PAR­ADISE RE­GAINED

Architectural Digest (UAE) - - Contents - WORDS WIL­LIAM BUCK­LEY PHO­TOGRAPHS JÉRÔME GALLAND

Chris­tian Dior's Chateau de la Colle Noire has been mas­ter­fully re­stored by the mai­son

Chris­tian Dior’s beloved Château de la Colle Noire has been care­fully re­stored, with many of the rooms

just as the de­sign mae­stro left them

The 19th cen­tury-in­spired small sa­lon is brim­ming with

avian mo­tifs such as swans OP­PO­SITE: The south-west façade of the grace­ful manor house, which dates back to the 15th cen­tury. Chris­tian Dior bought it in 1951, and it was briefly a haven; he died

sud­denly in 1957, aged 52

Emer­ald silk cur­tains frame the view out to the gar­dens of La Colle Noire. Dior planted 150 al­mond trees to scent the air each spring OP­PO­SITE: A cy­press-lined drive­way leads up to the Provençal château

Af­ter nearly half a cen­tury of ne­glect, the French château that Chris­tian Dior bought in 1951 has been re­stored. La Colle Noire was the beloved home of which he wrote, “I think of this house now as my real home, the home to which, God will­ing, I shall one day re­tire, the home where per­haps I will one day for­get Chris­tian Dior, cou­turier, and be­come the ne­glected pri­vate in­di­vid­ual again.”

In some ways, his fa­tidic wish came to pass – to­wards the end of his life, he spent many months of the year at the château, far away from 30 Av­enue Mon­taigne in Paris, the epi­cen­tre of his ev­er­ex­pand­ing em­pire – but with a steady ret­inue of fam­ily, friends, chefs, gar­den­ers and such, the mon­sieur’s re­treat could hardly have been con­sid­ered soli­tary.

While the château’s se­cluded sit­u­a­tion at the foot of the Pre­alps, forty kilo­me­tres from Cannes, de­lighted the cou­turier, it was the Côte d’Azur fur­ther south that at­tracted the rich and fa­mous.

Fol­low­ing his un­timely death aged 52, his sis­ter Cather­ine, for whom his first fra­grance, Miss Dior, was named, in­her­ited the house. Since it was in large part from the prof­its of the par­fums that her brother made the pur­chase, her in­her­i­tance of it ap­pears prov­i­den­tial.

Alas, like many an heir to such an es­tate, Chris­tian’s sis­ter was un­able to main­tain the château. It fell into dis­re­pair, and was sold in quick suc­ces­sion, chang­ing hands a num­ber of times. Most re­cently, it was put on the mar­ket in 2013, and Chris­tian Dior Par­fums moved quickly to ac­quire it.

Un­like his child­hood home, Les Rhumbs, in the north of France, the Château de La Colle Noire was not bought with the view to trans­form it into a mu­seum. It was pur­chased by the com­pany to serve as a space for en­ter­tain­ing friends of the sto­ried fash­ion house; it is not open to the pub­lic. Af­ter the ma­jor restora­tion project, 200 of the house’s clos­est friends gath­ered at the prop­erty for an un­veil­ing. Bal­let dancer Aurélie Dupont smiled and chat­ted with French ac­tor Pierre Niney. Singer Fai Khadra sat next to model of the mo­ment Bella Ha­did. And if you were one of the lucky 200, per­haps you ac­ci­den­tally walked in on Char­l­ize Theron stretched out on a 19th-cen­tury sofa, in a gold char­treuse slip dress, be­ing pho­tographed by JEANBAP­TISTE Mondino.

Al­though Chris­tian Dior re­stored much of the house, in­clud­ing a two-year re­ju­ve­na­tion of a chapel on the land that he do­nated to the peo­ple of the vil­lage (the vil­lagers still hold mass in his honour twice a year), the on­go­ing project would not be com­pleted dur­ing his life­time. An­dré Svet­chine, the mas­ter of neo-Provençal ar­chi­tec­ture en­listed by Dior, re­in­stated the fun­da­men­tals of south­ern French aes­thet­ics, and trans­formed what amounted to lit­tle more than grape cel­lars and barns into sa­lons and suites.

A 25-minute drive from Grasse, the home of French per­fume, where the roses and jas­mine of your favourite fra­grance are farmed, La Colle Noire served Dior’s hor­ti­cul­tural in­cli­na­tions well. He planted flow­ers and grape vines and spent his days among them, so when Chris­tian Dior Par­fums ren­o­vated the château, the gar­dens were of para­mount im­por­tance. Land­scape ar­chi­tect Philippe Deliau was hired by the house to recre­ate the Edenic aes­thetic. His se­cond project for LVMH, Deliau planted ten thou­sand May roses, vines, olive trees, and Mon­sieur Dior’s cher­ished al­mond trees.

Be­yond al­mond trees and, of course, cou­ture, Chris­tian Dior adored swans. While they didn’t swim on the pond, they are present through­out the house: above the Car­rara mar­ble bath, two gold swan taps; in the grand hall just be­fore the sweep­ing stair­case, a paint­ing of swans by 17th-cen­tury artist, Dirk Win­track; ceramic swans stand on sur­faces in the grand sa­lon; a black swan hangs above the set­tee where Char­l­ize Theron re­clined; a gilded bronze swan adorns a gold and black lac­quer Em­pire pe­riod jar­dinière.

One imag­ines deeply chic artist types scat­tered about the space of an even­ing en­gaged in party game du jour, ‘Spot the Swan’. And while there is some sad­ness in the story of the Château de La Colle Noire, it is ul­ti­mately one of legacy, suc­cesses – and dresses. Yes, fash­ions may come and go. But Chris­tian Dior en­dures.

The sump­tu­ous 18th-cen­tury French-style grand sa­lon is the big­gest room in the château. The fur­nish­ings evoke sev­eral his­tor­i­cal pe­ri­ods, cre­at­ing the lived-in im­pres­sion Dior de­sired

ABOVE: El­e­gant touches abound in the grand sa­lon BE­LOW: Chris­tian Dior’s Direc­toire and Em­pire-style bath­room. He de­signed the cop­per wa­ter tank set over the swan taps him­self OP­PO­SITE: The 131ft or­na­men­tal pond was de­signed by Dior in 1953. It was a grand re­work­ing of a small pond he de­signed, aged 15, for his mother’s rose gar­den at his child­hood home, Les Rhumbs

“I think of this house now as my real home, the home to which, God will­ing, I shall one day re­tire, the home where

per­haps I will one day for­get Chris­tian Dior, cou­turier”

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