I was so delighted to rediscover the work of Charles Sévigny, who I featured in the last Throwback Thursday post, Charles Sévigny, that I pulled down more 1970’s issues in search of his work. I found it in the March/April issue of Architectural Digest. As I mentioned prior, M. Sévigny designed for the beau monde of the international jet-set, and early in his career, after he had moved to Paris, met Yves Vidal, a man of great means who would later become his partner in business and in life. Some twenty years after M. Vidal was placed as head of Knoll International he decided to leave his apartment on the rue du Bac in Paris for the Champagne region after discovering and falling head over heals for a mill built in 1480, named Moulin des Corbeaux, in Saint-Maurice on the tiny Ile de Corbeaux, or “Island of the Crows”. Very little structural work was required to make the mill livable when it was purchased in 1963. In fact, the mill was converted to a house in 1930 by a French architect but lacked a good many windows, which Sévigny and Vidal installed to open up the rooms to the beautiful views of the countryside.
Vidal furnished the home almost exclusively with designs by Mies, Saarinen, Platner and Bertoia. “It was a revolution,” Vidal recalled of its reception. “For all the designers, architects, decorators […] it was unheard of at that time—it wasn’t done.” Consisting of three floors, the ground floor contained the grand salon, dining room and kitchen; M. Vidal’s apartment consisting of a small salon, guest room and bath were above that; and, on top, a large studio and guest rooms with baths. The grand salon, above and below, measured over twenty feet wide, and soared high enough to make the cactus plant in its center appear diminutive. The partners’ penchant for blending classicism and modernism is evident in the disciplined seating arrangements and attention to scale and proportion and in their balanced juxtaposition of modern furnishings and art. An envelope of mellow 18th-century boiseries contain modern rooms furnished with Mies van der Rohe chairs and benches and a chair from Warren Platner. The large spherical metal sculpture in the top photo is by Harry Bertoia.
A view of the grand salon as viewed from the balcony reveals the ancient mill wheel resting within a built-in banquette, at right. Sévigny laid cocomats over the dark-stained parquet floors for pared-down contrast and texture.
The grand salon features cactus as botanical sculptures, which inspired the room’s design.
A view of the window seat on the west side of the salon, perched above the tree tops.
In the same salon a grouping of Marcel Breuer’s Cesca chairs around a chrome-and-glass table juxtapose an Aubusson tapestry.
In a later photograph of the grand salon the rigid and architectural cactus were replaced with what appears to be the softer presence of an oak tree.
At the balcony level is a sitting room featuring a Louis XV sandstone fireplace flanked by large French windows opening on to an upstairs terrace.
On the other side of the balcony sitting room is the gallery-library that surrounds the well of the grand salon.
Two round tables placed on octagonal cocomats anchor either side of the dining room. An elegant fusion of classical and modern elements coexist between a Platner table and chairs beneath a silvered brass Dutch chandelier set within walls lined with 18th-century boiseries inset with Louis XV toile.
M. Vidal’s serene and Zen-like bedroom features a simple bed set directly on the floor and covered with a colt hide and leopard throw – unheard of today. The exotic lapis lazuli fireplace came from a Roman palazzo.
The only room in the house the duo didn’t redesign was the period 1930’s Lalique bathroom of the mill’s previous owner, which retained its original glass and floor tiles. The chair is by Tobia Scarpa and the storage unit is by Kazuhide Takahama.
From the November/December 1972 issue of Architectural Digest, photographed by P. Hinous; and the March/April 1973 issue of Architectural Digest, photography by Peter Green. Additional photos from the Knoll archives, here.