Monday, 10 August 2009

John Rocha's oasis in Provence

Fashion designer John Rocha has proved that he can turn his hand to just about anything – and his own home in the South of France is evidence of that most of all. One of my favourite photographers Richard Powers went and visited John for me and snapped a few shots of his wonderful home.

Today more than ever we are wanting to find a calm oasis away from the hectic and sometimes scary pressures we face day to day. For Dublin based, fashion designer, John Rocha he has chosen a square white house he bought four years ago in St Jean-Cap-Ferrat in south-east France for his holiday home. And looking around at the spare geometry, white walls and cool limestone flooring, an atmosphere of tranquillity pervades.

"This is where I like to come and relax," says John as he walks barefoot and beaming from ear to ear.

John is of course, no stranger to ambitious design projects. His contribution to the British fashion industry won him a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2002, yet to refer to him as only a fashion designer is to grossly underestimate his skills. He’s designed crystal for Waterford, the interior of Dublin’s famed Morrison Hotel and 200 apartments in Birmingham’s towering Orion Building (with more to come in Liverpool and Budapest), all alongside his own-brand lines of jeans, jewellery and fashion. Then there’s the five diffusion ranges of clothing (men’s, women’s kids’), homewares and accessories for UK department store Debenhams. "I never set out to do interior design, I just do what I do and some people come along and want me to work with them," he says modestly. "We always have a couple of interiors projects on, but fashion design is still very much my full-time job,"says John.

John lives with business partner and muse Odette who he has been married to for 35 years. With the warm sun, constant blue skies and a heavenly hum of cicadas it is the ultimate holiday home. Down the road is the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat, where Picasso learnt to swim, this stretch of the peninisula is old money; all French family homes oozing leisurely elegance and sophisticated allure.

"I like to create a simple space and surround myself with things that I like to look at," he says.

John’s idiosyncratic style and love of form and texture, abundant in his designs for the catwalk, are also very much in evidence here. The objects, collected on his travels, are dotted around on limestone, glass and glossy wood with occasional hits of colour; there's plenty to keep the eye wandering.

John uses pairs of pieces of furniture to add visual balance throughout the house, like these cane chairs (picked up at a Paris market), white armchairs designed by John for Orior and the black armchairs which Terence Conran designed for his Michelin building in London. On the coffee table is a collection of inspiring pieces from travels abroad, and a Picasso from Galerie Madoura in the South of France.

With its lush tropical planting and dramatic black state infinity swimming pool, the garden is a perfect spot to enjoy the Mediterranean sun. Furniture includes a pair of slatted loungers from the Clignancourt flea market in Paris and white wire chairs picked up at a market in Nice. The glass table and wooden benches were both designed by John Rocha.

It’s impossible to feel stressed here. John’s house is beyond calm. Surrounded by luscious greenery and greeted by his favourite feature a 20-metre slate lined infinity pool you instantly know you are on holiday. The smooth Italian limestone paving ushers you to the downstairs open-plan kitchen and dining room. Inside, a large light flooded room dominates the ground floor with two guest bedrooms tucked out of site.

White Italian limestone, used both inside and out, and vast folding doors fuse the interior with the garden beyond. John has teamed an ultra simple glass table with a pair of benches – both his own design. The Thirties silver candelabra is from a market in Nice while the pretty tulips are displayed in a large signature vase by John Rocha for Waterford Crystal. The artworks in this area are by American photographer Peter Beard. Mixing the rough with the smooth is key to this look – oversized accessories and bold artworks offset the creamy, polished stone.

The bed is a simple solid walnut design by John, adorned by a hand embroidered Indian throw, while the bedside lamps are John Rocha at Waterford Crystal. The useful low bench at the foot of the bed was also designed by John.

John designed the hand-carved white limestone bath himself and positioned it to enjoy a fabulous view over the garden via elegant shuttered windows.


  1. I love this pad..i love the way it opens up to the garden and the outside fire is to die for, just gorgeous, who said that white was bland.