E-1027: Rediscovering the Colours of Gray

November, 2021

Anglo-Irish architect and designer Eileen Gray’s Modernist masterpiece Villa E-1027 recently re-opened after an extensive restoration. Under the auspices of the Cap Moderne Association, the project has returned Villa E-1027 to its original 1929 state, meticulously re-creating the colours, textiles and furniture specified by Gray before the house was famously defaced with crude murals by LeCorbusier and subsequently fell into decline.

Gray wanted to ‘build for the human being, that he might rediscover in the architectural construction the joys of self-fulfillment in a whole that extends and completes him.’ She did this by focusing first and foremost on interiors. We look at how, drawing on Gray’s own words from a 1929 article about Villa E-1027 in L’Architecture Vivante journal.


Images courtesy of Cap Moderne Association. Photography by Manuel Bougot. L’Architecture Vivante translated here by Caroline Constant.

01. Kitchen

Gray was invited to visit the Netherlands by the De Stijl group, who had first admired her design for Boudoir de Monte Carlo at the 14th Salon des Artistes Décorateurs in 1923. The kitchen at E-1027 recalls the Dutch movement’s advocacy of pure abstraction and the reduction of forms to horizontals and verticals, in monochrome or primary colours.

02. Guest Bedroom

Gray used strong planes of colour throughout E-1027 and did not believe in hanging paintings. ‘Architecture must be its own decoration,’ she wrote. ‘The play of lines and colours should respond so precisely to the needs of the interior atmosphere that all detached paintings or pictures would seem not only useless, but detrimental to the overall harmony.’ Here Gray’s iconic adjustable E1027 side tables in position to do exactly what it was designed for: enable breakfast in bed without getting toast crumbs in the sheets.

03. Principal Bedroom - Day

Gray selected coloured bedsheets ‘so that the mess is unnoticed when the bed is unmade.’ The linen cupboard below the window was installed at hand height so that the bottom can be reached without bending over and the tiled floor underneath can be easily swept.

04. Principal Bedroom - Night

Coloured lights and textiles transform the atmosphere of the bedroom for night time. The bed is cloaked by ‘mosquito netting in transparent celluloid, the fabric of which extends along an extremely thin steel cable with a guy rope, which eliminates the heavy weight and inelegance of ordinary mosquito netting.’ Two lights are built into the headboard, both dimmable and one in blue to serve as a nightlight.

05. Bathroom

Gray did not subscribe to the sterile aesthetics of Modernist hygiene theories, believing that cleanliness should exclude ‘neither comfort nor activity.’ The bath is clad in aluminium, described by Gray as ‘a beautiful material providing an agreeable coolness in hot climates’. A bright orange bidet is labelled with stencilled lettering to avoid any doubt as to its purpose.

06. Large Room

Gray thought carefully about the role of colour and textiles in her schemes: ‘the furnishings, chairs, screens and pile carpets, the warm leather colours, low metallic lustre and depth of the cushions all contribute to an atmosphere of intimacy.’ She was a master at subtlety and manipulating the perception of the small rooms. The low wall at the end of the room allows for the entire ceiling to be seen in one, increasing the sense of space while concealing a dressing area and shower room.

07. Camping Furniture

To maximise the space Gray designed ‘camping style’ furniture. A fixed cabinet with pivoting drawers provided essential storage space and facilitates the efficiency that was fundamental to Gray’s vision of luxury. She wrote that ‘sometimes all that is required is the choice of a beautiful material worked with sincere simplicity´.

08. Adjustable Desk

A long-lost adjustable desk crafted from tubular steel was reconstructed from photographs for the restoration. Gray considered that ‘the construction of a table or a chair as a sculptural entity, undertaking it only from the point of view of formal harmony, necessarily leads to excess and to absurdity, which misleads public taste and makes those who have not abandoned the notion of practical utility seem outdated.’

09. Façade

For Gray, the exterior of a building was secondary: ‘The interior plan should not be the incidental result of the façade; it should lead a complete, harmonious and logical life. Rather than being subordinated to the external volume, it should on the contrary control it.’ The ultramarine colour of the canvas awnings that shade the sea-facing terrace picks up on the theme of nautical blue that runs throughout the interiors and contributes to the overall impression of the villa as an Art Deco yacht.