Alvar Aalto’s Celebrated Maison Louis Carré Reopens to the Public

Alvar Aalto’s Celebrated Maison Louis Carré Reopens to the Public

An exhibit of contemporary Finnish art, hosted in the midcentury modernist’s only home in France, signals a tentative return to normalcy for the country.

In the autumn of 1956, the well-known French art dealer Louis Carré and his wife contracted Finnish Modernist architect Alvar Aalto to build them a villa of the highest artistic quality and material. The villa would be built on a large plot of land that Carré purchased near the scenic French village of Bazoches-sur-Guyonne, just an hour west of Paris. In addition to the architecture, Aalto and his wife, Elissa, furnished the home with exclusive, made-to-measure, custom pieces of furniture and thoughtfully landscaped the surroundings. Once completed, it was nothing short of a modernist masterpiece. 

In 2020, Maison Louis Carré is preserved as a museum and, amazingly, is back open for business. The museum will host a new exhibit of contemporary Finnish artwork, Call to the Wild (L’Appel de la Nature), which is on view from June 20th-November 29th. Masks, of course, are compulsory and no more than eight may visit at a time. 

Aalto designed Maison Louis Carré with an immense lean-to roof made of blue Normandy slate, "pitched in imitation of the landscape itself." The facade is built from white bricks and marble, while the base and parts of the walls are Chartres limestone.

A side view of the home. 

The exhibit initiates a personalized dialogue between three contemporary Finnish artists and Maison Louis Carré's restrained, midcentury interiors. Sculptural works by glass artist Laura Laine, woven pieces from textile designer Kustaa Saksi, and ceramic sculptures from sculptor and ceramicist Kim Simonsson are all seamlessly integrated into the stunning spaces (Call to the Wild is curated by Lise Coirier, director of the Spazio Nobile Gallery, Brussels; and Kati Laakso, director of the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux).

The interiors of the home feature light wood-paneled ceilings, large picture windows, and exclusive custom furniture and lighting also designed by Aalto. The artwork on view in the living room includes large, woven pieces by Kustaa Saksi, "Aura", First Symptoms Collection, and "Battle Of Harapouri" Woolgathering Collection. As well as glass sculptures by Laura Laine, "Neon Sucker", 2014, The Wet Collection. Both artists are represented by Spazio Nobile Gallery. Kim Simonsson's "Voodoo Moss Boy" is represented by Galerie NeC Nilsson et Chiglien, Paris. 

Here's a bit more background on Maison Louis Carré: The home is set under an immense lean-to roof made of Blue Normandy slate meant to echo the surrounding landscape, with interiors that feature expansive white gallery walls designed to display pieces from Carré's extensive collection. Highlights of the home include its soaring architectural entry with a free-form, wood-paneled ceiling that was built in situ by Finnish carpenters, who also crafted an expansive wood-paneled ceiling in the living room and a Finnish sauna in the master bedroom suite. Keep scrolling for more pictures of this one-of-a-kind house. 

A close up of Saksi's "Aura" displayed on the wall and set against Aalto-designed furniture and lighting. 

Saksi's "Battle Of Harapouri" from the Woolgathering Collection hangs over the wood burning fireplace. The simple round pendant light and coffee table are by Aalto. 

The oversized picture window provides a strong indoor/outdoor connection and a view of the sylvan surroundings. 

Laine's 2019 piece "Intruder" is displayed atop a bookcase in Louis Carré's Library Room. The hand-blown golden glass sculpture was crafted in collaboration with Czech glassmakers Emil Kovac and Aleš Vacek. Laine is represented by Spazio Nobile Gallery.

The white gallery walls and architectural ceilings were designed to beautifully display works of art in a museum-like setting. The descent into the living room is said to be representative of Aalto's humanist approach to architecture. 

Saksi's woven work "Under Shelter II" adorns the staircase.  

The exhibition starts under Aalto's soaring, free-form vaulted ceiling made of red pine from Northern Finland, and one of the home's most beautiful features. Sketches titled "Subtle Bodies" by Finnish illustrator and glass artist Laura Laine are on view. These preparatory sketches of her glass work are on display with "Orb" and "Love Study", unique, esoteric golden glass sculptures, which welcome the visitors. 

Freeform clerestory windows fill the rooms with natural light. 

Built-in desks become a display for the artwork.

The contemporary works play off original Modernist pieces from Aalto, such as this brassy pendant light and some classic Aalto stacking stools. 

Simonsson's "Praying Moss Girl" is displayed in the bedroom against elegant shelving and a sleek slide away fireplace. 

The grand master bath with its Finnish sauna showcase the artwork. 

Laine's "White Baby" inside the sauna.

An exterior view of Maison Louis Carré as it delicately integrates into the surrounding landscape. 

Aalto was not only responsible for the architecture and the furnishings—he also designed the landscaping.

The model of Maison Louis Carré by Alvar Aalto was displayed and restored by Cité de l'Architecture in Paris, thanks to a collaboration with Maison Louis Carré & Alvar Aalto Foundation in Finland. Aalto (1898-1976) is the most well-known Finnish architect of his generation and was the chief proponent of human-centered modernism. 

Call To The Wild /L'Appel de la Nature is on view at Maison Louis Carré, 2 Chemin du Saint-Sacrement, 78490 Bazoches-sur-Guyonne, France, through November 29, 2020. You can book a reservation to visit here.

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