E-1027 VILLA, FRANCE ‘Rose Ash Light’, £43 for 2.5 litres, San­der­son (styleli­brary.com) ‘ Ul­tra Blue’, £49 for 2.5 litres, Lit­tle Greene ( lit­tle­greene.com) ‘Far­row’s Cream’, £46.50 for 2.5 litres, Far­row & Ball (far­row-ball.com) ‘Hazel­nut Truf­fle’, £27.5

Ev­ery month, we’ll look at the world’s most suc­cess­ful colour schemes, start­ing with the in­te­rior of de­signer Eileen Gray’s Mod­ernist re­treat

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Decorating - COLOUR IN CON­TEXT

If you searched the world for the per­fect colour pal­ette to ex­press the serene joy of a hol­i­day, you might find yourself set­tling on the mid-cen­tury mix of blues, greens, yel­lows and pinks used by Eileen Gray at the E-1027 villa in France. She loved this place. In fact, the build­ing’s Mod­ernist com­po­si­tion of par­al­lel white lines perched on a tum­ble of rocks above the sea on the Côte d’azur can be read as an ode to love. Take the villa’s name: E-1027. Gray, an Ir­ish de­signer, built it with her Ro­ma­nian paramour, Jean Badovici, at the age of 51. The E in its ti­tle is for Eileen; the ten for J, the tenth let­ter of the al­pha­bet; the two for B; and the seven for G. Her ini­tials en­fold­ing his.

Gray’s cere­bral tem­per­a­ment, eye for de­tail and pas­sion for colour are also en­coded in the villa’s fan­tas­tic in­te­ri­ors. She de­signed clever, multi-pur­pose fur­ni­ture – fold­away beds and draw­ers set into tight cor­ners – to make the most of the space. She also flooded it with light, set­ting a plethora of win­dows, large and small, into its walls, al­low­ing shards of sun­shine to pierce rooms and giv­ing beds and read­ing nooks spec­tac­u­lar views.

These views were also mined by Gray for colour in­spi­ra­tion. She had never been afraid of us­ing bold com­bi­na­tions – lac­quer scar­let, gold, black – in the fur­ni­ture she de­signed, but here, in her first ar­chi­tec­tural work, there was clearly some­thing else at play. As well as the boun­ti­ful use of bright white – Gray was a Mod­ernist, af­ter all – many rooms have walls spliced with colours. Per­haps she felt at liberty to ex­per­i­ment in her hol­i­day home. She was a woman who con­cep­tu­alised dwellings as, in her words, ‘ liv­ing or­gan­isms’, and ex­co­ri­ated bland homes. She de­cried the ‘poverty of mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture,’ ar­gu­ing that it stemmed ‘from the at­ro­phy of sen­su­al­ity’. Here, how­ever, the senses are in­dulged. Tex­tures and colours come to­gether as a di­rect re­sponse to the land­scape: dusty ul­tra­ma­rine evokes both the sea and sky, while walls of pale, pow­dery pink are cut through with ch­est­nut brown, but­tery yel­low and soft black.

In part, these choices re­flect Gray’s mi­lieu. Her friend, renowned ar­chi­tect and de­signer Le Cor­bus­ier, although a pro­po­nent of the lib­eral use of white as morally cleans­ing, ap­plied slices of vivid hues to his build­ings. But while he, Piet Mon­drian and many other colourists of the era loved the eye-catch­ing con­trasts of bright hues, Gray’s own pal­ette, while bold, is also cu­ri­ously rest­ful. None of the colours are ‘pure’; all ap­pear to be the fruit of painstak­ing mix­tures and, as a re­sult of their sub­tlety, feel lived-in and nat­u­ral. The pink in E-1027 is that of the rocky earth in di­rect sun­light; the ch­est­nut and black are the colour of shad­ows; the but­tery yel­low tint that of the tra­di­tional plas­ter used on nearby build­ings. These are colours, in short, gath­ered up by a lover’s greedy eye.

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