In a lively neighbourhood in an old village in Lyon, France, Jessica Robert lives with her husband, John, and their son Joey in a 19th-century building.
When the couple bought this apartment five years ago, they were looking for ample space to widen the flow from room to room and reconstruct three bedrooms. Like many properties with plenty of potential, their new home came with a roster of renovation works taking three years to complete.
“We really wanted to keep the soul of the apartment by keeping the most beautiful old parts,” says Jessica. “The first step was to unveil hidden materials, such as parquet floors, mouldings and old floor tiles, and we made several openings to connect the space between the kitchen, living room and living room entrance.”
“The apartment has been transformed,” she says. “The ceilings were blue and pink, and the floors were covered with lino and the old floor tiles hidden under low-end alternatives.” The finished effect is what she describes as “minimalist, raw and all-round natural.”
Earthy materials pervade their home, with soft woods, earthenware and ceramics. There are Pico tiles designed by the Bouroullec brothers and tadelakt – a natural, lime-based plaster native to Marrakech. In the living room, this plaster forms a shelf-like structure of mismatched nooks which hold an assortment of tiny wooden objects.
“The idea was to create a central object a bit like the hearth or fireplace as the fireplace here had been removed by the previous occupants,” says Jessica.
As for the colour scheme, Jessica prefers a neutral palette of white, cream, grey and brown, which she says remains controlled but with a sense of freedom. With Joey now in his toddler years come the challenges of managing clutter in an otherwise organised and tidy interior style. For Jessica, the trick to curating peacefulness is clever storage, so cluttered surfaces are kept to a minimum.
“I always plan a lot of storage into my design projects because I like a clear space and to live with only a few visible and chosen objects. There is little visible to create an atmosphere conducive to concentration and creativity. Less interesting, functional objects are hidden in fitted cupboards, such as our coffee maker or toaster, accessible behind a door,” she says.
Cushions and rugs add softness balanced by the designer objects Jessica gravitates towards, including her own creations. “I like that we have chosen every detail, that each object is charged with emotion. I like to juggle techniques and create unique objects like our chandelier and coffee table, which we cannot find anywhere else. I also have a few old pieces often found at flea markets that I sometimes customise to give them a more modern look.”
Unlike some renovation stories, Jessica’s foray into remodelling inspired an appetite for more. In October 2022, the couple purchased a second home an hour from Lyon with a traditional façade of long narrow doorways and wooden shutters.
“We had a real crush on this mansion which overlooks the village and opens onto the surrounding landscape,” she says. “Like the apartment, it needs to be completely renovated. This is our next big project, and we can’t wait to start. As for the apartment, we will keep it and continue to reveal certain old materials already present as markers of its history.”
Follow Jessica on Instagram at @cobalt.land