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Wabi-sabi way of life in rural France

Finding beauty in imperfection has never felt more relevant and, in this home/studio, it’s an ethos at the heart of family life

wabi sabi home in france home to ceramics brand epure
Julien Fernandez/Amandine & Jules

‘I find the light of the Charente region unique. There is nothing more beautiful than the setting sun at the end of the day illuminating the surrounding nature,’ says Justine Lacoste, who, last year, moved with her husband, Jean Hay de Slade, and daughter Alma to a small hamlet just south of the town of Cognac.

‘We are confirmed country people!’ jokes Justine. ‘We both grew up in the countryside, Jean in Brittany and me in the Périgord.’

Justine founded her own ceramics brand, Epure, in 2011, and Jean then quit his city job as an artist’s agent to work alongside her, and so the search began for a rural home and studio. ‘It took us three years to find just the right place,’ says Justine. ‘Somewhere that had enough space for both of us to work.’

wabi sabi studio of ceramics brand epure
Julien Fernandez/Amandine & Jules

‘Jean and I are fans of the wabi-sabi concept, which teaches that beauty lies in imperfection’

Built in the 19th century, the property was in a bad way when they acquired it. ‘I must admit, I was petrified when we visited it for the first time,’ recalls Justine. ‘The house was occupied by an elderly man and he was living like a hermit, without sanitation or basic conveniences. He only used the kitchen and a tiny bedroom so as to heat the place as little as possible.’ The building’s natural charm had been concealed, inside and out, by a thick coat of grey plaster. Despite that, Jean fell in love with it immediately. ‘He just felt a certain energy radiating from it,’ says Justine.

Six months of non-stop renovation work ensued, with Justine’s father and Jean doing almost everything themselves, right up to the installation of the doors and windows. Although most of the interior walls were removed so as to gain an open-plan workspace, the couple endeavoured to preserve the character of the rooms.

wabi sabi kitchen of ceramics brand epure in france
Julien Fernandez/Amandine & Jules

‘Perfect interiors aren’t really our thing,’ explains Justine. ‘We didn’t want to use modern materials everywhere. We like a rougher look that shows traces of a house’s history.’

‘Jean and I are both fans of the Japanese wabi-sabi concept, which teaches that beauty lies in imperfections,’ she adds. It’s a style that has been popularised by interior designer Axel Vervoordt, whose A-list clients include Calvin Klein and Robert de Niro.

Last summer, Justine and Jean visited Vervoordt’s foundation in Belgium, and got to meet the man himself. The influence of his style can be seen in this home’s pared-back, limewashed walls and concrete floors. It’s even apparent in the way they celebrate the passing of the year, with soft candlelight and tables dressed in a poetic mixture of worn linens and dried floral arrangements.

wabi sabi bedroom in france home to ceramics brand epure
Julien Fernandez/Amandine & Jules

‘Our approach to decoration is instinctive, a combination of the eclectic things we love. But one thing is for sure: we need to live in a soothing atmosphere,’ admits Justine. ‘It’s the only thing we’re really after!’ And they aren’t the only ones. At the moment, it’s what we are all craving. Lucky, then, that the couple plan to convert part of their home into a summerhouse, hoping to welcome like-minded holidaymakers later in 2021. epure-ceramique.com

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration January 2020

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