Room to Cocoon: Inside the Home of Catherine and Manuel Canovas

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Catherine Canovas and her husband, Manuel, the renowned fabric designer, have created an exquisite weekend home in Normandy, where they love to entertain friends and family, as Pierre Sauvage found out, for his new book, Be My Guest …

Ever since they fell in love with a 17th-century manor house in the Pays d’Auge, Normandy, Catherine and Manuel Canovas have spent most of their weekends there. As this enchanting brick-and-stone retreat looking out over a classic jardin à la française was too small to accommodate their family of five children and six grandchildren, they created extra bedrooms by converting the barn, and even transported an ancient flax mill onto the grounds. Now the house is filled with a happy mix of friends and family of all ages.

Catherine is full of energy and adores entertaining. Her secret: keeping it simple. She likes to give lunch parties for a maximum of eight in the kitchen, where even in winter the light penetrates deep into the room and lights up the long table, which they brought back from a trip to Indonesia. Dinners, by contrast, take place in the dining room, with its black-and-white wallpaper and family portraits. Whether for lunch or dinner, Catherine prefers to use placemats rather than tablecloths, in order to “show off the beauty of the wood,” choosing from her collections of plain linen with braided edges or embroidered cotton sets brought back from her travels, in colours and patterns to match plates decorated with floral or animal motifs.

Catherine devises her menus around seasonal vegetables, mostly from their own kitchen garden. Unstoppably curious and a real foodie, she knows all the best grocers and markets in the villages all around the area. From these local suppliers she buys products such as watercress for soup, fillet of pork, or velvety thick crème fraîche, and keeps it super-simple to maximise time with her guests.

Relaxing her pace after a fast-moving career in luxury goods and cosmetics (at Yves Saint Laurent, Manuel Canovas, Lorca and By Terry), Catherine channels her formidable energies into her passion for objects. Trawling auction rooms, flea markets, and the internet, she embarks on intriguing treasure hunts, her finds including a Sarreguemines porcelain family dinner service, irresistible raffia baskets that she uses instead of traditional bread plates, and silver bulb vases.

With her husband, who is famed for his lavish furnishing fabrics, she also shares a love of flowers. While he chooses the planting schemes for the garden, she composes the flowers for the house: violets and hellebores for the tables in winter, bold dahlias and fragrant roses for the guests rooms in summer.

Photographed by Ambroise Tézenas
Text by Pierre Sauvage

The exterior of the 17th-century manor house in the Pays d’Auge, Normandy, which was converted by Catherine and Manuel to add additional bedrooms.

The capacious bright silk velvet armchairs and sofa in the small sitting room invite guests to curl up with their after-dinner coffee.

Catherine and Manuel Canovas.

Authenticity of materials is a key element here: on the exotic wood kitchen table, antique objects including art nouveau silver vases from Christofle are juxtaposed with Sarreguemines porcelain plates and linen placemats.

The choice of colours and ornaments helps to create the charm of a house. A palette of blues leads from the front door to the kitchen.

From Be My Guest: At Home with the Tastemakers, Pierre Sauvage, Flammarion.

The exterior of the 17th-century manor house in the Pays d’Auge, Normandy, which was converted by Catherine and Manuel to add additional bedrooms.

The capacious bright silk velvet armchairs and sofa in the small sitting room invite guests to curl up with their after-dinner coffee.

Catherine and Manuel Canovas.

Authenticity of materials is a key element here: on the exotic wood kitchen table, antique objects including art nouveau silver vases from Christofle are juxtaposed with Sarreguemines porcelain plates and linen placemats.

The choice of colours and ornaments helps to create the charm of a house. A palette of blues leads from the front door to the kitchen.

From Be My Guest: At Home with the Tastemakers, Pierre Sauvage, Flammarion.

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