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...it's Julie from Famille Summerbelle

Saturday, 22 March 2008 by Irene Hoofs

Introduced to you at B:Kids recently...a brand new company with an original concept...creative and balanced design for kids...Famille Summerbelle... are Julie and Simon and last but not least their daughter Ophelia... I am very happy to have the "Famille" as guests in this week's Open House...and the family house in London is just fabulous... see for yourself!

1. ) When, why and how did you start Famille Summerbelle?
Famille Summerbelle was launched earlier this year at Bubble Kids Trade Show in London followed in February by Kids Modern consumer show in Dulwich. The idea of designing children’s interior accessories grew developed when I was pregnant with Ophelia. It kind of evolved naturally as I was designing products for her bedroom. I have always been making things and designing interiors so it was natural for me to design her environment.
{Julie & Ophelia}
2.) Can you tell us about your background … and the ‘French famille’ connection? And how important is the word ‘Famille’ for you…and does it have anything to do with your idea to create the family tree poster?
I am French and I have been living in London for about 10 years. I am married to Simon who is English and we have a beautiful daughter Ophelia who is 20 months. I spent a very happy and creative childhood at a Steiner School in Paris. I learned how to knit, sew, draw, paint; making things was part of the daily routine and I think that spirit still exists with me today. After a few years in Paris studying Fine Art I came to London and studied Set Design at Saint Martins College.
Before Ophelia was born I was designing and styling sets for theatre, TV and film productions.
My family is very important to me. I come from a big family (we are 5 children). I also grew up in the company of my many cousins. We all live between England, France and New Zealand where Simon’s brother lives with his family. We all meet up once a year during the last week of August for the annual fete in our family village in the South of France. There are now maybe 35 of us around the table for dinner plus all the new generation of cousins running around.
{in left image you can see the family tree and available here}
I designed the family tree as a practical way to show Ophelia photographs of her whole family: grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who all live around the world. She loves pointing and naming each person and it’s a great way for her to remember everybody. It is now the routine before bedtime to look at the tree and remember our loved ones.
{Staircase and Ophelia in her room}
3.) Is Ophelia a big inspiration for you when creating new products? And how did you ‘draw’ the beautiful tree illustration on the wall? 
Ophelia was my inspiration to start Famille Summerbelle and she is my inspiration all the way along the designing process. She is at the age where she starts pointing and naming things. The paper cut collection started as a fun way for her to learn about clothes and the sounds of birds. I customized a chest of drawers with the Dressing Up wallpaper for her bedroom. She loves searching and naming her favorite outfit.
The branch illustration is in the staircase leading to the living room. I had wanted to do something interesting with this high wall for quite a while. One day with my cutting board out (and lots of wallpaper lay around in my studio), I started to cut the shape of a branch out of silver wallpaper. The bird-cage is a cut out from my vintage wallpaper collection.
{the Studio}
4.) Where is the studio located, is it in your house? What are the difficulties for starting up a business and which things were easier than expected?
I work from home so the studio is in a glass mezzanine overlooking our living room. It is important for me to be working from home so I can be flexible with my hours and looking after Ophelia.
Starting up Famille Summerbelle has been pretty straight- forward for us. I thought it would have taken longer to establish but luckily we received some great press attention very quickly. The main difficulty of starting a business seems to be the lack of sleep! The days are very long and nights too shorts especially leading to a show and looking after a 20 month old active toddler.
{Ophelia’s beautiful bedroom}
5.) What does a typical day at work involve for you and how do you combine this with taking care of Ophelia?
At around 7am we can hear a little voice saying “Papa! Maman!”. Somehow we always hope she will go back to sleep but after 12 hours of deep sleep this never happens!
She is so funny in the morning that it gives us energy to slowly wake up.
I usually start working at 9h30 once I have dropped Ophelia at nursery. I then work non-stop until 4pm when I go back to pick her up. That’s my break and reward of the day to see her little head behind the door waiting for me!
We play together until Simon comes back from work just in time to put her to bed.
We really enjoy our dinner time with a glass of red wine and then we often both work on the business for a couple of hours before going to bed.
{the kitchen}
6.) Who is the cook in your house, what is a favorite family meal?
Simon is the talented cook in the house. He loves cooking which is great for me. He does amazing roast lamb with lots of fresh French garlic! We work well as a team as I usually do the desserts. We love getting fresh produce from Farmers Markets like the fabulous Borough Market, which is very close.
{papercuts made by Julie}
7.) How does a design begin…what is the next step…and how do you get to the final product?
That’s a tricky question!

I usually keep a scrapbook with images, colour and fabric samples that I collect from my research.
Often the design evolves from my research. I do rough sketches and a lot of trying things out. It is usually a slow process to get to the final product.
For our current collection long hours have been spent with my cutting board shaping the birds and garments. I also use Photoshop a lot when designing. You know when I am in the designing process mode, as the studio gets pretty busy with papers, fabrics and all sorts of things.
{Famille Summerbelle's amazing wallpapers}
8.)Do you illustrate everything yourself and where do you produce the wallpapers?

I do all the illustrations and designs myself.
The wallpaper consists of lots of hand paper cut garments for the Dressing Up collection with owls, peacocks and pelicans for the Kissing Birds collection.
The wallpapers are all hand screen printed with water based inks and we only use high quality paper from 100% renewable sources. We produce very locally which is a great way for me to control the process from start to finish.
{the livingroom}
9.) When looking at the windows, it seems you live in an old building that has been restored, can you tell us a bit more about the building?
We live in a converted Victorian School in Central London minutes away from the River Thames and the famous Tower Bridge. Our flat is on top of the School so we have amazing views over the City and the Gherkin (Foster’s Swiss Re building). We are very lucky to have a large open plan living room with the exposed brick walls and lots of natural light.   It’s also great for Ophelia to have space to play. She loves running around the living room, pulling out the books from the bookshelf and laying all the cushions on the floor as beds for her ‘Bébés’ dolls.
{the parents bedroom}
10.) At the end of the day when thinking of your new business…what makes you really happy and what would you like to accomplish the next day? 
I feel very lucky to have achieved so much in so little time (we launched the business only a few months ago!). I have a wonderful husband (who is also my work partner) who encourages me and reminds me when it gets too hectic that we are doing it for Ophelia and for the fun of it!
I am so grateful for all the amazing feedback that we get everyday. I am very proud that we made Famille Summerbelle a very personal business. I truly enjoy every bits of it. Being able to run this business and to look after Ophelia really makes me happy!

..you can order the collection online..
..if you have any questions..

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