Maison Christian Dior has completed a loving and respectful restoration of founder Christian Dior’s former residence – the Château de La Colle Noire – and I have been fortunate to experience it during my recent visit to the South of France. Located in Provence and just north of Nice at Montauroux in Grasse, the château sits in an area where fragrance is in the air and beauty lies all around. The home of Monsieur Dior from 1951 until his untimely passing in 1957, this place still pulses with vitality and inspiration, and stands not as a cold memorial but instead as a celebration of an influential life lived well but ended far too soon. Enveloped in greenery and warmed by what seems to be the special energy of the sun in the South of France, here is somewhere where every detail is just right and the atmosphere created is so special.
This was to be a visit where my heightened expectations were not to be disappointed. Château de La Colle Noire has never been open to the public but only to the friends of Maison Christian Dior by private invitation. From my first glimpse of the château, it immediately became apparent that this home and its setting have achieved a successful blending of a beautiful building and the vibrancy of the nature which cocoons it. This feeling of anticipation becomes stronger with the thought that Christian Dior himself walked these grounds and spent joyous years here creating a home where each and every aspect matters. The care and attention shown extends from the garden, terraces and tranquil pool to the spacious and gracious rooms and salons inside.
For me, it was an honor to spend some time here and to reflect on the lasting impact and legacy of Christian Dior. He wanted his home to feel like it had been lived in so that it evolved over time in an entirely natural way. He was also particular about avoiding a typical Provencal “country look” and aimed to draw on 18thCentury taste blending together with suitable 19th and 20thCentury touches. To create the right mood, the interiors are opulent but not ostentatious with the objets d’art carefully created to draw the eye rather than to overwhelm. Each room has its own eye-catching feature to shape the design ideal and you can discover this in corners where the furnishings match the floral wallpaper or in the “Return from Egypt” room where the décor has more than a hint of the exotic.
And then there is the Miss Dior room with its quiet and simple elegance or Monsieur Dior’s private chapel where the stark simplicity prompts time for reflection.
The scale of the grand salons forms the perfect backdrop for the furniture, mirrors, paintings and antiques accumulated by Christian Dior and reunited together today. Interior designer Yves de Marseille was brought in to produce a decorative scheme which Monsieur Dior would surely recognise as fusing perfectly with those rooms which he managed to complete during his lifetime. It has been possible to draw on the Dior photographic and design archive to recreate the original look and the overall aesthetic but there has also had to be an interpretive element for those parts of the château which were not completed at the time of his death. In such circumstances, there is always the risk that what emerges becomes a pastiche but that is not how this restoration has taken shape. Instead, the flow from room to room feels so natural with none of the elements looking out of place. From the Napoleon III furniture to the sparkles of colored glass within the chandeliers, I have a real feeling that Christian Dior would smile at the thought that his dream was complete.
Of course, the influence of Christian Dior extends far beyond fashion. His name is associated with innovation in fragrance with Château de La Colle Noire at its heart. Grasse and its environs are synonymous with French perfumery with a reputation both for classic fragrances and the latest trends. Here, the terroir, climate and soil provide optimum conditions for the Grasse Rose and Grasse Jasmine and for the profusion of lavender. As well as laying out the extensive gardens, Christian Dior acquired parcels of land and began to plant them with the flowers which would become the embodiment of his perfumes. Having such a depth of personal connection with the blending process from petal to perfume was a way for Monsieur Dior to become immersed in his craft and to express his love for flowers and natural beauty.
His vision to plant almond trees, olive groves, vines and blossom-filled cherry trees lives on today and shows how an understanding of the soil and the light can yield enduring beauty. Leaving the château and the fields of flowers which surround it brings a sense of some sadness at the parting as time spent somewhere so memorable can only prompt a desire to return one day.
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