When in Lille I highly recommend to go a bit north-east and stop at Croix to admire Villa Cavrois, a masterpiece of Modernist architecture designed by Robert Mallet-Stevens.
As other works of the French architect Robert Mallet-Stevens, Villa Cavrois is formed of rigorous geometric shapes and simple volumes that enclose functional spaces. Every single part of the Villa has been designed by Robert Mallet-Stevens, from the garden to every single interior detail, pieces of furniture included.
The key words to understand this modern Villa definitely are: air, light, work, sports, hygiene, comfort, and efficiency. The large mansion was organized in a simple and elegant way to offer the best possible lifestyle to the nine members of the family.
Villa Cavrois is not a manifesto of a new way of design, it is not the illustration of a theory, as was Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye instead it expresses the position of Mallet Stevens embracing the Modernist movement.
The Villa was completed in 1932 for the Cavrois family. Unfortunately it was severely damaged when it was occupied by Nazi soldiers during World War II and after 12 years of renovation it finally opened to the public in 2015.
The entire Villa has been brought back to life as it was originally, furniture included. The restoration work has to be admired. Most of the original parquet floor and decorative materials have been conserved and restored.
The layout of the villa is highly functional; organised around the large entry hall which welcomes the visitors and gives access to the main communal rooms: the salon and the dining room, all linked to the garden by an external staircase.
Villa Cavrois is a very high-tech dwelling for that time as Mallet Stevens introduced technological amenities to provide comfort for the Cavrois family such as an elevator, central heating, an intercom, and built-in speakers (see these circular holes in the salon’s wall).
The furniture in the kitchen and pantry are in metal that has been painted white, and Mallet-Stevens suggested that these spaces look like a clinic.
The parents’ bathroom is a tribute to sport and hygiene, with immaculate light-coloured marble shelves, chrome drawers, and white stools.
The kids bedroom looks like a 3D Mondrian painting with its geometry and use of primary colours. The lighting, both direct and indirect, is very delicate and elegant and the use of a polished surface on the ceiling makes the room appearing so much bigger with a very unique effect.
This is an absolute gem to discover just outside Lille. Plus I highly recommend to join a guided tour, there’s so much to know about the Villa and the best way to discover it is through a walk accompanied by someone who can tell you all about it.