House Tour: Gwenn’s Eclectic Vintage and Upcycled Home
Gwenn, in her own words, is a “mid-century, retro, colours and eclectic stuff lover!” Her home is full of objects with stories, where broken and unloved things are upcycled into beautiful items full of purpose.
Where does your love of vintage come from?
I think it comes from my childhood and the love I developed for history and old things (I studied History actually). I'm also from the 70s, I'm a child of the mid century era and I grew up with colours (orange, yellow and brown have always been my favourites). For instance, my very first bedroom was orange and white, exactly the orange colour I've got in my house now! I guess my love of vintage is also a kind of nostalgic feeling. Besides, I've always liked to find treasures even when I was a child. I remember going to the attic of an aunt of mine to play with my cousins and finding a lot of old things in a trunk: clothes from the sixties and a lot of other stuff, I went crazy, it felt like Ali Baba in his cave! ;) I love stuff with a story and history, so vintage is a kind of evidence to me I guess.
How would you describe your own vintage style?
You could describe my style as mid century eclectic I think. Obviously, I like colours, I like the mid century era, but I don't try to make my home a replica of the houses you could see in the sixties or the seventies. I also really like the art déco era in France. My vintage stuff comes from everywhere, from Sweden to Algeria, or can also be something I bought new a lot of years ago and I customized or upcycled because I didn't want to throw it away. So you see, you really can call it my "own" vintage!
Do you have any specific criteria for your home décor based on style/era/colour … or is it a gut reaction?
Not really actually, in fact, things must tell a story to me: when I see an object, it must "talk" to me, and then it has a place in my house. Of course, I'm trying to have a line in colours, in forms, but when I see an object I really fall in love with, (because it's always a question of love at the first sight) it will always find a place somewhere in my house, even if it's not exactly matching with the rest! The rest will give it a place if you see what I mean! So yes, you can say it's a gut reaction indeed!
Do you have a favourite piece in your home?
Yes, I have, because it's my very first one, I've had it for a long time, I was very young and I was studying, I didn't know anything about vintage but I felt it was something very special. It' my Danish lamp from the fifties, created by Arne Jacobsen for Louis Poulsen. I found it in a thrift store while I was coming back home from university. It was also my very first year in the Netherlands. I think I bought it for 50 florins, now it would be something like 25 euros. For me it was a lot of money at the time, but I've had it for almost 28 years now and although it's grey and I love colours, it will always find a place of honour in my house! I still love it, I love the kind of light it gives and you can combine it with every other style. Besides, I think nowadays it's worth much more than €25...;)
What is your favourite era / maker?
I've got two favourite eras as I already mentioned, the mid century period of course but I also really like a lot of things from the beginning of the 20th century. I love the art of this period and the fact the furniture was getting modern at that time. Have you been to the the Musée d'Art Modernes in Paris? I don't only love the paintings you can admire there (Delaunay, Matisse, Chagall...) but also the furniture collection they have! Some of them could easily come from the sixties, it's amazing how modern it was for this time!
Where do you source your items / furniture from?
From everywhere! From the places I traveled to, to the thrift store 2 km from here! I also like to go to "vides greniers" in France where people don't have a clue they are giving treasures away for nothing! And of course, the last years I found a lot of items on line.
What do you look for when you are thrifting for your home?
Most of the time I don't really look at something particularly, I'm really thrifting. But sometimes I look for some items in particular, such as the last time, I'm was very busy searching stuff for my outdoor kitchen. In that case, it really has to match with the project I have in my mind.
You do a fair bit of upcycling; what is your philosophy on this, how do you decide what to do to what?
Most of the time, I try to upcycle things I already have at home. Because I think the world is already full and we are all spoiling our planet with everything we throw away. So why would we always buy something new while they are so many beautiful things made already? Upcycling also happens with things I thrifted and I can't use as the object itself. For example, the radio my partner found. It was given to him because he found it beautiful and the owner wanted to get rid of it. But it could not work as a radio anymore (it's from the fifties, from an Italian trade, Radio Solo) so we transformed it in a lamp and it's now giving light! I could give you some more examples in the house but it will probably take too long!
What plans do you have for your home in the future?
I'm not sure I'm going to stay in this home for a long time, for me it was a kind of transition. The big plan is to go back to France with my partner and to buy a house we could renovate and transform into a bed and breakfast. We would like to give every room its own atmosphere, only with thrifted and vintage furniture and stuff. And then give the opportunity to our guests to buy the things they love in the rooms. But for now, this is just a dream. And I think I'm gonna stay a little bit longer in this house before this dream gets real.
So right now, the future plan is to change the doors of the kitchen cabinets. We want to find Formica doors from sixties/seventies kitchens and to replace them. I already have a great Formica table with 3 chairs and 2 stools that I cannot use in this house because I don't have enough space unfortunately. So, it will compensate the fact I now have to use this table in my hobby room where I make my dreamcatchers instead of having it in the kitchen...
Tell us about Riennsejet and your wonderful dreamcatchers …
We just talked about upcycling and this is of course the biggest example I could give you! I make dream catchers from recycled material, wool, fabric, lane, etc... and I use bracelets and necklaces I thrift or I get from people to use the beads. I started to do this a few years ago while I was recovering from a burn out. It was the only thing I could do, working with my hands, it was so mindful! I first made one for my daughter, then my niece, a friend, a colleague... And then friends of those people asked if I could make one for them, for sale, and that's how I started my very small business, Riennsejet. Actually it's "Rien ne se jette" it means "you don't throw anything away". I really try to use second hand stuff as much as possible to make my dream catchers. For instance, I got beads and lace from the daughter of a tailor from the sixties! It was such a special experience to create something new with stuff from the past! I make them on demand, people can ask me whatever they want as long as they accept they get something unique made from "old" things. Of course, I can't make enough of them to stop working (I teach French) but I make one or two of them in a month and I love the fact I can create things for people and make my mind relax as the same time. And of course, contribute to make our planet a better place.
You can find more fabulous photos of Gwenn’s house on her Instagram: lamaison_blauranje
Photo credit: All photos kindly provided by Gwenn.
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