The work of CSAO has not only provided the world of interiors with a bevvy of beautiful pieces, from cushions, chairs and plates. But it has created a stable environment for the almost 150 people who work for the CSAO in Senegal. Ondine has slowly taken the reigns from her mother. She works closely with the artisans in Senegal. With their close collaboration, they are able to create exceptional pieces. They play with material & colours, making every creation unique. Not only am I a huge fan of Ondine and everything she does at CSAO, my heart has lept every time she put pictures of this guesthouse on Instagram. So I was so grateful to Ondine for sharing the house's story with us, especially doing it in English, which I can only say - Merci beaucoup (the extent of my french)
My family arrived in Senegal in the seventies. My mother was 16 years old & pregnant with her first baby. My father was 23 and a student in anthropology and arrived in Senegal to complete his master's at the Dakar university. They both immediately fell in love with Senegal. And a very long love story with this country started for our entire family and us! By the time she was 20 years old. My mother had three kids (I am number three) and worked with artisans in Senegal. We quickly moved from busy Dakar to Gorée Island, 20 minutes away by boat, North of Dakar. They rented a beautiful old house where we lived for seven years. At the end of those seven years, we returned to Paris due to family reasons.
Although we had left, we all felt a significant attachment to Senegal.
In 1989 my mother visited our current house. There were scores of buyers, but the owner, a lady in her 80s, could see that my mother had a deep love for Gorée & Sénégal and would endeavour to keep the spirit of the house alive and respect the surroundings. The house had fallen into disrepair. There was a lot of work that needed to be done. My mother managed to get the job done in under a month. She did this with the help of the people on the island. They used many recycled materials, old tiles, wood etc. So with very little money, limited time but a lot of help, the house was restored to its former beauty. My mother set about decorating it. She went to flea markets for furniture while also commissioning the carpenters on the island for particular pieces. She kept it very simple, authentic, and yet, totally special & unique, with her exquisite taste.
She Bought some old huge wood panels from an old cinema in Dakar (room 4) and many other treasures. Each room had a special touch, making them very original and different. She made the big terrasse, which didn't exist, ten years earlier, And a beautiful garden full of birds. Very soon, the house became a guesthouse. And an exceptional guesthouse which I can call a « solidarity guesthouse.
All the money serving thé different associations she had created, for kids, and women with ASAO (Association for Sénégal & West Africa. She is only ever thinking of others and how she can help. I love this house. Everyone who comes here falls in love as they can feel the good vibes that this house is filled with.
I have worked with my mum for more than 20 years now, and I get to go to Gorée 3 times a year and live in this beautiful house. It's where I feel at home, & I feel so grateful that we share that home with guests from all around the world! We have had so many wonderful & happy encounters!