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I first spotted Christine d’Ornano at a friend’s dinner party in London nearly 10 years ago. As we were chatting, I soon noticed—and envied—her perfect shade of rose lipstick and her colorful needlepoint clutch bearing her children’s names—a gift, she explained, lovingly hand-stitched by her mother. As I got to know her better, this all made perfect sense. Christine’s parents founded the beauty brand Sisley, where she is now global vice president, and they are often celebrated for their great taste, appreciation of beauty, and very personal sense of style. Christine’s mother, Isabelle d’Ornano, collaborated with Henri Samuel on a sumptuous Paris apartment that has been published several times over the years. (That place and others are the focus of a new book, What a Beautiful World!, published by La Martinière/Abrams.) As Christine and I have become close friends over the years, I have witnessed the sheer joy she takes in visiting galleries, flea markets, and small-town brocantes to discover not only the very best work from well-known artists and designers but also carefully selected yet unpretentious bric-a-brac that adds great charm and character to a room.

While Christine had already created two beautiful homes for herself—first in London and then in Paris—perhaps her most personal project to date is her summer beach house near Biarritz, in the Basque region of France, overlooking the Atlantic ocean. Having grown up visiting the area on summer trips with her siblings, Christine first saw the house she would buy when walking in the nature reserve that blankets the landscape in front of it. It was a modest house but it had a big terrace overlooking the sea, and she had a vision for what it could become. As waterfront homes often require suitable materials to sustain the forces of nature in close proximity, she wanted to understand how to transform it into a home that would last. Christine collected her own research on favorite local houses and others in well-known surfing destinations and enlisted local architect Philippe Pastre to help execute the project. She wanted to maintain the stark white rounded-edge walls that the area is known for, and she envisaged a large central fireplace with a Swedish-inspired tile chimney. She also wanted a bar just near the entrance, where friends could gather for a drink after surfing or congregate before dinner.

The terrace table is covered in a D’Ascoli tablecloth. Pendant light by Fernando Oriol.

D’Ornano in front of windows overlooking the terrace.

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Mini-Medici Wicker Urns by Atelier Vime

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Waves Linen by Liz Connell for Borderline

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Traditional Apulian Flat Plate by Fratelli Colì

Set of six

When I wonder what she learned from her parents’ great sense of style, Christine shares that her mother taught her that it is more important that things appear “convivial, rather than perfect.” And her late father insisted that “every room in the house should be utilized and appear lived-in.” This is evident in every space in Christine’s house. The white sofas in the living room have cotton- and linen-covered mattresses with comfortable cushions scattered on them; they’re invitingly casual, welcoming even to those in wet bathing suits and  sandy feet. The kitchen is well stocked with an impressive collection of eclectic bowls, vases, glassware, and crockery, “all from the local flea market and specifically selected to serve a purpose,” Christine eagerly notes. “My set of breakfast plates cost $1 each. They’re from an old porcelain factory. I love the idea of recycling beautiful things instead of buying everything new.” I ask her how she gathers this great collection of items together without the room looking cluttered, to which she responds, “The kitchen must have a good structure—a simple layout that works well for cooking and cleaning up. Having appliances and shelves in the right place creates a strong foundation for organization. And then all the decorative pieces I add always have a function—whether it’s the perfect bowl for serving olives or the right-size jug for mixing salad dressing. Nothing is purely ornate.”

A vintage table from Atelier Vime stands next to an Ensemblier bed in a guest room. Vintage rug; D. Porthault bedding.

D’Ornano designed the bar herself. The hanging light is by Ingo Maurer, and the vintage stools were flea-market finds.

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Bishop Rattan Dining Table by India Mahdavi for Ralph Pucci

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Short Surfboard by Jeff “Doc” Lausch at Surf Prescriptions for Cynthia Rowley

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Sheepskin Clam Chair by Arnold Madsen for Vik & Blindheim

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Ellie McNevin

Fig Leaf Beach Towel by Peter Dunham for Weezie Towels

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As for the decoration, everything in the house has the same feeling of being carefully selected and arranged in a way to suit Christine’s life and that of her three beautiful teenage daughters, all surfers as well. Old and new wicker pieces acquired from famed French design trio Atelier Vime are found throughout the house. A much-envied Raf Simons for Calvin Klein Cassina Feltri chair, crafted from felt and lined with a vintage American quilt, sits by the fireplace. The bedsheets are Porthault, but instead of matching sets, the beds are dressed with a mixed compilation of brightly colored, intentionally clashing florals. The shelves behind the bar are filled with glassware, pitchers, and ashtrays from French bars, adorned with iconic colorful graphics. There are also pieces like the metal hatstand/staircase railing in the entrance hall that Christine conceived of herself and found local artisans to realize. The games area in the living room is a chic quartet of Vico Magistretti chairs in a shade of tomato red that perfectly coordinate with the vintage rattan games table. Anchoring the room is a vibrant wall hanging designed by Alexander Calder that was made to raise funds for the victims of a 1972 earthquake in Central America. Each piece has a story to tell.


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