Villa Magnan, The Enchanted <br>Awakening of a Sleeping Beauty

Villa Magnan, The Enchanted
Awakening of a Sleeping Beauty

“It was a bit like a blank slate, or a pink slate, more like, because of the walls,” confesses Anne Israël, evoking the ambiance that reigns behind the walls of the proud Villa Magnan. Unoccupied for nearly eighty years, this sleeping beauty, with walls the colour of the sky at different times of the day – pale pink, smoky blue, yellow, and orange – is gradually awakening from its long sleep. The villa is waking up from this extended nap with a serene look on its face, after a year and a half of restoration by the new oner and her husband, Jérôme. It’s hard to believe, given the sheer beauty of the building, that it could ever have been abandoned. And yet it was.Built between 1927 to 1931 to plans by Louis Amédée Aragon – all of them found recently in the attic – this palace with its film set appearance was only inhabited from 1931 to 1936 by a prestigious line of Spanish aristocrats. It belonged to the Fabiola line – the queen of the Belgians – and her parents the Marquis and Marquise Casa Riera, who are also closely related to the fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. The estate has a fascinating pedigree therefore, and the Israël tribe stumbled across it by a stroke of luck, and then they acquired it through sheer tenacity. Wildly beautiful and incredibly romantic with all of its precision details, the Villa Magnan is first and foremost all about the Villa Château. This is 1,400 m2 of supporting concrete architecture with an Art Deco interior nestled in the heart of a three hectare park, which also has three neo-Basque style outbuildings. The rooms available for reservation are located in these outbuildings. For now. Soon the “1930s” comfort of the “Princess”, (as Anne in her new adopted home of Biarritz calls it) will have also been restored enough for a night’s stay there as well. If you want to soak up the family house atmosphere emerging from the happy mix of eras, aesthetics and references, then check out Instagram. This is the only point of contact between the enchanting estate, its furry or feathered troublemakers – curious inhabitants that we will leave to you to discover for yourself – and the world. Its marvellous imperfections, its delirious, breathtaking rooms, doors and windows with views onto the external panorama that look like life-size paintings – none of this would have the same flavour without the special energy that circulates in the air of Villa Magnan. It’s a creative, even liberating energy which makes you take a step back… From yourself, from the times. And of course it’s a place that feels like family.

Villa Magnan, 64000 – Biarritz. From €200 per room a night (breakfast included). Reservations via Instagram: @villamagnan

Villa Magnan Salon Biarritz
Villa Magnan Salon Biarritz
Villa Magnan Salon Biarritz
Villa Magnan Salon Biarritz
Villa Magnan Salon Biarritz
Villa Magnan Salon Biarritz
Villa Magnan Salon Biarritz

Anne, Jérôme: can you introduce yourselves?

Anne

We are a couple, together for 34 years. We’ve both worked in the entertainment and film industry. Jérôme as a cinematographer, and me, Anne, as a stylist and production designer. We met on a film set when we were very young, and we got married to celebrate. And the party never stopped! We have three children, grown-up now, and the sense of family is very important at home: we like to operate as a tribe.

How did you end up here, in Biarritz, in this Villa with its intriguing and mysterious past?

Anne

We lived in Montreuil for fifteen years in an old factory – vast and so beautiful! – in which we lived and worked. Then 8 years ago we bought a holiday home in the very centre of Biarritz. An old farmhouse from 1740. It’s an unlikely story! About an old lady who had decided that we were going to buy her house. Which eventually we did! Obviously we started to go to Biarritz regularly. And it was by going there regularly that I realised that there were some things the town was missing. I found that there wasn’t anything that was a bit bold, capable of appealing to someone like me. As we are very adventurous, we thought we could create something. We started to visit different places, but nothing that was on sale at the time appealed to us. It was only two years ago, when we were no longer looking, that this wonderful property appeared. We fell in love with it immediately and left Paris.

Tell us more about it, about its history.

Jérôme

The property was built from 1927 to 1931 and lived in between 1931 and 1936. The owners were the Marquis and Marquise de Casa Riera. Fleeing the Civil War in Spain, they had this small palace built as a perfect refuge. They spent five years there with their children, including future Belgian queen Fabiola. What was wonderful when we visited it was that nothing had changed since 1936. It’s an incredible Art Deco archive!

Villa Magnan Salon Biarritz
Villa Magnan Salon Biarritz
Villa Magnan Salon Canapé Biarritz
Villa Magnan Salon Biarritz
Villa Magnan Salon Biarritz
Villa Magnan Salon Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher Sculpture Biarritz

What work has been undertaken since you arrived?

Anne & Jérôme

The property had remained unoccupied for about 80 years. The family, who still owned the property, no longer went there. So it was almost in a state of ruin when we bought it! The outbuildings had suffered enormously from the lack of maintenance: roofs, structures… Everything had to be redone. What saved the great Villa Château is that it was one of the first to have concrete architecture. There was a little less damage! Even so we had a year and a half of work to do. There is still work to be finished, especially the clean-up of the three hectares of park that have transformed into a jungle. But we are in no hurry. The Villa has been asleep for so long… We are not going to wake it up too suddenly!

What styles are there there?

Anne

The three outbuildings, the caretaker’s lodge, the driver’s house and the gardener’s house, are in neo-Basque style. I decorated them very freely! I don’t think there’s a particular “style”, it’s a clever mix. Just like in a family house. There have to be layers, a mixture of periods and aesthetics. Mistakes too! It’s not an on-trend or zeitgeisty style, which really doesn’t interest me at all. For the moment, the big house is a bit like a series of letters or a musical score. Punctuated with a few objects and works of art. It’s very light because the villa is enough on its own. The proportions are wonderful and the windows onto the park act as large landscape paintings, always changing depending on the time and the weather. That’s more than enough for me! I don’t really care about having a lounge area or dining room. I lost this sense of “traditional” decoration a long time ago. We had picked up some very bad habits in our vast factory in Montreuil.

What about the treasures that shape it?

Anne & Jérôme

Everything in this property is absolutely magnificent. It’s like a fairytale right from the entrance gate. There is a perfect harmony between the different buildings and the park, with trees that are more than a hundred years old! The mosaics in the bathrooms are gems. It’s a good thing that people have stayed away from the house all these years. Otherwise they would probably have redone them to transform them and make them more modern! Everything is beautiful, there’s nothing else to add. It’s a very romantic and wildly beautiful place.

Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Salle de bain Mosaïque Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Salle de bain Mosaïque Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Salle de bain Mosaïque Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher Sculpture Biarritz

How do you run day-to-day life in this family guesthouse?

Anne & Jérôme

Everything is done very simply. We started a new adventure, and in a way a new job. So we stayed serene and let things run smoothly. We communicate on Instagram and curious people contact us. That’s it!

What kind of atmosphere do you want to create?

Anne

The atmosphere is created by the beauty of the place. There is something magical here. The house has been occupied so little that it’s almost untouched. It’s a bit of a blank page, or rather a pink page, like its walls. The energy is very lovely. I think people who come here feel it. It’s very free, timeless. That imposes a certain calm. A pause.

The decoration is done as it would be on a film set. Most of the objects are found second-hand. What are your favourite places in the area for this?

Anne

I don’t know if the decoration is done like a film set. It’s more that the decoration isn’t “decoration” as we understand it today, which certainly makes you think of a film! Most of the objects have been found second-hand in the area. I’m used to never putting furniture and objects from one house into another, so we started from scratch. I don’t really have any favourite places to hunt. There are quite a few small markets and flea markets in the area. Unfortunately there are fewer and fewer antique and second-hand dealers. So thank you leboncoin!

If you had to define the soundtrack of the Villa Magnan in 5 sounds?

Anne

The ocean when it’s loud. The sound of the wind in the tall trees. The hundreds of birds. My rooster and donkey in the morning. And at times the train in the distance, which I call my iron horse and which runs towards Paris.

Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Parc Biarritz
Villa Magnan Parc Biarritz
Villa Magnan Parc Biarritz
Villa Magnan Parc Biarritz
Villa Magnan Parc Biarritz
Villa Magnan Parc Biarritz
Villa Magnan Parc Biarritz
Villa Magnan Parc Biarritz

The atmosphere is created by the beauty of the place. There is something magical here. The house has been occupied so little that it's almost untouched. It's a bit of a blank page, or rather a pink page, like its walls.

Villa Magnan Parc Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher Biarritz
Villa Magnan Dépendance Librairie Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Dépendance Bibliothèque Sculpture Biarritz
Villa Magnan Cuisine Biarritz

And the dream “cast” for a day at your place?

Anne

The cast is already pretty good, and every day is a dream! (Laughs) No, really, I don’t know. Perhaps Ava Gardner nonchalantly coming down my grand stairs to join Margeurite Duras and Agnés Varda in the pool! That really is a dream as the swimming pool doesn’t exist. At least not yet…

You cook for your guests here. Who do you get your recipes from?

Anne

At the moment we limit ourselves to making wonderful breakfasts! We really put our whole heart into it so that it’s like a gift for the day. I get my supplies from a small local grocer who truely works to find good products and good producers. It’s called Chez Papa, and it’s in Bidart. I also go to the Bonnes Soeurs at the Refuge à Anglet. It’s a great moment of peace and serenity. At the stove is Isabelle, our Andalusian fairy, who makes the best compotes, puddings, pancakes and other sweet things in the world! We also sometimes make lunches or dinners for private events.

What are the go-to addresses and places that you recommend in and around Biarritz?

Anne

I always recommend the same ones. For restaurants, La Plancha D’ilbaritz for its guaranteed sunset, but also for the owner’s jovial nature and the simplicity and quality of its menu. Then chez Caroe. It’s very good and they’re really very friendly! Otherwise I send my clients inland instead. Finally, when it’s high season I reserve quieter places for them. The Fronton auberge in Ustaritz, the Achtal auberge in Arcangues or the Chêne restaurant in Itxassou. You’ll have to visit to get the other good tips! I have too many.

Villa Magnan Cuisine Biarritz
Villa Magnan Cuisine Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher bleue Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher bleue Biarritz
Villa Magnan Chambre à coucher bleue Biarritz

Deco inspiration...

Domaine de Ribaute, <br>Rated Guest Houses

Domaine de Ribaute,
Rated Guest Houses

On the road between Béziers and Lieuran-lès-Béziers, we have our eyes peeled. We are looking for a château. And not just any château, a property listed in the supplementary inventory of historical monuments, dating from the 12th and 13th...

You may also like

Aucun comment

Add your comment

Be the First to Know

Captured Moments. Interiors. Personalities. Every week, just for you.