Unveiled in 1932, this masterpiece symbolizes the perfect understanding between an architect and his clients. Robert Mallet-Stevens, an innovative architect, lover of straight lines and conceptual simplicity, was hired by the Cavrois, a bourgeois couple from northern France who had heard about the architect’s previous work and who had a very clear and avant-garde vision of the home they wished to build.
Surrounded by a 200,000-square-foot garden with a modern pond, the chateau that the Cavrois dreamed of had a stark facade measuring 200 linear feet, plus 30,000 square feet of livable space. Its large windows and numerous terraces, along with a multitude of bright, ample interior spaces, were quite unconventional for that time in history. Natural materials, such as wood and marble, very advanced technologies for the era (central heating, telephones, elevators, etc.), and an absolutely functional layout continue to lend a heavy dose of modernity to its light-filled interior spaces. Robert Mallet-Stevens was responsible for not only the architectural aspect, but also the interior design, the furniture, and the rest of the project, all based on straight lines, simple shapes, superior materials and maximum functionality.
Both an architectural icon and an artistic legacy, Villa Cavrois was recognized as such by the French government when it was acquired in 2001, with the aim of carrying out a thorough restoration process, necessary given the mansion’s general state of abandon and destruction after it was abandoned in the late 80s and subsequently looted and vandalized.
Prior to beginning work, a group of historians, architects and expert artisans performed an in-depth study of the existing documentation, allowing the restoration to be carried out in perfect harmony with the original project.
They were able to restore or reproduce the majority of the decorative pieces, such as lighting and furniture, thanks to old photographs and archaeological remains. The original materials were identified and located. Expert artisans reproduced techniques that are no longer used in order to preserve the project’s personality and originality, despite the passage of time and the damage incurred. Remnants of paintings left on the walls helped them identify the exact colors that were so characteristic of the mansion’s interior spaces. The villa, though quite sparse in terms of decoration, had boasted luxurious materials, robbed or destroyed in the 20 years leading up to the restoration. The marble, which disappeared in the 90s, was reinstalled, and the parquet floors were restored 70 years later by the same company that installed them in 1932… It was also decided that one of the bedrooms in the upper part of the building would be left unrestored, as a testament to the mansion’s tumultuous past.
The restoration of the building’s exterior took 12 years, and the interior spaces were only finished in 2015. This work is estimated to have cost about 23 million euros.
Since 2012, Villa Cavrois has been part of a global restoration program for iconic homes from the twentieth century, and it is open to visitors. All of the beauty and charm from its perilous history is now on display. It’s an essential trip for anyone visiting the Lille area. Take a look at the before and after, the rebirth of Villa Cavrois.