The House Where Hubert Lived

This is where I extoll the sun-kissed charms of the French Riviera’s heyday and inception as playground to the rich and famous, by examining the provenance of some of its spectacular property porn.

Le Clos Fiorentina photographed during the residency of Hubert de Givenchy in 1995 by Pascal Chevallier.

Le Clos Fiorentina is one of the older houses on the French Mediterranean. It was built in 1815, more than a century before cliff-side locations became fashionable for villas on the Cote d’Azur, and quite probably initially used as a dependence of the neighbouring Villa Fiorentina. There are scant few photos of Le Clos at the time of Rory Cameron who wrote The Golden Riviera, published in 1973, on his musings and insights into that region and his homes there.

Le Clos has been decorated and redecorated, photographed and rephotographed, several times over the years, particularly from its occupation by the Schlumberger’s who hired David Hicks to refresh its interiors in saturated colour in Hicks’ signature classic-modern style, to more recently by Hubert de Givenchy, who injected its interiors with his own soigné style and restraint.

As the oldest house on Cap Ferrat, or more exactly the Pointe St Hospice, Le Clos has no pretensions to architecture, but in its simplicity can lay claim to a good deal of charm. It’s typical of the country-style with its terra-cotta tiled floors, white marble stairs, Roman tiled roof, green shutters and pinkish-ochre walls. Directly outside the front door stands the old covered-in well, once the house’s only water supply.

Le Clos Fiorentina

In 1975 the Schlumberger’s hired David Hicks to decorate their newly purchased Le Clos in his signature simplified elegance using strong colours and contrasting textures. Hicks remarked in an interview for Architectural Digest:

I was helped by the fact that I’ve known the house for years and had stayed there many times. The new owners didn’t want it to look too new or decorated.

Dvid Hicks Le Clos Salon

The wall separating the living and dining rooms was torn down to create one large open space. Now the main living room had a dining table in it, as is the French tradition. After all, the French never really had dining rooms until the 1840’s. Fine Louis XVI fauteuils covered in simple patterned cottons mix with classic contemporary upholstery, a raffia covered console, and modern art created an atmosphere of restrained elegance.

David Hicks Le Clos Salon

A Louis-XV stone chimney-piece compliments the rustic terra-cotta tiles covering the floors, imbuing the rooms with country life ease.

Le Clos Fiorentina

The indoor-outdoor lifestyle is celebrated here on the dining terrace where dinner was served.

David Hicks Le Clos Pool House

Lunch was served in the Pool House, which had interiors draped in Etruscan red sailcloth.

Le Clos Fiorentina Pool

Hicks lined the pool with deep blue terrazzo tile to match the colour of the Mediterranean beyond.

Le Clos Fiorentina Gardens

Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy, Hubert de Givenchy — or ‘Le Grand Hubert’ as he was known among the fashion cognoscenti, an affectionate reference to his 6ft 6in stature — was one of the greatest couturiers of the 20th century. But beyond fashion he was a ceaseless collector of art and antiques, and spent years restoring and decorating his grand houses. His taste was rigorous, eclectic and restrained, as if a lifetime dedicated only to couture would never be enough for his intellect and eye.

He acquired Les Clos sometime around 1985, about ten years after David Hicks had decorated it for the Schlumberger’s. But somehow, some way, the property deteriorated and required some further renovation in that short amount of time.

Le Clos Fiorentina de Givenchy

Le Clos de Givenchy

Here’s Hick’s modernised open layout of the double salon, is now redone in varying shades of white.

Le Clos Salon de Givenchy

A wonderful balance of classic and casual elements is woven through the design of the interiors: Louis XVI chairs are covered in simple white slip covers and stripped Directoire pedestals are topped with provincial photophores.

Le Clos Salon de Givenchy

Simple white linen for slipcovers and canvas for curtains, and natural woven rugs, provide a quietly subdued foil for a selective and well-edited collection of furniture and objets d’art: a black and gold Louis XV cabinet; shots of yellow-gold in four petit-point pillows, and two Louis XV bergères, one black and the other, in the foreground, painted grey and gold with red velvet upholstery underneath the white slipcover.

Le Clos Dining Room de Givenchy

Clean and crisp, white cotton slip-covers with stylised HdG monograms surround a mahogany table dressed for summer with straw placemats, simple cotton napkins, clear crystal  Baccarat decanters and provincial stemware.

Dining Terrace Le Clos Fiorentina de Givenchy

The dining terrace remains virtually unchanged, with symmetrically placed arrangements of garden furniture.

Le Clos Poolhouse de Givenchy

This is a photo of the Pool House in a 1995 issue of Maison et Jardin which gives a glimpse of Givenchy’s personal inner sanctum. An inviting mix of styles, provenance and textures produces a striking and timeless result. Pale overscale Italian wicker furniture covered in striped canvas with Provencal patterned pillows, a pair of iron Diego Giacometti tables, a collage by Robert Courtright hanging above the dining table  and, best of all, stacks of books and sources of candlelight for atmosphere.

Le Clos Pool House de Givenchy

In this view of the Pool House one can’t help but be seduced by the relaxed elegance of this space, with a chaise designed and placed to take in full advantage of the view towards the pool and beyond, and for Givenchy’s love of photophores. Such an inviting atmosphere! I could imagine myself sitting here.

Le Clos Stairhall de Givenchy

The upstairs landing is lined with books  – one can never have too many – and, yes, more photophores.


Givenchy’s bedroom is a study in quiet luxury: a canopy bed draped in white cotton with sheets trimmed in navy; an understated slipper chair; bare walls and pale floors punctuated by a subtly patterned 17th century carpet…….and more wonderful stacks of books.

Le Clos Master Bedroom de Givenchy

De Givenchy Bath Le Clos Fiorentina

Celebrated French interior designer Francois Catroux collaborated with Givenchy on the design of the travertine console-style bathroom sink in Givenchy’s bathroom.

Le Clos Bedroom Hall de Givenchy

Golden light filters into a hall upstairs leading to the guest bedrooms.

Bunny Mellon Guest Room Le Clos de Givenchy

The “Bunny Guest Room” was specially decorated for American Bunny Mellon, a habitué of the French Riviera, one of Givenchy’s best clients with whom he subsequently became good friends..

The Walter Guest Room Le Clos de Givenchy

The “Walter Guest Room” was designated for war hero and diplomat Walter Lees. A graphic American 19th century quilt on the bed compliments the Fortuny blue-and-white pattern-on-pattern scheme.

While I approve whole-heartedly of the changes to the interiors, my favourite ones involve the garden.

Le Clos Jardins de Givenchy

Potted citrus set into parterres greeted visitors as they approached Le Clos. The raw structure just before the front door is the afore-mentioned 17th century well.

Terrace Le Clos Fiorentina de Givenchy

A circular terrace is now framed by citrus trees.

Italian-Style Garden Le Clos de Givenchy

An Italian style garden leads to an allée of mandarin trees……….

Images of the Schulemberger’s stewardship with interiors by David Hicks taken by Pascal Hinous for Architectural Digest, January, 1978.

Images of Le Clos as occupied by Givenchy taken from The Givenchy Style by Francoise Mohrt (Oct 1998) and Maison et Jardin, November, 1995, with photography by Pascal Chevallier.

16 Comments on “The House Where Hubert Lived

  1. Givenchy’s decorating skills were pretty impeccable. I prefer his style to Hicks’. They both had a terrific knack for designing the gardens, though.

    Liked by 1 person

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