And what a monument!
A veritable 20th century castle, major work of interwar modernism.
And what a story!
Sponsored by Paul Cavrois, a wealthy industrialist from the North of France, owner of spinning and weaving mills, then the region’s specialty.
Monsieur Cavrois met architect Robert Mallet Stevens at the “Exposition des Arts décoratifs” in Paris in 1925. He truly fell in love with his innovative and resolutely modern style.
He even visited two other monuments with his architect, Hotel Stoclet in Brussels (Joseph Hoffman) and the city of Hilversum’s townhouse in the Netherlands (Willem Dudok).
Mallet Stevens is given carte blanche, nothing is too good, nothing is too expensive.
The villa is to house a family of seven children with servants, each one with their own bedroom and bathroom. There is even a children’s dining room, study room and a large playroom.
A 27 m large swimming pool located between the house and the garden completes the project. The garden is an integral part of the architectural design with its large body of watermirror reflecting the beautiful northern skies.
The villa (which aroused much criticism at the time in a fairly traditionalist region) was completed in 1932 for the wedding of Geneviève, the eldest daughter.
The building is 60m long, offers 1,800 m2 of living space and 830 m2 of terraces.
Light floods in through the huge windows and openings overlooking the garden.
A large garage is located under the villa, and can accommodate 4 cars …
Mallet Stevens designed all decorative elements, furniture, lighting, rugs and furniture hardware. It is a total, exceptional work of art. All the most modern techniques are applied here. The materials are exceptional, precious wood and marble dress all the rooms, on the other hand there is no superfluous decoration but, in each room except the living room, an electric clock integrated in the walls.
And then… comes the war in 1940, the family flees the invaders. The villa is occupied by the German army which will leave traces, luckily recoverable.
In 1947, the family returned to the villa and had some rooms transformed into separate apartments for the two sons and their family.
1985 sounded the death knell for the property after the death of Madame Cavrois.
The villa is sold to a real estate developer who plans to demolish it and divide the vast garden !!! It was plundered, weighted down with all its fine materials, squatted, left for dead.
A vast rescue and classification plan is born, supported by international luminaries including Norman Foster and Renzo Piano.
It was classified in 1990, the French state acquired it in 2001, putting an end to the agony of the masterpiece.
The Centre des Monuments Nationaux was responsible for the renovation It took 12 years of work to raise the villa from ruin, of which 85% of the decorations had disappeared. Apart from the structure, everything has been reconstructed according to the drawings, plans and photos of the time.
The original pieces of furniture have been found among collectors, others have been acquired in auctions.
The restoration is remarkable, breathtaking, a room has been left in a state of disrepair to testify, it is edifying. The restauration budget of 23 million euros reflects the incredible quality of the work accomplished.
A short 3-minute film to absolutely watch, HERE
Longer version (in French) HERE
Open to the public since July 2015, it is a place that any modernist architecture lover must visit. You can walk around comfortably through all the rooms and lounges and through the gardens.
Very beautiful books tell of the history and rebirth of the building, available in the very pleasant shop located at the entrance.
The Villa Cavrois official site.