These are people who make their home interior a showcase for their art. Morgane Urbain and Emmanuel Cruellas, the two inspiring and inspired founders of the Bonhomme design studio, have made their loft into a veritable treasure trove. A highly refined setting that includes a careful balance of high-grade materials, works of art and personal collections of vintage furniture. These finds come from a wider range of objects that have been curated for their new project, Beau, an online store that offers an exclusive range of expertly handcrafted objects. A new family adventure – this is shared with the mother from Lyon who hunts for some of the antiques they suggest – like fulfilling a vital need: in return, they make the home look “artistic”. Using high-grade materials and excellent workmanship. The punchy, one-syllable name – Le Beau – reflects how these two exercise their skilful designing profession in parallel. Far from being a trivial cause in their view, the whole concept is something that they outwardly admit as being a true philosophy to them. “Beauty (…) plays a crucial role in maintaining our balance”. A harmony that these two inseparable partners nurture by enhancing every corner of their immaculate home, where the maxim “less is more” takes centre stage. Just outside the bustling parts of Paris, this is where our duo maintains the “feeling of always being together” thanks to a wide open area offering space to breathe. Their duplex is punctuated with wide windows that let in plenty of light to allow the eyes to wonder smoothly between rooms. Considered as a harmonious whole, the high-grade materials such as wood and caning add splashes of warmth to their artistic retreat. “Their presence is vital for creating a sound balance” says a smiling Morgane. So syngery is what we stand for. That is a watchword for this interior that reflects the creative skill of this couple, as well as for the design and architectural feat nestled in this private home in Pré-Saint-Gervais.
Morgane, Emmanuel: could you introduce yourselves, please?
Emmanuel and I are both from Lyon originally. We came to Paris together when we finished our studies 12 years ago at the height of our ambition, in search of professional and creative fulfilment. We’re both passionate about our professions, and we complement each other perfectly. We’ve always shared our respective interests. Since that time, our paths have continued to grow closer together as we have chosen to link our professional lives through a number of totally fulfilling entrepreneurial adventures.
The combination of our personalities makes us a strong and enthusiastic team. Everything is easier with two people and as a family!
What is your background?
We have a background in applied arts, and after several years of working in fashion for Morgane and digital design for me, we decided to establish our own design studio in 2013, Bonhomme. We wanted to devise creative, bespoke projects that reflect each brand. Having developed strong skills in digital design, we have gradually extended our expertise to the production of images, brand identity, and recently interior design and are now able to assist a brand with its identity in all media.
Our latest project Beau, an e-shop selling quality handmade and vintage objects found in France, calls upon all our professional skills and also offers us the opportunity to unite our two respective passions: hunting for second-hand bargains and photography.
Your new project is called “Beau”. How did you come to choose that name?
We chose to name this project “Beau” because Morgane and I are convinced of the power of aesthetics in our daily lives. Far from being a futile preoccupation in our eyes, the notion of beauty, although specific to each individual, plays an essential role in our well-being and equilibrium. We believe that the designer’s job is to shape the world around us so that it tends towards a form of harmony. In our interiors, objects form an ensemble, a whole, which contributes to the atmosphere, the ambience of a room. Decoration influences our mood and sense of well-being. Moreover, this year’s pandemic situation, punctuated by successive lockdowns, has heightened our need for gentleness and harmony in our homes.
Whenever a new object appears in our decor, I like to take the time to integrate it. I enjoy designing spaces by combining elements from different worlds to achieve perfect harmony.
And on a lighter note, we found it amusing to hear a phrase like: “Have you seen my new vase? It’s a beauty from Beau” (laughs)
Your work as a curator of antique objects runs parallel to your digital branding activity. Did you feel the need to return to work made by human hands?
It’s true that not coming from a digital background, I’ve been feeling the need to get back to the “physical” for some time. What’s more, bargain hunting is a family passion. I grew up in the tradition of furnishing our homes with accessible but unique objects. My mother passed this passion on to me and nourished my taste. She helps us in what we do as she searches out treasures – in part – for our selections. Beau was also the opportunity to enjoy a new family adventure!
In our interiors, objects form an ensemble, a whole, which contributes to the atmosphere, the ambience of a room. Decoration influences our mood and sense of well-being.
Beau’s offer is a reflection of your interior. Many of your wood and ceramic finds can be found there. Can you explain your interest in these two materials?
Work with clay and wood encompasses crafts that are both age-old and very contemporary and which particularly appeal to me. I like the primitive side they evoke in us. They’re also materials that have considerable presence and provide a lot of warmth. They are essential to create balance in a sleek, contemporary interior like ours.
With Beau, we also want to rediscover the iconic skills of the artisans, from the glassworkers in Biot to Vallauris ceramics and the products of the brutalist movement.
You seem particularly attracted to brutalism; why is that?
The movement perfectly combines two notions that I hold dear: refinement and the beauty of the material.
This would be the famous expression “Less is more” applied to crafts.
Designers, artists: whose work has also had a particular influence on you and on your work?
Many of Charlotte Perriand’s designs spring to mind. At the exhibition in her honour at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, I was particularly taken by the impact of Japan in her work. On a completely different note, I can’t get enough of the works of Pierre Soulages. The interaction of light with these traces of dark paint is astonishing.
I have great admiration for the brutalist architects, especially Oscar Niemeyer. Visiting the interior of the Communist Party headquarters is a remarkable experience. Our recent holiday on the island of Lanzarote also provided us with a nice surprise: the unique and magnificent work of César Manrique. This discovery was a real revelation as his work was previously unknown to us. After the first visit, we devoted the entire stay to finding out more about him.
Tell us how you came across your home.
We caught the renovation bug when we bought our first property. After that, we were eager to find a place that would allow us to bring our vision to life on a larger scale. To create a distinctive interior design project that embodies our values and passions.
The principle search criterion was rather abstract, which made things more complicated: the potential to be created. We had just made an offer on a beautiful 1970s apartment with an uninterrupted view of Paris, but the visit to the loft was an eye-opener. The open space and high ceiling appealed to us instantly. I immediately imagined it much as you see it today.
How did you plan it?
We produced all the plans and drawings ourselves. We carried out the work with the help of a very competent contractor with whom we are used to working.
That moment is always a good memory for us. We particularly like the moment when the demolition is complete, and the bare space reveals its full potential. At that moment, anything is possible!
And furnishing it?
We believe it’s essential to find a new way of consuming, and we’ve chosen to favour as much as possible sustainable and responsible decoration, from handcrafted pieces to and second-hand items. The functional and structural elements, including the staircase and the glass roof, were made to measure by a local craftsman. We have mainly found or built our own furniture and decorative items, such as the dining table, which is a combination of some plaster legs we came across and a custom-made oak top.
The design of our living space proved to be a trigger for the birth of Beau.
What does it say about you?
The fact that we have opted for as much open space as possible is a good indication of our way of life. We like the sensation of space and the feeling of always being together, even when we are busy with different activities.
When we entertain our friends, I like to see them take over the space. Small groups form in various parts of the room, which I find extremely lively and friendly.
You are inveterate bargain hunters; can you give us three tips for successful bargain hunting?
One of the first things – in my opinion – is that you shouldn’t limit yourself to recognised or signed pieces. You shouldn’t hesitate to trust your own taste and always put quality before style. I’ll add one of my mother’s precious pieces of advice: “Don’t give yourself a precise objective; let your gaze wander over the objects on display and let emotion be your guide.”
What does The Socialite Family mean to you?
An excellent, inspirational magazine and a publication that is bang up-to-date, both in its collections and in its values.
Where will we see you in the coming months?
We’re working on plans for a hair salon that will open in the heart of the Marais by this summer!
Pictures : Valerio Geraci – Text : Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily