Patrick Frey and his wife Lorraine have created a beautiful bolthole in the South of France, the perfect place to relax and unwind …
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOANNA MACLENNAN
Patrick Frey, president and artistic director of French fabric and wallpaper house Maison Pierre Frey and his wife Lorraine have busy lives in the French capital. When the couple need a break from the fast pace of life in Paris it is to this house in the Luberon in Provence to which they retreat. The house is close to Gordes, designated one of the most beautiful villages in France and also one of the most visited, anchored on the heights of a rocky peak. “We love the proximity to big cultural towns and cities – Gordes, Avignon, Uzès, Arles, Aix, Marseille – and many smaller villages full of history and art,” says Patrick. “This is really one of the reasons why we chose Provence, because art is everywhere! In music, classical and contemporary, in theatre, gardens, antique shops, not to mention ceramics, porcelain, wine and food. We really enjoy the atmosphere here because it breaks the crazy rhythm of the city. We feel very relaxed when we get here.”
Above: Pierre and Lorraine Frey. Lorraine was in charge of communication at Pierre Frey before leaving the company to devote herself to drawing, photography and taking care of her grandchildren. Below: A glimpse of the pool.
A family-run house for three generations, Pierre Frey was founded in Paris in 1935 and named after its creator, Pierre Frey. The present Patrick Frey, his son, took over as artistic director in 1969. Today he runs the company with his three sons, Pierre, Vincent and Matthieu. When Patrick joined the house, his global vision opened new avenues of development: exciting, original collections with high-profile guest designers, beautiful made-tomeasure rugs, wallpaper and fabrics, the opening of the company’s own showrooms as well as the acquisition of small fabric companies in France and Italy, in order to both broaden the Pierre Frey offering and protect the savoir faire, or know-how, of these unique and often historical operations. To this stable, Pierre recently added Sequana, the fabric company founded by Irishwoman Mary Shaw, who has lived and worked in Paris for many years, creating extraordinary collections of Donegal wool and tweed fabrics.
Below: “The best part of the day is breakfastime with the sun’s rays coming through the pergola, creating an ethereal atmosphere I’ve never experienced elsewhere. It’s also the best time to enjoy the quiet and take a dip in the pool before the rest of the house wakes up. Our garden is full of beautiful plants including rosemary, white broom and lavender and scented white Iceberg roses which bloom from midsummer until December. The smell of lavender perfumes the whole garden and attracts hundreds of very pretty white butterflies in spring. Thanks to our olive trees, we make our own olive oil.”
“Friends introduced me to Mary Shaw, and it was love at first sight, both for the spirit of the designer and for her collections,” says Pierre. “We met in her Parisian flat, which also served as her showroom, in which all her fabrics were displayed. Mary, a great colourist, is inspired by the colours of the Irish landscape – the pink and blue of summer flowers, the russet shades of ferns in autumn, the red of holly in winter and the yellow of the gorse in spring. Not a single space in her flat is white. Except in the bathroom, but there it is combined with black, with herringbone, checks and tartans mixed together. We didn’t have this kind of material and pattern at Pierre Frey so we acquired the whole collection, to which our design studio has now added a range of natural tones. “At Pierre Frey we attach great importance to safeguarding savoir-faire. Savoir-faire is the culmination of several things – skilled hands and eyes working together, beautiful materials made from the best quality natural fibres and stunning, well thought-out designs. The unique characteristics of Donegal yarn, with its many small coloured stitches, gives the collection a handmade look that is both rustic and chic. We will continue to weave this collection in Donegal because no one else can do it better. It’s also a good excuse to go there often!”
Above: Throws and cushions from the Sequana collection. Below: “We love our old Provençal armoire which came from a church. We use it to store all our tableware and always leave it open to display the contents inside.”
Pierre and Lorraine’s house appears on the Napoleonic register of 1823 as a “bastide”, a typical farmhouse of the region. The central part of the house was built in the 18th century with extensions added in the 20th century.“Because it is a farmhouse, it is not very sophisticated,” Pierre explains, “but this is part of the charm of the house. Rooms are small. Thick stone walls keep the house cool or warm, depending on the season. We have created terraces, pergolas, verandas and small convivial spaces where you can shelter from the mistral, protect yourself from the sun in summer and enjoy the light in winter. The house is a warm, simple and welcoming place to host our children, grandchildren and friends all year round. It is a place where we rest, have fun, cook, garden and a place in which we are just as happy when we are alone as when we are surrounded by those we love. It is a house in which we have made many memories and where we hope to create more, for a long time to come.”
“Of course, as with all houses, there are always things to do, but the architecture itself is finished. We have no plans to further renovate, improve or expand,” says Pierre. “However, as we often buy things, change comes from moving furniture and objects around. My mother used to move the furniture in her house at night – she would wake me up to help her! I think this habit has stayed with me and I have passed it on to my wife!”
Above: Pierre and Lorraine have a passion for antique-hunting, their searches centring around the nearby town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue where a vast antique market and streets lined with smaller antique stores are a goldmine. “Stock changes every week,” says Pierre. “One day you won’t find anything but the next you will leave with your car full of treasures.”
Above: Pierre and Lorraine collect old Provençal armchairs and 18th-century toile de Jouy. Tweed cushions from the Sequana collection.
“We are surrounded by greenery, olive groves, vineyards and drystone walls. To decorate, we have used a palette of green, to reflect the foliage all around us, and yellow, for the sun, and some Pierre Frey prints that I particularly like and which I change every two or three years. I also like to play with materials and mix velvet, linen and cotton.” No doubt Sequana’s Donegal wool will soon be added to the mix.
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