A Symphony in Concrete
As a child, Matthieu Tessier wanted to be a designer. Objects or houses, he wasn't exactly sure. But when his father pointed out that he'd never seen him draw anything, he realized that he loved design but didn't actually want to do it for a living.
As an adult, he headed to business school instead, moved into marketing, then found himself managing bands. Today, he owns two record labels—Choke Industry and Sideline—and has signed some of the most successful bands in France, including Lilly Wood and the Prick, who found worldwide fame in 2014 with the single "Prayer in C".
Over the years, Matthieu has indulged his love of design by collecting beautiful functional objects from door knobs to forks, as well as furniture by such luminaries as Gaetano Pesce and Ettore Sottsass. Just over a year ago, however, he fell for the ultimate design object—a house, just outside Quercy Blanc Natural Park in the south of France.
La Maison H is located in a rather unsual place—in the south of France, but far from the French Riviera. How did you find it?
Matthieu Tessier: "I wasn't looking for a place in the area at all. I just saw the house on a real estate website. It's a small agency that specializes in architectural properties, so they never have a big number of places to sell at the same time. So, I usually go there to see what they have because I'm curious! The first thing that interested me was the architecture of the place. And then, when I saw where it was located, I didn't exactly know where it was, so I had to look on the map. And then I started to think about it and what could be interesting in the area."
I understand the house was built in 2015 by architect Franck Martinez. Were you familiar with his work?
MT: "No. The thing that I really liked was that this was the house he lived in, and he built it for himself and his family. It reminded me of something that I really, really like, the work of Tadao Ando. He's a Japanese architect who uses concrete a lot. And what I really liked about this house is the use of concrete. It's very raw. And I found it very, very powerful. It's kind of nestled in the woods, so you don't see any other house, just trees everywhere. And there's this big construction, all in concrete and in glass. That's really what attracted me.
"Inside, it's very different because it's open. You have light from the north, south, east and west, so the light moves during the day. And you can see trees wherever you look. All the walls inside are wood panels, so it's quite warm and comfy inside.
"I like the house because I feel like it doesn't try to please everyone. It's not all white and polished. It's a bit raw, and I guess some people could feel that it's unfinished."
When you moved in, did you have to change it to make it yours? Or was it a matter of adding furniture that you liked?
MT: "Franck built the furniture inside the walls. There's a big shelving case that he built himself in the living room. And I actually bought some of his furniture. The Serge Mouille lamp in the living room was already there, and the Jean Prouvé table and chairs were there as well. So, I basically had to buy beds and a sofa."
What do you love most about the house?
MT: "It's really the feeling when you enter the path of the property, you feel like you enter a small forest. Then, at the end of the path, the house appears. There's a very long concrete wall, with trees everywhere. And it's the contrast between the trees and nature and the brutalism of the concrete, and the fact that, once you're inside, you can see nature everywhere, that's very relaxing."
Where is your happy place?
MT: "I love the living room. Basically, it's a big living room with a fireplace, and then you have four other rooms attached to it on each corner, creating the H shape. One kitchen, one bedroom with a bathroom, another bedroom and bathroom, and another bedroom. And so, when you want to go from one room to another, you have to cross the living room. So, we spend much time there.
"Of course, during summer when everything is open, it's the terrace near the swimming pool, because you're really at the edge of the woods. And there's just the water between you and the forest. It's really a nice feeling."
What object do you treasure most?
MT: "I really love the B&B Italia Cameleonda sofa. Because I think it's very graphic. It's orange on the black floor. It's quite big, and you can see it from everywhere."
Is there a soundtrack to the house?
MT: "It's nice to be there and see the balance of the trees and the wind moving all the shapes outside while you're listening to ambient or soul or jazz music."
When you travel, what kinds of places do you stay in?
MT: "That's actually how I ended up using BoutiqueHomes for the first time, I think it was 10 years ago. I was going to Los Angeles, and I rented a house in the Hollywood Hills. It was a small, mid-century house that's been remade by an architect. And I really, really enjoyed it. I try to find unusual places, or places where I know I'll feel good. I think it would be difficult for me to go and enjoy a week in a place that I don't really like, if I don't like the design, or the objects, or anything that surrounds me.
"So that's a bit difficult, to be honest, because it's sometimes difficult to find or too expensive. But I could actually choose a place to go for my holidays because of a house that I found."
What has the experience of renting your house being like so far?
MT: "So far it's been perfect. What I feel is that people don't choose this house by accident. They really choose to spend time in this house because they're interested by it, or like its design. And so we've had three or four architects renting the house and asking me questions about the construction or the swimming pool, and that's something that I knew about when I started using BoutiqueHomes as a host—that people will be attracted to the same things as I am."
So, you're getting guests who are like you. They see the house and they want to stay in the house, not necessarily the location?
MT: "Yes, because it's not a really trendy location. It's the south of France, but it's not the French Riviera or near the sea. The biggest city is one hour away, it's Toulouse. French people come here to walk in nature, but it's not an area where people usually go on holidays. So, I thought that people would think, 'Well, the house is nice, there's a swimming pool, it's in the woods, so it's probably nice to be in this house. We can walk, we can bike, we can use a kayak in the river.'"
So, what do you do when you're at the house?
MT: "All of this! We also cook a lot so we buy products that we like, and we cook, we bike, and we kayak on the river. There are a couple of restaurants that we really like that are not far away, one with a couple and their kids that only cook produce from their garden on an open fire. But mostly, I rest and enjoy the nature."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Matthieu also shared that he's in the process of converting a guest house on the property into a recording studio, making La Maison H the perfect hideaway for artists to make music in. It's a work in progress, so stay tuned. In the meantime, discover this creative space for yourself here.