
Describe a typical day on holiday?
A typical day definitely depends on the holiday and the time of year – so at Easter or during La Toussaint we take things very quietly but in summer the village determines the pace because it is so busy, so we have to be far more focused in our way of living. In summer the children have holiday camps in the mornings – surfing, skateboarding, sailing school or horse riding and then we will all eat lunch together, usually at home in the garden because the village can be hot and hectic. I go surfing first thing, then to the market to pick up some fish and vegetables for lunch before meeting my husband (if he’s here) for a small beer and tapas at Nathalie and Thomas’ Tapas bar. If the children are with us, they will queue for Dunes Blanches at Chez Pascal and hope to be given lollipops from the grocer or the butcher. After lunch, I might have a nap on the sofa while the children read for an hour or so – given the choice they would probably never stop – before we either go to the Plage des Americains behind us or play in our teeny tiny pool. The afternoons tend to be quiet. At the end of every day, when the sun is cooler and the beaches less crowded, I will end my day with a swim from the little beach at the end of our lane – Elodie will most likely come with me as she loves the cold Atlantic water as much as I do. Sometimes we’re alone there if not we’ll bump into one of our neighbours and arrange dinner or an apero for later in the week. Once we get home, whoever else is there will get into our big wood bath before we prepare dinner or walk to one of our favourite restaurants, very often Pinasse Cafe. On the way home, we stop at Buffet de La Gare for an ice cream or a crepe. No other ice cream comes close and it would be fair to say that we are very very regular customers there. Lastly, once the kids are in bed and the house is quiet, we sit quietly with the doors open to the garden and listen to the birds, the trees and the distant sound of the ocean.
You can be surrounded by the most beautiful things but if the house has no heart and no warmth the rooms will feel empty.
How did you find yourself in Cap Ferret?
We began renting in Cap Ferret 8 years ago when we fell in love with a beautiful villa in the 44s there. After renting for two weeks, we were smitten with the village. After 3 years of renting, we saw a small advert for the house we live in now – once we had seen the location, we were sold. While the house is in the forest, the beach is at the end of our lane and the village is 2 minutes’ walk away. While we’ve both been lucky enough to travel a lot, there is something about the village, the people, the Atlantic and the wildness of the beaches that draws us back. As I drive away from the airport towards the coast and I see the pine trees, I feel happy and that is the same feeling I had the very first time we came here.
In terms of decoration, how would you describe your style?
My style is eclectic, textured, rich and colourful with very strong influences from my travel, my childhood in Mexico and my husband’s Indian heritage. Beautiful paintings, prints or photography also play an important role for me in the decoration of a house. I’m also very conscious that a house should be a home and I think that’s something that people are drawn to in my decoration. You can be surrounded by the most beautiful things but if the house has no heart and no warmth the rooms will feel empty and soulless – colour, texture and the owners’ input are key elements to changing this and making a home.
The artist of your wildest dreams?
For the everyday – Richard Mosse, Marchand et Meffre, Taryn Simon, Simon Norfolk, Edward Burtynsy and Teresa Margolles but I discover new photographers every day that I fall in love with.
The era you love the most?
For furniture I love mid century pieces, wood chairs and tables are a real passion for me – I currently have three pinterest boards dedicated to them. Philip Arctander, Alf Svensson, Hans Wegner, Charlotte Periand, Ponti and Yamakawa, their chairs and tables fill my dreams. We have the same Wegner table and Wishbone chairs in both London and Cap Ferret. When it comes to fabrics, my choices are more about their provenance and the space where they will exist rather than the period – so I like to mix vintage finds, suzanis, kilims or frazadas with modern prints from Tissus d’Helene. When it came to finding the perfect cushions for our outdoor sofa, I sourced old cuts of vintage online to make mix and match pillows of different sizes and colours. The artwork should be from anywhere and everywhere – it must just be what you love as then you will always find a place for it. In our London home we have hung a very dark black crucifixion oil paiting by Craigie Aitchison – a 20th century artist above a Louis XVI loveseat, framed it with mid Century side tables complete with Industrial German desk lamp and faced it opposite a 21st print by Harland Miller. While it shouldn’t work, it really does. The mix is what’s interesting.
Could you give 2 or 3 of your favourite places in Ferret?
I love all of Pinasse’s restaurants and the food and service in all 4 is exceptional. Pushed to choose one, I have a particular fondness for the fish burger in La Cabane – it’s my dirty secret. Popie’s is the perfect holiday shop and I have been buying swim shorts for Hardy, Liberty print dresses for Elodie and pyjamas for both of them from Berangere for the last 8 years. Her stand in the outdoor market is always mobbed but she always has time to chat plus nobody does Liberty print better. Lastly, it’s not an address but the is a teeny tiny beach at the end of our lane where I swim at the end of the day is a place I hold dear to my heart. Its’ old wooden staircase is worn and tired, the trees and grasses are overgrown, its’ barely big enough to accommodate 10 people but there’s something about the graffiti on the walls, the plastic dinghy lying on its’ side and the stillness, if you’re lucky enough to be there alone, that is very special.
Which holds the largest place in your heart : clothing or decoration?
I have been decorating since I first left home and went to University – I sanded my bedroom’s floorboards put up the wallpaper myself and my passion for interiors is still as strong. Without realizing it, I think I have been very influenced by my mothers’ style despite the fact we mostly have very different taste. While she has always leaned towards a more traditional Colefax and Fowler approach to interiors, beautiful chintzes complimented with 19th Century furniture – which is what I grew up with – my taste is far more Mid Century, however my love of colour, texture and oppositional but complimentary fabrics together has definitely evolved from the Colefax school of thought and the homes I grew up in. Interiors have probably also influenced ABC123me… more than fashion. I’m definitely far more aware of the trends in interiors than I am in fashion, or certainly children’s fashion, which is perhaps why we’ve often been compared to brands with cleaner simpler lines such as Acne Studio or APC by our customers. This also rings true for colour influences – mine have tended to evolve come from the interior magazines and cuttings I stockpile at home. As for the balance between the two over the years I’ve been asked many times to help decorate friends’ or friends of friends’ homes and it’s never been the right time or the right project… I have recently been approached for an important project though that would be very hard to say no to. We’ll see.
Which languages do your children speak? What’s your link with France?
The children and I speak only in French together and have done so for the last 7/8 years. Although I’m not French born, I was at the Lycee in London from the age of 5 and France and the French are a huge part of my and also my sisters’ lives as a result – I hope very much for the same for our children. Hardy, Elodie and my nephew Felix are now all at the Lycee here and I’m proud of how much they love it and how happy they are – I have only great things to say about the French education system.
Photography: Constance Gennari – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily