Hyères : La Villa Noailles

Michele Hanrath (June 2005)

Summer is the perfect time to admire the beautiful coastal views and the cool breezes up on the hills of Hyères. There are 3 parks covering the summit above old Hyères. The park St Claire with its old convent or château, where Edith Wharton lived, has panoramic views. Also situated on this hill on the edge of the Parc Bernard is the Villa Noailles which became a protected site in 1987.

This piece of land was a wedding present to Charles and Marie-Laure Noailles who married in 1923. After much deliberation, Rob Mallet –Stevens was chosen to build “une petite maison intéressante à habiter dans le midi ». This is his first house before which he was well known for interior design, exhibition pavilions and film sets. The idea was to build a house which allowed the sun to enter, was interesting to live in and used the most modern ideas of the times. Although the original “petite maison” was ready with in a year, the house continued to grow for the next 10 years. It eventually covered an area of 1800m?, including a gymnasium, a covered swimming pool, squash court, golf and 42 bedrooms! Charles Noailles was an amateur collector of the arts and attracted many artists who came and stayed at his house. These artists also participated in the creation of the house. Famous names included interior decorator Eileen Gray, sculptors Giacometti and Jacques Lipschitz, glass in lead artist Louis Barillet, architects Théo Doesburg and Gabriel Quévrékian, who designed the unique triangular cubist garden. The Villa Noailles became a center of the arts of its times.

Unfortunately the house started to show signs of leakages and water damage. Soon afterwards the couple separated, the war years arrived and slowly the house fell into a state of disrepair.

In 1973, after the death of Marie-Laure, the town of Hyères acquired the villa. Since 1987 the villa and its gardens have been declared an historical monument and undergone restoration. It is now a center for the arts housing various exhibitions at which time it is open to the public. The house can be visited during the summer months. The tourist office of Hyères also organizes tours (04 94 01 84 50 ) From April 27 - August 29. Rob Mallet-Stevens works are being exhibited at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

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