The home of an antiques dealer is unsurprisingly a tribute to a penchant for treasures foraged from another time. Living in a charming village in Luberon, south France, where she grew up, Elsa Marchal lives with her husband, Ugo, and their two-year-old daughter, Ana, in a 1960s property that renders time-bound trends obsolete in favour of the elegantly antiquated.
Despite the building being in poor condition and without the desired architectural features of older properties, Elsa and Ugo were drawn to their home’s countryside location and its views of the Luberon mountain range. They renovated the property one year before moving in, reconfiguring the interiors to create a more spacious layout where light could move freely. They used natural materials, including wood, concrete and rattan, against entirely white walls.
“The challenge was to bring some charm to each room,” says Elsa. They added elements such as antique doors and beams as a nod to architectural heritage. Their every design choice, whether structural, functional or aesthetic, is carefully balanced between retro and contemporary.
“I couldn’t live in a minimalist home,” she says. “I like to be surrounded by beautiful items and have a tendency to accumulate them on my shelves and walls. In my job, I look for farmhouse furniture in a raw and refined style. I like their simplicity and their authenticity. They tell of life on a farm or rural areas, as it was until the middle of the 20th century, simple and sober. I grew up in the countryside and find this story particularly touching.”
This same visual affinity extends to Elsa’s home, where she gravitates towards old bread boards, washing boards, dishes and antique hand-carved wooden bowls used in farmhouses decades ago. Her favourite flea market items comprise a collection of mountain paintings and still portraits of transient moments rendered in the permanence of oil on canvas. “What touches me is the patina of objects and the imprint of time passing,” she says.
Among the furniture Elsa sourced for their home, she’s particularly fond of the fir coffee table she sanded to reveal raw wood and the large shelf hung in the living room, previously crockery storage for a restaurant, then a storage unit for hardware in a workshop.
“That’s what’s exciting about these pieces of furniture. They live many lives and can be reused and repurposed over and over again,” says Elsa. “They are pieces made to last, and that’s what I help to do as an antiques dealer. I have the temperament of a bargain hunter and a collector, and treasure hunting quickly became an addiction.”
“I had a physical shop in Lourmarin where I was selling antiques, and then I opened my online shop ateliermarchal.fr, which was very encouraging. Five years later, I exclusively sell online, storing all the furniture in my house. This is why I give a lot of importance to my interior. It’s not just my home but also my showroom.”
For Elsa, interior design is a time machine for easy transportation to another generation. “All eras interest me as long as I find charm, authenticity, a beautiful material and a beautiful patina,” she says. “What I seek in furniture above all is the story it tells, the marks and traces that bear witness to all it has experienced. These are testimonies of a bygone era that fascinate me.”
Follow Elsa at @ateliermarchal.fr