SOMETHING WICKER THIS WAY COMES
Atelier Vime reignites the design industry’s interest in all things wicker
It is a funny thing, how quickly things can change and how something that started as one thing ends up being something completely different at the end. Just ask anthony Watson and Benoit rauzy, two friends whose passion-project renovation of a crumbling hôtel particulier in Vallabrègues turned into a life-changing business move. The small Provençal town was, for the longest time, the biggest producer of wicker baskets in France thanks to its location close to the reedlush banks of the rhône (the increasing popularity of plastic put a stop to that, though the town still holds an annual festival in honour of the wicker trade).
For anthony and Benoit there was a compulsion to continue the ancient tradition. ‘When we acquired the property we immediately felt like invaders,’ recalls anthony. ‘small eighteenth century mansions such as this one are dotted all over the French countryside; they all have very unique characteristics. For this one, it was the three ponds in the garden where the harvested wicker reeds could be soaked in water, the first step in the production process. We knew straight away that to honour the house we needed to get it back up and running.’
resurrecting its 1878 wicker workshop – and the ancient craft that takes place there – was an inspired balance of old-world methods meets modern sensibilities.
Today their enterprise, atelier Vime (a Frenchified take on the Latin vimen for a flexible twig or shoot), offers a range of collected vintage pieces – a 1950s gio Ponti armchair here, a couple of 1960s Tito agnoli easy chairs there – as well as their own in-house designed lights and mirrors. The latter being a collaboration with raphaëlle hanley that saw the designs updated to include rope and Indonesian rattan.
as for the house itself, the faded, wistful romance of the Belle Époque is almost palpable, with furniture throughout being a mix of antiques, restored pieces and custom items by atelier Vime themselves. To preserve the integrity of the interior, anthony and Benoit turned to paint expert
Elise Orrier, who masterfully restored the patinated walls to their original blue while enhancing that je ne sais quoi feeling of history. Step outside and it’s a tour de force of bucolic charm. There’s a stone basin by Hardy Toulemonde nestled away in the shadow of bougainvillea, weighed down by their profuse magenta blooms, and seating takes the form of 1950s braided rush armchairs with Pierre Frey cushions.
It didn’t take long for the design world to take notice and within its first year, Atelier Vime had become every interior designer’s best kept secret. From Pierre Yovanovitch, who commissioned a massive light fixture for a project in Tel Aviv, to American names such as Virginia Tupker (she’s got her eye on one of the
Jean Royère high-backed rattan chairs) and Frank de Biasi, the demand for highend wicker has captivated the style coterie. ‘More and more, we are collaborating with international decorators who have fallen under the spell of wicker,’ says Anthony.
Perhaps the success of Atelier Vime is down to historical determinism. On the other hand, it could be the genius loci of that once ramshackle countryside manor house. Or maybe it’s the global zeitgeist around artisanal craft. One thing is certain, this labour of love was meant to be.
‘More and more, we are collaborating with international decorators who have fallen under the spell of wicker’ THE FADED, WISTFUL ROMANCE OF THE BELLE ÉPOQUE IS ALMOST PALPABLE
A LARGE BEDROOM IS FURNISHED IN VINTAGE RATTAN CHAIRS, A COFFEE TABLE AND MARQUETRY CABINET, AVAILABLE FROM ATELIER VIME. THE SUZANI IS FROM TAJIKISTAN
‘CONE’ BAMBOO PENDANT, R2 250, PILGRIMAGE SPACES KNOLL ‘SAARINEN’ OUTDOOR HIGH DINING TABLE, R58 870, LIMELINE
‘ZAMBEZI’ CANE LOUNGE CHAIR, R5 500, DESIGN STORE