Guy Yanai and Aurore Chauve, Romy 14, Ava 11...
“We see the sea every morning and, as in all Mediterranean cities, its presence always embraces you. With such lovely words, the stage...
Her name is inextricably linked with the TV show Maison à Vendre, where she has been helping couples and families transform their properties for almost 15 years. True to the sunny image she portrays on television alongside her sidekick Stéphane Plaza, Sophie Ferjani is all smiles as she welcomes us to Marseille. To this, the city she has dreamed about so much, and which is home to her new venture, her boutique, Sophie Ferjani – La Sélection. An adventure she co-created with her partner and husband, Baligh, about which they never tire of talking. Because this concept store is all about her. No tricks, no filters. But more than that, it is an extension of their home. “Everything I can’t fit in – everything that spills over, all my favourites – I take and put in here.” And since the interior designer is passionate about everything, confiding that she “can’t do anything by halves”, this “everything” amounts to more than 10,000 items. From candles to individual tiles. Products that sit alongside an architecture firm, which will be taking up residence next door in the autumn. Still on Rue de la République. In the meantime, we find the couple in the northern part of Marseille. In this ‘bastide’, a manor house dating from 1880, overlooking the Mediterranean, and once owned by shipowners. A house with the air of a rather grand old lady just waiting to be rejuvenated. The decorator explains that her philosophy is to respect the history and not “knock the life out of” the places she works on. After extensive renovation work, bringing the structure up to standard and the addition of a veranda kitchen, the creative team concentrated on sprucing up the existing building. With colours everywhere, true to its identity – cheerful, frank, acidic! – and the choice of materials applied, as close as possible to those used when it was built and sometimes given a twist “à la Sophie”. But make no mistake: always with a touch of fun! Significant changes have allowed the sleeping beauty to wake up and embrace her role once again. That of a family home enclosed between the white rocks of Marseilles and the wild horizon of the Blue Coast.
Sophie, Baligh: can you introduce yourselves, please?
Sophie Ferjani, born Godeau – although Baligh and I have been married for 21 years. So I’ve used my married name more than my maiden name! (Laughs) I’m going to be 45 soon, and I’m the mother of three lovely boys. I’m very proud of them! I’m an interior designer by profession and passionate about everything. I can’t do things by halves. I love life in general, smiling and laughing. I see beauty everywhere!
I’m 47 years old, in love with my three sons and my wife. They fill my life with love. I don’t lead a crazy life; I try to be laid back, to take time for myself, to get bored doing nothing. I like to say that I’m a “special effects” man! I create all sorts of special things, like my three boys (Laughs)
What is your background?
When I was in secondary school, I fell in love with Applied Arts and Visual Arts, thanks to my teacher. It’s the sort of thing that doesn’t happen to everyone, I think, because lots of people hate it! Except that he taught us perspective and explained to us that everything in life is mathematical. I thought it was amazing because it finally combined this discipline – one of my other passions – with beauty, art and our environment. He taught us to “tame the drawing”. Later in my education, I wanted to take a BAC called F12 (the BAC in Applied Arts at the time). My parents asked me if I was completely sure of myself, as they were a bit apprehensive. In the end, I didn’t do it. I passed the equivalent of a scientific BAC. During my secondary school years – where I met Baligh – I ended up hanging out with girls from the famous BAC F12. I slipped into a few drawing classes with them, so once I graduated, I managed to get back into Applied Arts. I did a MANAA at the Lycée de Sèvres and then joined Olivier de Serre in Paris. Those were the best years of my life! Filled with discoveries that opened me up to the world. Ultimately, everything that has influenced me while learning my job, the beautiful! After obtaining my BTS in space design, I worked in advertising. That meant I could change the subject every day. I created designs for seven years and then ended up as the company’s art director. Eventually it fell apart, so I went out on my own as an interior designer and continued doing what I knew how to do: set design for advertising. Gradually – a bit like a big steam engine starting up – customers began to arrive. Each one’s network meant that I ended up with assignments. That’s the way it happened. Then, after 18 months, television arrived on the scene. I was spotted giving free advice on forums, chats and blogs. I auditioned for Maison à Vendre, a programme whose producers wanted to adapt the concept in France. I was selected from more than 80 applicants, and I was thrilled to bits! I met some great people who became friends. We only shoot on location, not on set. It’s like going to summer camp (Laughs). It’s been keeping me busy for 15 years. However, after five or six years of juggling these two activities, I could no longer take on private clients. So I put the requests on hold. And I don’t know how to delegate (Laughs), and I don’t know how to do business; I just create! (Laughs) At the same time, my husband and I have always wanted to open a shop. Not to have a boss and also to work together! This project had been in the back of our minds for 12-13 years. We had started to put together a business case – which was called La Selection (already)! – in Paris, but we gave up in the end. Too complicated, too expensive! But we always told ourselves that we would dust it off again at some point. This happened when my husband turned 40. After years of working in the retail sector, having accumulated the the expertise we needed in purchasing, product selection, sourcing, procurement, deliveries, accounting (etc.), we thought it was time. He could resign – he was regional director of all the Conforama stores in the Ile-de-France and Nord regions – and we could go and live in Marseille. Because my job allowed me to work remotely!
It would fill a book, but I’ll keep it simple. School has been my past, Sophie my guardian angel and work my reward.
Tell us about your upbringing. Where did you grow up – and how did that influence the way your tastes have developed?
My childhood was pretty complicated, but it helped me to grow up a little faster and to always manage. I was self-made and learning on my own until Sophie brought me the elements I was missing to understand where I was. So yes! My taste is my wife’s taste, and I’m proud of it.
I come from a modest family where my sister and I were taught the true values of life. I was brought up in the countryside 2.5 km from a village of 400 inhabitants. I never saw anyone! (Laughs) When we came home from school we went straight out to play. That’s the story of my life, really. I didn’t have much else to do but keep myself busy, so I did a lot of tinkering. In front of me, I always had the example of my parents, who built their house themselves over 15 years. They were both civil servants and had small incomes. A penny was a penny, and as soon as they had a bit of money put aside, they bought a new beam for the roof! They work very hard. I’ve always seen them working, not complaining. I’ve always been told that in life, there’s no point in being beautiful; you have to work. At least, you have to be recognised for your work. My parents have great taste in the sense that they have always loved beautiful materials. I think I got that from them! They preferred to wait two years to buy a nice tile floor rather than a cheaper one, so they created a house that looks as if it has always been there because they used old wooden floor tiles. They planed all the beams by hand! That’s where my taste for authenticity comes from.
You met in Blois, spent time in Paris, and we finally meet you here, in Marseille! What prompted this change? What do you like about the city?
For Marseille it’s not me but Sophie. I only wanted the sun and the sea. I’ve grown to love this city. It tames you, not the other way around! To see all its beauty, one must look at it with a child’s eye.
We actually met in Blois, at school! I was 15, and he was 17. We flirted, broke up, fell in love, broke up again and then didn’t see each other for the next two years. And when we found each other again, we fell in love for good! (Laughs) Then I left to study in Paris. I was very happy to enjoy the buzz. I drank, and I drank in Paris! It helped me grow up, but after 20 years, I wondered what I was doing there. I was not from there and didn’t necessarily choose this city. In any case, I never came with the intention of staying, only to take what I had to take and give what I had to give! When we turned 40, we told ourselves that the purpose of our life was to choose where we wanted to live: in the sun! On the weather map, bottom right. I’ve always said Marseille, myself. Because it’s powerful, extraordinarily rich in energy. The Mediterranean basin has always been home to people from all over the world. It is immersed in culture to a remarkable degree; it speaks loudly, you feel alive! I live by contrasts. I always say that colour is born from darkness, and light comes from darkness. We need this vibration to feel alive. It comes from the people of Marseille and also from the environment. The sea is there, before our eyes. Personally, I need to live close to water. It’s very important. As human beings, we are full of it! I also need nature to put things into perspective. It’s strong; it’s violent. It went before me, it is there in front of me, it will be there long after me! In any case, I find that it brings us back down to earth, or to the rock – because this is something very prevalent in Marseille! This white limestone rock that we see in the south of Marseille, in the eighth district, or on the blue coast, opposite my home. Anyway, I’ve always loved this city. And on paper, it’s the second-largest in France. When I left Paris after 20 years with my Parisian habits of having everything, right away, whenever I wanted, I couldn’t live anywhere else, let alone go back to where I came from (Laughs); Baligh told me “never Marseille”. So for me, because of my “I like to mix with people, I think I have something to contribute.” side, there was really the idea that there should be a social mix. For me, this is the basis of our society. We lived in the 20th arrondissement in Paris, then in Romainville, then in Bondy. Places that are always extraordinarily interesting and that have allowed us to live in great locations! I think we have our part to play in this social mix. Anyway, that’s my opinion. My husband doesn’t necessarily share it (Laughs). And then, finally, we got several business schools to work with us when we told them that we wanted to set up our project in a southern city. It turns out that the best one for this was Marseille. Baligh tells me that I must have influenced the students… It’s possible; I’m not going to say otherwise (Laughs). But anyway, there you go. There was plenty of room here to set up our shop. In Aix-en-Provence, the sector was already a bit crowded, and then I wanted to go and meet my Marseille customers.
My parents have good taste in the sense that they have always loved beautiful materials. I think I got that from them! They would rather wait to buy a nice tile than a cheaper one, and so they gave birth to a house that seems to have always been there.
The shop is a Sophie Ferjani concept store called La Sélection. What makes it a concept store? Quite simply, because the concept is me! I’m so modest! (Laughs) People who know me, who’ve seen my style on television or in the press over the years, say, “I like her style; I’d like to explore her world, her advice, her tips, the products she likes, her inexpensive prices”. And this is exactly what you can find in my shop. There’s my architectural firm, 10,000 items I have to go to the trouble of selecting myself, because we have so many suppliers. I don’t take the whole catalogue from them, but a chair in every colour, for example. This often requires a lot of work because sometimes you have to beg the manufacturer for just one and nothing else. That goes for everything from candles to sofas. I don’t promote brands because that’s the opposite of my philosophy. You don’t come to me to buy a brand with a big wallet. You come because you appreciate the material, because you fall in love with a tile – or something else! – but not because you saw the brand name. I want people to rediscover their original sensibilities. When they walk into our 275 m2 shop – I say ‘our’ because I opened it with my partner, who is my husband – they let their senses speak. I’m the majority shareholder in this adventure! It always amused us, just seeing the looks on the notaries’ faces (Laughs). He is the manager of the company. He takes care of all the accounting, suppliers and personnel management: he is the director, the boss on site. I’m there one or two days a week on average, depending on my filming, but also on our children and my life! It’s a real extension of me. It’s colourful, cheerful, and rich in many things. When someone called me and said, “Sophie, we have the shop for you! It’s an old historical passage that’s been abandoned for 100 years”, I replied, without having seen it, “OK, reserve it for me, and I’ll come and see! ». And it’s been ours ever since. It connected the Rue de la République to a passageway on the other side in parallel, the Folies Bergères passage. So we’re lucky to have a central corridor with stone and so on. It’s amazing because, with the help of a painter I work with in Paris, we were able to restore the old shop signs inside the shop. It has a real soul! I added natural materials to the floor, 22 mm solid oak parquet, cement tiles and terrazzo. It was all done five years ago. Yet we have the impression that everything has always been there. Except that it was we who recreated everything! That’s the joy of my job. So that’s the history of the shop.
The Rue de la République – I was told: “Don’t go there!” So, of course, when people told me that, I did (Laughs). I hate doing things easily. When I was told again: “you have to go to the city centre or to a shopping area”, I thought to myself that, in fact, they didn’t understand who I was. The bourgeois city centre, where everything is already set up and where you take over a lease that’s already in existence – there’s no real challenge in that, in my opinion. Where is the achievement? And I’m not talking about open-air shopping centres. I want to be in contact with real materials. So rue de la République, a 1.2 km boulevard, 100% Haussmannian – the only one in Marseille – which links the old district – the old Port – close to Le Panier to the new district of La Joliette. A new development area that is going to grow in the years to come! It’s fabulous. When I saw this, I asked myself why people don’t go there. Certainly because of what people said about it. The fact that it was a street in decline, bought up by foreign investors to redevelop, and where all the shops that had been there were failing. Obviously, when you set up an H&M, and there are already four others in the city – all within 300 metres – it can’t work. Basically, it was already a street where Marseilles people didn’t want to go because of its history, although in the past it was the imperial street where people went out on Sundays, dressed in their Sunday best. It’s an extraordinary street, full of history, where two of Marseille’s three trams pass right in front of the shop – it’s worth noting that it’s the city with the worst public transport service! There are also two different metros that stop within 500 m, and three underground car parks really close by. So, in fact, it’s a great place to stop, and you can park … which makes it attractive to customers. It was a no-brainer for all these reasons. I only go where there’s a fight. Again, I’m not interested in going where it’s easy!
The architecture firm is getting a bit more room! And it’s not going far; it’ll be right next door. Currently, it’s at the back of the shop. I have three full-time architects there and, well, it’s a bit crowded. At the very beginning, we didn’t really know what balance we were going to give to our concept store, between the shop, the office, and so on. We didn’t want to take any risks by opening up too much right away! We needed to do it little by little. We wanted time to take stock, to know what works and what doesn’t. And then to think, “Ok, Sophie Ferjani is an interior designer, she and her team are talented, and they work for you, ladies and gentlemen! ». So there you have it, now we’re going to be on the street. The space – about 140 m2 – is being renovated in the same way as we did for the old passageway that houses it. We are putting back missing materials and designing this new place to welcome the public but also to be our workplace. I will have five architects’ offices in place, and a mezzanine for potential future development, receiving clients or coworking. There is also a first large room, it’s 30 m2, which will be the materials library where, as in the shop, we will have the products “seen at Sophie Ferjani’s”. Basically, her favourites: the parquet floor she loves, her cement tiles, her terrazzo, her zelliges, her bejmats. It will also be possible to buy them (of course), always with the idea of having a selection. The bejmat tiles will not be offered in all colours but in three shades, for example. In any case, this is where the team will welcome visitors for consultations, from briefing to file delivery.
The shop IS the house! Whether I’m in the shop or here, I don’t feel as if I’m leaving one place for another.
Yes, absolutely! As I said, I don’t do things by halves. I am me, and the concept store is me. Everything I can’t fit in my house – everything that spills over, all my favourites – I take and put in the shop. So the shop, the house: in the end it’s pretty much the same! The house is a shop, and the shop is our home too because we spend most of our time there. And then, it’s built as such with the bedroom, the child’s room, the kitchen, the bar, the living room, and the dining room. Everything is connected. It all says something about me. That’s what’s so great! I can (in all modesty, I don’t want to look big-headed) have a blast! Doing all the things I love. Whether it’s the shop or the architectural design firm that’s developing next door. All this is an extension of me and of my home, too.
Sophie won’t admit it, but I’m the one who found the house! (Laughs)
It’s a ‘bastide’, an old shipowner’s house – I think from 1880 – located on the heights of Marseille, in the northern part of the city. It overlooks the commercial port. These buildings were in the middle of the countryside. They were very beautiful, built in stone and whitewashed. This makes it quite special. There are high ceilings, lovely tiles on the floor, and beautiful windows overlooking the sea, because, at that time, they had to keep an eye on their ships. It’s surrounded by tall trees. When I saw it, I immediately fell in love with it! To sum it up, once again, my husband and I were not on the same wavelength. Between the location and the scale of the work (Laughs), it took almost a year. And finally, I won, because he saw that I was unhappy! (Laughs) In any case, it is extraordinary. It gives off some amazing vibes. It feels so good, and I don’t know how to explain it to you, but when I saw it, I knew it was mine, that it was waiting for me and that without us nobody would have come to save it. The fact that it is located in the northern area of the city frightens people, who don’t want to go there – even if they think it’s great on paper – and then it was in extremely poor shape. There was a septic tank under one room, it wasn’t connected to the sewage system, and the electricity wasn’t up to standard at all with wires running through the wallpaper, which caused us to get electric shocks. There were convector heaters that had been put in because the people didn’t have the money to invest, or at least they didn’t put it into the property. But I saw its potential, its beauty. It was untouched.
It’s true that in my way of working I’m not in the habit of knocking the life out of places. They were here long before us – especially this one from 1880 – and they will be here long after! It’s my house; I will be part of its history for many years. I have taken it, and I will return it. So it has to be respected. That’s how I work in architecture! No major work because I want to keep the place as it was designed at the time it was built. I think we have a lot to learn from the types of buildings constructed in the past because we ventilated them well, they breathed, and they didn’t necessarily face the sun, so the heat is kept out. We’ve forgotten many things over time, because we’ve sometimes focused on aesthetics or the current trends, when in fact, we need to go back to the basics. This house is cut into squares. There are the two main rooms in the entrance that I haven’t moved – there are load-bearing walls! – so as not to weaken the structure. Especially since these buildings in Marseille have no cavity beneath and are built on the ground with dry stone and lime mortar. So it’s better not to interfere too much with buildings like this and to consolidate them, in short. These first rooms were originally the living room and the dining room. I kept them as they were! Especially because we have beautiful floors and if we had changed the walls, we would have ended up with gaps. I like challenges in my work, and in general, they involve ways of preserving as much as possible of what exists by enhancing it. The only real transformation I made was in the kitchen. At the time, they had made a small one which, by the way, may not have been there originally. Because fashions change. In the past, a kitchen was a functional room, but today it’s the room that brings the whole family together. So I moved it to an extension that had been built with asbestos sheets – and ugly ones at that – in the 1960s as a guest room. And since I noticed that it was the best position in the house to get a view of the sea, that’s where I decided to install it. The kitchen itself is in a veranda, which of course, has all the modern conveniences but has been designed so that it does not stand out from the rest of the house. I designed it myself in the same style as the old veranda, which is echoed in the window pattern. There is a real visual continuity! From the outside, it seems to have always been there. I designed it with a lot of options, moulded things on the outside and a specific colour that I took from the surrounding cypress trees. It’s a pine green that I chose to use with a sanded finish so it wouldn’t be too shiny. All this to go to the end of the process, in the detailing, which is really the concept of my job. Then we kept the terracotta in many places – even though I’m not necessarily a big fan of it – except in the bathroom, where I repainted it white because it was more modern – from the 1920s/30s, I would say – to bring in more light. Always with a little bit of a twist, some bits weren’t painted on purpose to create a mix! After that, for the rest of the major works, there are inevitably things that cannot be foreseen. For example, we removed all the “guts” from the house. It started with the connection to the sewage system, the upgrading of 100% of the electrical system and the plumbing system. With all this, the “body” of our house is alive again. It’s back for many more years! We’ve rejuvenated it. What you’ll never see me doing – I think people should go to prison for it (Laughs) – is installing roller shutters. We kept the old ones which I had repainted. I also had the façade refreshed. And now we’re going to start the exterior work. We had tiles that didn’t fit in the house, so we’re going to change and put travertine on the terraces. All this is expensive. So I think I’m going to do the same as my parents: once I have some money saved up I’ll reinvest it. It gives me pleasure, and I’m happy! This place is our daily life.
Normally, there is never any white in my house. The ones you see are ‘fake’. Initially, the house was handed over to me in white. It was so beautiful, but so sad! As time went on, I started to add colours. And little by little, I said to myself, “Ah, that’s it, the house is waking up, it’s smiling again! ». The stairwell is still too neutral for my taste. Technically, given the height, it’s quite difficult to paint. But eventually, I don’t think there’ll be any white here at all! The colours used are dragged with a wide spalter brush. These are lime paints. There are also murals in the style of Cocteau – with a lot of humility (laughs)! I have hand-painted on the walls, and there is more to come as I also plan to do some outside like Picasso did in holiday homes. This is my playground, so I still have a lot to play with! Apart from that, as I said before, I love colour in general. In the end, it was my identity that guided me in these choices. I love pinks, blues, greens, oranges, and yellows. And to mix them all up! I don’t follow trends too much and prefer to look for what was done at the time or, in any case, what the place inspires in me. For example, there is a very orange light here in the evening that dominates the whole house. All the walls become this colour, so I put a lot of earthy and orange tones in the living room to echo it. Then, room by room, there is a bit of everything. In the dining room, I used a large panoramic piece by Ananbo because it evokes what shipowners used to do in the past, travelling to other countries from which they brought back decorative items. And it’s lively, it’s cheerful. There are strong contrasting colours, little marmosets, and animals from other places, like parrots, which you can see on a piece of wallpaper in my kitchen. My bedroom is in shades of pink, earth tones. There’s also a lot of green, which is what guided my kitchen/veranda as I really wanted to make the link with the outside. I don’t know how to explain it, but I wanted frank, joyful, acid tones! I have more muted shades of green in the hallway because it’s darker. An aged blue that I already had in my other house that goes up the whole stairwell. As far as materials are concerned, you’ll never see a laminate in my house, nor vinyl. Lino, why not; it’s a 100% natural material made from cork. But never a fake material. If I can’t afford a cement tile, I would never, ever use a porcelain stoneware tile instead. If it’s wood, it’s solid wood. I’d rather lay pine flooring, which you’re not going to pay a lot of money for, and repaint it, as it’s a not-so-great yellow colour and has lots of dark brown knots. I’d cover it with a nice Farrow & Ball floor paint which will take on all its glory rather than having a laminate floor. Yuk! (Laughs)
Yes! These colours remind me of old houses. You can find some of those in my house that are a bit like in the Cité du Fada by Le Corbusier, where colourful studies are made in the flats. They scratch the walls with carbon 14 to be able to say, “this year, they painted like that”. Then the tones are classified historically. I like to work like that too and think, “well, what did we do in the old days? ” Or at least imagine what we would have done in the past. It has to be said that we used to decorate much more cheerfully in the past. We tend to think it was dull, dirty and old-fashioned, but if we went back to the original pictures, we would be surprised to see how colourful the houses were. So that’s what guides me and drives me.
Mostly, it’s furniture that I have kept or bought for other rooms. There aren’t many masterpieces. I have my old fuchsia pink chair that I bought for my 30th birthday from Habitat, which is gorgeous. I have a new sofa from Ferm Living in curly wool which I bought for myself and which, because of its size (2.6 m), is just perfect for the house. There’s a beautiful coffee table from Honoré in front of it, which was also a favourite and which I absolutely wanted because it evokes the crafts and colours of faraway places. There is also a round rattan table from my shop which goes with the two rattan armchairs that belonged to my grandfather and grandmother. They were both kept in my grandfather’s office. I also have my old sofa, which I have kept because the children love to sprawl on it, and it’s finally been covered with beautiful textiles (cotton gauze, linen) and pretty cushions. Overall, we have quite a lot here! I also have a large Knoll table I’ve been wanting to buy for myself. Some people say, “if you don’t have a Rolex by the time you’re 40, you’ve missed out on life”. Well, I used to say the same thing but with the table. (Laughs) When I could afford it, I did it! And now it’s my office! There’s also a beautiful Gioia table lamp from The Socialite Family. In the kitchen, the table is one that I sell in the shop and that I have made from old factory floorboards. It’s 3.5 m long and there are lots of recycled chairs around it. Some are bistro models that I’ve had for a long time, others are made of straw, and so on. I love this idea of mixing things! In the entrance hall, there is a bonnetière, a narrow wardrobe that belonged to my grandmother. I like furniture that tells a story, that you take with you when you move house. It’s about handing things down through our family! We don’t actually have much by way of furnishings. Not all the windows have curtains. There are some for when there is a need to dress up, like beautiful earrings! So not everywhere. You’ll find more made-to-measure things in our house, like this big bookcase that I designed in the hallway and that my carpenter uncle made for me. It makes it possible to collect the maximum number of books, to streamline the volumes and not to overfill the place unnecessarily.
Not all the windows have curtains. There are some for when there is a need to dress up, like beautiful earrings! So not everywhere.
It’s amazing! The DNA that is always present, that of the family.
I think we’re quite similar! Among the furniture I’ve discovered in The Socialite Family collection, I think, “I could have done that! ” And I’m almost jealous because it’s so pretty (Laughs). I think we start from a similar point of view, the same affinity with decoration – I was going to say with beauty, but what is beauty! It’s a brand that reflects me, but on the high-end. Not in the pejorative sense, OK (Laughs). On the media side, there’s a nice selection of profiles that allow you to enter people’s homes, to find out about their daily life, the “family life” side of things, and how they live at home. People’s homes speak volumes about who they are! We discover their true personalities by delving into their intimacy. I think it’s pretty awesome. That’s what I like about it. I’m fond of the reports!
What would you say are your favourite addresses in Marseille, apart from yours?
For restaurants, check out my buddy Michel “The Beard” from Restaurant Cuoco, Gégé “The Bearded One” at Il Capriolo and Florent, and “The Little Beard” at Gilberte and Marguerite. A place: the blue coast by bike, Ensues, Sausset, and Carry. My favourite: La Friche, La Belle de Mai.
Marseilles is based on neighbourhoods. And there’s one that thrills me: Noailles! It’s the epitome of Marseille. Exuberant and loud-mouthed. People say you either love or hate this city. And that’s true. Personally, I find the energy of this place extraordinary. It overflows; it abounds! This is where Maison Empereur, a very old shop, is located. They do everything. Old-fashioned products, traditional clothes, old toys, cutlery. Next door there is the Ideal grocery shop which is fantastic. Alternatively, Rue d’Aubagne is full of fantastic shops. There’s Jiji la Palme d’Or, which brings back products from the Maghreb, the Sauveur pizzeria, and the La Mercerie restaurant. All these people have the same energy and believe in this city! There’s also La Goulette, which has been around forever and offers Tunisian specialities. If you go up a bit, there are lots of little shops and even a few second-hand shops. In fact, you must walk over there and make up your own mind! Another place that thrills me is Le Panier. La Sélection is attached to it; it’s right at the entrance. So without giving any particular address, just go on in and walk around. There are also lots of little shops, concept stores and crafts. You have to go through it until you get back down to La Major and come across the MUCEM. In the area near the shop, there is a great restaurant, Il Cuoco, opened by a friend four months before we arrived! It’s our canteen, and the decoration is really nice. We should give a nod to Casa Boheme in terms of decoration. A shop in the 6th arrondissement opened by Ouaida. She had tried her hand at selling the beautiful products she brings back from Morocco. Saint-Victor and Endoume are also very beautiful places, but quieter.
We are so caught up in summer that we came here to feel like we were on holiday all year round! We work a lot, but my husband and I love it when my parents pick up our children on 1 July, and we put the scooter back on the road and go for a ride. We’ll be all over the coast! I like to visit the beautiful hotels – the ones I’ve been eyeing up all year – whether it’s in Antibes, Cannes, Nice, or Marseilles. Going up to the Luberon too. To get inspiration, to explore, to go to small garage sales and flea markets. I feed on all this sort of thing, with my eyes wide open and my heart filled with these small pleasures. The colour of the sun, the long, warm evenings. I think it’s amazing! At the end of the summer, all five of us will be in Croatia, we’ll be with our three boys. Then, just like that, the summer will be over. But there’s no point in going any further (Laughs),and planning ahead is horrible! Apart from that, from 1 July you can see me in a new show I’ve been working on for three years: Tout Changer ou Déménager ! (Change everything or move out!) Still with Stéphane Plaza and Antoine Blandin, his sidekick. What’s the concept? A couple is in a quandary. One wants to move, the other doesn’t and wants to do some work to make their house fit their changing lives (new needs, constraints that their interior no longer fulfils). They don’t know what to do, and I’m going to take their construction budget and do it! Antoine takes people to visit houses, and at the end of the programme we find out what they choose: their transformed house or a new property. It’s different from Maison à Vendre, where the house is for sale, because we do major work, and we really talk about interior design. We’re very proud of it; I hope you like it!
Marseille is powerful, rich in energy. There's an incredible culture bath, it speaks loudly, you feel alive! I live by contrasts. We need this vibration to feel alive.
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily
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