« Christian Dior’s appartment », Patrick Mauriès

Extracts from the book.

Frank Scherschel, Christian Dior in his apartment at 10 Rue Royale in Paris, 1947
© Gettyimages / Frank Scherschel

Dior’s memory was essentially one of shapes, colors, textures, spaces, furniture and objects. He discussed his own path through his memory of the rooms he lived in, and which in turn fashioned his approach to style. [...]

While Dior was fascinated with architecture and houses before shifting to fash-ion, he was also drawn to painting, and very nearly made this his field. People often forget that once he had completed his military service, he joined forces with one of his friends, Jacques Bonjean, with the reluctant support of his parents, “to open a little gal-lery at the end of a rather squalid cul-de-sac off the Rue de la Boétie.” This simple and relatively ephemeral gallery had a certain importance in the history of modern art; the discreet but significant role that Dior and Bonjean played—along with Pierre Colle, a former student of Max Jacob who would become an exceptional gallery owner—in the artistic economy of the period. […]

In Dior’s biography, the apartment on Boulevard Jules-Sandeau occupied a middle ground between two interiors, each of which met the specific needs and different purposes of the moment, and which were interdependent. The first, the Coudret mill in Milly, created a natural link with his provincial childhood and the memory of trips to the countryside. It featured a group of buildings, stables and barns around a horseshoe-shaped farmyard; it fulfilled his dream of “a house something like those houses in the provinces, those whitewashed convents with their well-polished parlours, where children are brought to talk politely to their relations, of which I preserve tender memories.” [...]

The garden also added considerably to Milly’s charm (“I wanted it to look like the peasants’ gardens which decorate the sides of the roads in my native Normandy”). It was painstakingly expanded by transforming the marshes and the forest. The second place, in contrast to this enclosed garden of flowers and medicinal herbs, both in terms of time and space, was the forty-eight-square-meter ornamental pool and fifty-hectare field of the Château de La Colle Noire, which Dior purchased in 1950 near the village of Callian in the Var département, not far from where his father had lived.

Aerial view of La Colle Noire, Christian Dior’s house in Montauroux (Var)
© Christian Dior

Once again, he felt it was essential to recreate an interior that felt as if it were lived in, that reflected transformations that had occurred over time, with furniture and objects added by successive generations—an impression the owner constantly sought to create.

Eugene Kammerman, model Renée Breton at the fashion show in the large salon at 30 Avenue Montaigne, 1953
© Eugène Kammerman / Gamma-Rapho

As opposed to these two country homes, concurrent in time, and his professional locations—the salons on Avenue Montaigne—the apartment on Boulevard Jules - Sandeau was where Dior really lived, “a townhouse for me, as urban and cozy as Mi lly has been rural and simple.” A lair with an elaborate blend of styles, with disparate elements that mutually enhanced one another: “a Matisse drawing was to hang side by side with a Gothic tapestry, a Renaissance bronze, a Jacob ornament.”