I had the feeling of reconnecting with myself here, of being more aware of the things around me.
Stéphanie, can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Stéphanie Zwicky, I’m originally from Switzerland and I’ve been living in France for seventeen years now. I’m the mother of two children and I have been writing a fashion, decoration and beauty blog for fifteen years.
Why did you leave Paris for the countryside and Lyon?
We left Paris nearly four years ago with a deep desire to slow down in our lives and to offer our children a lighter and more nature-oriented living environment. We were suffocating in Paris, which from my point of view was unsuitable for them. I grew up in the countryside in Switzerland and I have wonderful memories of it; I wanted my children to be able to experience that. Being close to the neighbours, having friends to play with in the street, going to school on foot or by bike, focusing on the seasons and having lots of animals, all of these encouraged us to leave the capital and make our dreams come true.
How has this impacted your family life and your personal plans?
Living in the countryside is a bit like feeling you’re on holiday, knowing it’s possible to disconnect very quickly. I had the feeling of reconnecting with myself here, of being more aware of the things around me. It’s allowed me to find myself again, to take account of my own desires and to develop projects that have been important to me for a long time. I’ve gone back to playing sports regularly, and I consume differently, locally and essentially organically. Our family has returned to simpler and more spontaneous things.
What is your philosophy?
To always savour the moment.
I wanted a real family home, warm, bright and welcoming. I wanted it to be the focal point for great parties inside and out!
How has Big Beauty – now Stephanie Zwicky – the blog you started 15 years ago evolved?
My blog has evolved considerably and, since 2010, it has allowed me to become independent, being on my own. Although at the beginning I only wrote about fashion, for about six years now my blog has been more focused on decoration and beauty. However, the editorial line remains the same, with the same desire to share and interact with my readers, who, for the most part, have been faithful since the beginning. Even though today social networks play an important part, Instagram occupies a large part of my time and allows me to have more direct contact with the people who follow me. For eight years now, the blog has been named after me, Stéphanie Zwicky, which avoids a kind of split personality and satisfies a desire for authenticity.
In so many years, what societal, digital (or other) developments have you witnessed?
Social networks have developed a sense of closeness, but there’s also the readers’ desire and need for quick information. Today, people are consuming a lot of images and less text, even though they still come to the blog to find specific things. Video has also made its appearance, which gives yet another creative aspect to my work!
What is the story behind this house?
The house dates back to the 17th century. I don’t know all its history but this house has an important place in the village. It was inhabited in turn by important people, wine growers… but also by two sisters who lived in this building with lots of children. When we bought it, it had been uninhabited for more than ten years. Twenty years even, according to some of the neighbours! It belonged to a family from Lyon whose son lives in Texas. He still took care of the house.
Tell us about your work. What have you done up to now? What do you have left to do?
The house didn’t need very much work. It was in its original condition and without the modern conveniences for a family. Everything was already there. We took care of the insulation, installed an efficient heating system, created two bathrooms, and had all the electrical wiring redone. The idea was to go back to the original raw materials. The stone of the stairs was painted dark brown, as were the doors. We had the whole thing sandblasted just like the doors. We were able to keep almost all the floors; the former owners walked about without their shoes on so as not to damage them. A great opportunity! The walls were lined for insulation, and we had the mouldings and other woodwork removed to preserve the authenticity of the house. At the time, the living room was deliberately small to keep the heat in. As the house is large, we had half of the ground floor opened up to create a large 60 m² living room. The outside was in a sorry state: nature had taken over again, and brambles had invaded the garden (there more than a hectare to be re-tame!). During the clean-up, we discovered a little house of 60 m² at the bottom of the grounds. I’m a plant lover and I’d really like to create a greenhouse there. This is part of what we still have to do, along with creating a pergola around the swimming pool. In short, in such a big house, there’s always something to do.In fact, I’ve started renovating my shutters: there are 42 pairs to be repainted, I gave myself two years! (Laughs)
What sort of feel did you want to give to your interior?
I wanted a real family home, warm, bright and welcoming. I wanted it to be the focal point for great parties inside and out! My strongest wish was to preserve the original beauty of the place without spoiling it.
What materials and colours did you use to achieve that?
All the woodwork was exposed by the sandblasting and we’ve kept as it is today. The stone floors have been cleaned and treated to regain the light, warm colour of the Burgundy stone. I also wanted to add colour to my living room and used an intense peacock blue: it looks wonderful in this huge room. My children’s bedrooms both have a wall painted in the Pantone colour for the year they were born. And the one in my bedroom is darker for a more cosy atmosphere, conducive to rest and relaxation.
What are your favourite brands, the ones we’re likely to find in your home?
I like to change my decor all the time. So I have fun with objects that come from Maisons du Monde, AMPM or even Casa Shop. For large pieces of furniture, we have been able to keep many family pieces, along with some antiques that have been in our families for several generations. Recently, I’ve been trying to invest more in designer pieces that we will be able to keep and look after. I particularly like the Bauhaus style.
My strongest wish was to preserve the original beauty of the place without spoiling it.
You love to hunt for treasures. What are your favourite places for this?
I love the Puces du Canal in Villeurbanne, my online shop – Zwicky Factory – for small objects, Cluny for its antique dealers, and the Sunday garage sales (you can find the calendar on videgrenier.org or brocabrac.fr).
What is the craziest acquisition you have ever made? And how about the one(s) you dream about?
When I first arrived here, I found a complete stoneware dinner service signed by Lifas Bonifas, a famous artist who was working in the 1920s and 1940s. He worked in stoneware in a very particular colour, celadon grey. Some pieces sell for between €300 and €600. I picked up 24 of them! A real treasure that we use at dinner every day.
For you, The Socialite Family is?
A genuine source of inspiration. A way of not always seeing the same thing as on Instagram, where the interiors are too smooth for my taste. The Socialite Family is also about traveling to visit other people’s homes without moving from my own. I also really like the “Where to find” part, which is at the bottom of the reports; it helps me to do my shopping or to get sources for some of the objects I spotted in interiors.
Can you share your favourite addresses in Lyon and its surrounding area?
Photography: Eve Campestrini – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily