The modernist Villa Cavrois is considered one of the greatest works of architect Robert Mallet Stevens. Located just to the north east of the city of Lille, about 220km north of Paris, it was commissioned in 1929 by wealthy industrialist Paul Cavrois to house his large family. It is a complete manifesto of the work of Mallet Stevens, he designed not only the building but the interiors, the furniture and the gardens. The result is spectacular.
Mallet Stevens had complete freedom with the design of the villa, as long as he stayed within budget. The yellow bricks of the facade were made specially for the house, the horizontal joints between them (over 200km total) were painstakingly painted by hand to accentuate the length and horizontality of the building. Mallet Stevens designed without ornamentation, but using the highest quality materials – exotic woods and marble, as well as modern industrial materials such as steel and glass. The proportions are large but not ostentatious, every detail is considered and the house conveys a sense of both luxury and simplicity. Modern technologies such as electricity, central heating, air conditioning, telephones between all rooms and a lift were installed. The rooms are not only beautiful, but also functional.
Light is present throughout the villa, both from the large windows and direct and indirect lighting. The house is divided into 2 wings, one for the parents, one for their 7 children and the personnel. Life in the villa revolved around the main points of it’s design: air, light, work, sports, hygiene, comfort and efficiency.
Requisitioned by the Germans during WWII, the villa was partially damaged. Parts of the interior were remodeled in 1947 to accommodate the evolving family. After the death of Madame Cavrois in 1986 the villa fell into disrepair, it was looted, ransacked and became a squat. An association was a formed to protect it – it was declared a national monument in 1990 but the destruction continued until it was bought by the state in 2001. Its restoration was finally entrusted to the Centre des Monuments National, this mammoth task took 12 years. The villa has been painstakingly restored to its former glory (some of the gardens had to unfortunately be sold off to pay for the works) and the result is breathtaking.
If you like architecture, design and outstanding craftsmanship, don’t miss a visit to the Villa Cavrois. If you are interested in seeing more work by Mallet Stevens in Paris, plan a visit to the rue Mallet Stevens in the 16th arrondissement or the Musée Mendjisky.
Also, if you are in Lille before 5 June 2016 don’t miss the exceptional Modigliani exhibition at the LAM (Modern Art Museum of Lille) in Villeneuve d’Asq.
- Villa Cavrois, 60 avenue John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 59170 Croix
Open daily except Tuesdays, 10:30 – 18:30
Villa Cavrois website (in English)