Continuing on our exploration of the must-visit Modernist architectural masterpieces to visit in and around Paris, today we’ll look at the Maison Louis Carré about forty minutes south west of Paris. Louis Carré was an art collector with a gallery in Paris. In 1956 he commissioned the Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto to build a villa for him, and what you can visit today is an incredible combination of architecture and design, Aalto’s only remaining work in France.
Louis Carré and Alvar Aalto met at the Venice Biennale in 1956 where Aalto opened his Finnish Pavilion, and became life long friends, with Carré giving Aalto free rein to design the house and all the fittings and furniture inside, even down to the door handles. The only requirements were a slate roof (to remind him of his native Brittany) and large enough walls for him to hang his huge collection of modern art. In the dining room you can see lights designed specially to light not only the table, but also the art on the walls.
The main room of the house is the large open plan living room, filled with furniture and lighting either specially designed by Aalto for this house, or taken from his catalogue (Artek, still edited today). His Scandinavian roots and influences can be seen throughout the house (notice the windows, the air vents and the sauna with an exit into the garden) as well as his love of Japanese architecture.
The house remains exactly as it was with all the furniture still in place, only missing the art collection of Louis Carré which was sold after his death. Every detail in the house is a work of art, and the overall impression is spectacular – the house feels unique and incredibly special, yet it does not feel like a museum, and you can see and feel how it must have been a wonderful place to live and work.
Aalto also designed the gardens, and a swimming pool and pool house which were added in 1963. They are now totally derelict and awaiting renovation, but you can still imagine what it must have been like to sit here in the sun.
The Maison Louis Carré is only open on weekend afternoons, and you should call ahead to book a timed visit. Guided tours are given in English and in French and are included in the entrance price. The guide we had was passionate and knowledgeable about the house and the life and work of both Alvar Aalto and Louis Carré. If you love architecture and design, and want to see something very special, try and visit the Maison Louis Carré.