He passed like a shadow out of the corner of my eye, and I had to turn to watch a bit more. Style has always intrigued me, it was there, somehow.
I was told, “You have to meet him, he’s cool, you two will get along."
Sometimes you take those comments with a grain of salt. It's like being told to see a movie, as "it's amaaaazing", and then it doesn’t live up to its hype. Hype is overrated.
A few days later I did meet him though, and he was cool, with an assured sense of great style. There was more to him too, that I would relate to.
He had lived in Biarritz, the Atlantic side of France, that beautiful rugged coastline, its wide windswept dunes. Basque Country, so different from the glitter of the Mediterranean side. I had lived on that side too, and understood his attraction to it. The surf. Leo surfed. Avidly. As did I.
His charming French accent is still thick, if you aren’t attuned to it you miss some of the words, the nuance that particular language imbibes to a conversation. His eyes sparkled.
He had started drawing houses in 3D at the age of 5, in the workshop of his Dad, who renovated homes. His drawings were detailed, overly thoughtful for someone of his youth. They absorbed him, both imagination and reality were his inspiration, as so often the melange of those worlds is a child’s reality.
Special days had been spent with his mother, together they would explore museums and castles, and he would wonder: "why is it done that way, it just doesn’t work?” His perspective was to see things differently, noting things weren’t perfect, yet, if they were done in a certain way, they would be better.
Later, when his parents broke up, he realised he had some freedoms, and accordingly took some liberties:
“So, I left school, went to the beach, I had a dog, lived in a caravan, surfed. After a few years I was, well, like, I can’t do this all my life. So I restarted."
It wasn’t a conscious decision to become an architect or designer, not something he had planned to be. It was something he had an evident affinity with, it was natural to design, to create space that is balanced, emotional, poetic. After applying for a college of design and arts he honed his skills further of drawing for architecture and design.
After studying, he worked in Biarritz, Basque Country, for 2 years on diverse projects, and then, thirsting for a change, left for South America for a couple of months with his girlfriend of the time. It didn’t work out and breaking up with her left him questioning his next move.
“It was the middle of winter and there was no way, no chance I would go back to France with no job, no car, no apartment, and all my friends and family would be “See I told you so." F**k that! So I went to Australia, and restarted again."
As for many other European architects and designers, Australian architecture has always been considered strong, forward, alluring. Melbourne being a centre of stylish modernism, and the attraction of the powerful surf of the Southern ocean brought Leo to the city on the bay.
After spending a minute in Melbourne in a caravan (again) at his office car park, Leo now lives in a commanding post ranch style house at Bells Beach, which affords him a view of rolling plains and the ocean. The warbling of magpies echoing operatically across the paddocks, whilst kangaroo herds pass by. A stunning, origami faceted house designed by the mid century modernist architect Kevin Borland, it offers Leo easy morning access to a surf before work. Inside the house itself, the warm cabin wooden walls, multi levels, and expansive view, with no neighbours in sight at all, create a real retreat. His décor is evident, well curated, unique pieces paired with artists' works he admires and has worked with. An elevated taste level.
It's all a far cry from the slick city practice he works from, from the city that bustles, and the projects he is involved in, which is a productive train trip away.
He has made a home in a city of burgeoning growth and a hunger for elevated, modern design, which he delivers with panache. His style and innate taste inform beautiful design. Leo is a director of the renowned interior design firm SJB Interiors, leading projects in hospitality, retail and residential. Currently he is involved in designing a new hotel, various retail projects, some grand residential developments, and a reimagining of our own Calibre stores (to be revealed soon).
He has recently finished Fred’s Bar and Fréderic in Cremorne, Melbourne, which were lovely places to spend a moment in with him.
And if you haven’t already guessed. He’s French.
**Leo selected our new 2020 linen/viscose Bold Twill Suit, in red, with the Italian Harness Boots, hand made (in, you guessed it, Italy). He owned that look.
At Bells Beach he wore the Shearling Biker Jacket. A stunning, limited Calibre style, made with incredibly soft, luxurious Italian sheep shearling.