Every interior has a story. And perhaps even a “family mythology” with chapters that can be read through a cherished trinket, a piece of furniture brought back from a trip or a carefully looked-after inherited item. These are all decorative elements with a distinctive character, to which can be added the bold, timeless designs of The Socialite Family collection. Just like the Haussman-style apartment where Laure Bouvet – the founder of the photography agency Well Done John – lives and cultivates her love of images. The mother of three developed an understanding of light and staging through her early experiences in art buying in advertising. In the heart of the Marais, within the former confines of the Les Filles du Calvaire convent, the entrepreneur emotionally conveys what the essence of a family home means to her. The setting has been renovated while retaining its period charm – the mouldings and the Prussian stove – and the items that accompany the happy tribe from one home to the next have settled down comfortably together again here. Their farmhouse table, among other things, is the nerve centre of their colourful living space, where they have drinks with friends and do their homework, and then there’s a mirror they acquired from their grandfather and a school desk where brother and sister have taken it in turn to study. Pieces that have also become fully-fledged members of this family that swears by minimalism as the way of creating a timeless interior that is proof against the daily lives of cheerful, active siblings! A carefully considered decorative equation for creating a shelter for themselves in a neighbourhood that is defined as much by its lively hustle and bustle as by its historical past.
Laure, could you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Laure Bouvet. Pierre and I are the very happy parents of Victoire and Eloi (and also Jacques, the youngest who joined the family at the beginning of the summer!) I’m the second child in a large family. I love large families and children, and I’m very attached to the places I’ve lived, which create a kind of family mythology. I’ve always been strongly attracted to images, the care taken over things and the harmony that emerges from them. This is reflected in my business, too, as I set up Well Done John, a specialist photography business, in 2018. I also have a passion for yoga. I give some courses in addition to my professional career, simply for the pleasure of teaching.
What is your background?
Having studied literature, I decided to choose something I was deeply interested in as my profession. So I became an art buyer in advertising and worked in various diﬀerent agencies for ten years. Then I launched Well Done John. As well as buying art, I offer support for professional photographers through mentoring, coaching and training.
Why did you create Well Done John, the agency structured around art buying and coaching for photographers that you launched in 2018?
I was an art buyer in an agency for 10 years, and like many other people, I observed the profound changes in the photography market. Photographers’ incomes have declined significantly, and the agent’s role has been undermined, with emerging artists being recruited directly by agencies via social networks. Today, professional photographers are far less likely to receive support in building their artistic careers. This means they have to deal with business, financial and legal issues themselves, which eats into their creative time. They need to establish their position artistically and master the new rules of the game when dealing with their clients. I support them in their development as artists and entrepreneurs. There’s a diﬀerence between an agent and me. I don’t represent them; I support them for a defined time.
Your profession requires a high degree of sensitivity to images and beauty. How did you acquire your eye for aesthetics?
I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that was very keen on decorating, with artists of all generations! I’ve always been interested in the aesthetics and staging of living spaces. Of course, I have this in common with photographers in general, and ten years in the photography business has only reinforced my natural tendency. As a rule, I prefer simple and timeless things: in the choice of a house, an object, a piece of furniture.
It’s located in the former confines of the Les Filles du Calvaire convent, a place that disappeared several centuries ago!
Tell us what happened when you first came across this Haussmann-style apartment.
We were instantly captivated by the feeling of space and the soft morning light in the kitchen and living room. It’s a typical Parisian apartment with mouldings everywhere. It dates from the very end of the 19th century. It’s located in the former confines of the Les Filles du Calvaire convent, a place that disappeared several centuries ago! After years of living in apartments with a view of the courtyard, we enjoy seeing Parisian life unfold beneath our windows. There’s always something going on, especially in this neighbourhood. You can also see the Cirque d’hiver, which is symbolically very powerful for me: as a teenager, I entered a clarinet competition there the first time I came to Paris.
How have you used the space?
It wasn’t an easy start, it was a big job, and nothing went according to plan! We turned the master bedroom into a kitchen, added a bathroom and created four bedrooms in an apartment that had only two. The main thing was not to alter the apartment’s character. It was really the spirit of the place that inspired the choice of colours, the tiles and the objects we have in here. We also tried to make the kitchen fit in nicely with the Haussmann-style décor. You don’t notice it immediately when you come into the apartment. Choosing the colours was an exciting step; the idea was that they should respond to each other from room to room. I did several tests, some of which were unsuccessful! Colour always varies more than we imagine with the light in a room. As far as the children’s room is concerned, we’d initially thought that they would each have their own space. But as they’re inseparable, we followed Charlotte Perriand’s idea and created a removable partition between the two rooms: open when they want to play together, closed so that they can be alone.
You tell us that you have “just started” to decorate it. Which pieces were the first to find their way into your home?
Naturally, our farmhouse table has found its place in the kitchen. We found it at the flea market at the beginning of our lives together. It’s already been through three apartments, and I hope it’ll be with us for a long time! And we quickly hung a family mirror over the fireplace. I’m attached to objects that have already had a life. Our daughter’s school desk (which our son inherited!) is a favourite: our children love to draw on it. But we generally prefer to take our time when choosing items, because the ‘temporary’ has an unfortunate tendency to become permanent!
How does your career in art buying – and now in photography – inﬂuence your relationship with decoration?
Through photography, I became aware that light generates emotions. The atmosphere of a place is as important as the appearance of the objects. So I tried to create a soft, warm lighting scheme in each room.
What does this apartment say about you and about your family?
There’s not much furniture and very few objects in our house. I cultivate a degree of minimalism. I like to be surrounded by beautiful objects, but I dread becoming a hoarder. I’ve also tried to create a ‘family home’ feel by choosing timeless furniture. And it’s an apartment, not a museum! On the contrary, it’s a lively place, with children running around, frequently with jammy fingers, and it’s a place where we like to hold parties! We’re careful not to have anything fragile, and we accept the idea that walls get dirty.
Do you have a favourite room?
The kitchen is the most “lived-in” room: we’re a family of foodies, and we spend a lot of time cooking. But it’s also where the children do their homework, where we have drinks before dinner, and of course, it’s where our guests always end up when we have parties! Books also have their place, and we wanted to create a series of reading nooks in the apartment. So, in addition to our sofa, we’ve added a bench seat in the living room. We even have an armchair in the kitchen, which turns out to be the best place in the world to sit in front of the log fire in winter! In winter, we have our traditional aperitif and play board games around the Prussian stove, which is typically Haussmannian.
You live in the Marais, an unmissable part of Paris. Do you have any favourite addresses to recommend?
It is an inspiring area full of history, where you can still expect to find peace and quiet when you stumble upon one of its many hidden parks. I like Atelier Marais for yoga classes, Aux Deux Amis or Le Petit Marché for a meal with friends, and Mary Céleste or Soma (Japanese) for a romantic dinner. It’s also a wonderful place to live if you are a photography enthusiast because we’re surrounded by places dedicated to the art: the galleries Les Filles du Calvaire and Thierry Bigaignon, for example, the Yvon Lambert bookstore and gallery, the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, and the Fringe café, which, in addition to offering very good food, is an exhibition space for photographers.
What does The Socialite Family mean to you?
It’s a daily inspiration.
Where will we find you in the coming months?
Well Done John’s group training sessions have grown, and I am often at the Gobelins school in Paris or at the Espace Deskopolitan. Naturally, I will be at the openings of the Well Done John photographers who will be exhibiting during Photo Month in Paris. Those are important occasions. I shall also have the pleasure of participating in numerous portfolio reviews: open to all photographers, they are unique opportunities for discovery and discussion. This year I am also developing a longer format of accompaniment that is more like mentoring: I guide photographers through the development of an artistic series, from conception to submission to photo competitions.
As a rule, I prefer simple and timeless things: in the choice of a house, an object, a piece of furniture.
Photography : Valerio Geraci – Text : Juliette Bruneau @thesocialitefamily