Chouquettes – Episode 5: Valérie Bouvier
If you’re after bright colour and bold humour, you couldn’t have come to a better place. For the 5th episode, Chouquettes tiptoes...
Charlotte Vauvillier and Jean-Baptiste Bouvier are well-matched. They both have a degree from Ecole nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, and later, these passionate about design respectively founded an interior architecture office and a boutique in the Puces. Jean-Baptiste has even a gallery specialised in French design from the XXth century, which he opened recently with his friend Pierre Le Ny. And it is a lightning success that keeps the seller busy. Specialised in the French furniture from the post-war period, his stand is overflowing with creations from artists of the U.A.M (French Union of Modern Artists) among whom Marcel Gascoin and Jean Prouvé. This passion is not that visible in their heterogeneous home, deliberatly less specialised. The composite flat, made of accumulation and perspectives, is a true open book. The periods mingle, which reveals, through the structures, bypassing and expansions, a story that only the building – from 1623 – knows the secret of. And all within 41 square meters. This performance was made by Charlotte, who succeeded in making a real three-roomed flat, with a full-fledged office. The works were efficiently carried out, and it happily coincided with the birth of Louis, their son.
Charlotte, can you tell us the story of your flat?
This flat is “composite”. It is the result of an addition of different spaces from different periods: the building is from 1623. The two main rooms were the original townhouse. But during the XIXth century, steel-structured passageways were built to link the second floor to more secondary spaces on the back of the courtyard. The result is a charming and atypical flat in which we move thanks to little stairs, bypassing and expansions. After our wedding, we decided to move in here but we had to renovate. So I decided to change the flat while taking into account the needs of a couple with the project of having a baby: the end of the shared house! We had to create a real three-roomed apartment, with an office in its own right, all of it in 41 square meters. It was quite a challenge. The kitchen moved to a bedroom, the bathroom moved to the kitchen. The passageway, which was first a dressing, became my office. “The agency”, as Jean-Baptiste says to tease me. There is a true archaeological dimension in this flat, and, during the works, we discovered old windows and doors. For example, the parents room is accessible thanks to an expansion of the XIXth that leads to a window frame in cut stone from the XVIIth, which we decided to keep visible. We eventually moved in 2013, after 4 months of work.
Jean-Baptiste, how would you define your style in terms of furniture?
In the gallery, I exclusively present furniture by members of the U.A.M (French Union of Modern Artists) which is today to be considered as the greatest French modern movement of the XXth century, founder of what we will call later “design”. Some of them are famed, such as Robert Mallet-Stevens, Le Corbusier, Jean Prouvé, Charlotte Perriand and Marcel Gascoin. This movement, which started in the 20’s and ended in the 50’s with the Reconstruction, fascinates me because it is beyond the history of the decorative arts and falls under the History of France. Home, we have a “cooler” and more heterogeneous approach. We spend our time hunting for antiques and this leads us to discover and open our minds every time a bit more. Thus we allow ourselves “accidents” and work a lot by associations, accumulations and arrangements. Let’s take the example of this meeting between a Buxus (a kind of papier-mâché) piece of furniture by the Italian designer Giuseppe Pagano, from the 20’s, this French ceramic by Denise Gatard from the end of the 40’s, this abstract painting by Robert Texier (close to Sonia Delaunay) from 1947 and the Charlotte’s “Kelly” from the 70’s which, one evening, by chance, found its place there.
Is it easy to combine family life and designer pieces?
We have a beautiful coffee table by Pierre Paulin, from 1954, in which our son Louis loves experimenting all kinds of noises and materials. Yes, there are a few marks on the top but “things wear out only if you use it”. This is the fair fate of an object. Of course, we fear a little the first flower drawn with a red felt pen on the Jean Prouvé chair. For the ceramics, Charlotte found the perfect solution: during the week, she drops Louis off at the crèche and she puts the vases away the weekends.
In your flat, where do you spend the most of your time?
It is in the living room, room that we organised according to different points of view. Every place where we sit has its own perspective. We thought our home like a scenery made of different panoramas.
What is the cheap piece you are the proudest of?
Just before our wedding, we bought a very pretty occasional table by Mathieu Matégot for 20 euros. We did not know yet that it will be used to put our wedding rings during the ceremony in a small fishermen church in Brittany. We chose Radiohead for the wedding march, Psaume 23 was sung by Daniel Darc and Sébastien Tellier for our exit: it was a great moment of love and rock n’roll. We made all our friend like Mass! Today, it seems not possible to get rid of this table. It is a small landmark in our life.
What is missing in your flat?
200 or 300 square meters.
What is the piece that matters the most?
It is the Italian piece of furniture by Giuseppe Pagano, because it is the first piece we chose together when we moved in.
The Jean Prouvé chair that cost me an arm and a leg!
What is the piece of your craziest dreams?
It is a shelf from the House of Mexico in Paris by Charlotte Perriand.
I started this life of antique dealer when I was still a student, by collecting and selling the first photographic processes of the XIXth. I think about a French full-plate daguerreotype (and there is only one) that I had in hand and that represents men coming back from hunting. It dated from 1848. Some smart men were posing on the front steps of a beautiful house with their trophies. I was looking at one of them who was old enough to have known the French Revolution, and this idea seemed vertiginous. That’s my romantic side.
Is there an iconic designer for you?
Josef Hoffmann, a great participant in the Vienna Secession. I literally like the graphical and clear aspect of his work. His drawings are very simple, always embellished by a detail we could compare to vanity that is not really vanity.
Marcel Gascoin. I consider him, in the field furniture and interior design, as the greatest participant of the post-war period. Close to Prouvé and Mallet-Stevens before the Second World War, his role at the moment of the Reconstruction is founding. Entrepreneur, drawer, designer, he is also a trainer. Indeed, he played a key role between the generation of the inter-war period and the young generation which, armed with this conceptual and aesthetical legacy, has been very efficient. I think of Pierre Paulin, Joseph-André Motte and Pierre Guariche who all worked for him in his ARHEC agency at the beginning of the 50’s.
Where do you hunt for antiques in Paris? Do you have 3 addresses to give us?
We have three favourite addresses and not only in Paris. First, the flea market! The place is not to be compared with anything else, the entire world goes there. The best Parisian antique dealers win their spurs there. The second one is a little second-hand goods dealer, close to our place, in Brittany. We never find anything there, but it is a real pleasure to go and have a look. It reinsures us to know this type of professionals still exist and face the “specialized” websites whose concept is often close (for the best) to the mistake and for the worst to the destructive faux-pas. The third address is: everywhere. Yes, everywhere, because hunting for antiques in a constant exercise and game. Wherever we are, we find.
Jean-Baptiste, how is your day like as a seller and gallerist?
Not a long time ago, the week before the weekend at the flea market was pretty cool. It was organised around the preparation of my stand, strolls in the Parc de Saint-Cloud with our dog Aldo and my passion for boxing that takes a lot of my time. The opening of the gallery Bouvier Le Ny rue de Tournon with my friend Pierre Le Ny thwarts my planning! Days are long, I go hunt for antiques early in the morning and then go to train, shower, a bit of accounting and I go to the gallery. Everything goes very fast after 50 emails and two hours reading documentation. Then it is eventually the pre-dinner drink. The week goes, the weekend arrives and I am already at the flea market.
Charlotte, how do you think you will change your interior for an eventual second baby?
To be honest, I think 41 square meters, even well-optimised, will not be enough for a family with two children and a dog. Note that Jean-Baptiste takes up a lot of space!
Can you give us a good family recipe?
Charlotte makes kitchens, but home, Jean-Baptiste cooks! Our recipes are quite “rustic”, we often cook a single dish. During the winter, I love to make a good Auvergne pork hotpot. I deglaze smoked pork with white wine, I add the blanched cabbages, I brown it, and then add the carrots and turnips, the fennel and leeks and I pour water. I add the sausages, that could be Montbéliard, Morteau and even Toulouse, let’s not be narrow-minded, and I simmer during 2 hours. I finish the dish by generously adding fresh coriander: it lightens the meal.
What would your next family holiday destination?
Tourtour, the village in the sky! While Cherbourg and Locquirec are our most direct destinations since we both have family there, our next destination will probably be in the Haut-Var, where we just were for a wonderful stay with a couple of friends and their little girl. We discovered it could be more than 18°C during the summer. It was a true revelation. Even if 22 hours in the car were necessary via Agen!
Credits : Constance Gennari @thesocialitefamily
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