Emane, Vincent: could you introduce yourselves, please?
Vincent works in the home sector, and I’m a wallpaper design. We have three boys, and we have always lived in Paris. We both love everything related to the home. We love designing interiors. From renovation to decoration, we find the exercise fascinating. In five years, we have already changed flats three times and renovated a house in the country!
What is your background?
I am entirely self-taught. I started at a theatre school, and then I set up my own business with one of my sisters. It was a pyjamas and children’s underwear brand that we called Adri. I really enjoyed the experience, and it taught me a lot, especially how to draw! We didn’t know much about it, so we improvised everything. It was great because you had to be really creative, and I could be involved in everything! I ended up leaving after six years. I then worked for a few fashion brands, but I missed the pure, creative approach I’d known at Adri. So I went over to textile design, and after training at a school of applied arts, I set up my own business. Today, I design and market my creations under my name, Emane de Malleray!
I started with a classic course in one of the top colleges, but I quickly moved on to communication for luxury brands. Not for “luxury” as such, but to work on beautiful things. I’ve always loved everything to do with architecture, objects and furniture. And this is the world in which I am developing myself now!
Tell us about your education in “beauty”. How did your tastes develop?
I was immersed in an aesthetic environment linked to beautiful houses and beautiful exteriors, but I can’t say that my parents had a real desire to pass this on to us. So my approach to beauty came about rather spontaneously and was, above all, linked to fashion. The search for that delicate balance between material, colour and form. That’s really how I started to express my aesthetic sensibility. Meeting Vincent, who had a very different approach from mine and who had benefited from a comprehensive education in good taste since he was a child, helped me to evolve and widen my horizons. My playground is now much bigger!
It clearly comes from my family! We are hungry for beauty. We search for it everywhere, all the time. In books, landscapes, objects, houses… And I’ve always worked closely with art directors who have allowed me to complete my education in fashion, graphic design, design and architecture. I travel a lot too. Each time, I come back with hundreds of photos that nourish me and help to feed my imagination.
When did you realise you wanted to dedicate your life to it?
I don’t think I realised it consciously. I’m a hypersensitive person, everything has a strong effect on me. I need to surround myself with order and beauty for my own well-being. It calms me down, soothes me. But it took me a long time to allow myself to change my “status”; to go from being a consumer to being a creator of beautiful things. It feels completely natural to me now!
My rather classical university experience was almost an obstacle. There, beautiful things were for leisure, they didn’t really count as “serious work”! It’s only been in the past few years that I have really managed to make the two coincide.
What nourishes and stimulates your inspiration on an everyday basis?
That’s a question I’m often asked. I’m very much captivated by the spontaneity in art and aesthetics in general. The raw, lively aspect and the contrasts bowl me over. For example, I was obsessed with the idea of giving our sons a mixed-up first name. The idea of a boy with an ambiguous first name totally delighted me. I only got my own way for Hyacinthe! So I have many inspirations. In the main, I would cite the naïve painters for the contrast created by the mastery they bring to the service of innocence, contemporary dance (the pieces by William Forsythe and Pina Baush being my favourites), and illustrations for children’s books as well. Some of them are stunning! I have a vivid memory of the day when, at nursery school, I first opened the book, The Three Robbers. That was an aesthetic shock to the system. The big black or blue backgrounds on which the simple silhouette of their hats stood out – it was so evocative of mystery and darkness! Materials also inspire me. There is something very instinctive in the way you appreciate them because they appeal to several senses There’s nothing reasoned or intellectualised about it, I think that’s what I like! In short, I draw inspiration from both large and small things.
Everything, all the time! It is more a question of knowing how to look, I think. I walk a lot, wherever I am, because walking pace gives me time to look. And then, of course, books, magazines, travels, films, people, exhibitions and so on.
What period of history would you have liked to live in?
The 30s and 40s. Whether you think in terms of fashion, architecture or design, these two decades were extremely rich and continue to influence me – us – today!
Oh my goodness, there are so many! From ancient Greece for its simple beauty to the 18th-century, for which I have a particular affection both from a formal point of view and for the Enlightenment, to the Roaring 20s, where we freed ourselves stylistically from so many things and where the atmosphere must have been formidable. And then there’s the 70s and 80s which, seen from today’s perspective, seemed so carefree, with so much freshness and excess. But I’m delighted to be alive today because we have inherited all of that at once. And I loathe nostalgia.
Designers, artists: who are those whose work has influenced you and your work?
Without hesitation, I would say Josef Franck. As an architect and designer in the 1930s/1940s, he created some totally stunning interior design motifs. You can even find pieces of furniture decorated with some of his fabrics, exceptional! His favourite subject is mainly the world of plants, and the way he draws the natural world, the way he captures it in his illustrations, is so simple and spontaneous. As for his use of colours… It’s magnificent. Judging by his work in textile design, we can see how daring that period was in terms of decoration when you see the wealth of motifs he created. It’s quite different today. We take a more restrained, more controlled decorative approach. At school, I was frequently told that my designs were too rich, that I would have to pare them back if I was to be profitable. I agree entirely, but I can’t work like that! It has to be rich and lush, the eye must get lost, otherwise what is the point of wallpaper at all?
For me, it will be more like a place: the Villa Necchi in Milan. For Piero Portaluppi’s brilliant architecture, which I feel is enriched by the mixture of furniture periods and the art of good living that it implies. Every detail, from the door handle to the garden furniture, is perfect. I keep everything!
Here we are in your apartment. What was your thinking here?
For our third apartment in Paris, we wanted a more radically material-oriented approach. So we worked on combinations of materials and on the resonance between texture and colour. We were looking for a balance between raw materials on the one hand and the way they could be worked on the other: from travertine laid in a relatively sophisticated panelled design on the dining room walls, and tons of unpolished marble in the bathrooms and kitchen but with integrated shelving and planter systems, to rough hessian for covering doors and cupboards, but with brass handles and so on. Our previous flats were very lightly partitioned with large living areas. Here, we wanted each room to have a specific function, in short, fairly classical and bourgeois. This is very important because after all, allowing oneself to have a dinner party with three friends on the coffee table in the living room seems much more intimate than a formal meal in the dining room. It’s quite non-conformist!
You have used a lot of stone everywhere, even on the wall! Why?
As far as I’m concerned, I think it’s about the love of the material again. Stone never fails to be worth touching and looking at. It’s soft, it reacts to the light in a very different way from that of a painted wall. It is almost like a landscape if you think about it, it gives the room a unique atmosphere, in nature, you find stone outside. Inviting it indoors creates a contrast (another one!) that I like. It’s also a good alternative to wallpaper or fabric for making a wall come to life. You have to remember that I work from home, I draw strong, rich motifs all day long. In the evening, I need to rest my eyes, and I don’t want my interior to interfere too obviously with my work!
Personally, I spend a lot of time in Italy. I think the façades of Milanese buildings have become a bit of an obsession!
How did you furnish it?
We are inveterate bargain hunters! eBay, Le Bon Coin, flea markets, second-hand shops, auction rooms, antique dealers, in France and abroad: everything comes from there. The hunt for beautiful objects is a powerful driver for us, and we mainly furnish in this way. I think a good part of the satisfaction in owning this or that piece of furniture lies in the fact that we have discovered it hidden somewhere, and that we reveal it by associating it with other pieces: this is how we make it our own. However, we don’t want to be overwhelmed either. We have to respect the “+1-1” rule: one item in, one item out, so as not to over-furnish or over-decorate. A house that is too full is exhausting, and the object must have a function, that’s its primary reason for being. We have very few purely decorative elements.
How does it reflect your personality and that of your family?
Its a search for the right balance in everything: old and modern, simple and sophisticated, comfortable spaces for entertaining friends but also space for family life. And the possibility of combining both, with reception rooms far away from the bedrooms!
Where are we likely to find you in the coming months?
Probably in a new flat because we like the exercise too much and we want to play again!
You live in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. What are your favourite places there?
We are in a very popular area of the 18th, and we really appreciate its variety. If you want to see architecture, there is the former Customs House building in Rue Pajol. Its art deco concrete façade is remarkable. It is very rigorous and yet full of details. It has been restored very well; I love the metal shutters and the orange blinds! We also really like all the Indian grocery shops at the top of Rue du Faubourg St-Denis The fruit and vegetable stalls are amazing, and we make fantastic discoveries there. We feel really privileged to have this variety at our fingertips. There is also the 104, there is a real open-mindedness about this place. Few places in Paris are so free of the judgement that we frequently pass upon each other. We love to go there on Sundays with the children, the exterior of the building is magnificent. There is space, and above all, there is an Emmaüs shop where there is always something to be found!
Photography: Constance Gennari – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily