We all have our own image of Christmas. Memories of days with family or friends and endless discussions that extend from lunchtime far into the night. For Aurélie Rimbert, it’s something else again. The Christmas tree weighed down by tinsel and wooden ornaments, a reedy voice coming from a record player and a joyful Christmas truce. With Guillaume and her two daughters, the architect and graduate of Camondo will spend the festive period in this former bakery which is now a home. Their home. 82 m2 of floorspace in the hills of Belleville that retains the idea of the open set. To embrace the space as far as possible, Aurélie wanted to retain the white tiling on the walls right from the start. An invigorating brightness that bathes the living spaces in a clarity that she describes as zenithal. This omnipresent light ricochets from the floor to the walls thanks to the birch plywood sliding panels inspired by Japanese ‘Shoji‘ doors. In Aurélie’s home, you can breathe in and draw on the designs, both Italian and Finish, that constitute her everyday inspirations. Simplicity and materials that you don’t usually see, ranging from felt to woven leather. A truly personal space that is as eclectic as it is unexpected, like this amazing Birds chair by Harry Bertoia with a surprising provenance, or these trunks designed in 2012, from the Gosserez gallery. At a time when lots of us are still dashing round from shop to shop, The Socialite Family invites you to see the final preparations of a family of creatives.
Aurélie, could you tell us about yourself please?
I work in Paris, where I founded my own interior architecture, design and stagecraft studio ten years ago. Guillaume and I are parents to two little girls: Smilla, who is 5 and a half, and Oona, who is one and a half. For the last two years, we have lived in a former bakery, which we have converted into our home.
How do you celebrate Christmas as a family?
Quite simply, between the four of us, with our friends and family, a lovely table of casseroles, good wine, plenty of bubbly, lots of laughter, eyes that sparkle and a few gifts that we unwrap. It’s a moment out of time, where everything is put on hold, when you go out “occasionally”, watch dance in the theatre, go to the circus or see an exhibition, and when we play, make things, sew, do crafts, and cook with the girls.
What is your favourite Christmas tree?
The one I remember from childhood, covered in tinsel and candles. And, of course, the one that we share with the girls, where we hang little wooden pendants that I designed myself and made by Jean-Brieu Chevalier, a cabinet maker with whom I work very closely.
What is your decorative style like, as an interior architect?
For my taste, a successful style is a mixture of the old and the new, full of emotion, with contrasting textures, photos, books and music, as well as our little collections. A place that comes alive. I would say that, first and foremost, I try to tell a story in the spaces that I create for my clients. I design furniture that is full of memories and that is designed to put a smile on people’s faces. I pay attention to the smallest of details. I often take advantage of my projects to seek things out and go exploring.
Christmas is quite simply, between the four of us, with our friends and family, a lovely table of casseroles, good wine, plenty of bubbly, lots of laughter (...)
Your home as a history: could you tell us its story please?
We found the bakery at the back of a courtyard. It belonged to a baker who used to use it to make bread and pastries. It was full of baking equipment and chillers. However, we fell in love with the space at first sight. It was completely white with 15×15 cm tiles, bathed in vertical light: we immediately wanted to set up shop thee. For this interior architecture project, we agreed to retain the wall tiling, which we loved, then to put in a false floor with all the pipes and cabling below it, and above all, we wanted to retain the depth and views that we loved when we first saw it: the sliding doors were the best way to achieve that.
How did you optimise the space, which covers 82 square metres?
A large living room, two bedrooms with views, including this one, with sliding doors to open up the space as much as possible then, on the side, a giant bathroom bathed in light. Everything is wood, or more precisely, birch plywood.
Have you got any advice for us, so we can do the same?
Because we couldn’t afford to pay for a wooden floor, we improvised and created a sort of tartan floor engraved in birch plywood sheets. This tied in with the 15×15 tiles and with a reference to Japanese tatami flooring. In addition, Jean-Brieuc (my amazing cabinetmaker) had just taken delivery of his digital cutting machine. First, we tested an outline with cross-hatching and then we engraved the floor with lines. It’s really effective! Since then, a client has asked me to create something similar for her.
What inspires you in your work?
A pleated skirt, a painting by Katsushika Hokusai, crystal pendants, Pieter Bruegel canvasses, a screen, panelled Renaissance ceilings, the floors of St. Mark’s Square – all these details inspire me. For example, we’ve just delivered a mantelpiece that was largely inspired by church triptychs. There are two mirrored wings with an offset hinge, while the wings feature a rounded, black stained oak outer shell, while the 50s style bronze mirror has a cloudy gradient in the lower part. The mirror doesn’t reflect any faces, just the coving on the ceiling and the hanging chandelier in the living room.
Do you have any favourite materials or colours?
I work with felt, perforated wood and pleated leather. Generally speaking, I like noble materials and those that are more understated in reference to Arte Povera and the Wabi spirit. I love working with different artisans and taking in their savoir-faire.
And in terms of furniture, what would we find in your home?
It’s an eclectic mix. There are trunks that I designed in 2012 (marketed by the Gosserez Gallery) together with lots of antiques, such as a 1950 bench for two people I found in a flea market, a Bertoia chair found in the street, an old Muji sofa for friends who are passing by (and which I hope to replace very soon with a sofa that I’m currently designing), Pesce’s Il feltro chair that I got from Boissiere, Guillaume’s vinyl records with his turntables installed on a Tatami bench that was designed in the Art d’Elysées.
Whom do you see as a thought leader? Whose work do you admire in particular?
A little bit of Japan in the form of Noguchi, a bit of Italy with Gaetano Pesce, Alessandro Mendini, Ettore Sottsass and SuperStudio, plus a touch of Finland with Alvar Aalto. Otherwise there are the film directors: Peter Greenaway, Kurosawa, Imamura. Reading: Yoko Ogawa, Peter Hoeg. Seminal texts: “In Praise of Shadows“, “Species of Spaces“, “The Way of the World“. Exceptional women: Eileen Gray and Charlotte Perriand. And then Axel Vervoordt, who absolutely blows me away with his exhibitions at the Palazzo Fortuny, each of the five editions, what a man!
Where do you go for a winter holiday? Any recommendations for where to go on the slopes?
Tell us about Belleville, your neighbourhood. Do you have any favourite places there that you’d be willing to share with us?
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen snow. The last time was at Pi Maï at Mimi et Riquiet, and in Serre Chevalier, in an Alpine chalet surrounded by ski pistes. You have to take two chairlifts (one enclosed) to get there. You eat a lot, you ski a bit, you set the world to rights with your friends and you contemplate the mountains.
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay – Translation: TextMaster @thesocialitefamily