In Monaco, an extraordinary Art Nouveau villa facing the sea

In Monaco, an extraordinary Art Nouveau villa facing the sea
In Monaco, an extraordinary Art Nouveau villa facing the sea

In Monaco, a modern villa facing the sea

It was in the famous seaside resort of Cap-d’Ail, on the Côte d’Azur, that Vanessa Margowski, co-founder of the Monaco jewelry salon Joya, and her husband realized a lifelong dream: transforming an architectural gem from the early 20th century into a masterpiece.e century into a refined setting for their eclectic art collection. As you cross the landing of this imposing apartment, you immediately feel immersed in the distant past celebrated by its architecture, that of the Mediterranean and its myths, whose stories seem to be reflected in the blue waves shimmering beyond the window.

In the centre of the hall, on a table by Carlo Scarpa, a lamp by Caccia Dominioni, a painted wooden sculpture, circa 1930, from the liner France and a pocket emptier by Ettore Sottsass. Around, chairs by Josef Hoffmann.

© Ricardo Labougle

The large loggia, with its frescoed ceiling and mosaic-covered floor, juts out into the Mediterranean. To the left is the bay of Cap-d’Ail and to the right is Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

© Ricardo Labougle

From Monaco, the villa offers a full view of Cap Ferrat

Made, like the Parthenon in Athens, from grey Attic marble, the powerful Doric columns of the vestibule invite us to immerse ourselves in the legend of the Mare Nostrum. This Art Nouveau building was built between 1911 and 1914 by the architect Arthur Demerlé (1868-1953) at the request of the publicist Alphonse Lenoir (1852-1915). It was the decorator Jules Wielhorski (1875-1961), renowned for his frescoes at the Villa Kérylos, located not far away in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, who was responsible for completing his patron’s vision. Following the precept of total art of this movement, the mythological scenes painted by Wielhorski take up the iconography of ancient culture decreed by Giorgio Vasari during the Renaissance. Marble friezes, frescoes, mosaics, his creations summon the divinities Athena and Dionysus and bring back to life scenes from the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The living room offers a real belvedere over the Mediterranean and its azure blue.

© Ricardo Labougle

A learned cabinet of curiosities

How can such a homogeneous decor be reconciled with a collection with the most eclectic tastes? “The first time we saw this apartment,” says the owner, “we were speechless. We knew right away that this place was going to become a life project, a challenge too, because it is not easy to re-appropriate a place with such a rich history, very marked by the existing decorations. The apartment became for us an exercise in style and allowed us to take a new look at design, no longer as a collection of singular objects but of pieces which, while complying with our requirements, allow us to open up to a new story.”

In the living room, the Kohlmarkt floor lamp by Hans Hollein (Baleri Italia) illuminates a stool by Philippe Starck dating from the 1980s.

© Ricardo Labougle

In the living room, a shell sculpture interacts with the mythological theme developed on the walls.

© Ricardo Labougle

The owners therefore compose in their apartment a learned cabinet of curiosities to propose new connections, dictated by taste and a sense of scenography. Thus freed from the constraints of an overly faithful reading imposed by the places, the furniture offers itself as so many elements of rupture, but also of dialogue. A conversation that begins on the level of geometry: meanders of the frescoes, mosaics on the floor, fluid silhouette of postmodern furniture or of the Viennese Secession are juxtaposed with the more severe lines of the rationalist school.

In the living room, in front of a sofa by Carlo Scarpa, a Senufo child’s bed from Mali serves as a coffee table. On the fireplace, a sculpture by Max Ernst and ceramics by Sam Falls. In the background, the floor lamp Pascalby Vico Magistretti.

© Ricardo Labougle

On a vintage MB3 chest of drawers by Caccia Dominioni (Azucena) which serves as a bar, malachite objects and a small enamelled vase by Paolo de Poli.

© Ricardo Labougle

Eclectic decoration, from Scarpa to Sottsass

The passage from one room to another produces new panoramas, in a diffraction of atmospheres made possible by the large doors always left open. These domestic scenographies, true symphonies for the eye, leave nothing to chance, like a kaleidoscope of varied shapes and periods composing a new narrative in space. Through their contiguity with Japanese or African furniture, the pieces by designers Carlo Scarpa, Luigi Caccia Dominioni, Josef Hoffmann, Philippe Starck, Kazuhide Takahama and Ettore Sottsass electrify the interior. Shelves, tables and coffee tables, fireplace mantels, everything here becomes an exhibition support, a setting for exquisite scenographies where bronze sculptures, glass objects, ashtrays, vases or malachite boxes meet.

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