Haut de Cagnes
Haut de Cagnes project: the mission was to modernize but yet preserve the character of the old house. To reshape the volumes. The plan was to open up the original, small rooms, make them lighter and maximize the communication with the outside of the house (which is quite exceptional since it has all walls freestanding from other buildings-- a rarity in a medieval village).
Cecilia wanted to allow exterior views from most possible angles of the interior space. The dining area was opened up so that one would have views of both the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea in the same space. The old stone garden was restored using additional old stones and bricks that would insure the integrity of the original structure.
The entire house has been restored in the traditional manner of the whole village. That means that all mediums and pigments on the walls have been created and composed from scratch just like one makes a cake, allowing the building to breath and ventilate as it has always done. The idea is to allow the humidity to pass through the material in order to allow it to dry instead of blocking it from the surface. Since the materials are all natural and no latex binders have been used-- not even in the tadlack (marble dust) bathroom where pure Savon de Marseille was used to make the surface completely waterproof.
The house had been built during four different time periods, and has a very strong personality. It has four levels and terraces on three of them, each with its own distinct placement and views. Much of the furniture and décor items have been bought at different antique and flea markets to keep the eclectic edge of the environment. Many different kinds of things can be beautiful, and even so more when weathered by the passage of time. It is not always the perfect condition of an item that creates its uniqueness. Sometimes it is how it has been used and the stains and history that helps to create to its magic, similar a violin that however well-conceived from the origin, will find its true tone and value depending on who is playing it.
The window treatments come from a castle in Italy and is a kind of reminder of the Prince that used to own and live in the house before, as is the "king bed” as well. The stair is a hand-cast, wrought-iron spiral staircase from the beginning of last century bought and transported from Marseille. There are also some modern furniture from Moroso, Cassina, etc. mixed into the environment to refresh it on one level.
This is a house that celebrates the passing of time-- not the perfection but the living and evolution of it. The purpose of it was to explore and be enriched by the process. Cecilia’s house on the French Riviera is located in the beautiful medieval village of Haut-de-Cagnes, on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean.
Something interesting about the history of this house--it was once home to the Prince of Baroda (aka Princie) from 1976 until his death in 1985, when he apparently committed suicide in the house the day after his 40th birthday. The world’s largest pink diamond, "Princie", auctioned for about $40 million, is named after him. The family history is quite extraordinary, his father ruled the kingdom of Baroda, Gujarat, India until he left for Europe in 1951 after the end of the British rule. Some sources say he was the 8th richest man in the world, but the most colorful person amongst the family seemed to be Princie’s mother, a flamboyant jet setter.
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