Nathalie Rykiel: Bohemian rhapsody

As heiress to a fashion fortune, the designer Nathalie Rykiel has created an impossibly chic fantasy home, hidden away on Paris's Left Bank. Interview by Danielle Demetriou
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The Independent Online

My home is a big family house just behind Montparnasse, and I've been here for 17 years. This area has always been home to me my parents' home, where I grew up, is only 100 metres away. I am a woman of the Left Bank. I could not live anywhere else. The other side of the Seine is a foreign country to me. The best way to describe a woman from Rive Gauche is bohemian, artistic, creative, romantic and that's how I'd describe my home.

All the buildings on the avenue are quite anonymous, so no one can ever guess that if you push through one door you will find yourself in an alleyway, which leads to a courtyard of four houses, one of which is ours. It is a secret space. Outside there is a busy Parisian street, and inside, it is very green, very private, very quiet, very intimate.

Our house dates from the turn of the 19th century, with original features including a large, curved staircase and tall windows with shutters. There is a playroom and laundry room in the basement, a kitchen and winter garden on the ground floor. The first floor is my space with a bedroom, study, dressing room and bathroom. The children have bedrooms on the second floor.

I don't follow a particular style. It's like a country house in Paris, it is a mix of everything I like. I've put very modern things next to antiques from the 1930s, which is my favourite era. Everything marries together harmoniously, because there are no preconceived ideas. I love beautiful things, but I also love comfort. I would never have a chair in my home that isn't comfortable, however beautiful. It is the same with clothes. Things have to be soft and cosy.

Each room has a different colour and atmosphere the kitchen is green, the lounge faded pink, the bedroom lilac, the study dark green. I love the change in colours walking from room to room. The heart of the house is the jardin d'hiver, or winter garden, a glass room that opens from the kitchen and lounge. This is where we eat, entertain, do everything. The ground floor is one big open-plan room.

I love cooking. If I have people over, as we do often on Sundays, I like to cook dishes such as honey chicken, and I make a great chocolate mousse. In the summer, we eat in the garden. But the rest of the year we eat in the winter garden.

The garden is quite wild. I like gardening and it's filled with bamboo, hydrangeas and roses, which I adore. I have put up two blue hammocks and I love swinging in them while reading a book. It is very peaceful.

In my bedroom, I have a huge bed and an old family armchair, which was renovated in London by Kaffe Fassett, who covered it in needlepoint flowers in blue, yellow and red. I like having it here because I remember it sitting in my parents' house when I was a little girl. On the bed, I always have Sonia Rykiel sheets. At the moment, I'm crazy about the one with the word "love" written in black on a pink duvet cover. But I also like the flowers and the stripes.

I do my make-up in my bathroom but I have a coiffeuse in the study where I put on my jewels. The study is also full of books, photo albums, my computer, telephone and drawings by the kids.There are books everywhere in the house. In the lounge, I have a huge library made of oak around the fireplace filled with books. There are books in every room, even on the floor art books, novels, essays. I have so many books I want to read, and there's never enough time. At the moment I am reading three books at the same time.

Throughout the house, I also have many paintings and art works. I will put up anything that touches me it doesn't have to be by a famous artist. I've hung a lot of paintings above the stairs. One is of my dog, who has since sadly died, by the Canadian artist Tony Scherman. He's a friend and while he was staying here he took a photo of the dog. He sent me the picture some time later I love it because it is personal and beautiful. I also have a family tree on the wall that I researched and framed for my daughters.

I work from home in my study in the evening and at weekends. It is very difficult for me to separate work and life outside work. One way I relax is by having a bath. I love to use bath oils and to light lots of scented candles. And I also love flowers around the house, mostly dark pink roses, which are my favourite.

I have a large TV on the wall in my bedroom. The lounge is for talking and reading, but I adore watching TV in my bed. We also have a home-movie screen in the basement playroom, which we use if we invite friends over to watch a film.

My two elder daughters are 23 and 21 and have moved away from home, but my youngest daughter is 11, so still at home. They were all allowed to do what they wanted with their rooms, and put up pictures, their own drawings, and fabrics on the walls.

This house may be close to my childhood home, but it is very different in atmosphere my parents' flat was more bourgeois and traditional. But my mother adores spending time here.

The daughter of Sonia Rykiel, Nathalie is herself a mother of three. Now the creative director of the Sonia Rykiel label which has long been a favourite among celebrities, including Kirsten Dunst, Diane Kruger and Sarah Jessica Parker and lives with her 11-year-old daughter.

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