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In France, an Antique Dealer’s Atelier on Wheels

by Garrett Fleming

In France, an Antique Dealer's Atelier on Wheels, Design*Sponge

The arrival of their son Louis in 2010 had Ruth Ribeaucourt and her husband Raphael craving a simpler life, so they packed up their Irish home and set out for the rolling hills of the village where they first met: Provence, France. While she greatly appreciated the slower pace, jewelry maker/antiques dealer Ruth didn’t sit still for long. She quickly began collaborating with the haute couture ribbon company her husband’s family founded, and opened two Etsy shops: Rubanesque and Exquisite Threads. As if that weren’t enough, she and her friend Corey Amaro also began offering travelers bespoke trips to Provence through Ruth’s site The French Muse.

Seven years later, her businesses thriving, Ruth was quickly outgrowing her at-home workspace. It was then that she made the bold decision to finally open up her own proper, brick-and-mortar atelier. Unfortunately, finding a viable option proved to be much more difficult than she had imagined. Some were too expensive or weren’t in the right spot, while others were too modern or required too much work. After months of disappointing showings, Ruth decided to follow up on a long shot: a 1960s-era caravan located two hours away. She was hesitant at first, but much to her surprise it proved to be in fantastic condition for its age and primed for a renovation. Plus, it offered her something a brick-and-mortar retail space couldn’t: the ability to bring her goods to the people.

Back at home, the caravan officially hers, Ruth steadily began the six-week process of breathing new life into it. She started by removing every piece of furniture from inside so she could work with a totally clean slate. From there she added in new cabinets, wallpaper and even pieced together a floor plan that allowed for two beds! What’s most fantastic about the trailer, though, is how her clever design boasts the rare balance between old/new, fresh/vintage and layered/clean.

While it took some major elbow grease to achieve such a result, when Ruth sees the smiles her caravan brings to her customers’ faces she can’t help but grin herself. She just loves how her spot has become a place for sharing stories and connecting with fellow creatives. And it’s sure to leave you smiling as well. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Joanna Maclennan & Ruth Ribeaucourt

Image above: Ruth started feeling isolated by working at home, so earlier this year she began looking for a brick-and-mortar shop from which she could sell her vintage finds and textiles. Months passed and options came and went, but none lived up to her expectations. She finally grew so unhappy with her options, she drove two hours to snag this 1960s-era caravan and transformed it into a traveling atelier.

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“In French they say, ‘L’objet qui parle' (the conversation of objects). It perfectly sums up my aesthetic and passions. The things that call to me at the French flea market are those pieces charged with emotion,” Ruth says. It is these items as well as textiles and ribbons from Raphael’s family’s haute-couture ribbon collection that she sells across France in her vintage caravan.
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“I have a newfound love for gardening ever since we bought our first home in 2015, and I wanted to be able to bring my garden with me when I travel to market. The IKEA Socker hanging flower box was the perfect shape and size for the caravan windows,” Ruth shares.
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The kitchen counter lifts up to reveal a sink and burners.
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When Ruth drove the caravan home, its kitchen was decked out in laminated wood veneer that had been irreparably damaged by water. She replaced the worn-out laminate with a custom-cut wooden frame and cover.
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Initially, Ruth wanted to upholster her caravan’s seats with her collection of 150-year-old indigos, but there was no way the delicate fabric would hold up against her kids. Luckily, she and Designers Guild uncovered the perfect alternative: a William Yeoward block print. Look closely, and you’ll see the top of the trailer has been lifted in order to let a breeze in.

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The pillows in the banquette are made from 17th–19th-century textiles.
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Ruth collaborated with Spoonflower to create a collection of removable wallpapers — including the one you see here — inspired by 1800s-era silks from her family’s archives.

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“The color of the ochre earth in nearby Roussillon and the blue of the Mediterranean” are just a few of the inspirations for the caravan’s color scheme. The double bed and single bed are separated by an accordion screen that unfolds from the wall.
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“My little ones have grown up surrounded by antique textiles, and while there have been a fair share of accidents, now they treat everything with so much love and respect. I love to let them give tours of my atelier to clients. (I) get such a kick out of listening to the stories they weave,” Ruth tells us.
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"What I love most about my tiny home is… that it is the perfect place to make, play, daydream & explore the world!” -- Ruth Ribeaucourt
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The caravan's floor plan for both work and relaxation mode.

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Comments

  • Garrett, What a great post! Loved and inspired by so many elements of this charming little trailer. And there’s so much here that can be applied to other spaces, even for those of us without a trailer, although I can see how a small yard shed or walk-in closet could be transformed into something similar as well. I also appreciate Ruth’s point of view, and was distracted for ages by the links to her shops, blogs and textile designs. Always fun to meet a high energy creative willing to forge off into new territory. It’s articles like this one that have kept me dropping by DS for the past decade, thanks!

  • loved the designs together what a talent to put them together and removable wallpaper brilliant. thanks for highlighting this design.

  • I know both Ruth and Corey virtually through their respective blogs and I’m in utmost adoration for ths wonderful transformation. It oozes cosyness, love for the ancient and precious, gone-by materials, but also a great joie de vivre and, for me especially, offers glances back to my time of travelling lightly. In another life I lived for several months in a (already then) old VW Camper with a tiny bit to move up in the middle of the roof, an oval back window and a luxurious rich yellow chassis. That old van took us for thousans of kilometres/miles through Canada & the US and stays forever in my mind.
    Ruth, you are adorable and I love you even more now that I have seen this side of your creativity. A brilliant post too; makes me thankful for following DS faithfully – even though sometimes I take weeks to look up and read the posts, as, alas, life has other priorities….
    Love and greetings from a Swiss couple living in France in our ‘near-Château’ and being just back from an amazing 8 days in Southwestern England.

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