As it happens, we just came back from our annual get-together in the house which this year was very special because we are now all living around Europe: Elodie & Christophe are in Barcelona, Alexia & Nicolas in Bruxelles, Val & Chris in Paris and us in London so it was really cool to spend a few days together.
This time, there was 22 of us, 3 children, 2 babies and a dog. I thought I would impress everyone with my vodka jelly, a recipe I got from my friend Verity in New-Zealand but Christophe beat me to it with his mojitos but once again we had a wonderful time, great photos and fabulous, happy memories…
So here is the article from Junior magazine…A BREATH OF FRENCH AIR A gorgeous family home in France is an idyllic retreat for sisters Karine and Elodie Kong, the founders of
BODIE and FOU.
French sisters Karine and Elodie Kong, along with their partners and children, are a cosmopolitan bunch. Karine lives in West London with her New-Zealand-born partner Steve and their four-year-old daughter Mila Sienna. Meanwhile, Elodie lives in Barcelona with her partner Christophe and their five-year-old daughter Lily.
They are also the talented duo behind e-boutique and lifestyle brand, BODIE and FOU. Karine runs the online business from a warehouse near her home, while Elodie takes care of what they call the ‘fun’ part of the business, scouring trade shows and art exhibitions to discover the next big thing.
Where they all find common ground is in Southwest France at a gorgeous family retreat that was bought and restored by Karine and Steve at around the same time as the sisters launched their website.
Located near the Bay of Arcachon in the Gironde, the home is situated in an idyllic spot and is the perfect place for friends and family to gather and unwind.
‘Elodie and I have always felt inspired by the beauty and very monochromatic landscape of the Atlantic coast
‘ says Karine. ‘We grew up here, running around on the hot, sandy beaches and discovering little paths winding through the pine trees, learning how to swim at Club Mickey and eating Nutella tartine afterwards at our grandmother’s house
The desire to recreate such a childhood for Mila Sienna was what inspired Karine and Steve to find and renovate this house. One Summer, while staying with Karine and Elodie’s parents who had retired to the area, they walked into an estate agent’s office on the spur of the moment and bought a Seventies maison de plaisance – built in a late baroque-rococo country house style that dates back to the 18th century – and set about doing it up.
‘Besides the minor challenge of giving ourselves only four months to redo a huge house that was in a very sorry state, while also living in a different country and setting up a business, we also had to think about how we could bring together our tastes to create a welcoming, relaxing and child-friendly home‘ says Karine. ‘We wanted a house where we could curl up and read in a hammock under the trees, and also where we could spend the day cooking and eating together. For us, it was important to have a place where everybody could feel free to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted‘.
To achieve the perfect environment for all of this, the walls between the lounge and kitchen were knocked through to create an open-plan living area, spacious enough to comfortably accommodate large groups of adults and children. Whitewash has been liberally applied to practically every flat surface to promote a rustic vibe, against which a selection of modern, and antique pieces look smart and timeless.
‘Whitewashing is a sort of tradition in our family‘, says Karine. ‘My father swears by it, and he’s developed his own recipe to get the right feel to the mix, which includes water, milk and limestone powder. For me, white is to interior design what the little black dress is to fashion. It’s simple, practical and chic, yet relaxing.’
Using her superb stylist’s eye to great effect, Karine has teamed beautiful designer items that are on offer at BODIE and FOU
with inexpensive but well-designed buys from the likes of Ikea. She has also scoured flea markets and junk shops to add to the eclectic melange so there’s an antique gold chandelier here, a luxurious armoire there, a vintage Tulip chair by Eero Saarinen
(a present from her mother), as well as Thirties christening robe picked up for next to nothing at a car boot fair.
A solid oak floor was laid in the main living areas and a special insert was added to the existing fireplace so they could use the area during winter.
‘The redesign of the fireplace is where Steve really came into his own
‘, laughs Karine. ‘It’s his New-Zealand upbringing. He can’t help gathering, chopping and burning wood. In fact, he gets so manly about it all that Elodie nicknamed him Charles Ingalls after the father in Little House On The Prairie’.
Each bedroom has been decorated to give it a unique personality. One has a French antique feel with a fabulous chandelier and a luxurious antique wardrobe. Another has a feature wall in a masculine charcoal grey from Farrow and Ball
to give it a more contemporary look and is finished with modern white furniture. The Third is a twin room, which, of course, has whitewashed walls, but Karine has introduced a fresh feel by mixing vibrant colours and patterns on cushions and accessories.
In good weather, outside is where most of the action takes place. Large wooden tables built by local carpenters sit both at the front and the back of the house, so everyone can follow the sun or shade throughout the day and continue the important business of eating and spending time together. Cherry trees have hammocks slung between their branches, and in the apple orchard there are sun-faded deckchairs.
‘At lunchtime, when it’s really hot, we take lunch in the shade among the pine trees, but by the end of the afternoon, when the sun is at the back of the house, we’ll have moved to the table next to the barbecue
‘, says Karine. ‘One weekend, we had three families staying who were all very eager to go to the beach when they first arrived, but in the end no one left the garden
Idyllic though it is, Karine is a businesswoman at heart and is always thinking about new ways to improve and expand her business. The sisters launched BODIE and FOU
in 2005, their aim being to bring together beautiful, modern and Unique European designs for the home, all available through their virtual shop.
Thrillingly, it worked. BODIE and FOU
has gone from strength to strength, offering visitors everything from designer lighting to furniture and accessories. Amongst his treasure trove of desirable home stuffs you’ll find flamboyant ceramic lamps from Flavia del Pra
, rubber washing-up bowls
from Normann Copenhagen and even Bird clothes pegs
Rumour has it that a childrenswear label is the next item on Karine and Elodie’s busy agenda, but for now, the family are focusing on enjoying time together at their French idyll. ‘After ten years living in England, and with Steve’s family on the other side of the world, it was very important for us to create a family home for Mila Sienna and for Elodie’s daughter Lily, so they could grow up with the same wonderful childhood memories that we’ve had.’
(c) Junior magazine, Words: Ruth Corbett, Photography: Alun Callender