For 27 years, Chateau Gabriel was the country home of couturier Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge. The Chateau, an 1874 Anglo-Norman house, sits on the heights of Benerville, overlooking Deauville, and is nestled on 75 acres of forested land. The couple asked interior designer Jacques Grange to decorate the 9000 square foot home using inspiration from King Louis II of Bavaria (around Munich between 1869 and 1890), and from the decor of Luchino Visconti’s films (especially “L’Innocente” which was Saint Laurent’s favorite). The collaboration was a turning point for Grange saying, “of all the houses I have decorated, those I have decorated for Yves Saint Laurent are the most important part of my work”. I have included the story of Chateau Gabriel as told by Jacques Grange for Christie’s…who better than the designer himself to take us on this journey.
The story of Chateau Gabriel as told by Jacques Grange for Christies, July 2009
“When Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent acquired Château Gabriel, at Bénerville, an uninhabited, late nineteenth century neogothic mansion, with a commanding view over the bay of Deauville, they asked me to decorate it. This residence was simply waiting to be given a new life and the commission was most certainly a key moment in my career as a decorator. The very close relationship between us three gave to this project an exceptional dimension. All of Yves Saint Laurent’s decorative themes were quite meticulous; however I was encouraged to interpret them as I saw fit, in order to produce the best results. The main sources of my inspiration were the film sets of Luchino Visconti, more precisely that of “L’Innocente”, as well as the ambiance and atmosphere that were present in the numerous castles created by Ludwig II of Bavaria. The imposing ‘portières’ and curtains made from thick, opulent fabrics, formed a perfect contrast with the Napoleon III furniture and other unusual and fantastic objets d’art. This was indeed, quite similar to the way in which the Viscount and Viscountess de Noailles, the Rothschilds and Princess Mathilde, all decorated their properties, punctuated with an abundant use of plants and flowers, which rendered their homes both unique and enchanting. The living rooms all had a certain cinematographic and artistic quality to them, along with a mural representing Monet’s Nymphéas, with the decoration in the bedrooms inspired by characters taken from Marcel Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu. Two years later and after much effort to find extraordinary objects, driven by Pierre Bergé the house was finally ready. The park, which was designed by Franz Baecheler include both rose and Japanese gardens, a lake and a potager. Since then was added a checkerboard of topiary pushing up between sculptures of François-Xavier Lalanne. As I said to a journalist from the New York Times in 2005: “Of all the houses I have decorated, those I have decorated for Yves Saint Laurent are the most important part of my work”. Afterwards mentioning Château Gabriel I added: “I love this place. It is unbelievable, extraordinary. I would like to dismantle it all and spirit it away.” I do hope that each and every one of these pieces, which were chosen with such a fervent passion, will give to each collector, the same pleasure that they gave to us.” ~ Jacques Grange
In November of 2009, Christie’s auctioned off almost 1200 works of art and antiques from Chateau Gabriel.
photos are from luxury culture