Knight Frank Sept 2018
Marie Guerlain on kitchens, nutrition and her new luxury cookware collection
“But our waking life, and our growing years, were for the most part spent in the kitchen, and until we married, or ran away, it was the common room we shared.” – Laurie Lee
The world has changed beyond recognition since Lee authored Cider With Rosie in the late 1950s, but the kitchen has maintained its place at the beating heart of everyday family life.
It’s where children plant themselves to do their homework, neighbours sit for a cup of coffee or friends gather for a glass of wine (it is, after all, where the fridge lives). Sometimes we’ve even been known to cook in it.
Above: Marie Guerlain
According to a report, however, the future of the kitchen looks bleak. In Swiss investment bank UBS’s Is The Kitchen Dead?, it theorises that a combination of food delivery apps, millennials and single-person households could render the room extinct by 2030. For now, though, it remains the centre of the home.
“Whether you have a family or not, the kitchen really is the home hub, but it needs to be flexible,” says interior designer Georgina Burnett of thehomegenie.com.
“I recently saw a bespoke fold-down desk which was part of the work-top, very clever. There’s a shift to create zones within this home hub to have a ‘snug’ where, for example, the kids can watch TV or do their homework.”
Marie Guerlain, of the cosmetics dynasty, is another believer. One of the first priorities for the artist, entrepreneur and mum to three boys when choosing her new Richmond home was a kitchen inspired by her love of art and design combined with utility and practicality. Guerlain’s welcoming-yet-sleek modern kitchen-diner is by David Linley (www.davidlinley.com).
“The kitchen is where the best conversations happen, whether with friends or family. I love the marble worktops and I have lots of surface space. I have an island, which probably gets the most use. A lot of prep happens there and if I’m making something with the children, cookies or brownies, we’re all crowding that as well.
“I needed a really good, big hob, at least six rings! My oven is Gaaggenau and I also love Miele appliances. For me, [I like] a kitchen that’s light and airy with a sleek design where most things are out of sight and you just have your basic olive oils, fruit and herbs out on the counter. And a couple of machines – my Vitamix, for example. I love that machine!”
Marie’s great-grandfather Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain founded the Guerlain cosmetics empire 90 years ago and she grew up in France, Switzerland and the UK.
“I’m very proud of my French heritage, but I do love London,” admits Guerlain, who studied art in New York and went on to exhibit in the US and UK. “My mother says I was drawing before I was walking. Creativity is part of me, everything in my life has to have some kind of creativity to it otherwise I am not satisfied.”
It was during her time as a student in New York that she first became interested in nutrition. “I had some health issues and it was at this point I started to learn more about food and nutrition. This was over 15 years ago and since then my fascination with the subject has grown”.
So great was Guerlain’s interest, she has recently qualified as a nutrition health coach with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and talks knowledgeably on the subject of food sensitivities and intolerances.
“I had so many friends and family asking for advice because they knew nutrition was a passion for me. Then there was the fact I’d launched my cookware range and it made sense to me, to qualify in something which is such a huge part of my life.
“When I had my children [the boys are now 11, 10 and four], I wasn’t painting so much, I was cooking for them all the time and I learned as much as I could about the food I was giving them.
"It was at this point my idea for the pans came along. I remember holding a pan one day – it was by a very well-known brand – and the handle fell off. It crashed to the kitchen floor and I was horrified. I thought, ‘Oh my god, my child could have been beneath me at that exact moment.I started looking into the way cookware was made and thought, ‘Why hasn’t anyone made something beautiful, non-toxic, oven-to-table?”
Fast-forward five years and a lot of hard work later, and Guerlain’s stunning pan range, Ondine, was launched in 2017.
Cookware may well be a far cry from the cosmetics industry, but whilst she may not have entered the cosmetics business herself, the 42-year-old has certainly inherited the family talent for creating beautiful products using high quality ‘ingredients’.
Ondine, was developed with craftsmen in Italy to create durable pans with design and form surpassing that of most cookware. The pans are of such distinctive quality, they’re used in professional kitchens and the beautiful crest on the base and lids of the pans is made up of her initials. Ondine is her middle name.
“I was trying to create something that was incredibly beautiful, but practical as well. It had to tick all of those boxes. I kind of look at it as a piece of art, it’s cookware but it’s not going to harm you, it’s an heirloom, something that can be treasured and passed onto the next generation, which we’re not doing anymore, it’s all about throwaway culture now.”
The pans are made using the highest grade 316ti titanium stainless steel, a material which prevents the leaching of potentially harmful chemicals into cooking.
“The chefs I work with absolutely love the pans. Francesco Mazzei [chef patron of Sartoria restaurant in London’s Mayfair] has created a signature ravioli dish to go with the cookware and the pans are all over his professional kitchen. When he appeared on MasterChef, they played a starring role!”
With three boys, a typical morning in the Guerlain household is a mad rush to get everyone fed and out of the door on time. “The toast is burning, the blender goes off five, six, seven times – my children love fresh smoothies. What’s great is that they don’t know half the time there’s tonnes of fresh spinach and avocado in there!
“I love teaching the boys how to cook and I think it’s so important. It always makes me sad when someone says, ‘I don’t even know how to fry an egg,’ because I feel they’re missing out.
“In France when I was a little girl of about 10 or 11, I used to surprise my parents with a ‘French restaurant’ meal. There was always a starter, a main (usually chicken because it was easy) and a dessert. My poor sister was the sous chef! I used to love making risotto, which sounds quite technical, but after my mum showed me how to make it I just understood you have to keep stirring!”
The French, she believes, have the right idea when it comes to eating well. “In France, the women seem to have the mindset of ‘everything in moderation’, so you never deprive yourself. It’s a question of watching what you eat and drink. They enjoy themselves in France but they don’t go overboard.”
The juggle to combine work as an artist, being a mum to three boys and her philanthropic work comes at a price. “It’s a constant balancing act,” she says.
“I’d love to extend my kitchen range, spend more time helping others who are starting up businesses, going to networking events but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved so far – I can’t wait for the next step.”
Ondine pans are available at www.ondine.com and at Harrods
Follow Marie at @marieguerlain