Musee Christian Dior
At Granville, in Normandy, the Christian Dior Garden surrounds the cosy childhood home, now a museum, housing an annual exhibition on a theme which illustrates this great couturier’s work and life. One may wander from the conservatory of Villa des Rhumbs via the ‘terrasse’ on the cliff-edge facing the English Channel, to the Secret Gardens of Christian Dior.
Built by the ship owner M. Beust at the end of the 19th century, Villa Les Rhumbs takes its name from a nautical term designating the thirty-two points of the compass, a mosaic symbol of which is set into the floor of one of the entrances to the house.
At the outset, the house, set on a tract of bare land, and buffeted by the wind, seemed a defiant challenge to the elements. When Dior’s parents acquired it around 1905, his mother Madeleine had the grounds planted out and altered to accommodate an English-style garden, and opened a large bay window in the façade facing the sea. The prow-like building challenging the winds was thus transformed into a bourgeois residence boasting a winter garden in the heart of a park. The young Dior tried his hand at designing and architecture there, in 1920 creating the pool area and pergola which are still there today. On fine days the sea and the Chausey Islands could be admired from the terrace, and the Dior children were able to play in a little summerhouse in a corner of the garden, behind the bamboo grove and clipped hedges full of secret nooks and hiding places. The garden and rock garden, now safe from the wind, were gradually filled with rare and exotic plants imported from foreign travels, and the children could reach the sea via a cliff garden with steps carved into the rock. Christian Dior’s bedroom overlooked a pine wood and Donville beach with its mussel-beds.
Another smaller house a little further along the cliff, the Villa du Lude, was available for guests. Dior had a profound feeling for the place, and would often spend his summer holidays there after his parents moved to Paris, walking on the cliffs with his old friend Serge Heftler-Louiche, and enjoying the frequent carnivals and fancy dress parties that took place in the area. When his industrialist father went bankrupt in 1932, not long after the death of his mother, the house was bought by the town of Granville, and the gardens were opened to the public in 1938. In 1991, following several special fashion shows and exhibitions, Regine Jugan, with the help of Marika Genty and members of the ‘Présence de Christian Dior’ Association, a permanent museum was established in the villa.