Just outside Lille, the lovely capital city of northern France, lies Villa Cavrois, an extraordinary mansion that has been restored meticulously by the Centre des Monuments Nationaux. This place is a like a time capsule of an era when money bought true style, and for fans of art deco this place is an absolute gem.
The creation of Villa Cavrois
Villa Cavrois was built for a wealthy manufacturer, Paul Cavrois, and if he wanted to achieve the image of a man of taste and affluence, he certainly succeeded. He himself didn’t have much to do with the design. Busy running his textile company at a time when the north of France was one of the most industrialised regions in France, he commissioned French architect Robert Mallet-Stevens. Cavrois bought some land in Croix, a few miles from the town of Roubaix, known as the “city of a thousand chimneys” in those days. These days it is much greener and a pleasant place to visit and enjoy its extraordinarily beautiful La Piscine museum.
Unlike most of his peers who spent money building rather more classical villas, Cavrois wanted something different and in the innovative designs of Robert Mallet-Stevens, the house created for Cavrois and his large family (he had seven children) became a palace of modernity. The house was owned and lived in by the family until 1987.
In 1990 it was listed as a historic monument and bought by the French state in 2001. During the ensuing years after the family left, it fell into terrible disrepair, until the Centre des Monuments National decided to restore it to its former glory – and glory really is the correct word.
The sharp lines of the building create an outline that almost make it look like an architect’s drawing come to life, it is an astounding sight, slightly other worldly, almost translucent. Inside it is a monument to art deco style and Hollywood glamour of the 1930s. The wall lights must have been quite extraordinary to people who viewed them when this place was first built. Even today the clarity of design and the use of space is incredibly impressive. The rooms are an exercise in simplicity and complication at the same time, the lines are perfect and the colours are sublime.
As I walked around admiring this showpiece home of the 1930’s I couldn’t help wondering if Monsieur Cavrois’ children enjoyed this house, it’s the sort of place where a stray hair would show up and ruin the pristine perfection of the rooms – let alone kids toys or sticky sweets. This house is a temple to spotless glamour – all clean lines and shiny surfaces from chrome and marble to bakelite and polished wood with rare flourishes of anything fancy and cupboards in every room to hide any clutter that might ruin the sleek flawnessness.
It is jaw-droppingly perfect – from the splendour of the sunken smoking room with its round red leather sofa to the huge bathrooms with built in weighing machines and the tiled kitchen with its mod cons of the day. The roof garden has a view over the swimming pool and an immaculate garden. It’s only when you go right to the top of the house and see one of the rooms as it was when Monuments Nationaux took over that you realise just what an enormous task it must have been to return it to this pristine state.
An amazing house that represents an era with a touch of French flair of course.
www.villa-cavrois.fr 60, avenue du Président-John-Fitzgerald-Kennedy, Croix.