By Ann Grenier
Le Lustre is a private luxury home in the Chamonix Valley of the French Alps, an epicenter of historical creativity drawing in the likes of well-known mountaineers and poets. Le Lustre presents the perfect restoration with the backdrop of Mont-Blanc.
Modern Chamonix is a painting comprised of a palate of interesting facts – romantic poetry dating back to mid 17th Century when Chamouny was discovered, coupled with a carriage road built in the 1860s to link Geneva to Chamonix. Add a railway line which first opened in 1901 and making history as the first Winter Olympic games debuting in Chamonix in 1924, to the fabulous art deco period all added to the texture and warmth of this beautiful alpine town.
Seven years ago, a talented interior designer, Georgia May took over a project that had been at the center of town which had been lying dormant and unfinished for several years. “It was clearly going to be a long haul project, but I was captivated by the potential for the project, the extraordinary views and the history of the building”. The first 24 months were spent acquiring additional adjoining spaces and peeling the whole construction back to “bare bones”. This involved removing an existing roof construction on the upper floor, and designing and erecting a new mansard roof, hand double pinch pleated in copper surrounds complemented with a 9m (27ft) bay window (looking up to Mont Blanc). The design required planning approvals which received a positive audience once the planners realized how sympathetically the treatment of this unloved building was being brought back to life.
The building itself was constructed in 1928, and the design concept was to reflect the period of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s while retaining the integrity of the original features of the building. The conceptual architectural design and the interiors were undertaken by Georgia working closely with two firms of architects — Alexander Stuart Design from Hong Kong and FedArch Studio in Chamonix (who played a key role in achieving planning consents and managing the project).
After achieving planning approval, Le Lustre moved from concept to reality over the course of two years. The result being a juxtaposition of art-deco meets contemporary-modern and includes a pneumatic lift which fits perfectly within the original art-deco staircase, as well as hidden speakeasy with vintage trap and bar and original iron and draylon bar stools. Additional quirky design elements which also play to that romantic art-deco era include carefully curated tiles and mosaic in all bathrooms, restored ironwork and beautiful hand-crafted wooden doors.
As Georgia puts it so well, “Le Lustre is a puzzle of extremes to make a truly inspirational and beautiful property”. “It is very much not ‘alpine-style’ design and this is what makes it so individual and special, coupled with 360 degree views of the Mont-Blanc skyline and Chamonix Valley”. “Le Lustre pays homage to the past and to the present”.
With nostalgia comes romance of the mountains as so well documented by numerous poets, one being Percy Bysshe Shelley who composed Mont Blanc in 1816 ……“Mont Blanc yet gleams on high – the power is there”. As it was then, so it continues today – a breath of fresh air considering the year we have all been through.