a day out in normandy – le bois des moutiers

by Sharon Santoni

I know that many of my readers are in Paris this summer and maybe looking for a day excursion in Normandy that takes them off the traditional tourist trail.

Last weekend I visited Le Bois des Moutiers, a beautiful early 19th century property, designed by British architect Edward Lutyens, with the gardens laid out by Gertrude Jekyll!   Can you imagine a more perfect combination than these two working side by side.

Early century design contemporaries, they actually worked together on many occasions, but le Bois des Moutiers was one of their first opportunities.


The property is in the most exceptional setting.  Green hills rolling down to the coastline with its steep cliffs and long beaches, rich soil and a temperate climate.

The home was purchased by the Mallet family, who I believe are cousins to the de Havillands.    They were involved in the upcoming Arts and Crafts movement, and attracted to the Theosophist philosophy and commissioned Lutyens to modify the existing house and gardens in line with their beliefs, where artisanship is of prime importance, and each object, no matter how functional must be quietly beautiful.   A prime example being these window openings in the music room.

 Mallet wanted to create a paradise on earth, that should be the very opposite to ostentatious.

As part of this concept he wanted the gardens around the house to be a continuation of the architecture and to extend the lines of the building in chambers of colour and form.    This is something we are familiar with today, but at the time it was groundbreaking.  These chambers of vegetation lead the eye from the house, and once outside they guide the visitor to tour further afield in the property.

The trees give structure and discipline in the garden, in the same way that the walls, and lines of the staircases define the outlines inside the house.

I have no pretension of being a serious garden designer.    And  besides  the fact that not many of us have 12 hectares of grounds to landscape, it’s often difficult to visit a great garden and identify features or ideas that we can use in our own gardens.    But at le Bois des Moutiers, I came away with my head swimming with vistas, with bold structures and clear lines …. and those are things that we can all use.


And on a last note, if you are in Paris looking for ideas for day excusions, I highly recommend the services of Michel Fenehan.  



Jacqui Jackson August 5, 2017 - 9:18 pm

Looks stunningly beautiful.. I must put that on my to do list ….
Thank you for sharing this with us all Sharon..

pamela LePage August 5, 2017 - 9:18 pm

Hi, hope this finds you having a great day! Thank you for the photos are a beautiful as is the subject.

Linda August 5, 2017 - 9:19 pm

As I sit here on a Saturday morning, organizing business travel for clients at my computer; this post was a most welcome respite.
My grandfather was a Theosophist in the 1920’s, but I never knew there was a philosophy in the movement that pertained to aesthetics. Lovely.
I always learn something from your site, which is why it’s the only blog I follow. Thanks!

Antoine Bouchayer Mallet August 31, 2017 - 5:52 pm

I am reading your comment about the theosophistes ( sorry for my bad english)
My great granparents created this place, i would ne very Happy to share my discoveries!
À bientôt
bouchayerantoine @gmail.com (le Bois des Moutiers)

Colleen Taylor August 5, 2017 - 9:53 pm

Breathtaking photos Sharon. Thank you for the putting the sweet spot in my day.X

Penny August 5, 2017 - 11:47 pm

Yes, we used Michele, and he was superb !

Linda Essenburg August 6, 2017 - 12:13 am

Is anyone else having “PinIt” come up on every picture for this blog? I love having this blog in my inbox, but when those words come up, the picture gets glazed-over/white. Ideas?

marie August 6, 2017 - 1:29 am

Just take your “mouse” from over the picture to the side.

Tammy August 6, 2017 - 1:15 am


Vicky from Athens August 6, 2017 - 1:38 am

What a magnificent place!! I would love to visit those spectacular gardens. I want to come back to Normandy – maybe I’ll be lucky enough to visit that area. Thank you for sharing.

Sandy Jones August 6, 2017 - 4:00 am

Robert Mallet, current head of the family, and his wife,Corinne, have created the largest collection of hydrangea plants in the world, the French Nation Hydrangea Collection. They are wonderful people, and Mr. Mallet will be coming to Atlanta in October to speak at the American Hydrangea Society Fall Membership Meeting at the Atlanta History Center. The outdoor rooms of Le Bois are exquisite, situated on the cliffs of Normandy. Fantastique!!!

Steven August 7, 2017 - 6:24 pm

Thanks for sharing this – my wife loves hydrangeas and we have many in our flower beds. They struggle in the heat – fresh and perky in the morning, sad and somewhat wilted in the heat of the day, revived by evening – I guess that is their nature. I’ll put this event on our calendar.

Sandy Jones August 7, 2017 - 10:50 pm

Steven: In Atlanta, you shoud have panniculatas for the full hot sun there. I was president of the AHS for 4 years, Sandy Jones. The event is free. I also write the newsletter. Would love to meet you and your wife.

Katrina August 6, 2017 - 2:51 pm

My son just returned from Berridge in Normandy. He was there for several weeks for summer camp. Although the beautiful estate is used as a B&B, its wonderful that they allow collegebound students from all over the world to experience france this way. I think Normandy is gorgeous and highly overlooked by tourist. It should be visited more often

Kerry L O'Gorman August 6, 2017 - 4:57 pm

It really is an art to have vision like this in a garden. I’m always in awe of people who can plant a garden in accordance with a well laid out plan and have it work so well. Especially on much grander scales!

Taste of France August 6, 2017 - 5:29 pm

It’s beautiful. The corner windows are so interesting, not just the matching “turrets” but also the column in the right of the final photo. And the stripes of brick in the garden arch are such a subtle extra.

Emm August 6, 2017 - 6:56 pm

The enfilade of those arches has me sighing.
This goes on my bucket list, and happily it’s near another item. Thanks for telling us about it.
Theosophism has a history in the U.S., as well, and people with an interest in it included L. Frank Baum, who wrote “The Wizard of Oz”.

Susan August 6, 2017 - 10:06 pm

Truly lovely. I will be in Normandy in October and perhaps I can visit this lovely site…

Adele August 8, 2017 - 5:27 am

A most beautiful house and peaceful garden,what a lovely way to spend a day.

Judy Lambert August 9, 2017 - 7:59 am

This is beautiful, and so peaceful. I can picture strolling the grounds!

katrina September 5, 2017 - 6:58 pm

Hi! I stumbled onto this site looking for garden inspirations. I love it!! I’m in Chicago,IL but my son was at Berridge for 6 weeks this summer for theater/film camp. It was one of the best experiences ever. He loved Normandy and from the photos, I would love it to!! I’m really inspired to move there 🙂 (Dreaming out loud)


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