We meet Héloïse Brion, the Franco- American hostess, chef and professional tablescaper, at home in Normandy …
Effortlessly chic, Héloïse Brion typifies l’art de vivre – the French art of good living. She worked in fashion for 15 years – with Calvin Klein, Roger Vivier and Inès de La Fressange – before pursuing her passion for cooking simple, family-style dishes made with regional, market-fresh produce. Brion created her website Miss Maggie’s Kitchen in 2017, an homage to her home in Normandy, a former hunting lodge. “We named the house Miss Maggie because it looks a little like an elderly English lady. It was built in 1895, in an Anglo-Normandy style and is very tall, with four storeys. This house is a huge source of inspiration, so when I wrote my first recipe journal, initially for friends and family, I needed to put a name on the cover and I spontaneously called it Miss Maggie’s Kitchen, inspired by the great memories of joyous meals shared around our table.”
Below: Héloïse Brion and her dog Rose. Brion has collaborated with brands including Ruinart and Zara, has a lifestyle brand Parsley, and is the author of Miss Maggie’s Kitchen: Relaxed French Entertaining (Flammarion, 2020).
“I live with my husband Christophe, [a portrait, fashion and lifestyle photographer, as well as a film director and composer] our two sons, Gabin and Belthazor, and our dog Rose. We originally bought the house as a weekend getaway from the city. Even though it is in the middle of the countryside in the Pays d’Auge, we are only a 20-minute drive to Deauville and Trouville on the coast. We moved in full-time in 2019, just a few months before the pandemic. When it was our weekend home we had five bedrooms, now it only has two. One room was transformed into a dressing room, one as my husband’s office, and another as a big playroom for the boys.
“As Miss Maggie is in the middle of the countryside and is quite old, I wanted to respect these aspects in the interior design by mixing antiques with modern artisanal pieces. We also collect vintage portrait paintings. Each room has its own personality; Christophe’s office, for instance, has a soothing feel and includes a wall of his photos, his guitars, books and turntables. He painted the walls and wooden floor white and has a long desk made with a huge slice of a tree trunk. As Diana Vreeland once said, ‘The eye has to travel,’ and I am constantly moving things around at home to see them in a different way and in a new light.”
Below: For autumn tablescapes Brion suggests using apples as candle holders, empty glass bottles as vases or candlesticks, and baby pumpkins in lieu of place cards.
“The biggest changes happened in the kitchen, which we renovated in 2019. The previous owners were not into cooking, and to me the kitchen is the heart of the home. We had everything taken out and I drew up my ideal kitchen with the space I had. I didn’t want it to be filled with cabinets and a huge fridge. We worked with a neighbour for the countertops, shelf and backsplash, made from burgundy stone. I also added a water faucet by my Lacanche range cooker, which is something we rarely see in France, but is so convenient.”
Below: The kitchen features a wooden farm table surrounded by antique church chairs, original tiling and a shelf with a continually changing edit of vintage portrait paintings.
“As this room is also for entertaining, I wanted appliances to disappear and not have any wallmounted cabinets. We hid the dishwasher and small fridge within the cabinets (we have a larger fridge in the basement). I worked with a talented young woman for the wall lights. She goes to brocantes to find vintage pieces and then gives them a new life. We have a long wooden farm table in the middle of the kitchen and vintage church chairs all around. There is a fireplace as well which we often use to grill veggies, fish or meat. We kept the original tiles, some of which are very worn, but they are all part of the charm.”
“Autumn is my favourite season: I love the fresh mornings and evenings, the smell of wood burning in the fireplace and the soft light of an Indian summer. I believe in keeping busy and love sharing recipes, on workshops or retreats. Miss Maggie’s Kitchen is all about human connection and the good things in life!”
My Art of Entertaining: Recipes and Tips from Miss Maggie’s Kitchen, is published by Flammarion on October 3.
Photography by Christophe Roué.