In conversation with Annabelle
A lesson in interior style: learn from the pros from the comfort of your own home
Style advice, design tips and decorating wisdom.
Annabelle, can you introduce yourself ?
My name is Annabelle B. I'm from Bordeaux but have been living in Reims for more than 20 years now. I've done all sorts of things - marketing, communication and art direction - but now I focus on interior design and renovation.
I've been doing interior renovation forever. It's always been a passion. Having moved house more than 35 times in 25 years, renovated my houses, my friends' houses, my friends' friends' houses, I realized I had a particular rapport with interiors
and decided to make it my profession.
I love to renovate places that have been forgotten, even damaged, to give them back their soul. Each time it's like an amazing encounter. I really believe in the importance of that first feeling when I see a place and I spend a lot of time in a house before starting work and talking to the future owners.
My philosophy: to try to keep the spirit of a place intact, to use traditional techniques and to turn
limitations into advantages.
Your decoration mantra?
Definitely 'to make old into new'.
What does the concept of good taste mean to you?
provokes, the way an object will fit with the atmosphere of a place.
Decoration is a way of representing ourselves. You have to be true to yourself and listen to what you feel when you respect the soul of a house!
What's at the top of your bucket list ?
- I'd love to find THE place to renovate – ideally by the sea – where I would say 'that's it, this one is for life!'
- To find the time to go away on an adventure with my daughters and Brice. We dream about exploring Indonesia.
- To experience something akin to what Elizabeth Gilbert lived in Eat, Pray, Love.
If you were a room in a house?
Instinctivement, je répondrais l’entrée : pour moi
c’est LA pièce la plus importante de la maison,
celle que l’on voit en premier, celle qui « donne le ton », celle de tous les échanges.
Mais j’ai aussi envie de vous répondre la cuisine, parce que c’est le lieu convivial par excellence, celui des réunions de toute la famille,
des amis : tout se vit dans une cuisine !
If you were an artist?
Louise Bourgeois. I am a huge fan of her engravings and drawings. And Pierre Soulages for the way he uses light and reflection. And Chiharu Shiota whose creations are like meditation, they exist in a parallel world. They remind me of zen monks in Japanese temples who create a new garden of stones every day.
Your dream project?
To find an incredible place to renovate and combine it with my dream of writing a book about making something new from something old.
Your current obsession?
Floors. They are more of a forever obsession ;)
I'm currently trying to create a Kintsugi effect on a polished cement floor.
We are going to use this Japanese method used to repair broken ceramics with glue or laquer and powdered gold to repair a cracked concrete floor.
How do you approach a project?
In the beginning I am quite reserved. I observe, I listen, I try to feel the space. I need to go into my bubble to imagine a place and how it could be lived in. Whether for me or for the owners, I attach a great deal of importance to the family and their way of life, to each person's tastes and priorities.
What should be kept from the original property?
As much as possible. And bear in mind that even limitations can become real advantages that might take you in a direction you never imagined. If you choose somewhere, it's for everything it represents so you really want to try to keep as much as possible, to renovate and adapt it.
Try to keep the soul of the place as much as possible - the floors, the panelling, the doors and door handles. Old windows can be used in a different way, keep as much as you can, you never know what an old bolt or a lock could be used as. These are the little things that give your space character.
What role do artisans play in your renovations?
Artisans play a central, essential role in each one of my projects.
We can all have an idea but it is the artisans who bring it to life. That's why my relationships with them are so important, we are a real team!
Finding the right people to work with is the key to success in every area and so much so in house renovation.
I like to build long-term relationships with the artisans I work with, so that we can understand each other instinctively. They know I care very much about the little details, the choice of materials, and that I really respect their work.Their savoir-faire can make all the difference.
What is your favourite moment in a project?
My first favourite moment is when we start a project, when I put the team together. There is a real adrenaline rush. Then when I see what was in my head becoming reality. That always really moves me.
I just love renovation works, the moment when things start to change and take on a new life. And I enjoy having to look at things down to the tiniest detail, when we have to work together to find solutions.
What is the secret to a really impressive entrance?
For me, the entrance is the the room that sets the tone for the rest of the house, where all the important conversations happen. You need to understand the atmosphere of the house straight away, even if that means going to extremes, all the while keeping your approach simple and pared back.
For example: a huge mirror, even if it's too big for the space, a few hooks and where possible a beautiful door that invites you into the rest of the house. I've always thought it was the one room where there are no constraints, you can really use your imagination (as long as you refrain from overfilling it).
Rugs: a talking point
I like simple things, spaces that are pared back and show the hand of time, but with one strong piece that stands out.
If I use a rug I like it to be really big so that it becomes a decorative talking point. I often use them in the sitting room to warm up the space or in a large room that lacks character.
Inspired by white
I struggle with colours in my own living space as I don't like it when things are set in stone. I like to have a lot of light and to be able to change things and move things around. That's why I love white.
I have an interesting relationship with white, I like what it reflects back at us, its bright purity. It really allows you to change your mind, for your decor to evolve over time. I introduce colour through decorative elements and objects.
But when I start to look at a house with clients and they want one or two colourful rooms I define a dominant colour that will guide me through the decorative process.
When I do use colour I like to use it slightly differently:
- paint the ceiling and leave the walls white
- create a room like a box where the walls and the ceiling are all in the same colour
- highlight a corner or feature with wallpaper or colour.
I absolutely adore your throws from the Andes and Central Asia.
I use them on beds, on armchairs or sofas or even just hanging on a hook to add a touch of colour.