Creative Compound: A Ceramic Artist Couple at Home and Work in the French Countryside

Ceramic artists Justine and Jean Hay de Slades’ rustic home and studio in France’s Haute Saintonge were years in the making. First, Justine had to establish her line of bone-white porcelain that she calls Epure—the exquisitely simple wares are what first caught our eye: see Made In a Barn in France.

Success enabled Jean to join the business in 2014: he oversees production. And very recently, with their three-year-old daughter, Alma, the family bought a parcel of land with two decrepit 19th-century structures on it that enabled them to build their ideal live-work setup. “It’s a small wood house with many windows and a lot of light,” Justine tells us. “We don’t need or want a lot of space for living, but our atelier is twice the size, with limestone walls and old fireplaces.”

Not surprisingly, the color white pervades both buildings, along with a lot of handmade touches: Justine and Jean’s fingerprints are on every surface and if you look closely, you can also spot their cat’s paw prints memorialized in clay.

Photography by Jean Hay de Slade, courtesy of Epure.

The House

Epure Home, Justine Lacoste Hay De Slade, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: Justine and Jean redesigned what had been a bake house dating from the early 19th century into a board-and-batten cottage inspired by the fisherman’s houses of Cap Ferret, where they lived 10 years ago. The structure’s only original parts are three stone walls.

Haute Saintonge is in the Charente-Maritime, on the southwest coast of France between Bordeaux and Cognac. “It’s a place where you can breath,” says Justine, who, having formerly lived and worked in the same building, felt very ready for a division of labor.

Epure living room, Justine and Jean Hay De Slade, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: Justine and Jean did all of the design work—”with pencil on paper, the old-fashioned way”—and recruited Justine’s very handy father along with some local tradespeople to help with the construction work. “We wanted a cozy, ecological house, minimalist too,” says Justine.

The stove is a French-made Supra—it and two radiators (in Alma’s room and the bath) heat the whole house. The new floor is painted concrete.

DIY daybeds, Epure living room, Justine Lacoste Hay De Slade, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: Jean built the living room daybeds out of wood from the old roof, and the couple installed the horizontally-oriented windows themselves. “This is where we read and drink wine—Bordeaux, of course,” says Justine. The painted carpet is by Mathilde Labrouche of Coté Pierre.
Epure living room, Justine Lacoste Hay De Slade, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: Jean incorporated an old door into his design for the kitchen china cupboard.
Epure dining area, Justine Lacoste Hay De Slade, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: The kitchen cabinets are redwood stained brown and detailed with tiles of white-glazed black clay that the couple made themselves. The Limoge porcelain Point Suspension Lights are a longstanding Epure design.
Epure dining area, Justine Lacoste Hay De Slade, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: The couple say they were very happy when their cat left its prints on the kitchen tiles as they were being made. The favorite cooking pot on the shelf is stone by Soh Style of Korea.
Epure kitchen, Justine Lacoste Hay De Slade, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: Jean built the food cupboard from weathered old wood. The painted walls downstairs are in Farrow & Ball Drop Cloth.
Epure dining room, Justine Lacoste Hay De Slade, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: The kitchen table and door came from antiques shops. Epure’s Linen Vase is from a collection of made-to-order pieces textured with linen. A carpenter friend built the stair to the couple’s design enclosed with battens.
French country house bedroom, Epure, Justine Lacoste Hay De Slade, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: The bedrooms are paneled in pine boards salvaged from the roof and have wooded floors painted, like the homemade headboard, are in Farrow & Ball’s Skimming Stone. The chair pillow is by Khadi & Co.
French child's bedroom, Epure, Justine Lacoste Hay De Slade, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: Alma’s bed is a 1950s design passed down from her grandfather. The duvet is from Garbo & Friends and the Flock Mobile is by Bookhou of Toronto.

The Studio

Epure ceramics studio, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: Known as a Charentaise, the early 19th-century building pre-dates the house and is constructed of whitewashed local limestone. It was originally lived in by a multigenerational family of farmers who worked in the vineyards of Cognac. The attached stable, behind the vegetable garden, is the couple’s next project: they plan to turn it into an apartment for renters and visiting clients and friends.
 Jean Hay de Slate, Epure ceramics studio, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: Justine and Jean in their glazing room, newly plastered by Justine’s father (with the original chiseled stone door surround preserved). The house’s renovated interior is 200 square meters (2,000-plus square feet), divided into several work areas plus a showroom.
Epure ceramics studio, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: The couple make Epure’s molds and package orders in a space that had been two bedrooms. Local masons rebuilt the exposed stone wall and with Justine’s father’s, the couple did all of the wiring. The Point Conical Suspension Light is an Epure design.
Epure ceramics studio, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: The couple are currently developing a line of tableware for a local Cognac brand. Justine’s mood board and samples in progress are shown here. The table is oak and porcelain—”it’s handmade by us and customizable for our clients.”
Epure ceramics studio, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: Jean pours liquid clay into a slip cast mold for a cup. Epure is currently just Jean and Justine, plus an apprentice.
Ceramic artist Justine Lacoste, Epure, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: Justine glazes Canele Cups in front of a preserved old wall “like a sky.”
Epure ceramics studio, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: Alma loves to play in the office—”it’s her doll kitchen.” The fireplace was a surprise unveiled behind a demolished wall. “We cleaned and painted the room in white lime and lined the floor with sisal,” says Justine.
Mantel detail, Epure ceramics studio, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: The mantel in Justine’s office displays an Epure collage.
Epure ceramics studio, Haute Saintonge, France. Above: Justine’s desk is a vintage table that she partly painted white, lit by a sculptural Lampe Gras Clamp Light. Jean added the antique double doors and built the shelves with a friend.

Follow Epure’s latest @epurejustinelacoste.

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