Just a two-hour drive from Paris, in the verdant Normandy countryside, sits La Carlière, the magical 15th-century manor house of British fashion designer Peter Copping and his French husband Rambert Rigaud. The noble granite home, with its classical symmetry and gardens bordered by field and forest, was acquired by the couple 12 years ago. It initially served as a refurbishment project and weekend bolthole as they juggled their busy schedules working in fashion. Since stepping down as creative director of Oscar de la Renta four years ago, Copping has embraced the charms of provincial living. He now spends at least half his time in Normandy, while the couple maintain a smaller apartment in Montmartre, Paris, used by Copping and Rigaud, which is particularly useful for Rigaud, who works in development at a fashion house during the week.
“In the two years I spent in the US, I only had two weeks here,” Copping says, pouring a glass of crisp, chilled cider on the front lawn of the house on a late summer’s day. The designer, who grew up in a small village outside Oxford, is very at home with the slower pace of country living, which he missed during his time in New York at Oscar de la Renta. “I love New York as a city, but I didn’t necessarily enjoy working there,” he says. “Everyone complains that France closes down in August, but everything still gets done. People here also have a quality of life.”
La Carlière has been a long-term labour of love. When the couple purchased the three-storey country pile it was in need of updating, and they not only replaced the roof – at one stage the bedrooms upstairs opened up to the sky – but installed proper heating, added several bathrooms and put in a contemporary kitchen. Rigaud’s uncle Jean-Michel Barrow, a project manager who worked with the interior designer Jacques Grange, oversaw the major work, but Copping took over the role when he returned to France in 2016. “I mean, neither of us can put a nail in a wall, but with our design knowledge we are able to look at something and know if it’s right or wrong,” he says.
Now restored to its former glory, La Carlière is testament to the couple’s passion for interior design and their insatiable love of antiques – what Rigaud laughingly calls “an illness”. Indeed, the once-empty farm buildings on the property are fast filling with treasures unearthed in brocantes and auctions. Inside the house, the entrance hall has all the grandeur of a noble estate: four Aubusson tapestries line two of the walls, while the third is adorned with wood-carved deer heads. The console table below displays a series of antique dog collars – heavy, metal, S&M-like contraptions from the 17th and 18th centuries – placed amid plants in terracotta pots that blend with the earth-toned walls and tiled floor. “You’ll see evidence all around that we are kind of frustrated we don’t have a dog,” says Copping. They do, however, have two lush-looking Siamese cats, Tino and Minnie, who lounge atop the couple’s antique four-poster bed most of the day.
From the main hallway, a door to the left leads to the grand salon – a light, airy room with cream sofas in whimsical florals highlighted by theatrical flower arrangements. To the right is the petit salon: a cocooning space with jauntily red sofas placed invitingly either side of a black marble fireplace and walls lined with carved bookshelves. The pair spend most of their time in this room or can be found in the downstairs kitchen, which serves a stately dining room made for long evenings spent with friends. The oak table here, when set with the couple’s fine porcelain and surrounded by 18th-century chairs, has all the magic of an old Dutch painting.
Copping, who is 6ft 1in, has to stoop to enter the doorway to the spiral staircase that winds its way to the upstairs bedrooms. Each room has its own feel and identity, alive with fabric, wallpapers and eclectic furnishings. “We tried to create different moods in each room, but the spaces flow easily into one another,” Copping says. In every corner, it is evident that meticulous care and thought has gone into each acquisition. When the pair found a handpainted 18th-century wardrobe at an antiques fair in Brussels, deemed perfect for the twin bedroom but unable to get through the doorways, they dismantled the piece and reassembled it in the room. It is the striking focal point they had envisaged.
The couple’s flair for interior design has gradually evolved into much more than a personal avocation. On returning to France from the States, Copping became a contributing editor at Architectural Digest, while concurrently establishing a small haute couture clientele, working with Paris-based ateliers, such as the house of Lesage, known for its embroideries. “Such a large part of Oscar at the end was being on the road doing trunk shows and acting as the face of the house, which didn’t allow for enough time at the studio doing what I really enjoy,” he reflects. “So I asked myself, should I build this into something? But I wasn’t really sure there was a need for another fashion company.”
What the couple could see was how beautifully the work lent itself to homewares, which has led them to launch a luxurious collection of cushions and throws, named after La Carlière (which will sell initially direct-to‑customer on Instagram and via Cutter Brooks, the Cotswold interiors store run by the former fashion director of Barneys – and fellow Architectural Digest contributor – Amanda Cutter Brooks. The range is priced from £700). “We wanted to make a product that we wanted to buy… I just got fed up with looking at interiors and seeing Ikat prints,” says Copping. Their designs are a reflection of their surroundings – “opulent, super-charged and unique”, says Rigaud. But sustainability is also interwoven into their approach. The generous cushions are made from antique and antique-inspired textiles with ornate, hand-finessed touches. A limited series is produced in fabric that has been upcycled from vintage curtains found at the Paris flea markets and over‑embroidered with Elizabethan-style wool and raffia crewelwork. The couple also selected a fabric from the Lewis & Wood collection. The print, inspired by 19th-century French quilts, was customised with hand-embroidery, then chopped up and patchworked back together. These pieces are complemented by one-off designs in eclectic mixes of antique fabric and tapestry and finished with fringing, giving a decadent appeal. Others are sampled from 19th‑century ethnic shawls.
Copping has always instilled his designs with a sense of history and romance, along with a talent for fabric play – evident in the way he has cut up and spliced together eclectic textiles, sometimes even working with their backs to show the labour involved. “I used to work at Sonia Rykiel, who was someone who always turned the fabric out,” he recalls. Even the most lavish styles are snappily juxtaposed with simple striped cotton mattress ticking. In some cases, fabrics are bordered with strips of colourful velvet ribbon or fused together with bright rustic hand-stitching. “It’s really nice to just play around and mix things to see what works with what.”
Copping has clearly thrown himself into the creation of the collection. His office – its cupboards piled high with found fabrics and his desk lined with ribbons and trims – resembles a haberdashery from yesteryear. “When I see interesting things I just want to buy them. I’m creating a stockpile,” he says. Although his designs are undoubtedly luxurious, he does not see them only in grand digs such as his own. “Textiles are a great way to give a room personality,” he says. “Not everyone will want to cover a sofa in a wild fabric, but you can create impact with accessories.” Eventually, he would like to offer a customised service creating bespoke furnishings for a client’s house – one might call it haute couture for the home.
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