Published on May 12, 2020

When French artist Nathalie Lete bought her country home—which is just an hour away from her apartment in Paris—two years ago, she decided to fill her studio with flowers. Specifically, ones that she painted on the walls. Each weekend, she would work slowly, adding in details to make the room feel truly special. She intended to keep her wall art to this one space—her husband, a fellow artist, didn’t exactly want to live in one of her paintings—but once their country entered a lockdown in March, all that changed.

“Now he has asked me to fill the rest of the home,” she says, laughing. “He’s like my coach, suggesting different areas for me to paint each day.” As Lete has sheltered in place, she’s transformed the entire house into a secret garden of sorts, painting botanicals around doors, between steps, on window frames, and virtually anywhere she can find a blank space.

While her artwork typically also includes imagery of toys and quirky cartoon animals, flowers were something she and her husband could both agree on. She also draws inspiration from Maud Lewis, a Canadian folk artist who painted nature-inspired imagery all over her Nova Scotia home, and the Bloomsbury Group’s Charleston Farmhouse in the U.K., which is rife with hand-painted walls and mixed patterns.

In the countryside, Lete is surrounded by the lush outdoors, but inside she tries to make her florals a bit more fantastical. “It’s my imaginary garden. I try to paint freely—I didn’t want it to look like wallpaper,” she says. “If I paint one realistic flower, I’ll try to make the next a little more childlike.” Symbolic details—like a big lily of the valley—infuse the space with hope. 

The blossoms have given her and her husband peace of mind and joy in an exceptionally stressful time, and they’ve helped Lete to find structure in her week. If she works on commissions one day, she’ll devote the next to growing her painted-on garden. “Painting my home is my real pleasure,” she says. “I want it to look beautiful in every single corner.”

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