Toulouse, the pink city in the south of France, combines classical antiquity with the very latest technological innovations. It is the city of France’s oldest and youngest societies – the Académie des Jeux Floraux (a literary society known for its poetry prize) and the Académie de l’Air et de l’Espace (a society devoted to aeronautics and space). It is also the city of Élitis, impactive in the world of furnishing fabrics. Véronique Sonnier and Vincent Gevin are designers and stylists in that company’s employ, living and working in the city centre among the pink brick buildings.
The Pont Neuf over the Garonne actually links up the two worlds of Toulouse. On one side, the world of high tech and innovation, and on the other the old city. There, La Ville Rose, so called because of the pink colour of the special bricks used in building most of the houses, is to be found.
OBJEKT©International visited Véronique Sonnier and Vincent Gevin. Both have creative positions at Élitis, the company that, with Patrice Marraud des Grottes orchestrating operations, has forged ahead as an extremely creative manufacturer of modern furnishing fabrics and wallpapers. Véronique and Vincent warned us their house was not a modern design palace, but rather a family home in an old house in the centre of town.
In the mid-nineties they left Paris for the city in the south of France, with some reservations. “Toulouse is a village compared with Paris, where life is happening 24/7. Not so here, but we soon got used to it. This town has become the antidote to our hectic lives. It’s a refuge to return to from all the travelling our work necessitates.”
The old apartment is in an old house accessed by an equally old, high gateway. From the courtyard sweeping steps lead to the living level. It forms a rectangle, intersected by a corridor flanked by sitting areas and bedrooms. “When we first saw it, it felt like a castle. In Paris we were accustomed to small flats, but here there was space. It’s a listed building, so we weren’t allowed to alter the structure or layout. We put our own furniture in it and gradually added objects and mementoes. Yes, the flat gives you a good feeling – it’s a real family home now.”
Still, in the meantime, the couple have bought a new house, which will be furnished entirely in modern style. “Not a modern décor, but more modern than the old flat”, Vincent told us. Friends who also work in the world of interiors live a few streets away – Isabelle and Michel Vidal, designers and producers of objects in plastic that look just like the real thing. Their store ‘Copier Coller’ contains an apparently antique wooden fireplace which turns out to be plastic; the same goes for the cupboards, the doors of which bear a deceptively convincing resemblance to bronze. They too live in an old building with furnishings that are a pleasing assembly of pieces they have acquired over the years. Everywhere you look there are designs in varying degrees of execution – evidence that they are always working out new ideas. A dark corridor leads to the large kitchen which is reminiscent of a scene from a painting by a 17th-century Dutch master. The spacious living room is at the end of the corridor and contains an eclectic mixture of furniture. Yet the pervading feeling is that apparent chaos can produce unity. Old and new go hand in hand in an unintentional homage to the city where old and new also go hand in hand.