The secret’s out

Stephen Rogan and Delphine de Chabalier swapped London for the Riviera where they now run an online homeware business while raising their young family, as Anna McKittrick discovers

After 10 years of living in London, Stephen Rogan and his French partner Delphine decided it was time for a fresh start; for the Anglo-French couple, a move to the south of France gave them the change of scenery they so desired.

While Stephen and Delphine had often talked about settling in France, and in particular in Delphine’s native region of Provence, it wasn’t until the couple had children that their priorities changed and they realised they no longer wanted to live the London life.

“We would talk about it but it never seemed like a real possibility or even near possibility, rather it was something that would be in the future,” remembers Stephen. “We have two daughters – In�s, who’s four and a half, and Cl�a, eight months – and I think that changes what you want in life. I’d had enough of corporate life but I couldn’t see myself moving to the countryside in the UK. We both love France and have been coming for years; when we weighed up the pros and cons of a cross-Channel move, the pros really outweighed the cons.”

Once the decision had been made things moved swiftly for the family, who sold their London flat at the beginning of 2011 and by spring were living in the sunny department of Alpes-Maritimes. With Delphine’s parents in Grasse, the couple chose to put down their roots close by in the town of Le Cannet where their daughters could be close to their maternal grandparents and they could all enjoy the Riviera lifestyle.

“The south of France has got an amazing climate and food is a really big part of our lives, both cooking and eating, so we love the produce down here,” enthuses Stephen. Le Cannet is located in the hills overlooking Cannes and is only a 20-minute walk into the city and to the Mediterranean coast. The couple chose to buy in the old town of Le Cannet, which is bursting with charm, yet has all the amenities associated with living in a town. This was important for the family who didn’t want to be too isolated.

“We’re a relatively young couple and we didn’t want to be too cut off; I think we’ve got a really good balance here. The town has a villagey feel; we’re close to the countryside and the beaches and aren’t far from Nice airport,” says Delphine.

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“I really love France,” adds Stephen. “I’ve tried to immerse myself in the culture and speak French as much as I can but it’s reassuring to be able to go into Cannes and watch the Premier League football in the Irish bar.”

Although properties in Alpes-Maritimes command some of the highest prices in France, the couple could afford a lot more in Provence in comparison to the extortionately priced two-bedroom flat they owned in London. Although village houses with outside space and parking aren’t easy to come by, they were able to buy a three-bedroom house with a garden and a garage. Stephen says they were lucky to find their property, adding that Delphine’s French did help during the house-hunting process.

While their home is perfectly habitable, the couple eventually want to put their own stamp on it. “We want it to reflect our lifestyle and our tastes so in some ways we’d like to change every single room but it’s going to take a while to do that,” says Stephen. But it’s no surprise that the couple want to take their time, what with a move to France, two young children and a new business venture, they certainly have their hands full.

Since moving to France Stephen and Delphine have set up Cachette, an online emporium selling beautiful items and accessories for the home.

“When we decided we wanted to move to France we knew we had to do something bold but it was a case of ‘how do we make that happen?’” says Delphine. “Sometimes, instead of going for just another job you have to create your own opportunities so with my experience in retail sales we decided to launch a shop that combines everything that Stephen and I like.”

Cachette, which in French means hiding place or somewhere where you keep precious things, sells simple, stylish products for the home with a pared-down aesthetic. Stephen and Delphine have been careful not only to select and sell items that they genuinely love, but also to source them from small manufacturers and lesser known artisans.

“I try to go against things that are mass produced and arrive in huge containers from China. Other people do it very well – such as Ikea – and we love it for that, but Cachette is different. I hope people will see the careful sourcing, the sensibility we put into it and the little details, which should be refreshing compared to the big brands,” enthuses Delphine.

Many of the items on the Cachette website are sourced in France: the ceramic manufacturer that makes the lovely stoneware teapots, jugs and bowls has been producing hand-made pottery in Provence since 1857.

“It gives me a great feeling to know we’re supporting the local economy. It would be so sad to see these small manufacturers that have been round for hundreds of years just disappear if the demand wasn’t there,” says Delphine.

Along with homeware, kitchenware and stationery, Cachette also stocks a selection of culinary products such as p�t�s, mustards, jams and oils. For gastronome Stephen sourcing these is a pleasure, especially as tastings are involved. The family love going to the vast March� Proven�al Forville in Cannes, which takes place every morning except Mondays and has all manner of fresh fruit and veg for sale as well as cheese, fish and flowers.

“It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” explains Stephen who also enjoys paying a visit to the farmer who lives just up the road. “He opens up his shed and sells the produce he’s been growing. It’s usually what’s in season but you never know what you’re going to get and that’s what we love.”

Since launching in spring 2011, Cachette has received rave reviews from interiors magazines and bloggers who appreciate the couple’s good eye for design and clear vision of the brand they’ve created. Stephen says the praise is really rewarding especially as launching something can be nerve-racking but the long hours they’ve put into getting Cachette off the ground have clearly paid off.

Having a job that gives the family the freedom to spend more time together is important, particularly for Stephen who says that even though they’re working harder than they did in London, the flexibility of being your own boss is priceless, especially as it means he can take In�s to school and help out with Cl�a at home.

After a decade of city living getting used to the gentle rhythm of Proven�al life did take a bit of time, says Stephen: “To begin with I’d always pop out to the shops at lunchtime, forgetting they would be closed. But we don’t mind that at all, in fact coming from London it’s a nice contrast.”

For Delphine, who has spent most of her adult life in the UK, returning to her homeland also took a bit of readjustment: “It’s nice to be back in France but after nearly 15 years of London life I’ve had to adapt from a big city to a smaller place. It’s nice that we know everyone on our street, I don’t think we knew any of our neighbours in London.”

The family has got into the swing of things; In�s attends the local school and the couple have settled in the local community, which is is a mix of expats and French.

“There are quite a few bilingual families here. There’s a Danish couple that we met through school and a few French/Australian couples,” says Stephen.

And while both he and Delphine do have occasional pangs for the UK, Stephen says that their life in Provence certainly outweighs any homesickness: “I miss going for a pint with my mates but the life we have here balances it out and the wine’s pretty good too.” LF

www.cachette.com