Mr Dior’s former Provencal retreat has been restored with the gardens reflecting his creative way of combining flowers, vines and olive trees …
In 1951 Christian Dior acquired an imposing Provençal country house, the Château de La Colle Noire, surrounded by grounds in which sat the Saint Anne Chapel, dating back to the 19th century. Set in the Pays de Fayence, 18km from Grasse, it was more than just a summer residence. The Château de La Colle Noire was a large agricultural domain on which the couturier cultivated fragrant roses, vines and jasmine.
It was not a ceremonial garden but one designed to reawaken childhood memories of “Les Rhumbs”, the Dior family home in Granville, Normandy. Planted with thousands of trees and fragrant flowers, these scented hectares embodied an ideal for the couturier-perfumer. It was here, he wrote his autobiography Dior by Dior and where he enjoyed sketching. Like the artists to whom he was so close, such as Marc Chagall, Mr Dior was captivated by the Mediterranean light. “The avenue Montaigne seems far away” he wrote in 1956 about his home. When he was in residence he would take his Austin Princess and go on excursions to Oustau de Baumanière in Les Baux de Provence, where he enjoyed Provençal cuisine, or further afield to Saint Tropez, where he adored Le Senequier’s candied tangerines.
After passing to various owners following his death, the Chateau was finally acquired by Christian Dior Parfums in 2013. Since then the interiors have been renovated to reflect his tastes, which were eclectic; from 18th-century furniture, gondola bergère chairs, jardinières and earthenware flowerpots in Wedgwood style. The salon, entrance hall and Mr Dior’s office, as well as the Egyptian room, were all returned to their original state, while the newly-created Chagall, Bernard, Picasso and Dali suites were designed by the decorator Yves de Marseille, in a style appreciated by these artists.
Philippe Deliau, the landscape architect for the project, says of the garden planting, “At the Château de La Colle Noire, having inherited this eminently agricultural and rustic land, he put in an ornamental pond of 18th-century inspiration bordered with box trees. He planted rose bushes, lilies, violets and jasmine. Everything he did was related to light and shadow, plants and minerals (he sketched a stone fountain decorated with nymphs), to heighten the feeling of charm and relaxation, without ever rejecting the origins of the site. This garden was a genuine manifesto for both its horticultural heritage and its agricultural legacy.”
Need to Know: While Mr Dior was in residence at Château de La Colle, he restored a chapel in its grounds on the condition that the villagers of Montauroux would maintain it. The villagers still attend a mass held in honour of the couturier every year on August 24, and every October 23, they celebrate the anniversary of his death in 1957.
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