RUSSIAN DOLL: PIERRE BERGE AND HIS ‘DATCHA’





One of the perks of getting the digital subscription of Architectural Digest as opposed to the printed version is that you get bonus photos and sometimes an accompanying video of the article you are reading. As he was sliding the pages of the latest issue on his iPad, A-Gent of Style came across the astonishing spread of Pierre Bergé’s secret paradise in Normandy, completely unbeknownst to him to this day.


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With residences in Paris, Manhattan, Marrakech and Tangiers, Pierre Bergé and
Yves Saint Laurent (don’t miss the brilliant biopic on their life when it is released in the UK at the end of March) had this fairy-tale country retreat built not far from Château Gabriel, the late 19th C mansion the fashion power couple purchased in 1980 on an 120-acre estate.

After the death of the couturier in 2008, the business mogul sold their storied
Paris apartment
and the chateau (as well as most of their museum-quality art and antiques collection that famously sold at Christie’s for an astounding $484 million in 2009) but kept ‘La Datcha’ (the French spelling for the Russian word dacha meaning holiday home). This chic log house is truly unique and can boast many influences and inspirations. To A-Gent of Style, it is a kaleidoscopic fusion of a gingerbread house, Les Ballets Russes, Matryoshka dolls, Renzo Mongiardino and is slightly reminiscent of the Bloomsbury Group’s Charleston House and the works of their descendant
Cressida Bell. What La Dacha is not is polite, pared-down and minimalist.



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This 19th C flamboyant country cottage was decorated by Jacques Grange, a long-standing friend of the couple who had worked his magic on many of their residences over the decades. It was built as a multi-purpose living area with a main room and only a small kitchen and powder room. It has no bedrooms. Bergé asked Grange a few years ago to build an outhouse, with a covered walkway, that would be linked to the cabin and that would serve as a sleeping annex containing a guest suite and a master bedroom.

The picturesque folly, supported by stilts, is replete with lacy wood, intricate fretwork, arches, carving, pine panelling and colourfully painted joinery. Textures and layers are predominant especially in the main room with soaring ceiling, alternating beams and red bricks. Kilims are not only used as floor rugs but also upholstered on some of the Austrian horn chairs and chaise longue. There is a stunning 19th C Orientalist panel above the fireplace and many taxidermic animal heads adorning the walls that would make Les 3 Garçons look butch. Apart from the many nooks, A-Gent of Style‘s favourite room has to be the jewel-box kitchen adorned with antique French tiles and Moorish stained-glass windows and doors.

Outside, in the lush garden designed by American Maddison Cox bursting with hydrangeas, Bergé had an additional guest house created. This time a vintage Romanu-style caravan was redesigned to sleep two additional guests which Grange filled with two single, painted pine beds, an antique geometric kilim rug and original William Morris fabric on the curtains.


 A-Gent of Style hopes you like ‘La Datcha’ as much as he does.



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– Photo by Pascal Chevallier/Architectural Digest –



METRO-POLIT(ICI)AN



 

When “Métro, boulot, dodo” becomes “Métro, resto, speedo”.

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The rhyming French expression “métro, boulot, dodo” is a wonderfully succinct way of saying that you live to work (Métro refers to a subway commute, boulot is an informal word for work, and dodo is baby talk for sleeping; nothing to do with the bird, or the jewellery). It could be translated literary by “commute, work, sleep,” but really means “the rat race, the same old routine, work work work” and doesn’t quite capture the poetic sense of movement of the French expression.

GCSE French lesson aside, election campaigns for the much-coveted role of mayor are currently rife in Paris. As the tradition in politics dictates, promises, pledges and prevarications by the hopeful candidates are in order. Centre-right candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, aka NKM, is proposing to renovate abandoned métro stations in the City of Lights and to transform some of the derelict, disused spaces into a swimming pool, a restaurant, a performance theatre, a garden, an art gallery and une discothèque. Genius, n’est-ce pas! Wouldn’t it be fun if these subterranean tunnels would become a place to go and relax instead of the grimy, noisy, smelly and over-crowded tunnels we, urbanite mortals, have to endure on our daily grind?


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NKM commissioned French studios Oxo Architectes and Laisné Associés to conceptualise and design these century-old spaces (the métro de Paris opened in 1900) and turn them into capacious, urban environments (A-Gent of Style is not quite convinced a watercolour by Jeremiah Goodman or Walter Gay would quite cut la moutarde here; CAD drawings can be brilliant).

Between 1930-1970, sixteen underground stations in Paris closed and have been abandoned since, additionally to the ones which were also built but never opened and those which have been used as sets for films like the Porte-des-Lilas, notoriously used as a backdrop in the 2001 film Amélie.

Arsenal station closed in 1936

Arsenal station closed in 1936

 

As expected, the proposal has encountered obstacles primarily because of the prohibitive cost of implementing such a huge project (was the Eiffel Tower or President Mitterand’s Bilbiothèque Nationale cheap?) and also because of security and safety issues (aren’t over-crowded tube stations already a threat to the public, every day?).

We will have to be patient and wait until the elections on March, 30 to find out if these conceptual ideas to reclaim these phantom stations ever see the day of light (literally). Who knows, in a few years, one might be able to say “Yesterday, I went swimming dans le métro“!


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Have a great weekend everyone. A-Gent of Style will be celebrating his thirty-something birthday.







BLOG SURGERY





 Today’s post will be about blog maintenance, I.T and a bit TLC. Oh the thrill!

When A-Gent of Style went to France for Paris Déco Off and MAISON&OBJET a fortnight ago, he also went back to his childhood house in Picardie (“where the roses are from”) to visit his parents (and also recover from his Parisian adventures).
It is there that his maman, a loyal fan of this blog, made him realise that she, and hopefully not too many of you loyal A-Gentees, have been viewing A-Gent‘s posts wrongly. Instead of viewing the new article from the email sent to you everytime a new blog post is published, make sure you click on the BLUE TITLE which will then open a new window (or tab) and take you to the actual blog where you will be able to see not only all the photos and videos but also the exciting possibilities the rest of the blog can offer you (categories, latest posts, social media, blog roll, slideshow etc).

Hopefully this will make your A-Gent of Style‘s experience even better.

You can see below a step by step guide:


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WHICH WILL TAKE YOU TO THE BLOG AND THE ARTICLE:



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AND IF YOU WANT TO GO BACK TO THE MAIN PAGE THEN CLICK ON THE LOGO AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE, ET VOILA!




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