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With a floor recycled from an old Russian train, Bernard Mariette’s kitchen is his haven

Photo credit: Audrey Teichmann

At the entrance to Bernard Mariette's home in the Pays Basque region of France is a stone engraved with the number 1504, representing the year the building, originally a barn for animals, was built. Mariette, who is president and chief executive officer of Quebec-based Coalision Inc., makers of such global sportswear brands as Lolë, Orage and Paradox, has twice renovated the Biarritz property since purchasing it in 1996 as a second home for himself, wife Marie-Françoise and their three sons. The latest renovation took place in 2010, resulting in a complete overhaul of the family kitchen, Mariette's favourite room in the house. "I am an epicurean," says the 50-year old native of Valence in the south of France, who moved to Canada in 2009 after 15 years as president of the Quiksilver surfwear brand in California. "I love being with friends, I love cooking, I love drinking, I love when everyone is around the table."

The floor

"This is my pride and joy. When I was making this kitchen, I wanted a floor that no one else had. It took me six months to find. It is recycled from an old Russian train which I bought in Belgium. We took all the wood out of the wagons and shipped it to the Pays Basque. Because of the humidity there, we had to keep it outside for another six months to acclimitize. Then we laid it down and for sure there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world."

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The red cabinetry

"Red represents the Basque heritage. It is also the colour used for the Basque cross, which is carved into the wall of each room in the house, including this one. The cabinets are custom-made, from the wood of a fruit tree."

The stone

"The stone around the window is original to the house. When I renovated, I made sure to keep it intact. These stones have seen so many things. They are so old, more than 500 years. They will be here when I am gone. I don't want to touch them. They represent the spirit of the house."

The painting

"There are a lot of festivals in the Pays Basque region, including the running of the bulls in Pamplona, which this painting shows. I have run with the bulls – not as close as these guys, but it was very exciting. I bought this painting from a local artist. It's a great image of how colourful life can be."

The lighting fixtures

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"I had these dome lights in my house in California. I am very attached to my things and, when I moved, they had to move with me. There were three in California and so there are three in France."

The stove

"It is a Lacanche stove and, if you look carefully, you will see that there are two ovens in it. One is for slow cooking. We use it for everything. On top is a metal grill that we cook on directly. This is a Spanish style of cooking."

The island

"The top is black marble. We use it for cooking, eating, drinking and watching TV. Yes, there is a TV in the kitchen. You just can't see it."

The wooden table

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"I had this made by a very old man in the mountains who took a year to build it. I hate cutting down trees and so together we looked for oak trees that were already dead and cut down to use for this table. The wood is 200 years old, and it is very heavy. It takes seven to lift this table. It can seat 14, but, believe me, that's not enough."

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About the Author

Deirdre Kelly is a features writer for The Globe and Mail. She is the author of the best-selling Paris Times Eight and Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection (Greystone Books). More


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