Zoé, who are you?
I am the eldest in a large family of brothers (also creative). I love my family, and that’s where I find my strength and balance. I’m dyslexic, and colours and creating things have always been my greatest joy. I’m a great believer in the power of objects, flowers and colours to calm our daily lives. For me, art is an everyday therapy.
What’s the story behind this apartment? It’s located in one of the most historic thoroughfares in Paris.
After we sold our loft, I was looking for a larger apartment. But the prices seemed so crazy to me… I had even found an old printing works in the south, and I was ready to change my life completely! In the end, I didn’t want to separate my children from my family (they’re all here). And then there was work to consider… So I decided to stay put! And look for a smaller one, but one that could offer me something a bit special anyway… and this property had a terrace! It was in a lovely spot (I’ll let you into a little secret: I spend my life looking at estate agency ads all over France, I love it). When we visited it with Benjamin, I immediately told him that it would be too small. He said that it was, yes, but it was also central, with a terrace and needed a lot of work, which we like. (Laughs) And then that for the 20 m2 we were missing, we could try and buy a house in the countryside! That same evening, that’s what happened. I found our house in Normandy. I don’t much believe in chance, but now I’m convinced it was written in the stars!
What have you changed since you came here almost two years ago?
Absolutely everything! We demolished everything from floor to ceiling. It took six months of work. We created openings where none existed, and added a fireplace. The priority was to enlarge the children’s room by raising the roof (we crossed our fingers that the town hall would allow it!), then to create a third window in the living room by removing the old beam in the middle of it.
Found objects, patina, pastel colours, an abundance of plants and this ultra-bright white… your interior wouldn’t be an extension of your country house in Normandy, would it?
Yes, of course it is! Because that has to be my style. But I did the work at the same time in both places (we were four days in Paris and three days in Normandy to follow their progress). On the other hand, I allowed myself a little more luxury in my apartment in Paris (tap, bathtub, sink), because I didn’t have much money left for the country renovation ! (Laughs) So it was lots of flea market finds.
Do you go there often? Why did you create this balance between turmoil and calm?
I’ve had the opportunity to do it ever since I was little. My parents have a house fifteen minutes from ours (which was my grandparents’ house originally). Since I have had mine, I have had to spend two weekends in Paris in the past two years. We are so happy in the fresh air, and above all, we have space! I think that nowadays I’ve found a perfect balance between Parisian speed and the calm of the countryside. The art and culture of the city inspire and stimulate me, nature calms me down and above all: I can breathe!
Drawing, interior design, product design, art direction: is there a particular area you like? Another one that you would like to learn about?
I love them all! They are also extremely complementary. I believe that this is the true definition of the profession of artistic director. I would love to get into children’s books. I’m going to try and find some time this year for this new project; it is quite close to my heart.
My universe is full of poetry and nostalgia. I love stories, white, colour and nature.
What inspires and nourishes you on a daily basis?
Nature, very much; the Aubrac, where I spend my holidays with my family; books; the city; my children; and flea markets!
Where do you like to go treasure hunting?
I love the garage sale season, which starts in the spring and ends in September! Personally, hunting, especially in the summer (we are a family of treasure hunters, going to five garage sales in a week doesn’t scare us). And then, I visit the pretty flea markets in Normandy.
Apart from white, what is the colour you like to work with most?
All the colours, really! As for white, I use it as much in my graphic research as I do in decoration. It seems to me that it is precisely my relationship with white that helps me to use all the others! The problem with colour in decoration (especially on the wall) is that you get tired of it quickly. It is much easier to change one object within an interior than to change the colour of an entire area of an interior. And then, it’s true that it is very soothing. There is nothing more beautiful, in my opinion than the shadow of a tree branch on a wall… A white wall.
What projects are you working on currently?
I still have a month to finish two books on my favourite places in Paris and London. Both will be appearing at Hachette in the spring. I won’t say any more, but I’m very enthusiastic and proud of this project which is entirely achieved through drawing! At the same time, we’re continuing the decoration work, and I’m starting work in the building adjoining our house in the country, which should become a studio dedicated to design. Finally, we are launching a new decoration brand in the spring. For me, these projects are essential drivers, and I can’t imagine life being any other way!
Do you have any art or illustration books, or other beautiful works that you absolutely recommend for us?
In decoration, I would say the charming book by Marin Montagut and Inès de la Fressange, Sous les Toits de Paris, published by Flammarion. In the kitchen, Héloïse Brion’s Chez Miss Maggie’s Kitchen, again at Flammarion’s. And finally, Christl Exelmans’ Cueillette sauvage, distributed by Mango.
In Paris, which are the small shops (antique dealers, bookshops or other) that you particularly like?
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily