Sunday, July 24, 2011

In the Country with Dior

To escape the frenzy of his fashionable life in Paris (which he bemoaned at times) Christian Dior used to escape to an old mill he had renovated in Milly-la- forêt, outside of Paris.
He had long dreamt of establishing a permanent country base to which he could retreat to after the showing of each successive collection which virtually left him a total wreck. “I want to escape. I am hoping for a sudden catastrophe—even a fatal one—that will prevent the Collection from being shown. I want to die.”

Friends had told him they had found “a ruin in a swamp,” near Milly-la-Forêt. The house (an old mill) called Le Moulin du Coudret suited Dior perfectly and it was here that he would live out his happiest and most satisfying moments.

Decorated in a style completely removed from his other houses this was where the real Dior came out and where he rested and entertained for his own pleasure.

Working weekend by weekend with equal enjoyment on the house and the garden, he channeled the river, drained the swamp, cleared the undergrowth and reclaimed the small, plain buildings that had been stables and barns.

“I wanted my first country home to look both lived in, and livable in,” he wrote. He intended the garden to look like “the peasants’ gardens which decorate the sides of the roads in my native Normandy.”

There were white walls and shutters and big country cupboards, a Directoire wallpaper screen, pretty porcelain and sloping ceilings. In the guest salon, the mill’s original machinery was left in place between the piano and the drawing board where he worked on sketches for his next collection.

Several times in his life Christian Dior had lived in the country, and he had discovered, to his own surprise, a deep satisfaction in cultivation.. It was because of the garden, says Christian Dior archivist Marika Genty, that the designer loved the mill so much. “He was at his happiest moving around the property and chatting with Ivan, the gardener, who became a great and special friend.”


  1. Do not many of us long for escapes to the country? I am immediately restored to a full life! I am pleased to know that Mr. Dior also so enjoyed the simple ways.

  2. I admire him even more now! What a gorgeous post David.

  3. I remember seeing these wonderful rooms featured years ago in an interiors magazine and thinking to myself, "I would be very happy to live in such a space." I recall the white walls seemed all the whiter juxtaposed to the old beams, and that Dior used very bright colors in those spaces, too. The overall effect was both chic and very homey.

  4. Gardening/cultivation like meditation, is a mystical experience, and it calms you down. The old mill house is a peaceful place and combined with all the nature and quiet of country, no doubt calmed him and revived him.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  5. It's interesting how he could take such old things and yet arrange them in such a modern way...kind of like his fashion, you know?

  6. Hello David:
    What a wonderful selection of images which show very clearly how Christian Dior lived at his country retreat. It is interesting what you say about the need to be away from work, and to embrace an entirely different lifestyle, something which is not uncommon amongst very artistic and talented people.

  7. Peace and quiet come with country living and who doesn't need some of that.....he was a wise man to love his country life so. Those of us that embrace country living know what kind of life he was enjoying so's blissful in the country....

  8. Bob, Many thanks for your visit. I grew up in the country and always look forward to whenever I return. I think Mr Dior was a simple man at heart.

    Jules, Thanks so much. The interiors are quite special and simple.

    Mark, I too would be happy with a home like this.

    Paisley, I am sure it did, because then he always started his sketches for new collections there.

    JAne and Lance, you have hit the nail on the head!

    Mermaid, yes I think city people do not know what they are missing!

  9. I've always been interested in Dior's country home, and so wish that there were more images of it. It was interesting to find that the village is famous for medicinal and culinary herbs, and that the tomb of Jean Cocteau is there in a tiny chapel of Saint-Blaise that has fantastic murals he did on the walls.

    Isn't amazing how such a famous name in fashion, arguably the most famous, had such simple, unpretentious taste in the country? If you ever have a chance, see Dior's cookbook, with illustrations (exquisite women adorned with vegetables and fruits) by Gruau.


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