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.