Elise Pioch Balzac & Pablo Chappell

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It's true you can’t make magic without chemistry – and so with Valentine’s Day in mind, here's a peek into the world of creative couple, Elise Pioch Balzac and Pablo Chappell. They are captivating, not least because they live a kind of elegant boheme life, but also because they write their own rules. The pair’s weekend home on the Hawkesbury River is, quite literally, the perfect place to fall in love

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  2. Photographed by PIERRE TOUSSAINT 

  3. Creative Director VIVIEN VITTADELLO for Country Road   Words NATASHA INCHLEY 

  4. Production ANNELIESE WEINHANDL for Country Road   Makeup JACLYN HNITKO

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  2. Just Peachey: main picture top, Elise Pioch Balzac with her husband Pablo Chappell at  their weekend hideaway, a weatherboard church located in Lower Portland, New South Wales, two hours drive from Sydney; above, in the reconverted kitchen. The couple wear Country Road throughout.
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  4. his place absolutely inspires love,” says Elise Pioch Balzac of her riverside hideaway, an historic weatherboard church she shares with her husband Pablo Chappell and their three-year-old daughter, Loulou. “So many of our friends have become engaged here, you can almost feel it in the air.” On matters of love and romance, Pioch Balzac should know: she is French, for one thing, she creates divine scented candles by trade, and she also happens to be the great granddaughter of the famous playwright and novelist Honoré de Balzac.

Pioch Balzac  and Chappell, an industrial designer, met through a mutual friend and moved in together two days later, they purchased their weekender six months after that. “It was all a happy accident.” Pioch Balzac explains. “The Hawkesbury river is where Pablo spent his first weekend, having arrived here from London. He had a dream to one day own a property in the area, to have a boat and enjoy the water and bushland, so when we met he organised a few romantic weekends away.” As Chappell tells it, he convinced Pioch Balzac to take a bike ride – he told her 40 kilometres; she heard 14. “At one point, Elise absolutely refused to go any further,” he says. “She was not happy. But we had found ourselves right out front of the church and she instantly fell in love with it. She told me we had to buy it.” Pioch Balzac says the little white cottage on the hill was full of possibility: “It was so charming, derelict and unusual.” 

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  3. The pair share a long list of interests and passions. “We love going on adventures. Every morning or evening we go for swims in different bays – Sydney has so many to explore. We book last-minute weekends away with Loulou, we renovate a room every 12 months – we constantly have a project on the go. We also love sharing business ideas, whether it’s the colour of the frames for Chappelli's next bicycle collection or the way to approach the design of a new water jug for Maison Balzac.”

    The secret to their successful union can be attributed in part to the couple’s whirling minds: “What makes us stick together is our creativity: Pablo comes up with new ideas all the time and I hate routine so, between us, there is no time to get bored,” says Pioch Balzac. Even their sense of style is aligned. When asked to describe their “his and hers” wardrobes, Pioch Balzac laughs. “Surprisingly it is Pablo who borrows my clothes all the time – he wears my pants and sometimes even my long linen shirts, it gives him a Moroccan look that I really like. We have very similar styles and we both appreciate timeless, comfortable and boyish silhouettes – the classics.”

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  7. Two Strong Hearts: above Pioch Balzac with the family cat, Chat Chat, and one of Chappell's collectible bicycles
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  10. When staying at the church, their Sunday routine is purposely slow: “We wake up as late as Loulou allows us, then we stay in bed while she brings us most of her toys. We play together and laugh then I’ll make pancakes while they squeeze orange juice. The rest of the morning is spent in the garden looking after our thirsty vegetable beds or restoring cars, boats or part of the church. At lunchtime I ring the bell to call in Pablo and Loulou, I love preparing French meals, then it's compulsory naptime for all of us followed by a swim in the river, a bike ride or walk in the bush before we start to prepare dinner,” Pioch Balzac says. “We don't have mobile reception or TV here, which is why we have so much time for other things at the weekends. It is a wonderful escape – so serene and peaceful.”

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  2. The first time I saw him/her, I thought ...
  3. Pablo: I have never met anyone so sophisticated.
  4. Elise: He is hilarious and can speak Spanish and French, I was impressed.
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  6. What do you admire most about her/him?
  7. Pablo: Her deep love of nature.
  8. Elise: His appetite for adventure and his new ideas, his brain never stops.
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  10. Most romantic date:
  11. Pablo: Swimming naked in Bronte Pool.
  12. Her: He organised a weekend away in a tiny fisherman’s shack on Lake Macquarie. We stopped in the middle of the lake, caught some fish, he played Here Comes The Sun by Nina Simone and proposed right there.
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  14. Best Valentine gift:
  15. Pablo: A weekend at the Oxley Boat Shed at Bar Point.
  16. Elise: A 1974 Jensen Interceptor.
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  18. What we love to do together
  19. Pablo: Slip away on our 1949 Halvorsen Gentleman cruiser
  20. Elise: Same.

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  2. To read or shop the full story, go to LIVE WITH US or follow @countryroad
  3. For more information on Maison Balzac, look up: maisonbalzac.com or follow @maisonbalzac; and for 
  4. Chappelli go to Chappelli.com/au/ or follow @chappellicycles.