Elle Déco – November 2016

Elle Déco Sud portrait

Robert Gervais, the watermark of the South
By Bettina Lafond

“Her life is in Paris, but her heart beats in Provence, the land of her childhood.

The interior designer reveals her sources of inspiration and shares her best addresses between La Ciotat and Cannes. A connoisseur of southeastern architecture, to which he has dedicated a book, “Provence(s), l’art des maisons “*, Robert Gervais tells us about the houses of his childhood.

I grew up between an apartment in Cannes, a mansion in La Ciotat and a rustic house in the countryside,” he says. Each place had its own volumes, furnishings, atmosphere and lifestyle. I realized at a very young age that there is no such thing as a typical interior or a universal plan: very different places work if the environment, nature and the seasons – which are so important in Provence – are well understood”.

The interior designer’s signature is always recognizable, but her projects never resemble each other: she restructures and arranges space with great freedom.

Just as in Provençal houses, where the sometimes unusual layout reveals unexpected spaces, Robert Gervais likes to create surprises in his designs – an office hidden behind a cupboard door, a hidden storeroom, an unsuspected bathroom or library – and multiply perspectives.

To sequence the space, the interior designer plays with breaks, with detached volumes, variations in ceiling heights and juxtapositions of noble, raw materials, as used in the bastides where marble and woodwork cohabited with Cassis stone and terracotta.

In Provence, it’s all about the balance between fantasy and austerity, sophistication and simplicity,” says Robert Gervais. I always keep this balance in mind when designing my projects. Provence, a land of light and shade, has also taught me the importance of nuance. With the exception of fabrics, there are few colors in Provençal architecture; the tones of a wood, a stone, a floor or a fireplace are more a matter of nuance”.

The subtlety of the chromatic palettes he uses led the interior designer to design two paint collections (“Cohérence” and “Confluence”) for French manufacturer Ressource. At what age did Robert Gervais know he wanted to become an interior designer?

Since childhood, the house has always been synonymous with pleasure,” he says. With my father Gabriel, a builder to the core, I built terraces in our pine forest in the hills above La Ciotat. With my mother Geneviève, who liked to change the layout of the furniture, we “pushed” the furniture two or three times a year. My parents’ happiness at home, their joy in always conceiving new projects, certainly inspired me. But my visit to the Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul-de-Vence when I was seven or eight years old was decisive. What a shock, what emotion when I discovered this place and these works I understood that successful architecture meant spaces that could make people happy and highlight the most beautiful thing man has produced: art. It was then that I knew my vocation was taking shape.

Provence(s), l’art des maisons”, by Robert Gervais (éditions Ouest-France). Robert Gervais Studio, www robertgervaisstudio com


“As a true Provencal, I have a particular affection for the traditional materials found in the region’s bastides. Here is my selection of preferred suppliers”.

Tiles: Le Petit Versailles, in Gémenos “One of the few to offer parefeuille, these handmade terracotta tiles, kiln-fired with crushed olive stones, and used for ceiling joisting or floor paving”- 310, avenue de Fontfrège, RN8 -13420 Gémenos (04 42 32 73 73) www le-petit-versailles fr

Lime: Les Trois Matons, Aix “This specialist offers a wide range of plasters, whitewashes, pigments and limes, ready to use or to compose yourself. The reference in the field”- 55, rue Louis Armand, Aix-en-Provence (04 84 49 04 64) www les-3-matons.com

Waxed concrete: Marius Aurenti, La Ciotat “Its 95% mineral waxed concrete comes in 71 shades and is suitable for all uses: kitchen, bathroom, shower, worktop”- 410, av Serpolet, La Ciotat (04 42 7169 47) www mariusaurenti.com

Enamelled lava: the Pierre Richard company “It’s the undisputed specialist. Volvic stone is enameled to order in a wide range of colors. An ideal material for kitchens and bathrooms, but also for table tops”- Pierre Richard Lavastone, 40, rue Groignard, Toulon (04 94 24 86 99) www pierre-richard com

Pottery: Maison Ravel, Aubagne “I’m faithful to their classic models in ochre clay”- 8, avenue des Goums, Aubagne (04 42 82 42 00) www poterie-ravel.com

Flamed ceramics: Atelier Savelli, Apt. “It remains a benchmark. I like to offer a dish from their workshops. It’s a gift that’s always surprising and well received”- Faïencerie d’Apt-Atelier Savalli, 20, rue Eugène-Brunel, Apt(06 62 48 00 87) www.faience-apt.fr