Catherine Johnson’s Glossy Weekend In The Swiss Alps

The IRISH DESIGNER behind THREE GRACES LONDON on weekends spent in the Swiss Alps enjoying local markets and time out with friends …

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My weekend starts when my family and I reach our chalet in the mountains, which is only an hour from home. The clean air clears the mind and revitalises the body. Weekdays tend to be hectic and involve lots of travel and design meetings for my brand Three Graces London, so for me the weekends are about family.

Saturday starts with a cup of tea made by my husband followed by a long walk with Harris, our cheeky Airedale. Although I love him dearly he has got me into a lot of trouble with the local cat and small dog owners. After that, we might all jump in the car and head to one of the markets across the French border to buy fresh fish, organic vegetables and gorgeous cheeses and return home for a barbecue cooked on our fabulous Big Green Egg. I love the Saturday market at Ferney-Voltaire. It has a superb oyster bar with fresh oysters from Brittany and I love to indulge, especially if accompanied by a glass of sparkling wine. The Sunday market in Divonne is another favourite.

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We moved to Switzerland from London eight years ago when our children were small. When we lived in London, and prior to that, in Berlin, we partied and ate out almost every night but this has definitely changed. Home is now Champery – a quaint winemaker’s village in the Swiss Alps, about 20 minutes from the airport in Geneva, so I feel we have the best of both worlds. I love the seasons here, though I have always been very connected to nature, partly because I am a farmer’s daughter. I grew up on a farm close to Goresbridge in Co Kilkenny. My family are still in Ireland and I travel home at least six times a year. I’ll be travelling back this summer and am currently looking for a wedding present for my brother and his fiancée. I want to buy something special and timeless and hope to find a beautiful piece of Irish art at auction.

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Dressing up has been part of my family life and I have a weakness for labels such as Céline and Lemaire. In summertime you’ll find me in kaftans and flowing maxi dresses. I love to trial the pieces from my collection. I have collected vintage nightwear and loungewear for many years. When I put these pieces on, I see how closely connected fashion and escapism are. My goal is to be the go-to brand for chic vacation dressing.

In winter I tend to wear luxury sportswear. We ski most weekends and comfort is key in the mountains. I also love cross-country skiing; it’s great exercise and very peaceful among the pine trees at 1,200 metres. This sets you up perfectly for a fondue and a glass or two of Chasselas, the local white wine. After that the only thing to do is settle by the fire and watch a good film. We watch a lot of old classics, which are comforting, and almost always, from a design perspective, inspiring. Regardless of the season, we spend Saturday evenings with friends, either at home or at a dinner party nearby. Lausanne has plenty of good bars and restaurants and is surprisingly lively for a small city.

Come rain or shine, we’re up early on a Sunday to take Harris for a walk. The ultimate Sunday lunch is at Auberge de Dully – also known as “the chicken place” by the residents of Geneva. It’s an old, atmospheric restaurant and their speciality is a fantastic rotisserie chicken with rosti. A couple of months back we went to Copenhagen for lunch at Geranium. The food was inventive with each plate a piece of art with incredible flavours; the ambience was sublime.

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However, when I think of the perfect Sunday lunches I always think of Ireland and my family there. Nobody does a Sunday lunch like the Irish; my husband, who’s English, might even agree. It’s not so much about the food, but more about the banter and being together. I’m the youngest girl and when I’m home I get the job of cooking for the family, usually about 20 people.

As much as I like being around people, I also crave time alone. I love leafing through books and magazines on the weekend, where I find visual inspiration for my work. Another indulgence is a long bath with my favourite Susanne Kaufmann Herbal Whey Bath Salts and a podcast. I’ve always loved listening to BBC World Service podcasts, which perhaps stems from my childhood love of listening to stories and being read to. The last thing I do on a Sunday evening, is write long and unachievable to-do lists for the week ahead.

Three Graces London, www.threegraceslondon.com; at www.net-a-porter.com and www.mytheresa.com.

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