Olivia, Julien: can you introduce yourselves, please?
Our children are Joseph and Colombe, and we’ve been together for 10 years now. Originally from Aix en Provence, we are currently based in the Médoc. Before we had children, we travelled extensively to see the world, broaden our horizons and inspire us for the family life we were planning. We eventually found a balance with a life goal of freedom, space, time for our children and surfing for Julien. Our activities – photography for me – painting and renovation for Julien – allow us to live away from the hustle and bustle, close to nature and the ocean.
You are a stylist and a photographer, but also an art director. How did you develop your eye for aesthetics?
My interest in photography started when I was working as an art director. I am lucky enough to be able to make a living from my passion nowadays! What I like is being able to develop my field of activity organically, in keeping with the pace of my life, and in very different worlds. I think curiosity is at the root of everything. The eye is trained along the way by the interest one takes in things. I love creation in the broadest sense of the word and am inspired as much by artists as by designers, architects and craftspeople. At the moment, I am fascinated by Joan Mitchell’s paintings, the world of the Australian artist Tess Guinery, the work of the Barcelona studio Après Ski and the French duo, Oros.
Your world is defined by your love of nature. How does it fit into your daily life?
Nature inspires me as much as it soothes me. Natural light played an essential role in the design of our house. We wanted to bring as much sunshine as possible into all our rooms. Each opening has been designed to connect the outside with the inside. As if it were almost the same space. I love the idea of having my home interact with our surroundings, and I love decorating our living space with big bunches of flowers and greenery from the garden.
We attach as much importance to our outside space as we do to our interior. The children are already looking forward to eating plums, apples, hazelnuts and peaches from the garden! They love to see new colours appear as the seasons change. Away from home, we appreciate the diversity of atmosphere offered by the Médoc landscapes: estuary, vineyards, forests, pine forests, dunes… But what we prefer above all is the ocean. For surfing and lazing around, of course, but beyond that, it’s a space that’s a bit out of time, very poetic. Light plays an important role here and can transform the same place into different settings. Sometimes it feels as if you’re never on the same beach.
You have created your family home in a former Gironde farmhouse dating from 1850. Why did you choose this spot?
Four years ago, we decided to leave Aix-en-Provence with the intention of discovering new horizons. In the beginning, we didn’t have a fixed idea of where we should put down roots. The only criteria were an international airport within one hour and the ocean nearby. We viewed a few houses and almost bought a plot of land before we came across this one where it was love at first sight. There was a quiet strength about the place. A harmony that immediately resonated with us. We felt at home immediately!
You were in charge of all the work, Julien. Tell us about the renovation project.
The property is a former vineyard and there are several buildings. We have already refurbished the old barn, which you can see in the photographs and which we currently occupy. I am currently working on the overall renovation of the main house, which is much larger and which I hope to finish by next summer. I work alone, which requires a lot of energy and forethought, especially for the structural work. I’m lucky enough to have Olivia, who is more into decoration and layout, which allows me to add the little extras that make the difference. The two of us work as a small team. The cellar and an old dovecote are still waiting to be restored.
Wood, rattan, cane: the furniture here is made of natural materials. Why did you make this choice?
I love their natural softness and warm colours. They go well with raw materials like the concrete we have on the floor.
How have you decorated your home?
I love interiors that are streamlined and warm at the same time, functional yet inspiring! We like to take our time and let our décor and interior evolve as our lives evolve, with the rhythm of the seasons, and of course, our encounters with different artists and craftspeople.
Each of your living spaces has a “holiday home” feel to it. Do you have any particular favourite souvenirs from your travels on display?
Sunny destinations have always been our favourites. Indonesia, Central America, Morocco … We brought back little treasures from these trips, and they are scattered around the house. Pebbles, volcanic stones, small pieces of local craftwork, driftwood. This certainly gives the house a holiday atmosphere. Each of these objects has an almost nostalgic quality, recalling the places visited.
What does your home say about you?
It says that our Mediterranean roots are reflected in our love for sunshine and light. The simple decoration and the use of sandy, powdery colours evoke the soothing ocean landscapes we love so much.
What does The Socialite Family mean to you?
Where will we meet again in the coming months?
Given the pandemic and the fact that our children are so young, we are going to concentrate on small expeditions close to home. Certainly the Ile de Ré and Oléron, and then a bit of sun and some beautiful landscapes with the Canaries this winter. The rest of the time, we will be on our own “island”. (Laughter)
Natural light played an essential role in the design of our house (...) Each opening has been designed to connect the outside with the inside.
Photography: Eve Campestrini – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily