A fascinating family background inspired Laure de Bayser’s interiors business, as Trish Deseine finds out …
PHOTOGRAPHY BY NICOLAS MATHEUS
Laure de Bayser’s family history seems intertwined in the romance and adventure of Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa, Margaret Duras’ L’Amant and Edith Wharton’s In Morocco. In St Tropez in the 1950s, her maternal aunt Danièle met the Irishman Eric MacClenihan and together they travelled to Kenya where they had four children and farmed for over 20 years before returning to live in l’Allier in the heart of the Avergne countryside. Laure’s maternal grandmother, Geneviève, married at 17 and joined her husband, Guy, in Nigeria. Later, pregnant with Laure’s father, Alain, she left Guy and sailed alone from Nigeria to her father’s home in Casablanca. Alain was born in Fez and after returning to Paris, Geneviève met her second husband and went to live with him in Vietnam. (This is by no means the end of Geneviève’s story, she got married a third time to an Italian diplomat and lived in Rome for many years!) In Vietnam, Laure’s Uncle Achille Chiesa, her father’s halfbrother, was born. He went on to become a diplomat, posted to Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan and he, along with Laure’s fashion and ceramics’ stylist parents, her antique dealer grandmother Douce, and Irish adventurer Uncle Eric, were sources of inspiration to Laure when she created Studio 7 Avril in Le Perche in Normandy five years ago. After many years working in an communications agency in Paris, Laure gave up her career to create and collate her beautiful homeware and textile collections. After staging private sales in Paris, she eventually gave them their own charming outlet in Le Perche’s most emblematic town, Bellême.
Laure de Bayser with her golden retriever Noé.
Laure had discovered this beautiful, bucolic region of France, just an hour or so from Paris, on days spent hacking on horseback through the fields and forests with friends. Summer visits to her cousins in l’Allier and her aunt and uncle’s evocative stories of Kenya had already given her a taste for open countryside and in 2016, she started looking for a weekend house away from Paris, to share with her mother. They visited and visited, finally finding Laure’s now home, dating from the 1760s, near Mortagne au Perche. Laure fell in love with the house immediately, but it took her six months to finalise the purchase. By the time her offer was accepted, her mother had pulled out of the idea of weekender country life, but Laure knew she wanted to leave Paris for good and live full-time in this green and peaceful place. Her Parisian house was sold in 48 hours, and a new chapter began. Structurally, Laure had little to do (“sadly!” she says, as naturally she loves interior design) in the house. She merely brightened up old dark beams and added colour via Farrow & Ball paints, and of course her own creations. Dotted through the rooms with crafts from the Greek islands, Italy and Morocco, are original designer pieces (“I hate reproductions!”) all beautifully incorporated into the French antique backdrop.
It was April 7 when Laure first travelled with Uncle Achille to her father and grandfather’s beloved Fez, Casablanca and then all around Morocco. This immersion into the country and its people gave Laure the desire to go to the source of local craftmanship for her creations. In Greece, she does business with the fourth generation of a family of ceramicists, in Venice, independent artists, and in Morocco she travels to the villages to meet the women who will weave her carpets, embroider her linens and paint her tableware. At the heart of Studio 7 Avril’s philosophy of traditional savoir-faire with a modern twist is Laure’s intention to contribute positively to the lives of those who make its collections. Many of the Moroccan women who craft her products are not able to work outside their homes. By giving them an income, contributing to the economy of individual villages, Laure has seen the women and their families thrive. In a village 50 kilometres or so from Marrakech, an orphanage was built thanks to her support of a ceramics workshop. In another village in the Atlas mountains, a school was built thanks to her embroidery commissions for local women.
Far from the mountains and deserts of Morocco, for now, Laure’s collections are presented in a tiny, stone-clad boutique in the former home of the governor of Le Perche, just at the beginning of one of Bellême’s prettiest streets. Scarves, baskets and handpicked French antiques spill out of the door and onto the cobbles. Sunning himself outside, always happy to welcome visitors, is Laure’s young retriever, Noé. Soon she hopes to find further space where she can present her rugs, glassware and textiles, all reflecting the rich and romantic story of her globetrotting, adventurous family. In the meantime, you can find them online. www.studio7avril.com
In the dining room, Harry Bertoia chairs by Knoll; embroidered wool rug; tableware, decanter and mouth-blown glasses; all Studio 7 Avril.
In the hall, the wall is painted in Mole’s Breath by Farrow & Ball; Pierre Paulin chair from Maison Close in Bellême and embroidered wool rug by Studio 7 Avril. On the wall, Tigre papiermaché plates by Caravane.
In the living room: Habitat sofas; Berber cushions and rug from Studio 7 Avril; Charles and Ray Eames coffee table for Herman Miller; Sarah Lavoine green glass light on a support designed by Laure and made by David Gonsard in Bellême and a 1950 Praying Mantis standard lamp by Jean Rispal. On the wall, original prints by Victoria Aguirre for Pampa in Australia. On the 1950s English sideboard, a Pipistrello Martinelli Luce lamp.
In the bedroom, a RAR rocking chair by Charles and Ray Eames; Beni Ouarain rug from Studio 7 Avril; mirror by Sarah Lavoine and Vanity Boom and Alix D Reynis lights. Cushions are from The Conran Shop.
PAW armchair with Eiffel base, Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller; Vert d’Eau wallpaper by PaperMint; family heirloom desk; cowhide rug, found on Ebay, and floor lamp from Sophie de Montozon Sélection.
Laure’s collections are presented in a tiny, stone-clad boutique in the former home of the governor of Le Perche, just at the beginning of one of Bellême’s prettiest streets.
Vintage vases on Laure’s grandmother’s well-travelled Vuitton trunk.
Bamboo pendant lights from the Laos collection, with Stripe ceramics.
Rosette ceramics by Studio 7 Avril, with lemonwood spoons.