People of Marvel: In Conversation with Jolie Studio

What makes us feel at home in a space? For Franky Rousell of Jolie Studio nothing beats a trip to the The Croft in Bristol to feel at peace. A heady mix of beer, bleach and burning incense, it is a pilgrimage of biblical proportions for the Jolie Studio Co-Founder, and the source of much amusement for fellow founder Chloé Cotard, who playfully likens it to a ritual akin to sunday prayers.

Speaking with the duo behind Manchester based interior design studio, Jolie, it is clear that every experience and space that we interact with is sensory. For better or worse, we are conditioned, affected, and informed by the spaces that we inhabit. From the office, to the place we call home, to the far-flung destinations, our habitats deeply affect our sense of self and how we feel on an emotional level.

As Interior Designers, Jolie’s raison d'etre is to combine the science of the senses with human nature to create soulful spaces. Having both formerly worked for property and planning specialists Bruntwood, Franky as Head of Design and Chloé as an Interior Architect, the pair are particularly adept at understanding the needs of their clientele and the wide spectrum of business needs that they often encounter.

 Jolie Studio - Franky (L), Chloé (R)

Jolie Studio - Franky (L), Chloé (R)

Soulful Spaces

First meeting the pair at their studio on Hilton Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, like so many others before me, on entering their office, I was completely transported away from the hustle and bustle of the streets below and welcomed into a space that exuded comfort, serenity and purpose. A base for the creative duo, their studio skillfully combines the requisites of an office environment with the hallmarks of a close friends home. The dressing details as they call it, mementos, souvenirs and physical manifestations of their individual personalities, including ornaments from Copenhagen and pebbles from the Brighton beach front, provide the finishing touches to this truly personal and soothing space.

As the familiar harmonies and remedial woodwinds of Fleet Foxes Blue Ridge Mountains reverberates around the room in an almost ethereal manner, Franky and Chloé reminisce about a meeting that took place just a stone's throw away from the studio at the Teacup Kitchen, where the idea for Jolie was born. A meeting of two minds, it signalled their departure from corporate environments and required a leap of faith into the unknown; a thrilling and nerve-wracking experience all at once.

Intrigued by the scale of human emotions that can be triggered in a space, they set about dissecting the reasons behind what makes people feel happy or disengaged, researching the science behind our senses, and learning about phenomena such as sick-building syndrome that leaves people feeling dissatisfied, unhappy and ill, when exposed to over-stimulating and limiting environments.

Led by a realisation that for a space to be fit for purpose it must be more than an aesthetic experience, Jolie began advising clients to prioritise the curation of spaces that make people feel well, engaged and appreciated. With their expertise, they help clients make best use of their spaces, engaging all the senses, advocating agency and choice of movement. For the pair, design is not black and white, they are always accounting for emotions, motivations, feelings and people.

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Starting with the design of their own studio, a momentus and personal project, their aim was create a space that instilled calm, peace and progression. Signifying a break with a past, the space needed to be reassuring, comforting and productive, an antidote to the inevitable stress and anxiety that comes with establishing your own brand. The success of the design continues to be proven by the reaction of the studio’s visitors, with grown men reduced to tears, so moved by the restorative and therapeutic touches so subtly dotted throughout, a skillful balance of productive, engaging, and stirring. As Franky recalls, one visitor described it as somewhere you walk in and you want to ring your mum, a feeling I can absolutely vouch for.

Nostalgia Personified

As the flame of their soy cedarwood and cinnamon pinon candle dances about in the light, a scent that evokes memories and induces warmth, we move on to discuss how nostalgia and the senses are inextricably linked, and how this can impact and guide better design. Our sense of smell, once engaged, can leave us pining for years past and has the power to transport and trigger, mentally taking us back to previous lives, past loves, and reliving our best and worst times. Franky, moved by this sentiment notes that lighting the incense she picked up from a trip to India aged seventeen, instantly takes her back and reminds her of the journey she has come on since then.

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Chloé too believes that scents associated with exploration can be so moving that it takes you back there with a click of a finger, reflecting on the chaos of Ho Chi Minh City, a break she took just before establishing Jolie. Their own homes, approached with the same love for design, evoke nostalgia once more with scents reminiscent of family holidays, colour schemes that seek to relax, and objects that hold sentimental value, from works of art and house plants in Chloe’s case, to an abundance of candles in Franky’s.

Get Out of Town

Travel can also ignite creativity and inspiration, adding authenticity to the work they produce. Adamant that design should not be led by trends alone, the duo set about experiencing as many places as possible, taking trips to Copenhagen, Brighton, New York and the London to immerse themselves in a mixture of spaces to help them feel motivated and inspired outside the studio.

On returning to her hometown in France, where she is originally from, Chloé  often visits the much overlooked orangerie near her house, taking what she needs from this place depending on what juncture she is at in her life. While Franky loves a going to a gig at the Croft in Bristol, she admits this is just a pinch of what she needs, juxtaposing this environment against visits to Manchester’s Whitworth gallery to provide some yin to the yang of rowdy performance venues. They explain that exposing yourself to several environments is good for the soul and breaks up the monotony of the every day, something we couldn't agree more with.

Reluctant to leave, but also aware that Jolie Studio is high in demand right now, I try to soak up as much of the space as I can. Noting the apothecary bottles placed carefully across their wooden shelves, the cubby hole tucked away in the corner of the room, and the plants that cascade down to the floor, it is hard not to feel moved by the space and the its special effect on the senses. While Chloé and Franky may soon have to move on to their next space as they expand their team, there is no denying that their studio on Hilton Street offered kindness, compassion and inspiration when they, and many other needed it most.