My name is Anne Maij, and together with my husband Menno I am the owner of Auberge de Rêves (translated to English this means Inn of Dreams). We design and create handmade furniture for our own label; we have a lovely small gift & interior shop in Leerdam (in the centre of the Netherlands); and we are extremely proud Annie Sloan Stockists (and have been for over 5 and a half years now).
Tell us a bit about yourself – what is your name and your business?
The real beginning of the Auberge was in summer 2007, when I was 36. We had a kind of pop-up business during the summer for which Menno made all sorts of garden furniture, and I painted them. Afterwards we went on a holiday for a week and that was that, but the next summer we started all over again. This is where it all began.
When the business was starting, I was also working as a nurse. Nursing was great, but it was very intensive, and I first discovered painting as something to do on the side to clear my head. Being creative was exactly what I needed. I remembered that I used to love all sorts of creative things when I was a child, but when I grew older I totally forgot about that part of myself. Then I discovered Annie Sloan Paint, and suddenly all my creativity came back, just like that. This has been my fulltime job for almost 5 years, so I am one of the lucky people who are able to earn a living with their hobby, and I still enjoy my work every day!
How did you come to create this business?
I feel inspired by many women! For example Edith Piaf, Coco Chanel, Meryl Streep, but also painters like Charley Toorop and Else Berg, a Jewish painter who created the most beautiful paintings, and tragically died in Auschwitz in 1942 at the age of 65. My favourite of her paintings is Mystical Pond.
What inspirational people have you looked to throughout your career?
I also felt - and feel - very inspired by Annie Sloan herself! She is not only a very gifted artist, but also a great teacher and coach, an enormously inspiring businesswoman and a very kind and lovely person too. I’m especially inspired when I consider all she means to so many people (and especially to so many small businesswomen and customers) throughout the whole world who gained self-confidence just by working with her paint.
Well, I actually find it quite difficult to be really proud of what I am doing, because like a lot of a women I can be quite a perfectionist (which can sometimes be quite tiring). But if I need to pick one, it would be the moment I realised myself that I can really do this job, and that I am able to earn my own living by doing what I love the most.
What was the single proudest moment you’ve had in business?
Just start! If you have a dream and a (kind of a) plan, don’t let other people or yourself stop you by all sorts of irrelevant objections. Just get on and do it. Over time you will grow, and find out what does and does not work for you. And most of all: enjoy the journey and stay true to yourself!
What advice do you have for anyone starting out?
Although my favourite colours are Aubusson Blue, Olive and Duck Egg Blue, I think I have to choose Primer Red for myself. It’s a warm, earthly colour, but still a red tone, which is also a fiery colour.
And finally, if you were a Chalk Paint colour, which would you be and why?
I can be very sensible and ‘down-to-earth’ and people describe me often as empathetic, but inside there is always a fire burning too, which can flare up in case of injustice, dishonesty or any kind of abuse to people, animals or nature. But luckily most of the time the practical ‘down-to-earth’-part is in charge, what is best for me and my environment 😉 .