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Some of the best buildings on the French Riviera have to be seen from the water. By land, you might get a flash of bright walls and arched doorways or architectural follies rising from between the foliage and palm trees, but to really take in their magnificence, you’ll need to be spying from the sea. It’s true of Pierre Cardin’s extraordinary, bulbous Palais Bulles near Théole-sur-Mer, and it’s especially true of the Château de l’Horizon. Located near Golfe-Juan, the 1932 Art Deco villa has undergone several transformations over its near century of existence – but approach by a little fishing boat during its heyday, and you might have been greeted by the sight of the magnificently understated, sleek buildings that made up actress and investor Maxine Elliott’s ‘white palace’. Sail in a little closer, and perhaps you could have caught a glimpse of Winston Churchill hard at work on his next book, or Noël Coward sunning himself on the private beach. Dock and wander up to the house, and you could have found the Duke of Windsor or Somerset Maugham or Douglas Fairbanks Snr enjoying the elegant swimming pool – often claimed to be the best on the Riviera.

During the interwar period, the Château de l’Horizon was the place to be. Designed by the famed American modernist architect Barry Dierks who left his mark all over the Côte d’Azur, it was built on narrow, unpromising-looking rocky patch of coastline between Cannes and Juan-les-Pins. In Dierks’ hands it was transformed into an elegant dwelling perfectly placed for all the pleasure and leisure of life on the Riviera. In her biography of the house and its revolving cast of guests The Riviera Set, biographer Mary S Lovell describes it as “a secluded backdrop… for an indulgent, glamorous, even decadent lifestyle which is arguably unsurpassed, and where one guest thought nothing of filling a bath with dozens of bottles of iced champagne to refresh her aching feet after an evening’s dancing in Cannes.”


One of the key inspirations for Olivia von Halle’s Autumn/Winter 2023 Azure Collection, inspired by the bohemian jet set who made the Riviera their playground, backdrop and source of creative inspiration in the 1920s and 30s, the Chateau’s legendary status is entirely down to the forceful spirit of its lively hostess. Born in Maine, Maxine’s acting career left her zigzagging across the world from New York to London to Melbourne and back again, gathering an address book of friends and acquaintances along the way from the interior designer Elsie de Wolfe to King Edward VII. After various setbacks, she settled in France and found her life revitalised. She began entertaining at the Chateau before it was finished – hosting cocktail parties where bevies of gorgeous women in beach pyjamas and guests including Cecil Beaton and Beatrice Guinness circulated, the vast blue stretch of sea behind them. Maxine was a consummate hostess who thought nothing of putting on lunches for fifty guests or inviting over new friends to play cards by the pool, from which one could slide down a water chute straight into the sea.

In Riviera Dreaming: Love and War on the Côte d’Azur, Maureen Emerson describes the rules of the house: “guests should take their breakfasts on their individual balconies and then don swimming costumes or similar and gravitate to the pool… The splendid lunches and dinners were held in the cool rooms inside.” Every detail was thought of, down to an electric moon installed in the trees for nights when the real deal was covered by cloud. It was an endless house party, typifying the extravagance of a place – and a time – that welcomed those determined to live their lives in vivid style.


However, there was one inhabitant at the Chateau who took pleasure in disrupting this pocket of paradise. Elliott’s pet lemur monkey Kiki was given free reign to roam the house, “causing havoc as he romped among the guests, attacking anyone who approached Maxine and, his greatest enjoyment, nipping at women’s ankles.”


Later, after Maxine died, the Chateau was bought by the billionaire playboy Prince Aly Khan. In 1949 he married Rita Hayworth, their reception celebrations at the villa outdoing even anything Maxine Elliott could have dreamt of. The swimming pool was filled with 200 gallons of cologne and had the married couple’s initials floating on the surface in carnations (according to LIFE magazine, “it smelled very nice”), and the assembled guests made their way through 50lb of caviar and 600 bottles of champagne.

Although its glory days may now be behind it, the Chateau de l’Horizon remains a potent reminder of an era full to the brim with glamour, glittering social occasions, creative experimentation, and sun-soaked hedonism. If Maxine Elliott were around today, we’re sure she’d be entertaining in a pair of Olivia von Halle pyjamas: ideally something in the Pampelonne or Ponche print, inspired by a magnificent house overlooking the sea that kept its guests entertained from morning to midnight - and beyond.



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