When I left secondary school, I went to the Emile Colh drawing and animation school in Lyon before being spotted by a modelling agency and ending up in Paris. I did a few years of modelling before arriving at Canal+ by chance, crossing paths with Alain de Greef. When I came back to Lyon, my first desire was to set up my own decoration company. I started with a small shop based in Saint-Genis-Laval, then six years ago, I moved to Lyon with my shop, Simone Sisters. In parallel with all this, I also set up my own architecture studio, Cécile Siméone.
I was brought up in a Latino family! We are Spanish on my mother’s side and Italian on my father’s side. He was an architect and master builder. So we’ve always been involved. My father has never been able to resist new personal projects! As soon as there was a nice, well-placed plot, etc., he would go for it. For taste, but also for business! My mother had to reinvent our decoration, our little nest each time. So we moved around a lot in our family life, which really influenced what I do today! I really followed him on that side of things. I’ve moved a lot myself and remodelled a lot of houses in the process. When it comes down to it, I’m like him; I can’t resist the lure of a new project! (Laughter)
Interior design is a family affair! Thanks to my father, I’ve been doing it since I was very young. As soon as I had the opportunity to alter or develop places, I did so. I couldn’t help myself! It’s a desire to continually reinvent oneself, which becomes a reality in the projects that come my way, both for individuals and restaurants! I’m particularly happy at the moment; I’m working on a 5-star hotel that will open in 2023. It’s a wonderful adventure. And then my shop is a real little laboratory. It lets me try out all sorts of things.
The designers include Pierre Paulin, Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Guariche. I have a small desk of his! On the interior design side, Paola Navone and Lázaro Rosa-Violán, whom I really like.
The building dates from 1870. It's a real family home! So unlike the project I had previously, which was made of wooden frames, I wanted to respect the place by keeping certain conventions.
The story that links us to this house is quite funny! When my husband came to play in Saint-Etienne 20 years ago, it was out of the question for me to live there, my family being from here. So we rented this building for two years. Two fantastic years, full of very happy memories! My eldest daughter was born here. It was a house that we liked very much. We even tried to buy it back when we returned to Lyon 13 years ago, but the owner wouldn’t sell it. And then, two years ago, when I was looking again, I went through an estate agent and told him I was looking for a place to renovate, with lots of work. And I came across it again! It had fallen into complete disrepair over time as it had been in the hands of students and then been squatted. It was very badly maintained. But it was nevertheless a great joy to find it, because it was a place I had always had in mind and which I didn’t think I could buy. And we finally had the pleasure of doing just that and accompanying it with a major renovation!
The building dates from 1870. It’s a real family home! On this project, unlike the one I had previously, which was made of wooden frames, I wanted to respect the place by keeping certain conventions. In particular, by reworking the mouldings using staff to recover those that had been damaged or removed over the years. Nevertheless, I modified the ground floor, adding large openings by installing huge RSJs that supported the building right up to the top. Watching this work was quite impressive, and it frightened me, too, because it caused a crack in the roof – but it wasn’t dangerous, fortunately! In any case, apart from the ground floor, which we’ve changed a lot, we’ve tried to remain faithful to its original heritage. You could imagine it as having travelled through a bit of a time warp.
For the living room, everything was arranged in front of our fireplace, which I moved because it wasn’t there at all initially! I positioned it between these two windows that I created. That was my starting point. This strong central room gave me the opportunity to design this large U-shaped sofa. It’s really a place where you can meet up with family and friends. I have never had this configuration where we’re all facing each other before. I really like it! It’s a very comfortable place. For the TV corner, I chose a very deep-seated design from Maison de Vacances, where we can wallow, and we often flop down there. But it’s only us this time (Laughs)! It really is a little cocoon. There was some real customisation work in the kitchen, with all the white polished concrete and a wooden ceiling to warm up the atmosphere. I kept it in its original place in the house. It’s not the brightest room, but that’s why I chose to make it very light and very wabi-sabi. It’s a style I really like! For the rest of the decoration, I have a few items that have been with me for a very long time. In particular, a crystal chandelier which I love. I’ve put it on display on my staircase, which is a real showcase for me. I also have a piece of furniture in my bedroom that has been with me for over 20 years. I have this same loyalty to certain paintings. Apart from that, I really like lights. As you can see, they occupy a lot of space in the house and give a lot of purpose to the different spaces.
It’s the same for my own projects or for my clients; I really want you to feel welcomed with open arms when you arrive at our place. I want it to feel really warm! I may like clean lines in contemporary places, very modern or designed by great architects, but I like decor that makes you feel good. Not loaded – that’s not the right word – but in that spirit! I love the lights, the objects… This place is a real nest for us, for my girls, and for my guests! I like to be told that it feels good here, that it’s cosy and that you don’t want to leave. I’ve achieved something here, and that’s really what I’m looking for in all my projects. This was at the heart of my vision for this house, too, while at the same time respecting its essence. For me, when I look at it from the outside, it is like a “big mama”, very welcoming.
It’s a place where you can find creative people! And then, as the name suggests, a family atmosphere and genuine intentions. A certain intimacy too. I’m very flattered that you’ve come to meet me! And I find that you always discover the worlds of people who already have a lot of taste and real authenticity. I think this truth is felt throughout The Socialite Family. In the people who are presented, in their backgrounds, their influences (which are always diverse) and the projects they undertake. And it also represents France well! It’s not just a Paris-based medium, and I think that’s great.
I don’t go out much in the evening, but when I lunch with girlfriends, we love to go to the Ré-Confort. Right next to my shop, still thinking of restaurants, there’s the Café du Marché. We love to settle ourselves on the terrace in summer and even in winter, but not on the terrace this time (laughs)! I also recommend Les Puces du Canal flea market; it’s a great place for finding all sorts of things. I go there quite often!
In our house, it’s always with the family! My daughters like to cook and make little desserts. My mother is a great cook, but I’m not much good at it, so I make a great assistant (laughs). As a result, we often meet to think about cooking and the dishes we’re going to make, such as foie gras, which I love and which she makes wonderfully well! Apart from that, like many people, we get together for a big family meal. I do the Christmas tree with my daughters, and at midnight we distribute the presents! Since we were children, our parents got us used to doing this on Christmas Eve, and not the next day. I think they were in as much of a hurry as we were (laughs). They kept my cousins and me going until midnight. We would all hide in one bedroom and pretend that a big Santa Claus was coming. We continued this with our children! We want so much to see the wonder in their eyes. Even though they’re all grown up now and no longer believe in it. But maybe in a few years I’ll be a grandmother, and we’ll start again, although we’ll wait a bit anyway (laughs).
In the next few months, you’ll be able to find me in Lyon as far as my shop is concerned! And as far as my work is concerned, we’re on the Basque coast quite a lot at the moment, with some nice clients there, but also in Switzerland with private projects. The one that’s particularly close to my heart lately is the Château Léognan hotel in Bordeaux. I’m going to be there a lot because the site will progress, and I need to be there on-site regularly. And there are many more besides, but I can’t talk about them!
This place is a real nest for us, for my girls, and for my guests! I like to be told that it feels good here, that it's cosy and that you don't want to leave.
Photography: Jeanne Perrotte – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily