Art & Décoration - September 2017


Weekend at La Maison & l'Atelier


After their children had grown up, Clare Howarth and Carlos Alarcon Rojas transformed their family home into a guesthouse for travelers who love the finer things in life.

Reported by Audrey Cosson. Photos Emanuela Cinq.

"After just an hour's drive from Paris, it's hard to believe we're already in the countryside.

The gate to La Maison & l'Atelier opens in the small rural village of Crouy-en-Thelle, revealing through the trees an elegant 18th-century Picard-style house.

Clare Howarth opens the door and we enter into a superb cement-tiled entrance hall. She immediately invites us to join her in the kitchen next door.

With its large, convivial table and central location, we quickly realize that this is the soul of the house. Clare spends most of her time here, concocting delicious meals or snacks for her guests, which she often shares with them.

We catch a glimpse of the large open-plan living room, with its elegant, harmonious hues and materials, designer furniture and works of art. "My husband Carlos and I arrived here in 1999, and the house has been under constant restoration ever since*," smiles Clare.

 This is where they started their family, renovating the house and garden themselves over the years. Carlos designed much of the furniture, including the large dining table, the bedroom consoles and the showers in waxed concreteClare designed and placed each plant in the garden herself.

For these two design and art enthusiasts, their interior has always been a privileged terrain of expression, which they are happy to share with family, friends and visitors. They have preserved the building's finest features, such as its original marble, terrazzo and cement tile floors, and its magnificent mid-century fireplace, and combined them with vintage furniture, works by their favorite contemporary artists and handicrafts.

The wildly alluring ensemble reveals the expert eye of its owners. Originally from England, Clare's career as a fashion stylist has taken her all over the world.

"After thirty-five years in fashion, I felt I'd had enough, and wanted to turn to a more human experience," Clare tells us.

Once the children were gone, she and her husband decided to renovate the bedrooms and bathrooms to welcome travelers from all walks of life into their home. They inaugurated the guest house in 2016 and are currently renovating the workshop, located in the garden, into a large loft that will welcome visitors as early as next year.

We take the beautiful old staircase to discover our bedrooms, located upstairs. We spend a peaceful night in modern comfort, with a mix of antique fabrics and furniture made by the owners themselves.

When we wake up, it's the scent of granola that draws us into the kitchen where Clare is waiting. She has prepared a French-English breakfast based on coffee freshly ground coffee, tea, homemade jams and breads, and avocado toast, a real treat.

She composes her recipes according to the seasons and her mood, offering her guests a very personal cuisine. The table is decorated with large flowers and grasses from the garden that Clare picked that very morning. Inspired by Piet Oudolf and his waves of grasses and perennials, she has transformed this former horse paddock into a landscaped garden.

After a day spent exploring the surrounding area, such as the Château de Chantilly or a walk in the ancestral forests nearby, we're happy to return to the calm of the bucolic garden.

Under the enveloping golden light, we relax with an English tea accompanied by homemade minicakes while conversing with Clare. It's when the late-day sunlight filters through its tall perennial flowers that the garden is at its most unsettling, we say to ourselves as we help ourselves to a muffin - one more, the last, I promise."

1. The 1900 cement tiles in the entrance echo the walls painted by Clare herself. From here, the staircase leads to the upstairs bedrooms. Twentieth-century industrial hanging lamp.

2. In the dining room, open to the living room, pieces from the 1950s are mixed with furniture designed by Carlos, such as the wooden table. Leather chairs, designed by Pierre Guariche. Rattan chairs, GianFranco Legler design. Tom Dixon paper star. Wool flannel curtains, Marché Saint-Pierre, Paris, designed by Clare.

3. Clare designed the headboard of the king-size bed in bedroom Z66. Bedding by The Conran Shop and Merci, Plaid Habitat Lampe Caravane.

4. The bathrooms in the bedrooms are equipped with a shower Materials designed by Marius Aurenti and installed by Carlos.

5. We can't get enough of Clare's apple and seed minicakes.

Nicolas Vabe small wooden board.

Caravane washed linen towel.

Fabrics, Moline sourced by Clare in Paris.

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