A rebirth in the sun. This is how the couple formed by Eva Nineuil – Creative Director of the Proper Hospitality brand – and Thibaud Coudriou – Head of Strategy for the 24 Hour Fitness sports group – describe their move to Los Angeles. Sports enthusiasts, nature lovers, fans of the beautiful waves of Malibu and the wild cliffs of the Santa Monica Mountains, their change of life in the City of Angels offered them a breath of fresh air and a profound renewal. The duo settled into a flat designed by architect Charles Ward. Legend has it that the little American soldier in the Second World War had a revelation about his future profession as he admired Reims Cathedral from the window of a French attic… The result is modernist lines designed in the style of the 1960s, counterbalanced, as here, by interiors with exposed frameworks and cathedral ceilings that allow the space to breathe. On the coast, the art-infused, craft interiors of Proper hotels contribute to the inimitable image of laid-back, creative West Coast luxury: an identity that Eva Nineuil and designer Kelly Wearstler are working on together. This inspired style is also reflected in the couple’s interior, which is all in wood, rattan, raffia and waxed concrete, albeit more minimalist, dotted with rugs and linens in warming tones, and where they obviously live barefoot, as a metaphor for the Venice Beach of their daily lives. A shoes-off tour.
Eva and Thibaud, could you introduce yourselves?
Following my academic training at business school and a work placement in Venezuela, I was given the opportunity to work alongside the famous chef Alain Ducasse in Paris. My mission was to design avant-garde restaurant spaces and culinary experiences. Currently, as Art Director at Proper Hospitality based in Los Angeles, I fuse design, aesthetics and branding to shape unique experiences and singular places.
Born and raised in Paris, I followed a path that took me from business school studies to a career in consultancy, before plunging into the world of sport. After working on international development for Amaury Sport Organisation, the organisers of the Tour de France, in Japan, Norway, the UK and Qatar, I flew to the United States to manage the development of the Tour of California, and then to steer the strategy of 24 Hour Fitness, a group of 300 gyms. Sport, physical activity, exploring the wonders of the human body, and inspiring a better lifestyle – that’s what makes me tick every day.
A few years ago you decided to leave France for the West Coast of the United States. Why did you make this choice?
We’ve always been attracted to foreign countries. After studying in Venezuela, I developed a taste for expatriation, while Thibaud cycled around thirty countries and gained considerable international experience thanks to his studies in New York, then in India and his involvement in the international development of ASO. However, it was a professional opportunity, the offer to orchestrate the Tour of California, that finally brought us to California. Los Angeles is a colourful and lively city. It’s a place where the glamour of Hollywood blends with great cultural diversity, weaving together luxury and diversity, and we love these contrasts. But LA is also a jewel case of nature, from the powerful waves of Malibu to the wild cliffs of the Santa Monica Mountains. When it comes to the arts, it’s also a very creative city. Galleries such as Hauser & Wirth, Blum & Poe, and David Kordansky Gallery are redefining the contours of contemporary art, while street art continues to colour the streets of the Art District. Finally, visionary architects are shaping the city, making Los Angeles a breeding ground for innovative design.
How did you experience the transition from French to American culture?
Our arrival in Los Angeles marked a renewal, a breath of emancipation, even a kind of small renaissance, far from the more traditional French models. Suddenly, every aspect of daily life was tinged with exaltation. In the United States, the uniqueness of an individual is often prioritised over his or her academic or professional qualifications. Moreover, the French origin still inspires a certain fascination in creative or hotel circles: sensitivity, a critical spirit and a rejection of the superfluous are still considered, rightly or wrongly, to be embodiments of the French exception. The American approach to work is incredibly dynamic and results-oriented, which is a constant source of stimulation. Kelly Wearstler – with whom I work on a daily basis – is undoubtedly a leading figure in the field of design. Her perception of aesthetics is incomparable, and she infuses all her projects with genuine originality. Her risk-taking in mixing styles, periods and textures enables her to design unique spaces that captivate the eye. Working alongside her, I ensure that the vision developed for the interior design of the various spaces is implemented consistently on a daily basis, and that all the initiatives associated with these living spaces – or with the Proper brand in general – are in line with this vision. This includes furniture layout, lighting, music, service sequences, uniforms, merchandising, partnerships with third-party brands, and so on. We also work closely together on the creation of visual content, from the selection of the photographer and stylist to the staging of photo shoots.
Tell us about your encounter with this seaside shack-style interior in which you’ve settled in Venice Beach.
When we arrived in Los Angeles, we were living in a loft, a concrete cube nestled in the heart of Downtown’s Art District, in stark contrast to our old Parisian home. However, discovering Venice and its ocean-facing slow lifestyle quickly won us over. We were lucky enough to find a flat of rare singularity, imbued with personality in this coveted district. It owes its undeniable charm to its architect, Charles Ward, who has skilfully woven an alliance between raw materials and clean lines, in a style reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright. There’s something both robust and gentle about the flat, a real quiet strength. A place where you can feel that every element has been thought out, chosen and arranged with infinite tenderness, a true declaration of love to the art of living.
Eva, how has your work as art director for the Proper Hotel group influenced the way you think about interior design?
The bold aesthetic and impeccable design of the Proper group, which stands out from more traditional American trends, has inspired me to approach the design of my space with a similar rigour and determination in the choice of materials and textures. I don’t aspire to copy or contradict my professional aesthetic environment, but rather to be enriched by this ability to transform a seemingly chaotic mosaic into a universe that is both coherent and visually impactful.
Wood, waxed concrete: your living spaces are characterised by their sobriety and minimalism. What does it say about you and your lifestyle?
Our aim was to let Ward’s bold design speak for itself without being overwhelmed by furniture. So we opted for an understated approach, favouring neutral colours and soft, refined textures. Imagine Moroccan rugs under your feet, soft sofas to sink into, linen sheets to wrap you in. This is our way of making this minimalist interior warmer, more ‘alive’. In perfect harmony with the spirit of the place, we’ve filled in what was missing to transform it into a welcoming, unpretentious space. We’re convinced that a certain kind of asceticism can bring a gentle, serene sobriety to our lives. Our living space reflects our desire for simplicity.
Do you have a favourite piece in our collection – or one that you think would look great in your home?
I like stools in general. I like their straight, sleek lines and their elegant, discreet design. Their presence enhances a space without overloading it or obstructing the view, unlike a chair. The Chiesa stool has that timeless elegance and combines materials that I particularly like: noble wood and textured fabric. I’ve also fallen in love with the Acqua terrycloth beach towel, with its pink and green stripes, which smells so good on holiday.
What do you think is the ideal programme for a sunny weekend on Venice beach?
We kick off our weekend with breakfast at Gjusta Bakery. We then take a leisurely stroll along the beach, between the piers of Venice and Santa Monica. In the afternoon, we hop on our motorbike for a ride through the Topanga canyons, the winding road offering breathtaking views. In the late afternoon, we head back to the coast for an aperitif on the Malibu Pier at Malibu Farm or the Soho Beach House, with the sunset over the ocean as a backdrop. The day often ends with a nice dinner at home with friends and friends of friends… On Sundays, after a trip to the beach, we have brunch at Gjelina’s on Abbot Kinney. We then often head off to explore the eastern part of the city, which is made up of hills, and where the warmer, more enveloping temperatures give our Sunday afternoons a summer holiday feel. To end the weekend on a high, we head up to the rooftop of the Santa Monica Proper for a nightcap.
Where will you be meeting us next?
This summer, on a romantic holiday in Marrakech, at Riad El Fenn. In September, I’m off to Maui in Hawaii, where I’m redesigning a hotel that has recently joined the portfolio of establishments managed by the Proper group.
What does The Socialite Family mean to you?
The taste of an era.
There’s something both robust and gentle about the flat, a real quiet strength.
Photography : Constance Gennari – Text : Elsa Cau @thesocialitefamily