Le Perche sarthois never fails to captivate Parisian souls with its charms. Whether they are putting down roots or visiting. Lucas Madani and his wife Marine Gabily were no exception to this rule. During the first lockdown, one half of the architectural duo Hauvette & Madani, and the former communications specialist, undertook the renovation of a mill that has stood for over six centuries, just two hours from Paris. A bucolic hamlet hidden away in the hollow of a valley, and far away “from all the worries of everyday life”. Initially envisaged as a place of retreat where friends and family could escape at weekends, the building, which the couple renovated step by step, soon became an intimate refuge that they wanted to open up to as many people as possible. From the La Bergerie suite to the duplex and the main living rooms: each space is available for private rental, offering a promise of escape. Simple, humble and beautiful. These carefully restored spaces have been designed with simplicity and balance in mind. Marine has collected a selection of vintage items that sit harmoniously within the white walls with their timbered details and a palette of marble sourced from the four corners of France. Her chosen furnishings include Patrick Gingembre’s fibreglass desk, and textiles like the 1970s Pierre Frey curtains. Genuine vintage gems, together with a few contemporary creations. The result is a timeless setting that seems to have always been there, and where the essential intention is to feel like being at home, but better. “Otherwise why would you go there?”
Lucas and Marine, can you introduce yourselves?
I’m the co-founder of Hauvette & Madani, an interior design and architecture studio that I set up with my associate, Samantha, in 2010. Initially, we designed stunning residences in France before gravitating towards hotel projects. We’re now delighted to have clients all over Europe.
With ten years of communication management in the ready-to-wear sector, I have developed a growing taste for vintage decor and objects, which I incorporate into 21st-century styles.
Today we are visiting your latest project in the Perche region, an old building with an adjoining mill, which has been turned into a holiday home that you also occasionally make available in its entirety to the lucky ones who venture here. Tell us how this project came about.
We started looking for a country house in January 2020, and after visiting a few, we came across this magical place. We didn’t really have a specific area in mind; we just wanted to be a couple of hours from Paris. I’ll never forget the day we discovered Le Moulin: we walked through the gate and looked at each other… and we just knew. This was it. I immediately fell in love with it. A tiny hamlet of four buildings hidden in a valley. We feel calm here, and far away from all the worries of everyday life; it’s a perfect haven where we can make memories. Lockdown allowed us to finalise the sale and draw up the interior plans and configuration, the idea being to take advantage of the existing architecture to breathe new life into the spaces that would become our guest suites. They are self-contained and quiet, places to relax before meeting up again in the common living area. Today the mill is, above all, our country home, inspired by the desire to create our own memory factory, a place where we can reconnect with nature and spend time with our family and friends. But it’s also your holiday home, two or three weekends a month! The property has been designed to be rented in its entirety for families or groups looking to get away from it all for events, wellness retreats or photo shoots!
Lucas, you are half of the creative duo Hauvette & Madani, how is your signature architectural style expressed here?
My first thought was to create a fairly bare and elegantly simple place. I thought that a house in the countryside wouldn’t need as much work as a renovation in Paris or similar. But, once we started the project, I had to rely on my professional knowledge. The more I talked with Marine and Samantha, the more detail and comfort were added to each room. We used wood to contrast with the off-white walls and create the right balance, something we often do. A range of marbles sourced across France adds elegance and pops of colour. Furniture from different periods and styles completes the look. Like our professional projects, the idea was to create the right balance. After months of work, everything is in its right place as if it had always been this way.
I immediately fell in love with this mill. A tiny hamlet of four buildings hidden in a valley. We feel calm here, and far away from all the worries of everyday life (...)
Any anecdotes you’d like share about the surprises encountered during the work?
We didn’t really have any surprises during the interior work, but dealing with the surrounding environment was a learning curve! We had to learn to adapt to the terrain and pay attention to the different seasons. Access to the house is quite limited, especially in winter, so getting materials delivered wasn’t easy! We also saw our car slide the slope and end up in a tree, all while we were pushing the workers’ truck which was bogged down! (Laughs).
Marine, how were you involved in the renovation that you undertook with your partner?
I was a bit like one of his clients (laughs)! But the design process was quite simple; I’d give Lucas a broad outline, and he’d turn my ideas into perfect solutions! And then, during the works, he managed the workers and technical side, while I scoured Le Bon Coin for pieces that would easily find their place in a mill that is over 600 years old.
As for the rest of the sheepfold, the mill duplex and the main living rooms, which designs did you decide to show off in these different spaces?
On the vintage side, there’s a fibreglass desk by Patrick Ginger, Pierre Frey curtains from the 1970s, armchairs from Baumann France, a high stool by Olavi Hänninen, a sconce by Jacques Biny edited by Lita, the latest edition of François Azambourg’s Bugatti armchair for Capellini… the list is constantly changing because we frequently add new pieces! The buying process at the Moulin doesn’t follow my usual process: Normally, when I need an office I’ll order new stuff and get it delivered as quickly as possible. Whereas here, with Lucas, we’ll look for a vintage piece or find a designer who has created an item with attractive lines. So yes, it’s a long, more tedious process, and from time to time we’ll need to slightly restore objects, but it’s still a pleasure to discover a forgotten creation, to acquire a piece that may have marked the history of design and that will become part of our heritage.
My first thought was to create a fairly bare and elegantly simple place.
Here, with Lucas, we’ll look for a vintage piece or find a designer who has created an item with attractive lines.
Do you have a room that you particularly enjoyed decorating?
The living room/dining area was really important, and we particularly enjoyed discussing it and decorating it. We both like to cook, and this house was made for big gatherings, so we created a layout that matched our lifestyle. The large arches divide the spaces without separating them, and light pours in from all sides. Every time we thought about the living room, the idea of being in this stunning space excited us. The choice of furniture was instinctive and about creating balance…
In order to provide an immersive experience for the happy holidaymakers who come here, you have paid great attention to detail, even offering some of the Moulin’s furniture for sale and your website also recommends the region’s best places to visit. What inspires you about a local way of life?
It’s all about the details! The Moulin is designed to be more than just a home-from-home. If not, why bother staying here? Here, we follow a slow lifestyle, and we also focus on upcycling to breathe new life into furniture. Here more than elsewhere, we don’t become attached to objects, so pretty much everything is for sale to people who come to stay. Enjoying a local life is ingrained in me. I come from a small town in Deux-Sèvres where my father has a brandy distillery. When I was a little girl, I’d visit the distillery and watch him barter. For example, he’d lend someone an agricultural machine in exchange for farm produce. So today, it feels normal to find the best places and pass their details on to my clients, so they can consume locally, learn where things come from, appreciate the taste of a great product and understand that you can’t have everything in any season.
Where will we find you in the coming months?
Maybe in a new house, close to the Moulin!
It’s all about the details! The Moulin is designed to be more than just a home-from-home. If not, why bother staying here?
Here more than elsewhere, we don’t become attached to objects, so pretty much everything is for sale to people who come to stay.
Photography : Constance Gennari – Text : Juliette Bruneau @thesocialitefamily