Georg Hallensleben and Anne Gutman are stars of children’s literature. Their characters Gaspard and Lisa have become icons in Japan and even have their own theme park at the foot of Mount Fuji. An everyday fairytale for this atypical couple who work together in a studio which is part of their home. It’s an incredibly charming place that makes us forget the commotion of the Parisian streets. It has a country feel and a style in line with their tastes and aspirations. Georg and Anne love the charm of Italy and the countryside. Their interior is scattered with finds brought back from their travels. They like objects that have a story, rather than a designer name, attached to them. The materials echo each other. Georg and Anne spend a lot of time with their three children and have chosen a homelife that combines education, family time and crafts. It’s a real breath of fresh air and a bit of much-needed time out for us.
Anne, Georg how is the work you do divided?
George illustrates the stories and I write the content and prepare the page layouts. It’s a team effort, we discuss everything continually, the text, the images, the form and from there any improvements etc.
What was your artistic path?
George is the painter. He had a book project that led him to meet the team from publishing house Gallimard Jeunesse with which I was working at the time, in model making. That’s how we both met. I really liked working on books that Georg was illustrating and Kate Banks was writing. We discussed the images used, layouts, font choices… It was Georg that actually persuaded me to write, he liked the tone in my letters and so gradually I began.
How do you organise your family life with your studio/home and children?
The studio is really the heart of our home which is the shape of a horseshoe. It distributes the children’s rooms and it is a passageway in the house. During the day whilst the children are at school, Georg works alone in the studio. It’s also a place where we receive guests, publishers and journalists. At around 4:30 pm the children return home and this is when the calm seems to stop. For example, Salome will be reciting her verbs in German, Colombine needs to use the printer which is conveniently placed in the studio and Robinson will be playing his violin. It could be chaotic but Georg more or less continues his painting in a rather stoic manner. We did have a workshop away from the apartment but it didn’t work for us. Although it can be hard sometimes to concentrate properly with three children we enjoy sharing our work with them and the fact that they can see and talk with us about what we are doing. Also, we work quite a lot so without an in-home I think our family life would be different.
Are your children a source of inspiration for your stories?
I’d say not in terms of plot ideas but they have certainly altered the tone of the children’s books I’ve written. During games with my children their reactions have given me emotive ideas. That being said, our children and Georg are the first ones to read whatever I’m working on. They are very logical and observant and don’t hesitate to gently criticise, if they don’t understand a sentence or theme or whatever, it is better to reconstruct, evolve or simply change it.
The history of your last character?
It is a little kitten who, like all small beings, is trying to stop the light at night from being turned off. Every night he invents stories he finds to be extraordinary during his procrastination such as counting up to a thousand, finding treasure, he lost a tooth etc. His mother and father give themselves in a mischievous way to his games allowing him ask to ask further questions prompting them to tell more and more stories.
Does it have anything to do with the fact that you have a cat?
The kitten in our new series of books is actually a character that acts like a small man, he just has a cat like appearance. He goes to school, brushes his teeth, eats clementines etc… Our cat doesn’t do anything particular, even if she’s a clever animal. We came about this idea after giving our daughter Colombines Eames the cat. His nature is different than the cat in our stories though!
In terms of decor, how would you define your style and taste?
When we bought the apartment, we were very attracted to its size but we found it very office like with its false ceilings and cream carpets. We added objects in materials like terracotta that came from Umbria and some antique Italian doors to serve as closet doors. Georg and I really love lived-in furniture that tells a story, especially the patina. We love Italy and architecture which go hand in hand. We added lots of white linen and cotton in pieces such cushions and curtains which marry well with the overall look of the apartment. We really like vintage furniture which too fits in well with the existing light fixtures. Not forgetting out Eames RAR rocking chairs, our cat made them his home hence why our daughter named him Eames.
Two or three decor addresses you like?
The online boutique Les Petites Emplettes of our great friend Isabelle Dubois-Dumée. Fantastic for linens, decoration objects, baskets and boxes that we actually use in every part of our home for all kinds of things! Un singe en hiver, in Saint Ouen, is where Georg found the incredible deer that’s on our terrace, it has a wonderful patina! A shop near our holiday home in Uzès called La Belle Vie, is a place where we almost never leave empty handed.
Do you find it easy to reconcile family life with a nice decor?
With small children it is easy, you work around them, just cleaning and arranging as you go. However with teenagers it gets progressively complicated, you still organize things according them and around them but your right to touch their things diminshes quickly! We’ve actually kept certain things from when the older children were young, such as the rattan chair and the football table in the living room, it blends well with the furniture we have even though we don’t use them so much.
Is there anything missing in your home?
Rather paradoxically, we removed them all before we even moved in; the doors! We love the idea of several rooms linked up without any separations but now that the children are older we would like to create some space separations sometimes.
Do you have a restaurant you can recommend to us?
Maison Bastille. It’s a really nice place that my friend Marie opened and of course the food is delicious!
Photography & Text: Constance Gennari – Translation: TextMaster @thesocialitefamily