The French Global Honoree in the 2021-2022 gia awards—La Maison Pernoise—is housed in a charming stone barn in the South of France. The business was born from passion, imagination and the creative drive of a woman who knows that dreams and wishes can be turned into reality.
by Michelle Hespe
Old stone houses have always inspired Lau Dejente. As a young girl she would accompany her architect father when he visited old French homes to speak to the owners about their dream renovations. She also grew up with an artistic mother who loved to plan and draw beautiful garden spaces, creating outdoor havens from clever concepts and nature.
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and this seems to be the case for Lau, who after a decades-long career in marketing and advertising, moved back to the South of France and fell in love with an old stone barn that was for rent.
“Despite its dirty state, I signed the lease within three days of seeing it, decided on the name in 30 minutes and in the same time I had decided on the concept in my mind,” Lau says. “Three months later we opened La Maison Pernoise in the provincial town of Pernes les Fontaines.”
Lau has channeled her years of experience in marketing and advertising, her love of architecture and interior design and her passion for unusual, beautiful objects and textiles into a unique homewares store that has become a destination for people all over the world. And although it is her first foray into her own retail business, Lau’s life has always been on a similar trajectory. You could even say that the barn was her destiny.
“As soon as I could travel on my own I flew to Far East Asia and Africa,” she says. “I wandered in markets and collected local handcrafted items. From then on it became my way of travelling, and living, when I was back at home with my treasures.”
Lau worked as interior design manager for three years at IKEA Marseilles, and then moved to North of France as store manager of a large IKEA store. After leaving in 2007, she missed interior design so much that she created an interior design lifestyle blog, becoming one of the first bloggers in France.
Every day she wrote a public diary of her life, documenting things that she loved, including a lot of interior fit-outs of cabins and homes. Then came Pinterest, which was made for her love of collecting things and taking beautiful images of them.
“By the time I moved to the South of France I had over 16,000 followers, without being known as anyone in particular. It was just through sharing what I saw and liked,” she explains.
La Maison Pernoise has this approach as a grounding philosophy for sourcing and buying, as Lau explains that she and her staff only select products that they like, and when they work with suppliers, only a few objects are chosen from collections to mix with objects from other suppliers. “This gives us our identity!” says Lau.
It also gives the barn its bazaar-like feel—a large space buzzing with people, filled with personally selected eclectic treasures to entice and delight.
“We select a lot of unique items that are handcrafted by artists and designer makers, or ancient pieces from all over the world,” Lau says. “We are not following particular trends—we just follow the ones we have decided to develop. And if we are selling something which is later seen quite a lot elsewhere, we stop ordering it.”
The use of scent, calming and inspiring music and welcoming, earthy textiles are also important elements of La Maison Pernoise. Combined, they make customers feel at home, and in turn this inspires them to turn their own home into a haven like the one Lau has created in her barn.
“Since the pandemic we have been lucky to have been discovered by more people on social media. Many customers want us to help them transform their homes into an inspiring quiet place to get the feeling that they have when they come into our store,” says Lau. “For this we are very grateful and that leads to very exciting projects for our teams!”
Beautiful as they are, the products sold at La Maison Pernoise are not the only things that draw in loyal and new customers. For nine years Lau has also organized stylist masterclasses, creative workshops for kids and adults, music and theatrical events, and evening garden parties that are held in the courtyard, while the store stays open all night.
“We invite our regular customers, partners and friends to really live the concept within the store, because we are not just a store,” says Lau. “We want to inject Mediterranean lifestyle into all of our activities and everything we do.”
After the summer of 2020 during the first year of the pandemic, Lau’s team renovated an old house beside the store and christened it La Casa Pernoise.
“It’s now a holiday home, a photoshoot location and a creative laboratory for our guests and our team,” explains Lau. “Here we have pop-up stores with artists and craftspeople, and this leads to sharing experiences and is a source of creativity between them and our customers, who take time to discuss what they are working on while drinking a coffee or a lemonade. And as many of our creative guests are based in the South of France, they already have been visited by some of our customers in their own studios.”
Lau explains that winning a gia award and attending the gala celebration and The Inspired Home Show in Chicago led to an “amazing, conscious realization that even though we have been hidden in the countryside of Southern France, we have been noticed and recognized globally. What we learned from this is that we can go even further!”
“The publishing of a cookbook, or perhaps a lifestyle magazine… the opening of a global store with workshops and restaurants elsewhere in the Mediterranean,” she says. “There are so many other ideas that have been born from this award!”
After a customer from Ibiza recommended that they open a store on the famous island, Lau visited and found a beautiful old farm in the middle of the Ibizan countryside. “This old estate is like the old barn warehouse in Pernes les Fontaines, and it gave me that same feeling on the first day of seeing it,” she says. “It made me wish for this new place, to live and experiment with La Maison Pernoise.”
Nothing seems out of reach to Lau – she clearly lives by the idea that all dreams can become reality, and that success in business is about being happy and being able to spread the joy that she feels herself.
“Success is about sharing our passion with people who love our choices and who follow us in life or online,” she says. “I am very grateful for all of this, and it encourages us all to continue doing what we do, the way we do. It will lead us to going even further and being even better at what we do.”
To learn more about La Maison Pernoise, visit http://www.lamaisonpernoise.com/en
Sponsored and organized by The Inspired Home Show and the International Housewares Association (IHA), gia (IHA Global Innovation Awards) is the world’s leading awards program honoring overall excellence, business innovation and creative merchandising in homegoods retailing. For more information about the gia retail program, the co-sponsors or participating in gia, contact Piritta Törrö at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information on gia is also available online at TheInspiredHomeShow.com/Awards/gia-Retailing.
For more information about The Inspired Home Show and to pre-register for the 2023 Show, taking place in Chicago on 4-7 March 2023, please visit TheInspiredHomeShow.com.