Sitting in front of me, on her own leather chair is Florence. She is a French stylist of Caribbean descent, former model and decorator. On my right, on his own comfortable leather chair is John, a British tailor and moviemaker. They both met in the early 70’s in empty Positano while filming one of John’s movies. They married secretly a few weeks later and never left each other’s side… True to their inquisitive nature, when not in London or Garzón they are travelling around the world.
So, gathered round a small glass and iron table by the unlit fireplace we start chatting…
Amazing pictures by Heidi Lender .AND SOME BY ADENTRO.
Do you think that your family history and your own story influenced your decoration?
Florence: Yeah, I think it has to. You always sort of act or react on where you come from, no? So… you react or act on that. In the case of my parents, we were a big family, you know, six of us, so there was no spending money on decor or stuff like that. It was practical, very practical. We had nice places but all very practical.
My grandmother’s side there was a whole esthetic and very refined… they had a lot of money and lots of houses. So I think I inherited something, obviously from both. My mother was too practical and interior wasn’t her thing, but on my grandmother’s side and my father’s side they are much more into decor….. et Voilà.
Do you think you have a special connection with decoration, design, esthetic?
John: Uhm, I think it’s only come about through clothes. Maybe my mother had a certain funky esthetic, I know she had taste but we never had any money, so…
F: She was a hat maker, no?
J: Yes, she made hats.
F: Can I say something? I think she was very refined, your mother, in the way she did things really…
J: Yes, and because she was sort of working for very wealthy people, so she had an appreciation of what wealth and taste could give her. Which probably came down to me as well in the end. And I left home in at a very young age, so I was kind of out in the world. It shaped me, to probably want to succeed, to get to another stratosphere….
How would you define your style?
F: Quite minimal. Pure.
John moves his head in agreement
F: Paired down. We don’t collect, we never did, we never collected object, I appreciate… I’m sure you do John, I appreciate. You go into somebody’s home and it’s great, it’s fantastic, but it’s not something I know, I’m not great at that. But you know, it doesn’t mean you don’t like. You go to somebody’s place and if it is well done you think: “Wow!” Whatever it is, you appreciate all that. Also, if you live in not huge space it’s quite nice not to have too much stuff…
J: Also because we don’t have kids. I think it’s a factor. You know, there could have been a time when there could have been rooms full of toys… mess…(laugh)
F: That’s true
J: so, It could also be a factor to our monastic…huh?
F: I don’t know, it’s interesting the first question you did, where you come from, because personally, I think John too, growing up we had a place in the country and a place in Paris and it was full of stuff, but I mean fuuuulll of stuff, terrible. And I remember being obsessed with neat, cleanse. Everything was folded, because I don’t think I liked that. It was a big family mess, and it’s normal. When John said it’s maybe because we didn’t have children you could choose just what you wanted. It gives you big freedom and we never had to compromise on things like that. So it’s a bit sterile (laughs), you know, like that.
J: And I think we like calm…
F: When we first met all this time ago, we lived in a very small place but that was very minimal, before people even talked about that. We liked Pop Art we never liked stuff on the wall, since we are together no? We never had, not in London, not in Paris, we never had stuff on the wall. But I remember once John coming back with a painting, and it was just a square, white! (laughs) so we put it, and it was like that. And there was never much, from the beginning a long time ago.
What’s the best quality this house has?
F: Space! Volume!
J: Yeah! Space and the outlook from the rooms.
F: Nature and space.
And John and I we complement each other, he’s very good in big things, if I think of a door he’ll think twice the size you know, out-thinks. He’s very good with big volume.
For example, this house when we first thought of building it, John said something I never even thought about and it turned out to be a very important thing. I remember he was walking and he said “we must build the house at an angle”. Because if you look, it goes straight out, so I would have done straight, if it was me, I wasn’t even thinking. So he said “no, angle it towards the sun”. So I think we are good like this, complementing, things that I never think of, he does. So the space here was great, to build something from zero, it’s amazing. If you can, it’s an incredible thing. To build is amazing, it’s an explosion of your creativity. It’s just great!
How long ago did you build? And do you think it changed?
J: 8 years ago. Yes it did! It’s an organic house. Because, for example we decided we wanted to go on the roof, so that created this balcony here, to find a way to get to the roof. Also, some fireplaces in the bedroom and in the next room.
F: Because you are obsessed with fires…
J: Yeah! They were sort of tailored, I can say, to our taste long after the event.
“To build is amazing,
it’s an explosion of your creativity. It’s just great!”
John, where do you build fires?
F: (laughs) EVERYWHERE!
J: EVERYWHERE! (laughs)
No fires in London?
J: I enjoy that…Yes we used to, we used to burn most of Hyde Park in London.
F: He used to go and get logs in the park. There was a little accident…
J: Yes… The chimney caught fire, so it put an end to our fire lighting.
F: But Johnny is like the fire guy, I call him Vulcan… I remember years before, I had a dream and it was that one day John and I will be in a place where John will be building fires everywhere, and this is so long ago, no? So long ago. I had this idea that we would be outside with fires everywhere…
J: Her dream became reality.
A: It’s a great dream
“But Johnny is like the fire guy, I call him Vulcan”
There are no prints, nothing on the walls…
J: No, because there is enough going on with the cement, you know, you look at it and you get patterns just by looking every way. You don’t need any more detail.
F: But there is color, like the yellow…
J: Oh yes the tapis, beautiful colour.
Where do you get all your furniture?
F: This is all from around La Barra. It’s full of little shops there, in La Barra, in Manantiales, that have very nice things. Most big things that we couldn’t bring from London is from here.
J: This was custom made. (He points to a lilac leather day bed)
F: That’s an important thing, I think. We didn’t want to have the traditional couch that goes round with the table in the middle, because we are here on holiday, no? And we just didn’t want “tired” piece which is the big couch that was an L shape. So we tried to think of something… Because we don’t really come in the winter that much, it’s more of a summer place. So this idea came from something that we can lie down or rest if we can’t be outside, if it’s raining. But not to a tradition. So this was in fact those sun loungers and that’s what it is, with some things made for it.
Tell me about the “inside/out” design, you thought about special things or it just happened?
F: The pool, the water! This idea from the beginning, because it’s not actually conventional that in the middle of here (Garzón) you have a swimming pool. We thought, “we never thought of having a place on the sea, so, we love the sea, we love swimming”. John loves all that. So when we came the water was really important, the architect had done it going like this (she signals parallel to the house) and we just said “no, let’s go out there…”
J: Out into the country.
F: The combination of the incredible freedom you feel here, the campo, no mountain, nothing dramatic just open and the water… I think it’s amazing. Really incorporate the “inside-out”.
J:Yes, it is a good expression, the inside-out house, after Delacroix.
F: Oh yes!
J: It’s become his oriental house.
Which is your favorite room? Where do you like to relax?
J: Ahhh! Well, it depends what time of day or year. If it would be very cold, in the study down there is beautiful. And… BED. Bed is my other favourite room to wake up and just look out over the land. You always get this wind coming across which is quite sensational, really.
F: And you like your palm tree over there. To be outside looking at the campo.
J: Oh yeah, the trees.
Was this a dream come true or it just happened?
F: No, it happened, I never discussed even once the idea…
J: Because it was so immediate, we were never dreaming of a house, but it was like a split second decision. Even the buying of the land was a factor. I think we thought it was going to be something smaller, but it just became this…
F: But you know, I think for everybody is a progression, I don’t think things happen “doiiiing”. There’s a trigger, there’s a progression, the time in your life and accumulation of stuff that you have absorbed that becomes part of you. And I think we are all lucky, we came out as adults at a time when it was all coming out, lot of stuff come out. Before there was nothing! And so this, of course it gets inside you, and if you have taste, design, it all comes together. We think we’ve got good taste, but really, who knows.
We think we’ve got good taste,
but really, who knows.
J: It’s kind of the romantic image that we say, well it’s a “post-modern estancia”. And I also feel like it’s always been here the house. It doesn’t seem super modern.
F: And there was this thing about wood as well here, because we love cement and concrete and all that, you know. This is kind of clean but practical, because we don’t want to spend the time cleaning. To make it softer, to soften it, there was a possibility to use really nice wood like “Lapacho” and the beams. It was very important to have some wood, like up there. So it’s fun because you could do that here….
J: The great thing was, too, that the place is more or less hand built. There is no straight line anywhere… (they both laugh). So it’s not slick in the way that it could have been, with machinery and real things to cut straight lines, but it’s kind of soft in a sense.
F: Really, it did just all happen, you said, organic. You know, that table that’s in the corner there, they came to deliver it, they just put it there because it was too heavy, and we left it! Because it’s OK. (John laughs)
Is there an object, or something, that’s special to you?
J: Yes, I love the wheelbarrow…
J: I love mmmmm….The LADDER! The ladder I love!
F: Look at that view Caro! Isn’t that cool?
F: It’s simple, not very studied. This is perfect. This is great for us, to have a wall like that and then the fire place.
And I love more than I can explain, maybe it’s my Mamma, I love palms. In London I’ve got about seven hundred postcards with palm trees. I love that! I hope it doesn’t become like,“Oh she’s really mad”, (We all laugh).
This book I’ve had for a long time and I love it because it’s called “Outside/Inside”. I have a brother, we are more like twins, who gave me this book as a present, and it’s so strange because it’s quite a difficult book to get and he got it and said “This is for you”, and I couldn’t believe it. It’s all about inside-outside. He is a great architect, a bit Japanese as he spent time in Japan and had this obsession with bringing in all the plants and nature. And then my brother gives me this book and I said “How did you know? I love this guy”… I remember I didn’t want a house, but when I got this book it fired me up.
F: It’s sounds really boring, but we very much did all of it together. Very much so. It just happens, you know. That’s why we are together all this time, because we have the same sensibility. We are very different in many ways, but the fin is the same.
“It’s sounds really boring
but we very much did all of it together.”
Thank you John and Florence for helping me start this project.
Heidi for the amazing pictures and Studio Cruz for helping me develop the webpage. Edited by Pauline Prevett.
ADENTRO by Carolyn Prevett