|photo: Patrice Besse|
Tous les matériaux avaient été portés à pied d’œuvre et la maison était sortie du sol comme une plante vivace par les soins du prestigieux architecte qu’est Mallet-Stevens. Elle était toute blanche, pure, majestueuse, et un peu provocante, comme un lys.
All the materials were brought to the work site and the house grew out of the ground like a living plant under the tender care of its prestigious architect, Mallet-Stevens. It was all white, pure, majestic and a little provocative, just like a lily.
The villa Poiret, situated to the west of Paris at Mézy-sur-Seine and built between 1922-23, is now up for sale. Its restoration has gotten a lot of attention in recent years because of the building's architectural importance, being the first construction by Mallet-Stevens, architect who had first devoted his career to furniture and film set design. It is fascinating that this one building stands to the memory of two such influential but different design personalities: Rob Mallet-Stevens, the cool thinking functional modernist and Paul Poiret, a flamboyant touche-à-tout who made life a highly decorated, luxurious, and sensuous fête.
The residence has had a spotty history of glamour and neglect. Poiret, the extravagant genius of couture, marketing and decoration had first considered Louis Sue, Le Corbusier and Auguste Perret before settling on Mallet-Stevens for the design of his château moderne.
|illustration Feu d'artifice Georges Lepape for Poiret|
One imagies it as the perfect foil for Poiret's elaborate designs.
Once the structural work was done, financial problems made the construction come to a halt in 1924 and by the end of 1926, Poiret was bankrupt. Mallet-Stevens took photographs of the building which were published in at the time.
He described it,
Surfaces unies, arêtes vives, courbes nettes, matières polies, angles droits,
C'est ma maison logique et géométrique de demain.
Smooth surfaces, sharp edges, clean lines, polished materials, angles,
This is my logical, geometrical house of tomorrow.
The standstill was deplored in contemporary architectural circles, but Mallet-Stevens was also at work on the sets of L’inhumaine and Le villa de Noailles at Hyères.
If Poiret’s creative outpourings knew no end even in the most dire conditions, as much could be said, unfortunately, for his expenditures. In 1930 things had gotten so bad for him that he had nowhere to turn. He moved his furniture into the basement of what he joked were the premières ruines modernes, - no windows, no heat, no water -
and lived in the small but slightly more complete caretaker's house.
Je me suis habitué à ne plus etre riche. Celui qui ne s'habitue pas c'est mon percepteur. Il y a des gens qui continuent à me réclamer de l'argent comme s'il etait normal que j'en eusse. Je suis surpris qu'on puisse etre aussi heureux sans cela. J'habite une jolie campagne de l'Ile de France et s'il pleut quelquefois dans ma chambre, ma fenetre s'ouvre toute grande sur une vue superbe et laisse entrer largement l'air, la lumière, les ardeurs du soliel et la fraicheur des nuits.
I have gotten used to not being rich. The one who can't get used to it is my taxman. There are people who continue to ask me for money as though I should still have it. I am surprised that we can be so happy without any. I live in the beautiful countryside of the Ile-de-France and if it rains sometimes in my room, my window opens out wide on a superb view and largely lets in air, light, the heat of the sun and the cool of the night.
It was here at Mézy that he wrote the first of several very entertaining, very touching books of memoirs, En habillant l'époque, from which I have taken the above quote.
The villa Poiret as it is today
the work of Mallet-Stevens