Hubert de Givenchy is more than a master of haute couture; his magnifcent homes are testament to his exquisite taste in interior design.

There is great style and then, on an almost celestial level, there is the style of Hubert de Givenchy, the famous French couturier whose designs — and the women who wore them — came to defne the 1960s as an era of great elegance. Jacqueline Kennedy, Wallis Simpson, Princess Grace of Monaco and most notably Audrey Hepburn counted Givenchy as their couturier of choice. But Monsieur Givenchy has long had a second, lesser-known (though equally remarkable) design talent, a glimpse of which not only provides great insight into his personal taste but also a benchmark of chic — and that was for the allied arts of architecture, garden design and interior decoration.

“I adore houses,” the couturier told an interviewer in 1995. “There is a great similarity between designing a garment and decorating a house, especially in the elaboration of subtle details, which reveal themselves little by little rather than immediately.”

Subtle, carefully thought-out detail has certainly been core to Givenchy’s design and life philosophy. Born in Beauvais, in the north of France, in 1927, he was fortunate enough to be part of an aristocratic family. His late grandfather, Jules Badin, had been director of the Beauvais and Gobelins tapestry works, and it is his textile collection that Givenchy credits as having ignited his passion for fabric and setting him on his path to Paris and the world of fashion.

After apprenticing for Jacques Fath, regarded as one of the most infuential post-World War II couturiers, Givenchy worked for Robert Piguet, Lucien Lelong and Italian avant-gardist Elsa Schiaparelli before establishing his own maison in 1952. Revered Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga became a great mentor, but it was Audrey Hepburn, wearing his designs in flms such as Sabrina and Breakfast at Tifany’s, who truly established Givenchy’s name — and in doing so became one of his dearest friends. Years later, following her 1993 death, the couturier confessed, “In every collection, a part of my heart, my pencil, my design goes to Audrey.”

Givenchy’s private world is a clear extension of his talent as a designer, a fact perhaps best refected in Hôtel d’Orrouer, his 18th-century townhouse in Paris’s 7th arrondissement. Inspired by the apartment of Misia Sert — a celebrated pianist, arts patron and one of Coco Chanel’s greatest friends — Hôtel d’Orrouer is French taste at its best. Its jewel-box interior of fne period furniture, gilt bronze objets and swathes of green silk has been described as one of the greatest
decorative ensembles of the 20th century. Le Jonchet, Givenchy’s country estate in the Loire, on the other hand, displays his mastery of the French art de vivre. Once home to the Duchesse de Tourzel (governess to Marie Antoinette’s children at the time of the French Revolution), the estate dates back to the 16th century — and so the designer has nurtured it carefully since acquiring it in 1975. Particular attention has been paid to the grounds, where 36,000 tiny boxwoods are planted in one section alone. The house is no less impressive: warm, highly personal and home to a magnificent collection of furniture and sculpture.

Le Clos Fiorentina in Cap-Ferrat — a former home of writer and tastemaker Rory Cameron and one of the Riviera’s oldest houses — had fallen into a state of disrepair when Givenchy acquired it in the 1980s. Always the classicist, he restored Le Clos in the Mediterranean tradition, determined to maintain its exceptional character. As a result, the interior is a wonderful balance of casual and elegant its ‘white ground’ of linen slipcovers, canvas curtains and natural woven rugs providing a subdued foil for his fne regional furniture and objets d’art.

Until his retirement in 1995, staf at Givenchy’s atelier would refer to the couturier simply as ‘Monsieur’ — a title reserved, until the 18th century, for the younger brother of the king and heir to the French throne. In many ways, Givenchy is an 18th-century man, embodying not just the aesthetic but also the splendour of the French court. “You must, if it’s possible, be born with a kind of elegance,” he told an interviewer in 2010. As his homes attest, Givenchy’s own innate elegance was of regal proportions.