Laurent, Marie: who are you?
I am a former advertising designer, but in recent years I’ve moved over into photography. More recently, I launched a magazine, Where is The Cool, and a content creation studio, the Where is The Cool Content Bureau, dedicated to bold and edgy brands. Marie works in communications.
How did you find this house? What’s the story behind it?
Three years ago now, I became extremely fed up with what you might describe as Parisian life. So much so that I left my apartment in the 11th arrondissement to live in a van and travel the Atlantic coast for nearly a year. Marie had to stay in Paris for her work. When I re-joined her – and after a few unsuccessful property viewings – an estate agent friend advised me to look towards Saint-Denis. We went to do a recce. That same day, we viewed this apartment, which actually looks like a house. A week later we made an offer. Like many properties in the area, it’s of typical 1930s brick construction with parquet floors and moulded ceilings.
Did you do any work on it or did you leave it as it was?
In addition to its small private garden, the great advantage of this apartment lies in this hidden room in the basement, which is accessed through an opening in the bedroom floor. The basement was built by the former owner who was a puppeteer and needed a workshop. It’s a dream for a photographer who develops his own photos! So I made it into a mini-studio. It’s not easy to work from home if you don’t have a place dedicated to it. We didn’t do any work, except for the custom-built cupboard running along the entire length of the bedroom and bathroom. It’s really quite small, so we tried to open it up as much as possible with a walk-in shower and a smaller sink.
What about the colours of the walls, furniture, and decorative accessories: how did you make the place your own?
I’ve never liked white walls. Contrary to popular belief, I find that they absorb objects, that they lose their contours. I’ve always dreamed of having a dark apartment and have no problem with the fact that it can “shrink the space”. On the contrary! So we chose this blue for the living room at Ressources, and it was a perfect match for our idea of making a pink library. We found most of the furniture on leboncoin. That’s what we did with the Plia chairs, for example, which we hunted out one-by-one to obtain one in each of the colours. The triptych of photos of “aquatic constellations” are the last three remaining from my exhibition in the Space Ipsum series. There are also some things which came from the Cliché gallery, including this little ceramic gentleman from the Cloutier brothers, which we particularly like. The table, like the library and the bedroom cupboard, was made to measure by a friend of mine who has become a cabinetmaker and is working under the name Made in Chineur. As for the rest of the apartment, it’s all about what we fell in love with. There’s this restful pastel blue in the bedroom that works well with the wood and the beginning of our collection of silkscreen prints by John Kacere. And this green that reminds us of those old kitchens in country houses. We added this 1950s Mado cupboard, the granite sink and the Lacanche range. The plates on the wall belonged to our respective grandmothers. You always need a touch of bad taste for an interior to be really successful, don’t you?
Which is your favourite room?
Naturally, I like to retire to my cave in the basement during the day. “It’s his den,” Marie will tell you. I decided not to insist on decorating this place so that it remains a place for work. I absorb so many images that I need a visually very calm environment when I work. I love the notion that a guy like Antoni Gaudí wanted nothing more in his life than greenery and a place to pray.
As a naturally contemplative person, I can devote hours to looking for information about the artists I like, and I really enjoy doing that from our bedroom. Its window overlooks the garden. It’s a luxury to have that just a few minutes from Paris! The other room that I particularly like is our open verandah. It’s all in glass and steel, and the sunlight streams in. It’s a delightful feeling, to feel inside and outside at the same time…
Great fashions are always born of disaffection that one ends up accepting, and then totally embracing. That's why I don't get inspired by going to see beautiful things. It's the other way around!
Laurent, you founded Where is The Cool magazine – which requires you to have a curious and keen eye all the time. But is there an artistic trend, a period, an artist whose work has particularly influenced you?
You become a specialist in trends by being, ultimately, a specialist in nothing. Being inquisitive about everything often prevents me from really delving into each subject. However, I am a fan (the real expression is a groupie) of the artist Frank Ocean. He is absolutely complete, his universe is incredibly rich. He always works with artists I really respect, like Wolfgang Tillmans, Viviane Sassen, Tom Sachs and so on, while at the same time cultivating a sublime mystery. After some research, I learned that he, like me, was a big fan of Ettore Sottsass. He is the proud owner of a Fragola mirror to which I devoted an article in the last issue of Where is The Cool. I like everything about Ettore Sottsass. His multidisciplinary side, his style of dress, his madness, his colours and especially his magazine Terrazzo. It was this approach that convinced me to embark on my adventure on paper!
Marie, how do you use your artistic expertise to develop it?
Laurent and I very often have the same tastes. So he trusts me with the articles on art. To feel motivated to write about an artist, I need to be touched by their vision or technique. It’s this contact with the artists and the interest in their reflection and work that has led me to work in an art gallery for several years.
Why did you found this magazine now? What did you want to achieve with it?
I launched this concept about ten years ago online. At the time, Les Inrockuptibles suggested that I translate the idea into French on a double page every week. After two years, mysteriously, they gave me no more news and they continue to use “Where is the Cool?” without my permission. At the time, the experience was a bit overwhelming. Then I decided two years ago to relaunch the project on Instagram and a year later on paper. Even if most of the major magazines are dying, I remain convinced that nothing will replace paper, the sensory connection is too strong. As a photographer, I don’t identify with the world of the current press. I wanted a freer field of expression where each subject has its own creative thread, where you can find fashion, art, trends or food throughout the pages. I also wanted to be able to collaborate with artists who are sometimes not very well-known, and whom I appreciate, and who deserve to be more widely recognised.
What are some of your favourite places in and around Saint-Denis?
The Saint-Denis RER station is a world apart and could easily frighten unwary Parisians who have never ventured outside their own little bubble (and so much the better). There are ‘Del Boy’ types selling cigarettes on the pavement, but above all, there are people offering absolutely incredible marinated meat which they grill on skewers over supermarket trolley barbecues. It’s a shame that my idol Anthony Bourdain has never stopped there!
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily