Alix Thomsen is a woman who is both inspired and inspiring. She is a former fashion designer with her own label who is now in search of...
Our apartment was laid out inside a former bakery. The room where we spend most of our time is very long, because it is located where the bakehouse used to be.
Mériadek, can you tell us who you are? Would you like to tell us your story so far?
I’m 36 years old and grew up in Nantes. I have a master’s degree in contemporary art history. My father is a historian, and my mother is an artist and weaver. Undoubtedly, this shaped my taste and my culture. I’ve been in a relationship with Olivier for 11 years. I spent 13 years working at one of Paris’s largests art galleries. That’s where I met Amandine Fuhrmann, with whom I worked for ten years before creating our joint venture, Datcha.
Tell us about Datcha. What’s the concept behind the store?
Amandine and I launched Datcha in 2016. Datcha is a creative studio that creates decorative objects for the home. At our Paris offices, we create two collections per year (crockery, fabrics, lighting and decorative objects). In parallel, we travel the world to seek out exceptionally capable artisans who make our designs by hand. We are passionate about craftsmanship and we can’t walk past an artisanally crafted object without looking at it. We created Datcha to offer unique, high-quality objects as part of a new, ethical and sustainable approach to consumerism. We work with over 20 artisans and cooperatives in France, Spain, Morocco and India, helping to preserve their expertise and maintain employment in a declining industry.
Where does the name come from?
In Russia, a datcha is a second home in the country. For us, it evokes a blend of home life and travel, with an aspect of authenticity. Everything that our brand embodies.
How do you create the themes for your collections? What are your starting points?
Our collections always start with travel. We often come up with the ideas for a collection by starting with the ceramics, which is an area where we have both worked. We have a range of colours and an overall goal in our head from the outset. We often create an entire collection that focuses on something that we love or a discovery that we’ve made. For example, we might buy some pieces of vintage crockery from a junk shop, do some research and learn that the family-owned workshop is still around, so that we end up launching a collaborative range of new designs. Or we might also decide to come up with a new twist on a technique that had fallen into decline. That was the case with spongeware, which is a way to apply enamel to ceramics using a sponge, which was a very popular technique in eighteenth-century England.
Where do you find the craftspeople with whom you collaborate?
Whether we travel for business or on our respective holidays , we always keep a curious eye for locally produced items, little workshops, or particular materials or techniques. For each collection, we look for new craftspeople and use new materials. We like to introduce new and unusual techniques and surprising products for our customers. It’s a lot of work and a voyage of discovery. You often have to go to small villages or lose yourself in the souks to find those rare gems who can work the way we need them to.
Here we are in your home in Montrouge. What is the formula for your interior?
Our apartment was laid out inside a former bakery. The room where we spend most of our time is very long, because it is located where the bakehouse used to be. Olivier, who is a proper cordon bleu chef, spends lots of time in the kitchen, which is why we have left it open alongside the living room. He also has a room of his own, a little out of the way, where he composes and records music. I like spending time in the room where I’ve set up a little desk for myself. In the attic, keep a lot of objects that I find or bring back from my travels. Our cat, Chloé, moves from chair to chair depending on the time of day.
Is your interior design something you do as a couple? Who did what?
Olivier supervised the renovation works in the apartment. I handled the furnishings and decoration. On the walls, I hung up works that I acquired when I worked at the gallery. I’m also the one who looks after the garden; we are lucky enough to have a really verdant terrace.
What inspired you to create your home?
I like really busy, baroque interiors with a buzz. I’m fascinated by Yves Saint Laurent’s Russian datcha in Normandy and by Virginia Woolf’s residence in Charleston. Olivier, meanwhile, prefers a more minimalist feel. So you end up with the clash of two opposites: we had to find a compromise, which took the form of a white chest made from natural wood with patterns and splashes of colour. There are a few pieces that come from Maroc, where Olivier is from. Others came from my parents or grandparents. A huge number of books, everywhere you go in all the rooms in the house. Of course, I have a few highlights from the Datcha label here and there. I like the mix. Our interior is a work in progress; I change the decoration regularly to reflect my mood and the things I find.
Do you have any items that you are particularly proud of?
The “Mercure” vase, made from blown, mirror-effect glass, which we produced with Amandine a year ago for last winter’s collection. It was created by a young, French master glassblower. I like its contemporary, designer feel despite the fact that it’s made using a tradition that has passed down the generations. Once it’s been formed by hand, it is softened at high temperatures, causing it to sag and giving it a dented effect. I like looking at the distorted reflections on the surface.
What’s your latest news as we start the year?
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay – Translation: TextMaster @thesocialitefamily