For a designer who draws inspiration from the fantastical worlds of cabaret and the circus, the past year must have been tough. No live performances, no theatrics, no spectacle. But Marie-Lise Féry has discovered a new form of inspiration.
After moving into this late-19th-century house in Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d’Or, a peaceful commune only a 15-minute drive from Lyon, just before the start of the first lockdown last year, the founder of revolutionary lighting and design brand Magic Circus Éditions has taken her cue from performances closer to home.
‘The audience was definitely missing, but my eyes continued to shine and my dream continued to live in me,’ she explains. ‘It was my garden and the magical power of flowers that came to really fascinate me. I couldn’t believe how it was constantly changing every day.’
Born in Paris, Marie-Lise has lived in Lyon since launching her antiques gallery, Un Château en Espagne, and, in 2015, Magic Circus Éditions. Her search for a house in the countryside took almost two years and was originally meant to produce a holiday home. Now, however, she and her husband have been lured in by the rural way of life, leaving the city for good. ‘It’s a peaceful lifestyle: open spaces, forests and vineyards,’ she adds, painting an idyllic picture.
This property may have been blessed with authentic features, from parquet flooring to original fireplaces, but several partial renovations had left it a bit of a muddle. It took the help of Marie-Lise’s long-time collaborator, architect Francis Juillard, to transform the home into the extravaganza of colour and fun we see today.
‘I wanted a house that was as happy as a party,’ admits Marie-Lise.
Those high spirits begin the moment you open the front door and step into the entrance, painted in red, pink and a confident flash of blue. It’s an appropriate introduction to this home and to Marie-Lise’s design aesthetic.
‘Colour,’ she explains, ‘has a real power over our subconscious and can change our behaviour.’ Here, it is utilised to make you smile. To perfect this positive effect, Marie-Lise turned to her friend Annie Duchesne Givone, a colour consultant for Farrow & Ball, who helped devise a distinctive palette. ‘To her,’ says Marie-Lise, ‘colour is life!’
The furnishings are no less vibrant. Pieces by India Mahdavi, Christophe Delcourt, Cristina Celestino and fellow French eccentrics La Chance and Pierre Frey were selected with the help of Claude Cartier, whose Lyon design showroom champions Marie-Lise’s work.
These contemporary highlights happily rub shoulders with antiques and vintage delights discovered by Marie-Lise and her magpie eye. She can’t wait to get back to hunting through galleries and flea markets for her next find. What links them all is her mother’s motto: ‘Objects with a soul will always belong.’
Her most recent discovery was silvered glass balls from the time of Napoléon III, the first president of France. ‘I love their mysteries,’ she says, ‘but also their round shape – simple and fascinating. A bit like the birth of something I suppose.’ It’s a fitting description, as orbs were also the focus of Magic Circus Éditions’ inaugural ‘01’ collection, the birth of her brand, chandeliers from which hang in the dining room.
They are not the only examples of the brand’s lighting on display in this home. In fact, the whole space is a showcase for Magic Circus Éditions’ designs past and present.
‘Colour is much more present in my work today than in the past,’ reflects Marie-Lise. ‘It allows me to develop a new language, more intense and incisive.’ The ‘Pop-Up’ lights in the living room and entrance hall are harlequin-like in the way they wear colour. Launched in 2019, they are examples of her steady move towards a rainbow palette that reached a new peak with the candy-striped brilliance of the brand’s latest ‘Balloon’ collection.
The theatrical wooden scrolls that sit in Marie-Lise’s living room and bedroom were props taken from the photoshoot for this new range. Oversized and whimsical, they look like objects dropped out of Brobdingnag in Gulliver’s Travels. ‘I found it interesting, necessary even, to bring them back into this intimate living space,’ she says.
No stranger to fantastical worlds, the designer names Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico as a major influence on her work right now. A forefather to the Surrealists, De Chirico paints landscapes full of illogical perspectives. It’s easy to see how his canvases could captivate Marie-Lise, who likes to play with the ideas of scale, relishing producing extra-large lighting designs that playfully break with decorating conventions.
‘I like my creations to provoke surprise and to be where they are not expected,’ she explains.
Her latest ‘ta-da’ moment is that she is preparing to expand beyond the world of lighting. Three new tables will be unveiled during Paris Design Week in September. Like the flowers in her garden, Marie-Lise likes things to be in constant evolution. ‘In my work, as in my life, I like to feel but also to provoke emotions,’ she says.
In her home she wanted the interiors to personify ‘joy, love, celebration, playfulness and life’. There can be no doubt that this same optimism will be present in Magic Circus Éditions’ new products. We can’t wait to enjoy the show. magic-circus.fr