“Playing architect”. A “role-playing” game that interior designer Julie de Pinieux preferred playing as a child rather than the usual doctors or cowboys! A real passion for scenography that remained omnipresent after several years spent in marketing, which began to take its toll on her. A way to live out her dreams and escape but also a way to “sweeten everyday life”; this Nantes native decorates her home and others with a style that focuses on unusual shapes and a passion for Chinese art. “By constantly observing, studying and learning every day,” the 40-year-old uses these experiences to inject energy into her projects. Indeed, her own house moves and refurbs mean she can see the potential at a glance as well as any improvements that can be made to a space. Now settled in her current 1970s-built home, with a “huge row of south-facing windows, majestic pine trees and large volumes,” the self-taught designer and film buff loves playing with natural light while adding character to the living areas with pieces of furniture sourced from a variety of places. Custom-made items such as knitted lampshades sit alongside designer pieces such as Maurice Burke’s Tulip foot stool. Sentimental and classic items are modernized by more contemporary objects, like the iconic ones from our collection. The curled wool Rotondo armchair with a removable cover is perfect for a family of 7! A Duetto vase that fits anywhere, a Gioia table lamp with an interchangeable shade: playful, nomadic models that can withstand the hectic daily lives of five children. A joyful household surrounded by objects that “witness the passing of time”.
Julie, could you introduce yourself, please?
I’m Julie; I’m 40 years old, mum to five children, and I’ve been living in Nantes for 20 years. I’ve been passionate about decoration and interior design since I was a child, and today I’m a decorator and interior designer. For me, decorating is a dream, a means of escape, but it’s also a way of making everyday life easier.
Tell us about your background.
When I was a child, I liked to play at being an architect. I used to draw the interiors of houses. I remember their hallways, with large landings that served the rooms. I already sensed the importance of circulation in the living spaces. I ended up studying marketing. But my passion caught up with me. Patrick and I bought our first little house 15 years ago. A small house, just 35m2, in need of complete renovation. There was nothing to keep but the walls and a magnificent lambrequin, a kind of pelmet, which gave the place a great deal of charm and character. This was followed by several properties, which became larger and larger to accommodate the children as they arrived. This hands-on experience and all the challenges I encountered have naturally informed my work today. I’m self-taught and have been training continuously for all these years. I’m constantly observing, researching, and studying, and I learn something new every day. I’m especially interested in colours, shapes and their unusual combinations.
Tell us about your upbringing. Where did you grow up, and how did that affect the way your taste developed?
I have been immersed in the world of antiques, art history, painters and fabrics since I was very young. We’ve travelled and moved around a lot. A major source of inspiration for me comes from the early days of 20th-century filmmaking. When I was younger, I used to watch films from the 50s through the 70s over and over again, and I admired the beauty of Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Romy Schneider. Their outfits, the settings where the plots took place, and the film music… everything seemed sublime. Naturally, I’m now immersing my daughters in the same world. I still enjoy watching Jacques Deray’s “La Piscine”. The 20th-century design, the 19th-century furniture, the colours and the whole atmosphere of the film are a marvel. At home, my Ingo Maurer Spring lamp evokes this feeling instantly! On the professional side, I always try to include a flavour of the creators and designers I admire in my interiors. William Morris, whose drawings from the 19th century are still so modern. I find the Art Deco style of the 1920s timeless and eternally inspiring. Finally, I am an admirer of woodworking, especially the revolutionary Alvar Aalto, who opened the doors to the leading designers of the 20th century, including Eames and Saarinen, whose pieces have become icons in the interior design world.
When I was a child, I liked to play at being an architect. I used to draw the interiors of houses.
You live with your family in the north of Nantes. Can you tell us what made you decide to live here?
We are from Brittany but love the Mediterranean climate and colours. We moved into this house three years ago. Built in the 1970s, it had retained few of its original features. When I visited it, I found that everything had to be redesigned. However, its strong points quickly won us over: a huge row of south-facing windows, a majestic pine tree and large rooms!
To what extent is your interior design signature expressed in this house?
The kitchen is the centre of the house and the focus of my concerns as an architect. There are William Morris creations on the wall, some seventies lamps, custom-made oak furniture, a sink and a Burgundy stone floor (which I laid one stone at a time)… And finally, a counter with a marble tray I found on Le Bon Coin where a small coffee jug with Billie Holiday is sitting… That’s my signature! As for my favourite pieces in our house: there’s my opus incertum rough stone floor, my knitted lampshades, my Maurice Burke Tulip stool, and my 70’s wide amber glasses.
As a mother of five children, how did you design these spaces to make everyone feel comfortable?
Our eldest daughter, who is disabled, occupies a space next to our sleeping area. Her four brothers and sisters have their own spaces on the ground floor, where each cultivates their own personal world. I hunt around for vintage lamps, armchairs and desks for their rooms, little by little. They like that very much. I try to show them, to help them discover the beauty of these objects and their history.
When I visited it, I found that everything had to be redesigned. However, its strong points quickly won us over: a huge row of south-facing windows, a majestic pine tree and large rooms!
We’ve seen quite a few of The Socialite Family’s creations in your home, from the Rotondo lounge chair – two of them in your living room! – to the Duetto vase and the Gioia table lamp. What does our brand mean to you? What do you like about it?
I really like The Socialite Family designs. They have clean lines that blend in with lots of different environments. Their design is as beautiful alongside contemporary pieces as it is with older ones.
What is your favourite thing in our collection?
I particularly like the Rotondo chair. The low seat is very elegant. The fact that it can be removed is a huge advantage in a family home.
What does your home say about you?
All my belongings are witnesses to the passing of time. They are happy memories of beautiful things and events experienced we have experienced as a family. My lighting collection also reflects my pleasure in playing softly with the natural light that fades at nightfall and wraps itself gently around our evenings.
Any places in Nantes to recommend?
I suggest Barak for those who love beautiful objects and furniture. An antique dealer offering 20th-century pieces. If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, I suggest you check out the Nantes Instagram account, L’objet Rare Design or go to the Viarme flea market or to a little shop called Les Esthètes. Finally, if you love vintage outfits, go to Pépette!
Where will we see you in the near future?
I have lots of projects in mind… But I’m still deciding on the next challenge!
All my belongings are witnesses to the passing of time. They are happy memories of beautiful things and events experienced we have experienced as a family.
Photography : Jeanne Perrotte – Text : Juliette Bruneau @thesocialitefamily