ARTIST IN RES­I­DENCE When a sculp­tor re­stored a weavers’ work­place in Lyon, her cre­ative tal­ent proved use­ful

Sculp­tor Is­abelle Healy used her cre­ative skills when she re­stored a for­mer silk weaver’s work­place


For sculp­tor Is­abelle Healy, mov­ing to Lyon from Saint-eti­enne, some 30 miles away, with her hus­band Oliver, her­alded a new cre­ative chap­ter in her life. This creaky, 19th-cen­tury build­ing in his­toric Croix-rousse, once whirred and clanked to the sound of looms worked by Canuts – silk weavers – but now ex­udes a deep sense of calm. ‘I love the fact that, 200 years later, I live and work in the same place as those crafts­peo­ple, mak­ing ob­jects that also use age-old skills,’ she says.

The house, which has out­build­ings that Is­abelle has con­verted into her art stu­dio, dates from 1842. ‘At that time, the city of Lyon was a pros­per­ous cen­tre of silk-mak­ing,’ ex­plains Is­abelle. ‘This felt like a good omen, as my hus­band comes from a fam­ily that has made lux­ury silk rib­bons and other dec­o­ra­tive trim­mings for sev­eral gen­er­a­tions.’

Although the build­ing had, at some point, been di­vided into two apart­ments, ves­tiges of its work­ing past still re­mained. ‘The sit­ting room ceil­ing is won­der­fully high – over 13ft – be­cause this was where the large looms would have been placed,’ Is­abelle ex­plains.

The cou­ple de­cided to ren­o­vate the prop­erty, adding new touches but also bring­ing out its sense of her­itage. The cen­tre­piece is the spi­ral stair­case in the sit­ting room. ‘It dates from when the house was built and makes a com­plete turn, which is very rare,’ Is­abelle ex­plains. ‘It had been ne­glected for years, but our car­pen­ter care­fully sanded the steps to re­turn them to the orig­i­nal oak, re­veal­ing its hidden beauty.’ Sim­i­larly, plas­ter­board pan­els on the ceil­ing were

de­sign ad­vice‘ If you have an old prop­erty, re­search its his­tory be­fore ren­o­vat­ing so you can re­store fea­tures in keep­ing with the pe­riod’

re­moved to ex­pose the beams, while the con­crete screed floor was re­placed with re­claimed boards. The re­sult is a stun­ning sit­ting room with a co­coon­ing, calm and cul­tured feel.

‘I think that a home should re­flect the lives and in­ter­ests of the peo­ple who in­habit it,’ says Is­abelle, ges­tur­ing to book shelves that con­tain vol­umes on literature, art his­tory and sculpt­ing, all of which the cou­ple has amassed over their years to­gether. To dis­play these, Is­abelle de­signed the li­brary shelv­ing and had it made by a lo­cal car­pen­ter. ‘My aim was to recre­ate the at­mos­phere of a clas­sic gen­tle­man’s club from the past and the li­braries of the great his­toric uni­ver­si­ties.’

How­ever, there is no hint of stuffi­ness about this artis­tic bib­lio­phile’s set­ting. Through­out the house, Is­abelle has in­cluded con­tem­po­rary de­sign touches to keep things feel­ing fresh. She likes to add Mid-cen­tury pieces, so she has iconic Scandi chairs by Hay in the kitchen and an el­e­gant 1950s hair­pin arm­chair in the sit­ting room, which are part­nered with mod­ern cof­fee and din­ing ta­bles with an­gu­lar shapes.

Then there is the half-glazed wall sep­a­rat­ing two rooms, with glass set into de­ci­sive, black rec­tan­gles – a nod to the style of the lo­cal bistros. The cou­ple mostly eat in the kitchen, which is dec­o­rated in ivory to com­ple­ment a clas­sic French La­canche range cooker, but in sum­mer, they en­ter­tain out­side, un­der a wis­te­ria-draped per­gola.

Through­out the house is ev­i­dence of Is­abelle’s cre­ative skills, from her in­te­rior de­sign style to her art and sculp­tures. This is a home the silk weavers who once worked here would love and un­der­stand, just as much as its new owner does.

KITCHEN- DINER Is­abelle de­signed the oak ta­ble and pen­dant light, and had them made by lo­cal ar­ti­sans. Moooi long pen­dant, £590, is sim­i­lar; hay AAC22 chairs, £199 each, both util­ity

BATH­ROOM The towel rail makes a handy jew­ellery stand. ed­in­burgh mir­ror, £660, Nep­tune, is a good match

MAS­TER BED­ROOM The wardrobe was de­signed us­ing re­claimed, tra­di­tional lou­vred doors. Z1 pen­dant light, £325, Ay Il­lu­mi­nate at Ines Cole

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