Constance, who are you?
I’m a stay-at-home mother to three boys in Paris, but I come from the provinces originally. I’ve been living here for almost 18 years. I studied law, but after a difficult birth, I could never bring myself to leave my children.
Can you tell us the story of what links you to Paris, and, more intimately, to its 17th arrondissement?
My two grandmothers were Parisian and lived close to Parc Monceau. So I have always come to Paris a lot to meet up with the family, my cousins. It’s a city I know well, and I feel totally in my element here, especially since the children have grown up and we have a lovely place to live. That has not always been possible!
This apartment has changed a lot between you moving in and now. Tell us how you orchestrated the work.
We were tenants in this apartment. The opportunity to buy it came up, and we took advantage of that to do three months-worth of work. Almost everything. All the toilets, kitchens, bedrooms and corridors have been redone, but we haven’t done any work on the layout or the structure. The floor plan was perfect.
Your daily life has been “slightly” disrupted during these last few years… Looking back, what lessons have you learned from this adventure?
To save money and thinking it would be easier, we stayed on site during the work. I’ll never do that again if I have a choice. Despite the friendliness and efficiency of the team, those three months were very difficult. I cleaned all day long so that we could sit down to a decent meal together in the evening, and every day, everything had to be done all over again.
There's this little bit of this madness, of fantasy, that emerges in my style and my idea of aesthetics.
How do you find your own place, surrounded by four boys?
I’m really a very girly girl who likes to be surrounded by girls. I couldn’t live without my men, but I’m not always sure what to do with them. I have a visceral hatred for football, the noise of it pollutes my days and nights. And, in passing, it’s left a few corpses behind (picture frames, the garden gnomes that I collect and so on). I’m just frills, bows and heels! (Laughs)
Is Instagram a way of externalising your creative impulses and your love of writing?
Two years ago, encouraged by some friends, I opened this Instagram account as a showcase where I share my idea of beauty and my need to take care of details. I have a very clearand instant vision of what I love and what I want. There’s nothing reflective about it, everything works on feeling, on emotion. I’ve chosen to use humour to describe my daily life surrounded by boys, where I regularly feel overwhelmed. And the public has followed my adventures a bit like a comic book. I like to make fun of my shortcomings, my faults and theirs, along with all the love they inspire in me. They’ll drive me crazy with love, just crazy.
Tell us about your style: it’s so different from what we are used to seeing, whether it’s fashion or decoration. How have you refined – and confirmed – it over the years?
There’s this little bit of this madness, of fantasy, that emerges in my style and my idea of aesthetics. I find it depressing, suffocating to see all these accounts that look alike and conform to the codes that are thought of as “Instagrammable”. Being a follower and copying others terrifies me. Everyone’s identity gets lost, and no-one grows as a result.
Have you a colour, a material, a finish or artistic discipline that you particularly like? What background did you have in decoration, design and art?
Over time, I’ve come to realise that new things – in general – have no place in my home. I need a patina of age, and to be able to tell myself the story about the things I choose. I’ve always been immersed in a privileged environment: beautiful houses, beautiful furniture and beautiful bathrooms too. It’s a digest of popular culture that nowadays allows me to extract myself from the conventions, and to invent my own story, and my wonderful husband patiently puts up with it. I’m quite tyrannical, and I am not interested in the opinions of others in this matter!
Traditional, contemporary, young designers: who are your go-to people, your favourite places to furnish and accessorise not just your interior but yourself?
I spend a lot of time hunting in Charente Maritime and at the flea markets in Vanves with my aunt. These are moments of total happiness. I tingle from top to toe… For clothes, I love searching everywhere. I love to find little nuggets that no-one wants at low prices and that will sell for lots more money months later. When I spot a piece, I’m almost certain to get it for nearly nothing or for 1/3 off the price because no-one else wants it.
What are you most proud of in this 200 m² property?
It’s difficult for me to choose a particular object or a piece of furniture because I never get tired of things. When I choose, it’s for life, as it is for my husband and my friends. I like that my objects come together and create a harmony in which we are happy as a family, despite the nuisance and breakages from their football.
You are completely transfixed by details. How far can this addiction lead you?
Everything has a price. My obsession. I tidy up all day long. I am a war machine, constantly sleep-deprived. On the other hand, I adapt myself to what I can do or what I can afford to do. I always manage to find a suitable substitute. I am more about immediacy than patience. So I gave up on new tiling and worked around it…
How do your three boys and your husband get on in the middle of this very distinctive world?
For the moment, the boys don’t seem concerned, and they’re still kind enough to spare me their awful posters. My eldest came to the flea markets with me when he was younger, but he doesn’t any more. The second one loves fashion, though I try not to encourage him, at his age. The youngest still lets me pin up a few cute things about him, but I don’t know how long that will last. I do hope, however, that this will have developed their view of difference.
Do you have a particular philosophy of life?
I believe that when I open my door, I want us to find ourselves in a world that is old-fashioned, playful and warm, where the innocence of childhood is preserved. I like it to be Christmas every day, with garlands and glitter as a bonus! A little bit of magic in everyday life, where we can forget how cruel and horrid the world can be.
Do you ever think of giving expression to your passions by creating a brand, a consultancy or a curation service?
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily