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Touches of Provence, finds from Paris, treasures from the brocantes in France. Ten years ago Susannah and Hugh Cameron visited Provence for the first time from Australia, and well, the dream of a new life in the south of France had been born.
My introduction to Chez Pluie happened during my trip to Provence in summer 2018 indirectly as I saw contemporary French painter Karibou’s landscape paintings of Provence as well as the northern sea in the medieval village of Vaison la Romaine. I was smitten by the tranquility portrayed in the scenery, and as my vacation rental was ideally located across the square from the boutique where her paintings were being exhibited, I stepped in and gazed at them more than a few times (listen to episode #215 which was recorded in Vaison-la-Romaine). Working with Karibou, Chez Pluie sells many of her paintings along with the brocante treasures found during their travels around the country year-round.
I am excited to introduce you to the two-person team behind Chez Pluie as Susannah and Hugh Cameron, as you will read in their responses to my nine questions below, have fallen head over heels in love with their new life in Provence, and for good reason. Just reading their typical daily routine on a Tuesday will remind you how rich a life of everyday pleasures can be.
Below you will also find hand-picked treasures from their online shop which are dispatched worldwide from the South of France to Francophiles the world-wide. Self-described as a “France-based interior design resource providing Francophiles around the world with the finest furniture and decor available . . . All pieces are one-of-a-kind and either artisan, vintage or antique.”
All of their found treasures are one-of-a-kind and items to keep for a lifetime. With varying price points, I enjoy perusing from time to time just to see what catches my eye, keeping in my what I am looking for to complete a room or a vignette in Le Papillon.
I want to thank both Hugh and Susannah for taking the time to share detailed responses, complete with their own hand-selected images to partner with many of their answers below.
The 2nd Giveaway of TSLL French Week 2021: Chez Pluie will be giving a lucky TSLL reader a wonderful find on their site (click here to learn all of the details of what is being given away – any comments on this Q & A post will NOT be included in the giveaway drawing on Sunday Aug. 15th – please comment only on the post you are redirected to). Click here to learn more about the specific giveaway, and click here to take advantage of the limited time savings opportunity to become a TOP Tier subscriber so you too can enter to win.
Enjoy TSLL’s Q & A with founders of Chez Pluie below.
Q1: When and how did your love for all things French begin?
A: We first came to Provence for a dear friend’s wedding in 2011. It was mid-June, and the rolling countryside took our breath away: cherry-laden trees, rows of verdant vines, fragrant lavender fields, roses climbing on medieval stone walls, and of course the famous light…. it was un coup de foudre! At that point we both knew we wanted to live our lives here. The planning began and occupied every spare moment – searching for a house, organizing our relocation from Australia, saying au revoir to our corporate jobs, transporting our Labrador cross Frankie…
Q 2: When was Chez Pluie founded and what inspired the business to come to be?
A: We launched our online boutique chezpluie.com in the spring of 2016 after moving permanently to France in 2015. Regulars at Sunday brocantes and flea markets brought on an obsession with antiques, and furnishing our village maison. Seeing the possibility and potential in the amazing range of furniture, décor, and garden items, we hoped to make it accessible to the world. One of the greatest joys of this venture has been helping people complete the beautiful visions they have for their home. It has also been very gratifying to give these special objects that have stood the test of time a new life and context.
Q 3: Where in France do you now call home, and would you mind letting us live vicariously through you both for a moment and describe an everyday routine in the summer months?
A: We live in the Haute Vaucluse in a tiny village near Vaison-la-Romaine. The countryside is a bucolic patchwork of vineyards; (we are in the Côte du Rhône wine appellation) where old villages perch upon hilltops and forests are rich with native vegetation – including black truffles, for those with le savoir faire to find them!
A typical Tuesday:
Q 4: When shopping for items to include in Chez Pluie’s online shop what are you looking for?
A: I’m always on the lookout for special items of pottery, Aptware, gilt boiserie, club chairs, chandeliers, and handcrafted pieces. Along with luck, I rely on my instinct and select what I love: beautifully crafted objects, pieces with interesting or pleasing textures, colors, or style. Often customer requests direct me to search for a specific item: lightning rods for rooftops, for example! Curious and character-filled objects find (and fascinate) me: a miniature medical equipment set from the 1930s or the adorable eyes of a bulldog-shaped inkwell. I look for pieces that can give delight, both in their form and function, such as an elegant marquetry secretaire whose lid can be carefully unlocked and special items organized into all of the tiny drawers. (Click on each of the images below to shop or learn more about each of the items)
Q 5: Treasure hunting is a learned skill, but some people seem to have quite the talented eye. What are one or two details or approaches you have learned over the years while treasure hunting for Chez Pluie?
A: I imagine the object separately from the visual distractions that may surround it. I ask: do I love this piece? What would I think if someone offered it to me as a gift? Careful looking reveals traces of the making process, indications of an object’s original use, and its life up until now.
18th c. French Marquetry Secretaire Desk
Q 6: Susannah, your training is in Architecture and Construction. When it comes to interior decorating how has your own décor taste evolved?
A: My architectural background has helped me appreciate how people live in and move through spaces and to understand the complex and subtle interactions between people, spaces and objects. I aspire to create harmony between interiors and exteriors (courtyards or gardens, etc) and the objects they contain. Habitually I move objects around exploring new ways of seeing or using them or both. Without wanting to sound cliché, I do honestly feel like my taste is continuously evolving, but it is definitely eclectic. I am drawn to classic, fresh interiors that suggest a history of collecting and careful curating. I love the different ways objects can speak to each other through layering and contrasting and the interesting juxtapositions scale and color can give. I experience great satisfaction from tweaking pieces in a room so that it flows better, or to frame a view or object. Often the space will inform my décor taste – it might require a subtle intervention, like neutral tones and natural textures – or a dominant object to balance out other eye-catching features like patterned wall-paper, gilt mirrors, or a revolving bookcase. Having said that, some objects are very versatile and don’t depend on the room, like club chairs. They work equally well in a cosy, busy space as they do in a minimalist living room.
When it comes to the garden, I prefer lawn to hardscaping and dense hedges to fences. This builds privacy and interest and helps to feature architectural elements in the garden such as a terrace or swimming pool. Hedges make a wonderful sanctuary for birdlife and hedgehogs – we love hearing these creatures foraging at night keeping the garden escargot population under control!
The work of particular interior designers and architects influences my taste tremendously – perhaps the best way to illustrate this is with a design recipe for my fantasy home! On y va!
My ideal residence would be a rambling French farmhouse, approached through an avenue of cypresses, surrounded by lawns with plane trees and boxwood topiary enclosing gardens with roses, hydrangeas and lavender, for example.
The foyer would be designed by Richard Goullet, using a neutral palette, decorated with gilt boiserie elements, antique artwork, collections of pottery and antique glassware. The center table would hold a floral arrangement under a sparkling crystal chandelier.
The salon would have a bohemian style and would be designed by Alexandra & Nicolas Valla of Royal Roulotte – furnished with comfortable leather club chairs, mid-century lighting and a statement, fatigued gilt mirror. The large stone fireplace would be flanked by a pair of vitrines filled with books and curiosities.
Broad corridors with vaulted ceilings would lead from the salon to the kitchen.
The kitchen would be designed with luxurious details by our friends Shannon and Paul of Paul Allen design – they have helped us with our kitchen layout once before and fully embrace l’art de vivre, exemplified at the Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé. The centerpiece would be an antique draper’s table that guests can perch at with an aperitif. A large marble mortar and pestle for making aioli, antique épicerie scales and bowls topped with seasonal produce would sit on the counter and there would be a gallery wall of ironstone platters from the eighteenth century.
The dining room would be bold in taste, designed by Philippe Starck with the “wit and magic” found at Le Meurice, Paris. Louis XV armchairs would surround an oval dining table set with antique Limoges porcelain, Christofle flatware, and elegant antique candlesticks. Roses from the garden would garnish the table covered with a soft linen tablecloth and monogramed serviettes. Large French doors would open to the terrace with a view of the pool, lawns, and blossoming garden.
The bedrooms would be designed by Jacques Grange with striped pale pink wallpaper, velvet drapes and a comfortable Louis XVI sofa while bookcases and dressing tables would be decorated with stone sculpture and gilt candlesticks.
The garden and courtyard spaces would be designed by Alfredo Paredes (think Ralph’s Paris) with an abundance of greenery, romantic antique lanterns and 1920’s bistro furniture softened with cushions dressed in blue and white stripes and Toile de Jouy.
Q 7: What do you miss about France when you leave and long to again savor upon returning home in Provence?
A: First and foremost, we miss village life. We live in a close-knit community where everyone supports each other which is so lovely. We also miss the tranquility of the countryside, clean air and clear blue sky (thanks to the mistral) and the familiar silhouettes of Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmirail.
Q 8: What items in your shop currently are you especially excited about? Why?
A: We have some superb artwork that I am particularly excited about. There are some moody landscapes, and mysterious portraits from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. [Have a look at each item below as she describes each selected.]
The portrait of the Mayor of Roquemaure has a fabulous gilt frame.
We also have some contemporary French landscape paintings by Karibou, which would give any style of room a meditative and calming atmosphere.
19th c. Lightning Rod, timeworn copper, 6 ft in height
I’m excited about our lighting collection, particularly because we have been able to source a model #207 Gras Lamp (favored by Le Corbusier). They were originally designed for factory and office spaces in the early twentieth century.
We have an especially gorgeous oak table with fluted legs at the moment. It is from the late nineteenth century and has been beautifully sanded. It once was a draper’s table, but could find a new life as a console or kitchen island.
Q 9: Here on The Simply Luxurious Life (TSLL), elevating the everyday with the conscious choice to savor simple pleasures is a regular pursuit. What are a couple of both of your – Susannah and Hugh – favorite Petit Plaisirs you enjoy to elevate your everyday?
- Pink clouds at sunrise
- French music (Édith Piaf, Charles Trenet, Claude Luter, Françoise Hardy, Joe Dassin)
- A fruity, aged Comté fromage
- Filling vases with homegrown flowers
- Outdoor dinners with friends
- Village life – bumping into friends in the street and at the local épicerie
- Painting watercolors
- Pottering around the garden barefoot
- Photographing the surrounding countryside throughout the seasons
- Going to the square and boulangerie every morning for a warm baguette fresh out of the oven
- A good Paris-Brest (choux pastry with nutty cream)
- Helping with les vendanges – the grape harvest in autumn
- Mastering a new French expression such as nous avons l’embarras de choix! – we are spoiled for choice!
Explore Previous French Week 2021 Posts
The 2nd Giveaway: A Chez Pluie Treasure from Provence