The gorgeous couple
vanessa bruno and partner Jérôme Dreyfuss at their gorgeous weekend escape.
article via T magazine for The New York Times
"There’s no address — the road has no name . . . it’s not even really a road . . . it seems like it’s in the middle of nowhere,” says the French accessories designer Jérôme Dreyfuss, explaining how to (possibly never) find the rustic country retreat he shares with his wife, the fashion designer Isabel Marant, and their 8-year-old son, Tal.
Surrounded by acacia trees on the banks of the Loing River in Fontainebleau, the tiny clapboard cottage is only 35 miles southeast of central Paris, but it feels worlds away, thanks to its untamed, verdant surroundings and lack of mod cons like electricity, heat and plumbing. (You flush the loo the old-fashioned way — with buckets of water hand-pumped from a spring.) The spartan setting suits the family just fine. “It’s surprising how little you really need,” Dreyfuss says. “The expression ‘less is more’ takes on real meaning here.”
There’s a strict no-fashion-talk policy in effect at the cottage, which is strewn with colorful old kilims, flea market finds and stacks of thick wool blankets for use in the winter months. “We barely have time to speak to each other at all during the week, so the last thing we want to discuss when we’re here is work,” says Dreyfuss, whose handbags are hot commodities on both sides of the Atlantic. Adds Marant, whose namesake cool-girl label enjoys bona fide cult status: “We don’t see friends in Paris anymore. We invite them to Fontainebleau. Especially the ones with children; it’s truly a kid’s paradise.” As if on cue, Tal takes aim at a nearby tree with a crude slingshot, using chestnuts as ammunition, and then attempts to vanquish an imaginary foe with a bow and arrow made from branches. “Our petit sauvage — that’s what we call him,” Dreyfuss says affectionately, as his son drags a kayak down to the water. “Half the time, we can’t even get him to wear clothes. And he never, ever wants to go back to Paris on Sunday nights.”
Looking around, it’s easy to see why. In addition to the kayak, a canoe and a surfboard for paddle boarding, Tal has a nifty treehouse, a tree swing, ropes for Tarzan re-enactments, a trampoline, fishing poles, water guns and numerous pup tents, which double as guest accommodations for his friends. A few minutes later, the youngster can be heard challenging a group of hapless kayakers, demanding a toll before they can pass. “He thinks he’s the boatman on the river Styx,” Dreyfuss quips.
Serendipity led the couple to their piece of paradise seven years ago. “We happened to see an ad in a free paper we picked up outside a bakery and called the broker immediately,” Dreyfuss says. “The first thing we noticed when we got here was the air — it’s pristine.” And blissfully free of the usual sounds of civilization. “Aside from people paddling on the river, you hear only nature,” Marant says.
Sometimes, nature can be a little loud. “I came here with Tal right after we bought the place and woke up in the middle of the night to hear someone breathing heavily right outside the bedroom,” Dreyfuss recounts. “I was terrified and began plotting how I would make a run for the car with the baby. I fell asleep with him in my arms and a giant kitchen knife next to the bed.” In the morning, Dreyfuss discovered (rather sheepishly) that the nocturnal intruder had been a wild boar.
These days, most of the couple’s visitors are of the two-legged variety, and besides child’s play, much of the activity centers around food and drink. “I love to cook,” Marant says, “but never have time to do it in Paris.” She spends Saturday mornings at the market in the nearby village of Bourron-Marlotte, buying fresh bread, croissants, beautiful cheeses, meat, fish, eggs and produce. Perishables are stored in a little fisherman’s cabin embedded in the riverbank that is equipped with a vintage icebox. “I buy tons of food, because we never know if we’re serving 5, 10 or 25,” Marant says, as she prepares a platter of locally made saucissons, rillettes, cornichons and olives in the minuscule kitchen area. “Jérôme’s in charge of the barbecue, and I try to balance all the meat he makes with lots of fresh salads and seasonal vegetables.”
Lunches are always long, laid-back affairs that melt into convivial evenings lit by candles and kerosene lanterns and fueled by lots of good French wine. After the kids retire to their tents, the adults take out the tarot cards and sip brandy.
Dreyfuss surveys the darkening compound contentedly, pointing out his latest gardening feats (“I’m quite proud of my roses — they add that English garden touch”) and the sun beds he just finished making for the deck. “I’m always trying to build things out of wood,” he says. “It’s so much more inspiring than shopping for them in Paris.” Next up: a new treehouse for Tal. “He says the one he has is too low, that it’s for babies. He wants a big duplex. Now we just have to find the right tree.”