Jérémie, Alexia: Can you please introduce yourselves?
Born in Provence, Parisian by association for almost 25 years. Like many, I “went up” to Paris for my studies. I stayed there, and it was where I met my wife, Alexia.
I’d say the same thing! I arrived there at the age of 17 for my studies. Paris, its culture, its history…it was all a dream. I spent my first years in Paris going from museum to museum and walking with my head up so as not to miss any of the city’s wonders. And then I met Jérémie by sending him my CV. I like to say that on that day, I didn’t find a job but I found a husband, which is better (laughs). I love the balance in our life. I have a wonderful family and a job I’m passionate about. I am a very fulfilled 40-year-old!
What is your background?
I’m an interior designer. I’m a graduate of Penninghen and worked for nearly 20 years for luxury brands like Chanel, Dior and Longchamp. In my forties, I wanted to go back to the basics, the origin of my profession, while using the knowledge of imagery and marketing that I acquired during all those years by creating Midi, Maison d’éditions Provençale.
Product designer and interior designer. I’m a graduate of Camondo. I began my career at Patrick Jouin, and then spent a few years at Printemps, which gave me an appreciation for working with backgrounds different from my own. I joined L’Oréal 16 years ago as a retail designer. After several positions working with the division’s luxury brands, I’m now Creative Director in Charge of Design and Image.
Tell us about your training in aesthetics. How did you develop your “taste”?
My parents were antique dealers in their spare time in order to furnish our family home, an old building from the 17th century that’s been in our family for over 350 years. So I spent my childhood every Sunday going to flea markets and antique shops. My mother is an art aficionado. She gave me the desire to study art.
In addition to aesthetics, I have always been fascinated by human creativity: in art (in all its forms), in architecture, in design and also in cooking. But I have also always been attracted to the crafts. The patience and skill of the human hand that can create so many masterpieces.
I've travelled a lot around the world, and I've realized one thing: we have the most beautiful country in the world! Because of the richness of its landscapes, the creativity of our ancestors...especially in Provence.
Your family history is also closely linked to your design house, Midi. Can you tell us about it?
I come from an old family in Haute Provence, from a small village that still bears my name. I spent my childhood on the French Riviera. My summers were divided between the Camargue and our family home. A few years ago, we were looking to furnish our recently acquired home in the Sainte-Baume. We were in search of furniture made in Provence which combined respect for the codes of the region and purity of form. We couldn’t find anything. It was on this day that my project began to take shape. I spent several months criss-crossing Provence, meeting passionate artisans, cabinetmakers, potters, fabric makers: all with that Provençal joie de vivre and unique expertise. The name Midi came quite naturally. It obviously means the south and the middle of the day. But mostly the middle of life, as was my case.
How are Midi creations born?
My approach: don’t copy the old one. It would turn out to be a caricature, not as well done and not adapted to our modern way of life. For each piece, I try to tell a story about our heritage. For example, I wanted to revisit the Radassié, the iconic bench of Provence, made in partnership with one of the last chair makers in the region. Since then, I’ve also collaborated with a potter to revisit the classics, but with contemporary lines. Lately, I’ve also been working with a rocaille artisan in Marseille to develop rocaille pieces. I’m in search of radicalism. Classic, timeless pieces that can be passed on, as our ancestors did. Pieces made only with natural, raw materials and a bit of shaping.
How do you, in turn, ensure that these values, this heritage and this vision are passed on to your own children?
One of my uncles put together a genealogy of our family going back to 1483. We are already giving them a sense of pride in who we are and where we come from. I’ve travelled a lot around the world, and I’ve realized one thing: we have the most beautiful country in the world! Because of the richness of its landscapes, the creativity of our ancestors…especially in Provence. In terms of decorative arts, it’s perhaps even the richest and most diverse region…with earthenware from Moustiers, terracotta from Salernes, Varages and Biot. These days, we tend to think that we’re so much smarter than our ancestors because we have a smartphone in our hands. But one only needs to look at how the “simple” farms were made here. Everything was thought out: their position for braving the mistral, the openings in the facade – smaller on the north side, larger on the south side…large trees in front to face the sun in summer or in winter. It’s too bad this common sense has disappeared! History is made up of cycles. We are starting to come back to it, and my work is oriented in this direction.
Designers, artists…whose work has had a particular influence on you and your work?
I like the works of Oscar Niemeyer as well as him personally. He was a Brazilian architect who died at the age of almost 105. He was a witness to as well as a key figure in 20th century architecture, through Brazilia and his work with Le Corbusier. He tamed straight lines and curves like no other. I lived in Copenhagen, where I discovered the work of Danish designers, most notably Poul Kjaerholm. His work, which joins materials like wood, leather and glass, is splendid! And last but not least, Willy Ronis – a photographer who’s taken many pictures of Provence – has touched and inspired me quite a bit. He really knew how to capture the moments of life. Looking at his photos, we can smell the Provençal herbs like thyme and rosemary as well as the heat that enters the house at nap time. We can hear the cicadas. It’s magnificent!
Tell us the story of how you came across this house.
We arrived in the neighbourhood, along the Canal Saint-Martin, almost 15 years ago. A little before the district was transformed into a temple to Bohemia. Originally, it was an industrial building with nearly eight meters of roofline. We bought this space without really knowing what we were going to do or how long we were going to stay.
What did you envision?
We organized it around this patio. It’s the heart of our interior space and is large enough for three children full of joyful energy! The space extends across three floors. The living areas are on the ground floor, the children’s floor is above that, and our floor is on the top. Its configuration gives everyone a quiet corner. In these strange times, we all need it!
What about the furnishings?
Our tastes have evolved over the years. In the early years of our marriage, we had a very pure, almost minimalist approach, with little furniture, no pictures on the walls, just white. The more the years go by, the more we need warmth and objects.
What does this space say about you?
These days, our interior also serves as Midi’s showroom. I can show my furniture to my clients in a warm and welcoming space. My pieces are combined with objects that belonged to our parents and grandparents. Our children all have an opinion on our decor. Everything is discussed, even the proportions. We left the decoration of the bathroom to them. Who hasn’t dreamed of drawing on walls? It’s a true home-made wallpaper. They decorate it over the years, and we can see the evolution of their interests and writing styles! The kitchen is clearly the main family space. We spend a lot of time together cooking and eating, but also working and hanging out! Penelope draws for hours on end. This space is full of jars, since we strive to reduce our waste as much as possible through bulk and home-made. Even the laundry soap and toothpaste we make has become one of our weekend activities. The living room is the place for our Sunday evening board games and the aperitifs we organise!
For you, The Socialite Family is…?
A witness to our times. We see the personality of the families reflected in their interiors!
You live in the 10th arrondissement of Paris but have ties to Provence. What are your must-see places in these two locations?
We live in the 10th as if it were a small village. The district now tends to be oriented toward the Rue du Château d’Eau with La Trésorerie, Mamiche, Univers BD and the Saint-Martin market. But we are also big fans of the restaurants Sur Mer, La Bécane à Gaston and the Le Verre Volé. Alexia likes to go to Centre Commercial for their selection of French and eco-friendly brands, including Veja. As far as Provence, it’s difficult for me to give you places. First, it must be defined (because few people know how to define it!). It runs from the Rhône to just before Nice. It includes the Camargue, the Côte d’Azur, Haute-Provence, the Luberon and the Drôme Provençale. This is why it is difficult for me to give you a precise address. I would say it’s especially important to leave the tourist areas and go inland: the small villages of the Haut-Var, the Jabron Valley and the Drôme Provençale have, for example, magnificent landscapes.
Where will we see you in the coming months?
Midi started a short time ago, and I’m happy to see that people like my brand and that answers a real demand. I’m working with numerous designers on great projects that will be released in the coming months. I am also in discussion with several boutiques and galleries, both in France and abroad, who are looking to distribute them. I would like to have few but good partners. Today, I continue to sell directly on my website: www.editions-midi.com. I love getting to know my customers and telling them the story of my products. And through it all, I’ve had some wonderful encounters! Finally, and above all, I’m continuing on my path and in my collaborations with new artisans in order to revisit Provence…its art of living, its craft.
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily