Lu­tyens legacy

An­gela Sara West talks to Can­dia Lu­tyens, grand­daugh­ter of renowned ar­chi­tect Sir Ed­win Lu­tyens, about her Alpine home and fol­low­ing in his de­sign foot­steps

French Property News - - Contents - lu­tyens-fur­ni­ lu­tyens-con­tem­po­

The grand­daugh­ter of the dis­tin­guished ar­chi­tect shows us round her château

In 2002, Can­dia Lu­tyens, the grand­daugh­ter of Bri­tish ar­chi­tect Sir Ed­win Lu­tyens, quit the rat race for a new life in the foothills of the Alps. She and her ar­chi­tect hus­band Paul ex­per­i­mented with in­vest­ment prop­er­ties be­fore buy­ing a mag­nif­i­cent 16th-cen­tury château, built from the rub­ble of a nearby manor house razed by Swiss in­vaders and a for­mer home to princes, dukes and car­di­nals.

She spoke to me about her unique home in the his­toric ski vil­lage of Samoëns, nes­tled in the Giffre val­ley in the Haute-savoie de­part­ment. She has filled it with orig­i­nal Lu­tyens fur­ni­ture and draw­ings, show­cas­ing her fa­mous grand­fa­ther’s work along­side re­pro­duc­tion pieces from her own interiors com­pa­nies, Lu­tyens Fur­ni­ture & Light­ing and Lu­tyens Con­tem­po­rary.

Tell me a lit­tle about your time as a city bro­ker While at Ox­ford Univer­sity, I sup­ported my­self by sell­ing pic­tures door-to-door, and re­alised I had a tal­ent for sales and an easy way of in­ter­act­ing with peo­ple. I de­cided that I should ei­ther go into ad­ver­tis­ing or stock­broking, and the lat­ter seemed more in­ter­est­ing. I started my ca­reer with prom­i­nent City firm, Robert Flem­ing, where I was put on the Ja­panese eq­uity sales desk. Over the course of nearly 20 years, I worked my way up, via a few dif­fer­ent firms, to be­come Head of Ja­panese Eq­uity Sales out­side of Ja­pan for the Dutch bank ABM Amro, run­ning a team in Bahrain, New York and through­out Eu­rope.

What drove you to move to France, and why did you choose the Alps? When I had fi­nally had enough of work­ing in the City, we felt we needed to get out of Lon­don en­tirely. My hus­band, who was Amer­i­can, wasn’t fond of the English coun­try­side, and we loved the moun­tains and the out­door life­style. As a fam­ily, we all loved to ski, and our son was rac­ing as a ju­nior and train­ing near Cha­monix. We also loved the sum­mer in the moun­tains and, as we chose to live in the part of the Alps clos­est to Geneva, we could com­mute very eas­ily to any­where we needed to be.

You first bought and re­stored a 200-year-old farm­house, in the nearby ski re­sort of Les Gets in Portes du Soleil... Yes, we ex­per­i­mented for a year to see what it was like to run a catered chalet, more to es­tab­lish whether it was worth in­vest­ing in prop­er­ties for this pur­pose than be­cause we wanted to do it. We de­cided af­ter just one year that catered chalets were a bad eco­nomic model – fine for those who wanted the life­style, but not for those build­ing a prop­erty busi­ness. You then in­vested in a seven-bed­room apart­ment in Mo­ril­lon... Yes, that was a dis­as­ter though as the de­vel­oper went bust and cost us a large amount of money. It was sold sev­eral years ago.

You pur­chased your prop­erty in Samoëns in 2006. Tell me about it and the ren­o­va­tion work you have car­ried out The build­ing is an old stone château in the cen­tre of Samoëns, built around 1550 next to build­ings of a sim­i­lar age, such as the church and mairie. The in­te­rior had not been touched since 1972 and it was badly ar­ranged with very few – but enor­mous – bed­rooms and only two bath­rooms. We con­verted it to an eightbed­room home, all with en­suites. There is not a sin­gle space in the in­te­rior that we didn’t have a hand in al­ter­ing.

Does your home boast a scenic panorama? Its as­pect is due south and it is raised a bit above the vil­lage floor, so we have lovely views over the lo­cal moun­tains. Our ter­race is south-fac­ing and be­comes another room in sum­mer, though it is rare when we can’t eat lunch out­side, even in the mid­dle of win­ter. You have dec­o­rated your prop­erty and mixed Sir Ed­win’s orig­i­nal pieces with your own con­tem­po­rary ver­sions. How have you fur­nished the rooms to show­case his iconic style? The house is quite sparsely dec­o­rated, in keep­ing with my grand­fa­ther’s taste. Nat­u­ral grey gran­ite fea­tures through­out, es­pe­cially fram­ing the win­dows and doors, and we have kept fabrics and cur­tains to a min­i­mum to show off the stone. The house is fur­nished with heir­loom pieces and our own fur­ni­ture and light­ing prod­ucts. Our light­ing is largely dec­o­ra­tive and we use it against a back­drop of modern spot light­ing. In­ter­spersed with this, we have some modern book­cases and stor­age from a well-known Swedish store which my hus­band painted and aged to look in keep­ing with the house. The old chapel has nice nat­u­ral light and is mu­raled with por­traits of our chil­dren in an imag­i­nary land­scape. It’s re­ally just a cu­rios­ity room, which I now use to store printed ma­te­ri­als and my pho­tog­ra­phy gear (I’m a keen am­a­teur pho­tog­ra­pher).

As it serves as a per­fect ex­hi­bi­tion space for your grand­fa­ther’s de­signs, you oc­ca­sion­ally in­vite clients to stay at the house to ex­pe­ri­ence liv­ing among the fur­ni­ture. Can you tell me about the busts you have of your grand­fa­ther wear­ing his topee, the sun hat which in­flu­enced one of his vis­ual puns? We have copies of my grand­fa­ther’s bust in­side and out. The one in­side is a copy of

The house is quite sparsely dec­o­rated, in keep­ing with my grand­fa­ther’s taste – nat­u­ral grey gran­ite fea­tures through­out, and we have kept fabrics and cur­tains to a min­i­mum to show off the stone

the orig­i­nal and is made of plas­ter; we then got it copied in bronze for the out­side. The orig­i­nal was made for him in Delhi by the work­ers on the Viceroy’s House. He had used the vis­ual pun of his hat in his sub­sidiary domes on the build­ing and, in turn, they car­i­ca­tured him in the bust with his so­lar topee look­ing like one of his domes.

You run Lu­tyens Fur­ni­ture & Light­ing, mak­ing re­pro­duc­tions of your grand­fa­ther’s de­signs, from your French home and re­cently launched Lu­tyens Con­tem­po­rary, which adapts your grand­fa­ther’s clas­sic de­signs for the con­tem­po­rary con­sumer… Yes. In the mid-80s, my soon-to-be hus­band and I wanted a Napoleon chair for our new home as my mother had sold hers years ear­lier. An aunt had just given hers to the Vic­to­ria and Al­bert Mu­seum but the mu­seum al­lowed us to copy it. Hav­ing done so, we thought there may be a busi­ness in it and my hus­band, who was then prac­tis­ing ar­chi­tec­ture, started to re­search other fur­ni­ture de­signs so that we could put to­gether a port­fo­lio. At the time, only one of us could give up the day job and it was de­cided that it should be him as my earn­ings tra­jec­tory was greater, and he was the trained de­signer. I was in­volved ev­ery step of the way, though, fronting the busi­ness and help­ing him with the ad­min in the evenings and at week­ends.

How do you go about adapt­ing your grand­fa­ther’s clas­sic de­signs to the 21st cen­tury and giv­ing them a modern twist? With a lot of care­ful thought and a lot of in­put from our great de­signer, who has been with us since the be­gin­ning.

You work with Lon­don-based de­sign fab­ri­ca­tors, Zone Cre­ations, one of the lead­ing com­pa­nies in its field and a holder of a Royal War­rant from the Queen. How of­ten do you fly back to the UK for busi­ness and how do you find the com­mute? I go when nec­es­sary and I can make plans quickly. My near­est air­port is Geneva, an hour away, and I usu­ally fly into Gatwick. It’s an easy jour­ney. Did you ex­pe­ri­ence any prob­lems pur­chas­ing your French prop­er­ties? Buy­ing is al­ways eas­ier than sell­ing, par­tic­u­larly af­ter Pres­i­dent Hol­lande’s wealth tax and, more re­cently, the strength of the euro. Do you have any tips for read­ers think­ing about pur­chas­ing prop­erty in France? Make sure you are fully aware of the hid­den costs of own­ing a prop­erty in France. For ex­am­ple, ex­penses – tax, tax and more tax. You don’t re­alise just how much un­til you get the bills. Also, water is very ex­pen­sive.

How’s your French? Good, but not flu­ent. I can do most of what I need to do.

Do you feel fully in­te­grated? Do you get in­volved in lo­cal fêtes/cus­toms? There is a large An­glo­phone com­mu­nity in Samoëns and we tend to stick to­gether. I am friendly with my French neigh­bours but we don’t so­cialise. I en­joy lo­cal fêtes. We have a large Nepali com­mu­nity and ev­ery year we do a ben­e­fit din­ner for re­build­ing af­ter the earth­quake. July 4th sees the US In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tion, where the vil­lage turns ‘Amer­i­can’ with stars and stripes ev­ery­where, a west­ern mar­ket for cow­boy boots and hats, line danc­ing in the square, a rodeo and a pro­ces­sion of US cars and Har­ley-david­sons.

What are your thoughts on the lo­cal gas­tron­omy? Do you visit food mar­kets and en­joy cook­ing? I think Savo­yard food is pos­si­bly the worst cui­sine in France! If I never ate another tar­ti­flette I would be happy. The lo­cal mar­ket is large and very good for farm veg­eta­bles; how­ever, it is ex­pen­sive for lo­cal pro­duce, most of which I can buy for half the price at the su­per­mar­ket. I love to cook and watch cook­ing pro­grammes on TV. My col­lec­tion of cook­books is big­ger than I can store and I have to cull it on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Any favourite eater­ies? The best res­tau­rant in Samoëns is Le Monde à L’en­vers and I eat there at least once a week. It is un­usual for its fu­sion food, which is a mix­ture of Asian, Caribbean, French and Scan­di­na­vian in­flu­ences.

Samoëns is, of course, a play­ground for skiers in win­ter. Do you ski of­ten and en­joy a sporty, out­door life­style? Which are your favourite ski re­sorts? I love to ski but didn’t last win­ter as I had surgery on my feet in 2016 and wasn’t suf­fi­ciently re­cov­ered. Samoëns is my favourite ski re­sort. I don’t of­ten have the time to drive to other ski ar­eas when it is on my doorstep, but I do go to Praz de Lys most years and I like it for its small size and quiet­ness.

And what about the sum­mer, what do you like to do in the warmer months? I much pre­fer the sum­mers to the win­ters. I walk and sun­bathe, but I have to work, too. It is a joy­ful area to live in be­cause of its beauty. I love to walk with my four dogs dur­ing the sum­mer and win­ter.

Do you visit other ar­eas of France? I travel ex­ten­sively through France, mainly by car. I re­cently drove to Seville in Spain – a 4,000km round trip. I have also re­cently dis­cov­ered Lyon, which I would like to re­turn to. The old town is won­der­ful.

Tell me about your 2014 trip to north­ern France, tak­ing in the se­ries of war ceme­ter­ies built by Sir Ed­win? It must have been a very mov­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The ceme­ter­ies and memo­ri­als built by him and others in the Amiens area are fan­tas­tic pieces of ar­chi­tec­ture. The ceme­ter­ies are mov­ing and de­serve great re­spect but, for me, the ar­chi­tec­ture of them is the great draw. We also vis­ited his only ma­jor house in France in Varangeville-sur-mer, in Seine-mar­itime. Les Bois des Moutiers is, I think, his finest house of his Arts and Crafts pe­riod. The won­der­ful gar­dens are open to the pub­lic.

What would be your per­fect day in France? Walk the dogs early, work at my desk, maybe a quick ski ses­sion in the win­ter and a good lunch with friends.

Fi­nally, what do you love most about France? The coun­try­side and the cli­mate. I have been very happy liv­ing here!

View of the moun­tains over Samoëns The château’s quirky in­te­rior Din­ing in style The château dates back to the 16th cen­tury

At­mo­spheric light­ing in­side Fun fam­ily mu­rals were added Pe­riod fea­tures were re­stored

The château en­joys a beau­ti­ful Alpine set­ting Can­dia Lu­tyens A mix of old and new fur­ni­ture was used Mu­rals in the chapel

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