It is hard to imagine that the house decorated in the mid-1970s by David Hicks for the Schlumbergers, Le Clos Fiorentina, ten years later was in danger of being demolished, yet this was so - according to Hubert de Givenchy. After learning it had been stripped of its fireplaces, suffered badly from damp and was to be replaced with an Italian-style palazzo, he eventually bought the house and made it what you see here.
I frequently say how photographs of interiors speak for themselves and here it is no less true. What I mean is, beyond the contents of the rooms, they speak to me and I hope, therefore, to you. They speak to me of a sureness of touch, composure, lack of pomp and, to use Coco Chanel's phrase, the elegance of refusal - a quality rarely seen in today's decorating.
It is difficult when faced with perfection, as I feel I am here, to find words that are not redundant. The previous paragraph sums up what I feel about these rooms but I can say that the materials used - tinted and waxed cement, limestone, terracotta tile, woven rush, Cogolin raffia matting, Provençal prints, white cotton and linen, polished wood, bone, plaster, bronze, Baccarat crystal, glass, silver, pottery from Apt, books, paintings, regional furniture - add up to more than the sum of the parts. There is a serenity here, almost an attentive and listening quality, that speaks of friendship, hospitality, consideration, comfort, summer, sea and southern light.
I think it is interesting to compare Mr Givenchy's decoration to David Hicks' of the same spaces - beautiful, highly colored, equally welcoming in its own way but a different order of personality... and I don't mean that negatively.
Compare too, Billy Baldwin's and Van Day Truex's decor with this of Mr Givenchy, and you will see a number of similarities - in the use of natural materials, the emphasis on good construction, a use of regional styles and the vernacular of a country, uncluttered lines, rationality, a lack of faddism - and above all, suitability.
I have just realized I mention Van Day Truex a lot but have never posted about him. I shall remedy that pretty soon.
The "Bunny" room, named for its sole guest, Mrs Mellon.
Mr Givenchy's close friend, Walter Lees' bedroom. Mr Lees died earlier this year at the age of one hundred. If you go here you will see the same monogram used on pillows in Mr Lees' Paris sitting room. Mr Lees, previously unknown to me, was a very interesting character and worth knowing more of.
Photographs by Agence Top, Paris / P. Chevallier from The Givenchy Style, Text by Françoise Mohrt, Foreword by Hubert de Givenchy, The Vendome Press, New York 1998 - a simply marvelous book which I am most fortunate to have been loaned by a very kind friend.
An interior design history enthusiast and in my own way an erstwhile chronicler of those I call the Lost Generation - those men, some of them gay and many of whom died of AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s, and who are to a great degree forgotten.