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If the marriage is postponed, renovate a home in Provence

During last year’s first coronavirus lockdown, Rime Arodaky, a wedding dress designer, and Greg Finck, a wedding photographer, spent six weeks at a friend’s country house in Provence, France. There they taught their son Andrea (3) and the daughter of Mr. Finck from a previous marriage, Juliette (9), at home. They slowed down their hectic lives in Paris, where they jointly ran Ms. Arodaky’s homonymous bridal clothing company and Mr. Finck ran his wedding photography business. The Provence home was a refreshing escape from her two bedroom apartment in Paris. They had country air, farm-to-table food, local wine, and lots of tractors to keep their toddler excited.

Soon they started a new project. They chose a plot of land next door, an 18th-century farmhouse with an English-style garden. It was close to her friends and seemed to have sturdy bones. But they couldn’t see the inside. The owners were locked up at home in the UK with curtains covering the windows. Mr. Finck thought it couldn’t be that bad and they made an offer.

It turns out that a lot can go wrong. The interior of the house was “the worst-case scenario,” said 40-year-old Finck. It would take an intestinal rehabilitation. The couple laughed. Wasn’t that just a metaphor for life?

If you look at Mr. Finck’s Instagram account, life seems perfect for this quaint family of four: an apartment in Paris with stunning minimalist interior design, two successful businesses, and a loving relationship. But like any couple, the life you don’t show online is often more chaotic and challenging, especially during a pandemic. The couple said it had been a tense year of questioning themselves, handling the numerous lockdowns and curfews in France, postponing the Bali wedding and celebrating the joys amid it all.

“I was scared at first – worried and doubtful because it was and still is so unknown,” said Ms. Arodaky, 39 years old. “But the past year has just shown us that we are strong enough to do what we love with passion and find ways and means to keep it alive and exciting.”

Mr. Finck and Mrs. Arodaky appreciate the home project as a significant improvement in their mood. The couple, who have been together for seven years, were supposed to say “I’m doing” in the summer of 2020 with a wedding on the Indonesian island of Bali. The plans had been in the works for two years, so when they were postponed until the 2022 event, they felt they needed something to pass their time.

When the opportunity arose to buy the house near the village of Grignan in the Drome Provençale, they jumped after contacting the owners about the sale. For two years the couple wanted a pastoral place to balance the time in a busy city.

“Without the lock, there was no way we could have managed the project,” said Finck. For the past nine months they have designed, demolished and rebuilt the house to keep its Provencal roots, adding their own touch in the process, a mix of Scandinavian and Californian details.

It came with some disagreement. Ms. Arodaky leads the design and Mr. Finck manages the budget. Ms. Arodaky said she learned to coordinate design requests with budgets and found that this was something she had to do at her company where Mr. Finck has been general manager for three years. “I was a bit of an anarchist a few years ago,” said Ms. Arodaky. “I’ve learned, and now I’m trying to take my time and listen.”

Ms. Arokay and Mr. Finck are used to working together. When Mr. Finck joined Ms. Arodaky’s team, he took over part of the business side so Ms. Arodaky could focus on the creative. She said designing a house is similar to designing wedding dresses. It all starts with a mood board, gathering materials, managing a team of workers, and overseeing the process.

Fortunately, during the lockdowns in France in November 2020 and March 2021, the couple were able to walk into Ms. Arodaky’s studio while the children returned to personal school. Despite the French restrictions on non-essential business and curfews – everyone must be off the street by 6 p.m. – Ms. Arodaky and Mr. Finck were given the necessary papers to allow them to work from the office. It was a relief to Mrs. Arodaky. Her fabrics and patterns, sketches and a team of 20 seamstresses are in her studio. It’s not the kind of business that can easily move to Zoom.

They also still sold clothes. While couples in the US and Europe postponed their grand celebrations, others opted for intimate gatherings or civil ceremonies. These brides would need something to wear.

Ms. Arodaky is known for her edgier approach to bridal fashion, and her “patsy” jumpsuit was one of the hottest looks for brides even before the pandemic. The company, Maison Rime Arodaky, saw double sales in the e-commerce store where Ms. Arodaky sells more casual clothes. Retailers continued to order their dresses, which retailed for $ 4,000 to $ 7,000, and Ms. Arodaky has been busy with projects where dresses go up to $ 15,000 as part of her couture line.

At the same time, the couple were moving to a larger space near the major Parisian couture houses and the avenue des Champs-Élysées. The new studio also required a renovation of the 18th century building. “I am firmly convinced that you have to invest in times of crisis because you become more visible,” said Finck. “We want to preserve the industry and the market by saying: ‘2022 will be the greatest year ever.'”

While Mr. Finck brings his business acumen to Ms. Arodaky’s company, it is not his primary creative pursuit. As a wedding photographer, he shot from 20 events a year to just one in 2020. Before the pandemic, he traveled 50 percent of the time and flew to locations in Africa, as well as Italy, Mexico, Thailand and Portugal to shoot destination weddings for American clients . With these events in the break, he felt the weight of the forced grounding. He photographed his last wedding In November 2019, the Covid bans came in March 2020.

So Ms. Arodaky did some magic last January. “For my 40th birthday, Rime took me to Lapland for a week, just the two of us,” said Finck. He grabbed his camera. “It felt so good to shoot again, to be part of an adventure again.”

But most of the time the couple spends free time together at home. This part isn’t all that different from life before the pandemic. Ms. Arodaky notes that they just like to talk to each other. “We love to end the day with a glass of wine and exchange ideas without anyone around,” she said. “Sometimes just for a moment and we’ll be inspired by each other.”

Due to its proximity to the wine region, the wine cellar of the new country house is filled with bottles from Hermitage, Châteaneuf-du-Pape and St.-Joseph. It is a renovation task that Mr. Finck is particularly enthusiastic about.

You watch Netflix a lot. You and Mr. Finck love documentaries. They like leadership skills, which they can adapt to their own roles in their company: the struggle to keep track of challenges, manage their brands, lead their teams, and engage in entrepreneurial efforts.

“I didn’t consider myself a designer until I started,” said Ms. Arodaky. “But Greg taught me to be a leader and a business owner, not just the creative one.”

If the pandemic aggravated anything, she said, what you may be known for is just one facet of her history.

“We are not always the same,” said Ms. Arodaky. “We have the right to grow. We have the right to improve. “

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