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Out and About: Modernism by the Sea

There’s something special about the French Riviera, where cascading cliffs meet the glistening Mediterranean Sea. Last month, we escaped the London drizzle to complete some projects and to explore the iconic Villa E-1027 of Modernist pioneer Eileen Gray which was recently restored by Cap-Modern. Enjoy the sunshine and come ‘Out and About’ with us as we explore some modernism by the sea…

Upon arrival we were immediately in awe of this wonderful creation, nestled in the cliffs with sweeping panoramic views of Côte-D’Azur. Villa E-1027 was Eileen Gray’s first architectural project built between 1926 and 1929. As an established interior and furniture designer, this was Gray’s opportunity to work closely with architect and confidant Jean Badovici. Gray employed elements from Le Corbusier’s points of architecture, which include concrete ‘pilotis’ (pillars), an open floor plan, roof garden, long windows and open facades. However, with very little training as an architect, Gray enhanced her design with tailored interior fittings and customisable furniture to allow for intimate interaction, adaptation and to enrich comfort.

What’s so intriguing is that unlike most simplistic modernist aesthetics that strip back layers, Gray takes you on a journey from the moment you enter with intentionally designed zones that reveal themselves. Movable walls collapse to expose hidden spaces, storage cupboards and drawers that are tucked away within curves of the walls. Doors pull to reveal niches and small spaces and there’s even a designated space for her vinyl records. Villa E-1027 is full of surprises and these intimate features bring the building to life.

It is clear that Gray’s ingenuity permeates throughout the space. She studied her surroundings and her designs intuitively reflect the outside within. Complex but simple, mechanical yet organic, Gray designed with an articulation that reflected the simultaneous need for stability and fluidity within the human experience. Whilst master modernist Le Corbusier believed the house ‘is a machine’, Gray believed it was a living organism and Villa E-1027 captures this so effortlessly.

Corbusier spent a lot of time in Villa E-1027 and further built his own cabanon next door. Apparently, he was furious that Gray had used ‘his style’ and ten years after completion, he defaced the walls with lurid cubist murals.

Gray’s ability to challenge and push boundaries is evident in this masterpiece. It was such an emotive and inspiring day spent at Villa E-1027 and we encourage you all to visit and experience this hidden jewel with exceptional views of the French Riviera.

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