Laughter and gentleness seem to be the watchwords that, every day, govern the life of Nayla Voillemot and her family. The four-handed...
Herringbone wood flooring and ceiling mouldings set the tone for the decor of this typically Parisian apartment. Looking like a young girl, sexy and elegant, Amal receives me barefoot, a cup of tea in hand to tell me the story of her latest acquisition: Gerrit Rietveld’s reduced model of the red and blue chair from the Bauhaus era. Nothing less! Legendary works of design history have the spotlight at their place. It is a common and visceral passion that unites Amal and Hakim. Almost collectors, these aesthetes can talk for hours about the history of iconic pieces of contemporary design. Serge Mouille, Ettore Sottsass, Mario Botta, and Pierre Paulin are part of their daily family life. Strong and distinguished pieces that reflect their amazing personalities.
Amal, what attracted you in the choice of this haussmannian apartment?
Returning from abroad, we were nostalgic for the typically Parisian and the charm of the old. We wanted squeaky wooden floors, mouldings and fireplaces that would never be used but that have a unique charm. What made the difference between this one and the others is the living room. It was love at first sight. Our doors are always open to family and friends, so we needed a nice room where we could receive all these people.
Where do you like to spend the most time?
The dining room because it’s where we have all of our meals, where the children do their drawings, Hakim works there, we relax over tea there with my sisters, we have dinner there with our friends. Everything revolves around the table and it is the privileged witness of the first morning coffee, the children’s homework, family meals, Sunday brunches and anniversaries.
How did you come up with the decor?
Before living together, 8 years ago, neither or us had any furniture, so all the pieces come from our shared history. Our decor is simply an accumulation of pieces that we like, that we have collected over our expatriations and our travels. It’s not something that’s really been thought out and neither adheres to a time nor a particular style, but it is consistent, because it corresponds to our tastes and personalities. Sometimes I tried things that don’t necessarily fit me, but that I appreciate in other people’s homes such as green plants and colourful walls. It was nice, but it was not us, so we abandoned them.
What style inspires you?
I do not have a particular style. I like to have very few pieces of furniture, but I like them to be weighty, occupying the space with their strong personalities, without the need to add more. Especially since we are true nomads, we move very often, so we don’t want to become encumbered (especially with three children).
Do you have a favourite designer?
There are dozens, each for a different reason, but if I had to pick one, it would be Ettore Sottsass and more specifically the Memphis Movement. I like the courage it took to destabilize the traditional design codes.
What was your background with respect to the home and respect for spaces?
I have not really had an education in design and decor, my father worked in fashion and we were more oriented towards that area. But the principles are common to both, he taught us to value quality over quantity and transmitted his love of beautiful pieces. As for my mother, who is Moroccan, it is clear that hospitality was paramount for her, regardless of the location or the decor; the important thing was to receive people well.
The inexpensive object of which you are most proud?
The Scandinavian desk in our bedroom, first because it costed us half a pittance, but mostly because it was the first object bargain-hunted by our son Qays at the Vernaison Flea Market.
And the object of your wildest dreams?
The period Chieftan chair by Finn Juhl, in cognac colour of course. Unfortunately, it will remain a fantasy because it sells at astronomical prices.
Is it easy to reconcile family life and beautiful decor?
It is not easy, especially since our children are still small. But for us, this is part of their education, giving them a taste for beautiful things, the respect for their environment and obeying the house rules. And so far we have been lucky, very few breaks, we touch wood…
How did you choose your children’s names?
We wanted their names to be a nod to their origins. Qays is a very, very old Arabic name, but which we found extremely modern. It is actually the story of Romeo and Juliet in Arabic, Qays & Leila, transcribed by the poet Nizami in the twelfth century, four centuries before Shakespeare. Soheil and Manel are also Arabic names (and Manel is also Hebraic), and for the twins we found them soft and harmonious together without making them sound like Chip & Dale.
What is your current favourite?
Just the two of us are going to Bhutan for the New-Year, then we’re going skiing with the whole tribe.
Credits Photos : Constance Gennari @thesocialitefamily.com