The story that brought Ornella Abouaf and The Socialite Family together began just a few months after she moved in. An “umpteenth” home, she says with a smile, confiding in us that one of her sons had recently told her that she was “a nomad”. The anecdote may be rooted in prehistory, but in the end, it is not totally removed from reality. Their family has grown considerably over the past eight years. A real tribe that recently welcomed Andrea and Abbie, the twins who came along to disrupt the daily life of the siblings and, even more so, that of their Parisian mother. Ornella, encouraged by her close circle, has always been attracted by interiors and has now taken the plunge. A true epicurean, her home is a reflection of what she has built. A reflection of time passing, the children being born… And the things she believes in! Sharing, generosity and conviviality. Values she holds dear, and that, in her new role as an interior designer, she wants to promote in the heart of apartments other than her own; “a partnership that is built through dialogue and full immersion in the personalities and desires of my clients.” Ornella lives her passion to the fullest. In her choice of materials, colours and finishes. Elements that have a profound influence on the way people flourish. And that’s her priority. As is clearly illustrated in Neuilly-sur-Seine, in the warm and light-filled atmosphere of her home. A succession of rooms that converge around the kitchen, the beating heart of the home, testament to a style that will inspire us for years to come.
Ornella, can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a Parisian, a mother of four with a selection of twins! I’m passionate about decoration. I love to entertain, I love big tables, and I’m a real foodie! I worked for a long time as a buyer in the fashion industry. Over the years and the births, I’ve always taken a great interest in our interior, which is a reflection of the family. I’ve also moved around a lot! The reason I’m going into interior design now is because I’ve been asked too many times, “What would you do in my home?” “Why don’t you go for it?”. And there comes a time when you do have to go for it! I admit, at the beginning, it was more of a short-term thing, and I didn’t imagine myself stopping everything else to devote myself to it completely. I’m very mindful about my personal life. I’m passionate about cooking, I like to entertain, to set the table, invite people to enjoy my food, and above all, make my home a lively place. The homes I design are not merely beautiful or aesthetic. Their common denominator is that they always reflect the values that I hold dear, such as conviviality, sharing, the family and friends. Because we are all mothers, grandmothers, girlfriends… Because we all want to feel good when we’re at home. Because our home is a reflection of our soul and our personality. Because I won’t be embarking upon the adventure of having a fifth child, but I’m ready to take on lots of baby projects! And because a home that accommodates several people must have a cosy cocoon for each one, and all tastes should be taken into account while the whole remains coherent.
How long have you been living in this apartment?
I’ve been here since March 2019, and I like it very much indeed! But I rarely get attached to the places where I live. I love them, but leaving them doesn’t break my heart. My house is always a reflection of a period in my life, and because I like to move forward and evolve, I’m always happy to move on to something else when the time is right. What’s more, my last pregnancy obviously meant I had to look for somewhere else, to have more space and, preferably, a garden, if possible (having two children at a time means I have to organise myself).
I'm a "tableware collector". Deborah gave me some plates, and I fell under the spell (...) Naturally, the idea of creating a tableware brand matured between the two of us
Has its layout changed with four children?
I like decoration and order, but above all, I’m a mother, and the spaces we live in reflect our large family. As a result, in our home, beautiful furniture lives next to the highchairs and the playmats, but the mix works well. In each of my apartments, I’ve dedicated a room as a children’s playroom. That’s their world, it gives them room to grow in their own space and they can keep their toys there, so I don’t have to find them in my living room. After that, as I went along, I adapted certain rooms. The kitchen, for example, has doubled in size as I’ve moved house. We eat breakfast together every morning as a family, so we had to create a central, functional space that would work as well for the children’s dinner as for our morning family reunion.
What style did you want to bring to your interior?
I don’t like the idea of an interior being defined by one single style. Mine is a blend of several different worlds and inspirations. I like a mix in my life, and it’s the same in my home. The big names in design like Knoll and Pierre Paulin mingle with tables that I made in a workshop, my lights are equally contemporary. I came across them in the glassblowing factories in Murano. And, above all, there are lots of different colours and materials. I don’t have any predefined codes!
Which room did you enjoy decorating the most?
My twins’ room, I waited a long time for them, and I took a great deal of pleasure in creating a space for them! What’s more, I was expecting my first daughter, and it was new for me to finally decorate a children’s room with a feminine touch.
What is your current favourite material, your colour, your decorative fad at the moment?
Table legs! I like the fact that this detail is becoming more and more original in its shapes as well as in its materials. The basic table with four boring legs is obsolete nowadays, and I like to catch the eye with legs that have more detail. Charlotte Perriand set the pace with tables and consoles with legs of different sizes, and then a lot of designers got into it and are creating offbeat pieces that I love. I still like warm colours, terracotta, mustard… and as far as materials are concerned, I’m really into travertine at the moment. I have a passion for materials and for tiles, and I spend hours searching for the best combination while respecting the individuality of each one.
What is distinctive about you as an interior designer?
Putting kitchens first. As I told you, I attach particular importance to kitchens! And again and again, my love of the “mix”. I always encourage my clients to talk to me about themselves so that I can best define a world that suits them. And, above all, I try to dissuade those who ask me to reproduce the same apartment as the one their friends have, or the one they’ve seen in a magazine.
Tell us about your tableware collection, Vessel. Who did you design it with? Why did you choose to work around tableware in particular?
Vessel is about the coming together of two different yet complementary personalities: Deborah Reyner Sebag, the fashion influencer, and me. Deborah met Luis, a craftsman in ceramics, during a trip to Portugal. Together they designed a personalised table service for her, as well as for her family and friends. I’m a “tableware collector”. Deborah gave me some plates, and I fell under the spell of the originality of her gift. Naturally, the idea of creating a tableware brand matured between the two of us, and that’s how Vessel was born. Sharing, giving and receiving are part of our Mediterranean culture and are the principal values behind the brand.
As a professional, what does The Socialite Family mean to you?
It’s a good repertoire of trends and a source of inspiration. Seeing everyone’s world, with their tastes and the way they live, reflects all the diversity of interior decoration. The Socialite Family collections are becoming more and more complete. I offer them to my customers, and I have products at home myself, which I love!
Which room do you like to be in with your family? And alone?
With the family, as I told you, it’s definitely the kitchen. Alone: in my bedroom, where I rest on my bed and, just for a few minutes, I forget that my home is being turned upside down on the other side of the apartment.
What building project you dream of?
A restaurant in Paris or elsewhere. I love restaurants, the tableware, the conviviality and the cooking!
How about some addresses for decorators, as well as essential food shops in the neighbourhood, restaurants to go to for dinner… Will you entrust us with your ideal neighbourhood guide, please?
In my neighbourhood: the florist Christian Collen, the multi-brand Béa Factory and the perfume designers, Nicolaï. For decoration, the flea market in Saint-Ouen, the L’Atelier 55 gallery – for its skill in hunting out incredible pieces. Elsewhere in Paris, Diptyque – for its candles and scents, Le Bon Marché – for its selection of books, AMPM and Zara Home, which are still a must. But The Socialite Family shop too, of course, as well as Smallable and WOMB‘s boutiques for children. And when it comes to choosing bathroom materials, Atelier Matière. One of my favourite shops in Paris is still The Conran Shop. I love absolutely everything there! As for restaurants, Le Balagan, where they know how to mix partying with Israeli cuisine, Le Noto where you can dance and sing, Le Petit Lutetia for dinner, and the terrace of Chez Monsieur Bleu in the summer. I like La Gare, which was redone by my friend Laura Gonzalez – just sublime and delicious – the Coffee Parisien for its burgers, Season for lunch, or bread&roses, Kanteen (especially with children) and then Chez Livio on Sunday lunchtime.
I have a passion for materials and for tiles, and I spend hours searching for the best combination while respecting the individuality of each one.
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily
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