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.”

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