Walking through the beautiful hilltop village of Menerbes in Provence on a scorching hot Saturday, we fell in love with the quiet streets, beautiful rustic houses and a view that seemed to stretch forever. Just when it seemed as though the day couldn’t get much better, we stumbled upon Atelier de Couleurs – a veritable treasure trove of authentic French furniture, restored and painted by British artist Liz Wyatt. Not only was the shopfront cool and perfectly styled, but the shop extended back into an airy cave-like artist’s studio where Liz does all of the restoration onsite. Liz’s natural artistic abilities mean that the painting of the pieces is done to a calibre that we have rarely ever seen before. This is French antique country furniture at its very pinnacle.
Sometimes life intervenes like this, we stumbled in and ended up talking and talking with Liz about the beautiful pieces in the shop and how she lovingly sources and restores them and it seemed that before we had even realised it, we were interviewing her!
How did you end up working and owning a business in France?
Fate and destiny. I fell in love with Provence, renovated an old cherry barn near Bonnieux and afterwards hunted for a painting studio – by chance the Atelier in Menerbes came on the market and after renovation became my show room and painting studio. Apart from being stunningly beautiful Menerbes has a long artistic history – Picasso, Nicolas de Stael and Dora Marr, amongst others, have lived and worked here and today there are a number of artists and musicians who are based in the village
How did you get started trading antiques and furniture?
This area is rich in wonderful old Provencal furniture – but it’s often rather over-charged, brown and shiny! It has taken over a year to build up a network of contacts – dealers, traders and private individuals and it’s work in progress – here, as everywhere it’s contacts! Sourcing the right piece of furniture become intuitive although there are many watch points – the main thing is always buy the best you can and then take it to another level.
Are you a trained artist or are you self taught?
I was born with a paint brush in my hand – my Mother was an enthusiastic painter, my brother is an architect and family outings always included easels, palettes, oil paints and a picnic.
I took art at A level but side-tracked into fashion journalism. My inner artist developed when I discovered furniture painting 10 years ago – now it is a complete passion. Colour, shape, form, the possibility of a metamorphosis – taking a tired old armoire and transforming it into a wonderful painted piece really excites me.
Who is a typical client?
Clients range from celebrities to private individuals who want an old family piece painted. I have a great deal of clients who have second homes here or live here year-round and I am lucky to have plenty of commissions too.
How has your buying style evolved?
My buying style is something which has unconsciously evolved – you learn along the way and now I look for unusual, different pieces for my showroom. I also buy for clients and then paint to their color specification but whatever the piece I try to make it as original as possible.
Do you ever keep your favourite pieces for yourself?
I try very very hard not to keep special things for myself and at times have failed miserably – the guilt is terrible! I have the most beautiful Trudeau mirror which I repainted for the showroom but for some reason it has not moved from my house – yet!
What is your favourite piece for sale at the moment?
I have just sold my favorite armoire of all time! I painted it from scratch, it was a very tired 18th Century Norman marriage armoire – battered and bruised and in a bit of a mess. I hope I have restored it to its former glory!
What do you do when you’re not working?
When I am not working I am painting and furniture hunting – the pleasure is endless and I don’t think of what I do as a job! But it is easy to enjoy the wonderful things to do here in Provence – ice cold rosé, fab food, breathtaking views and good long walks – music, film and of course friends.
What is your own home style like?
My home style is eclectic – a mix of of classic pieces with contemporary moments but if I am honest I am strangely classic!
What’s the most rewarding thing about running your own business?
The best and most joyful thing about running my own business is there are no constraints – I feel free to do my own thing.
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