It stands lost amid the surrounding countryside, encircled by tall pine and olive trees with twisted trunks, grimacing oaks, lavender and wild thyme, like something out of a novel by Giono, Magnan or Pagnol. But the (beautiful) cliché ends there. Of course, the Luberon, its massif and its almost magical natural environment are there to enjoy. But Bertrand Waldbillig – a specialist 1970s dealer at the Saint-Ouen flea market – and Michele Bulgherini – creative director of a Parisian agency – fell in love at first sight with a 1974 architect-designed house. Forget the blue-shuttered Provencal farmhouse: welcome to the Parisian couple’s well-defined, elegant, artisanal and, above all, architectural taste. Here, wood, steel and plaster mingle with antique pieces and elements preserved from the old house to create genuine harmony. Like a story of heritage and respect. In which two different perspectives meet.
Bertrand, Michele, could you introduce yourselves, please?
This is my third career change, but I’m still very much involved in all the areas that fascinate me: classic cars, watchmaking and now 20th-century decoration and furniture. There’s a clear common thread: beautiful objects, their history, and how they’re presented. My associate Clémence and I offer a wide selection of furniture and lighting from the 1940s to the 1980s at Serpette in the Saint-Ouen flea market. With a predilection for Italy in the 1970s, for example, the pair of Cornaro armchairs designed by Carlo Scarpa that we currently have on display.
I was born in Rome, and I studied art direction there. I arrived in Paris at the age of 23 and continued my career in a variety of agencies, mainly in the luxury sector. I’m now the creative director at Egon Paris, my friend Séverine Breton’s agency specialising in wine, spirits and lifestyle in general. My interests include contemporary dance, ancient and modern drawing, decorating and, of course, our dog Tobia.
How did your personal tastes develop?
How have your tastes changed over the years?
This was brought home to us by our immediate environment: here, the house is surrounded by natural countryside.
Bertrand, when we last met, we agreed to meet in six years’ time… What’s changed since then?
You didn’t come from here originally. Why did you choose the Luberon?
We knew a bit about the region because we have friends locally. I also wanted to be closer to part of my family who had settled in Provence. Just for fun, I put out a fairly wide alert on property websites. This house was among the first responses I received.
We visited it one day in December, which isn’t ideal for a house in the south… But it was love at first sight! We walked through the door and immediately assumed it was ours.
Tell us about the house.
How did you design your interior?
We don’t really have a defined taste… It fluctuates. It’s a mixture: some objects have been here for a very long time, others are acquired on a whim, and sometimes pieces become part of our interior after a long period of reflection… A home comes together over time.
What’s important to me now is the material, the craftsmanship and the architectural side of the object. In fact, I’m crazy about architect-designed furniture.
Nature is the star here.
If you had to tell us about one place in the house, it would be…
The fireplace in the living room! It’s the starting point for decorating the home and also its nerve centre. Everything revolves around it, from the décor to everyday life. Originally, we wanted to change a lot of things, particularly the fireplace, which we felt was more in the spirit of Valentine Schlegel. But then, as we lived in the house, and particularly during the successive lockdowns, we realised that very little needed to be changed. So all we did was freshen it up, and it’s one of the elements that really sets the tone for the rest of the interior and our daily lives.
How do you feel about The Socialite Family?
Behind the term “family” lies the broader issue of living, of the life hidden within a house. It’s not just a question of decoration and stylistic choices; what makes the difference, what gives life to spaces, is the people who live in them. Decoration choices are a reflection of the soul, of a presence. The Socialite Family is all about bringing decoration to life.
If you had to choose one piece from the collection for yourselves, what would it be?
Do you have any favourite places locally you’d be willing to share with us?
The idea is to avoid creating a contrast between “new” and “old”. On the contrary, we decided not to touch the existing structure, the spirit of the house.
Photography : Jeanne Perrotte – Text : Elsa Cau @thesocialitefamily