An Interview with Si Mazouz of French by Design
How the French Live
As I was wandering through Sue Fischer King in San Francisco a few months ago, a book caught my eye and I immediately picked it up and started flipping through the pages. On the cover of “How the French Live” there is a beautiful image of a sun drenched entry way with an antique workbench that is to die for. From there, I did a little research on the author (Siham Mazouz) and discovered she lives in San Francisco and has a well known blog called French by Design. I also found her on Instagram and have become a huge fan. Although I have never met Si Mazouz in person, I feel like we are kindred spirits and even more so after I was able to interview her and ask her questions about her love of France and how the book came about.
What drew you to France in the first place?
I grew up in the French culture; My mom is French, and my dad is Berber, and although I spent my childhood in Morocco, French was the spoken language at home and the French culture part of our everyday lives. We would spend our summers at my grandparents’ in the Cognac region, then drive through the hexagon to spend a few weeks in Paris in the tiny family apartment in the 17ème arrondissement. I later studied and worked in Paris, and lived in that adorable apartment, and called Aix-en-Provence home when we started a family, before returning to the US for professional reasons when our daughters were 7 and 8.
Where did you live in France and what are the things you love most about the French way of life?
My life in Provence grounded me; I learned a new way of living there, enjoying simple moments, making things, creating beauty on a budget and eating simple and healthy food. I learned to enjoy a slower pace in life; Provence is also where I started getting into interior design as we renovated our home there, one room at a time, with limited budget. I discovered my love for flea markets and vintage pieces there, and the art of mixing unexpected and quirky pieces together to create an interior with personality.
We somehow re-created this “French art de vivre” here in San Francisco, so we miss our homeland a lot less now; We love our life in San Francisco but there is something so special in savoring a café-croissant while people watching in a little café in Paris or sipping a glass of rosé while chatting with the locals in a village in Provence, or even tasting a fruit directly from the tree at the grower’s organic farm! It’s the simplicity of life that I love and miss the most from France.
What motivated you to write a book and did you enjoy the process?
When our family moved to North Carolina (before San Francisco) from Provence, we didn’t change dramatically our way of living. While we'd moved away from our homeland, we kept our family habits, we instilled the same values to our kids, ate the same diet. Even in the way we decorated our first American home, we followed the same principle we always had: less house, more home. Less lawn manicuring, and more time spent outdoors to build family memories on sunny days, less new furniture buying, more thrifting and repurposing the old and make it new again.
Many of my new American friends seemed at first amused, then fascinated by our culture and rituals. They would always ask me if my way of decorating or even living was “typical”. So I wondered if there was a true ”French way of living”, whether we live in the motherland or are exiled from the French hexagon and live as expatriates. The idea of How the French Live was born…
In How the French Live, I wanted to invite the readers into real French interiors, meet real families and share a connection with them, while learning more about the French culture. Since food is such an important part of the French culture, each family shares a simple signature recipe with the reader at the end of the visit.
I loved working on How the French Live. I have such fond memories of my travels and visits to these families in France, Morocco or the US, and the bonds and human connections I made with each of these families. I am very grateful they allowed me to document their life, and create this little time capsule into their lifestyle, decor and family. This project also made me grow tremendously, both professionally and personally, as I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone on many occasions throughout this book project. What an exciting adventure it’s been!
Top 3 design tips!
· “Cherish the old”and beautify it with modern elements; if you are lucky enough to move into an old home with old terracotta or graphic tiles in the kitchen for example, don’t demo it, work with it, beautify it and make this historical element the star of your French-flair kitchen!
· “Think outside the box”- Mix unexpected pieces together from different eras or styles to create a quirky, conversational and welcoming interior. Your personality should shine through your décor choices.
· “Keep it simple”and don’t let your décor ideas get out of hand: remember, less is more!
I would like to thanks Si for sharing part of her journey with us and we are very much looking forward to welcoming her to the shop for a book signing on September 29th from 3:00pm-5:00pm. We hope you will join us for the afternoon to meet the author, enjoy a glass of champagne and experience a little Joie de Vivre!