Our World

Villa Kérylos

Travel & Experiences

Travelling has always been an important part of my life, and to me, it is one of the best ways to broaden my horizons, learn about other cultures and develop my creativity. I first found out about Villa Kérylos scrolling through Pinterest. I remember seeing an image of this intricate glass and metal door, clicking on it, and realizing it was located on the French Riviera, just a few hours’ drive from where I grew up. I thought to myself, I should definitely go for a visit the next time I’m in the South of France.
The villa was built atop the rocky peninsula of the Baie des Fourmis, in the city of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, located between Eze Cliffs and the Mediterranean Sea.

Kérylos means Sea Swallow in Greek and in the mythology, it is a bird that announces a good omen. The villa was commissioned by archeologist and Hellenistic specialist, Theodore Reinach. With the help of French architect Emmanuel Pontremoli, they created their own interpretation of an ancient Greek Villa from Delos Island. The house is now the only existing reconstruction of that type of Greek house typical of the 2nd century, BC.

Built between 1902 and 1908, the challenge for both Reinach and Pontremoli was to design with ancient Greek inspirations but also to integrate all the modern amenities of a Belle Epoque villa.

The villa is surrounded by its own private Mediterranean garden. Olive trees, vines and cypresses are just some of the vegetation you can expect to see while taking a walk. The side of the garden leads you to the back with its panoramic view over Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat Peninsula.

From the first step inside the house, I really felt I had been transported to Greece and it was like time stopped for the few hours I was there. Directly to the left of the entrance was a small but incredible room covered in marble and mosaic. Balaneion, or the Bathing Room, was once used as a social ritual in ancient Greece, water being a symbol of purification. The room had an octagonal pool surrounded by four marble columns. Looking to the back of the room, you can see an arched alcove covered in mosaic and a marble font placed in the centre.

The next room, Proauleion, with its imposing Solon statue, led me to the Peristyle which is a squared inner courtyard surrounded by tall Carrara marble columns and painted frescoes on the walls. The frescoes represent scenes of Greek gods with a colour palette of ochre, amber, beige, and deep red. Walking around the open-air courtyard, I saw two niches on the walls painted in a burgundy colour, one with Homer’s bust and the other one of Hippocrates – they were perfectly placed termination points.

The Library had a double height ceiling which really gave a sense of greatness and openness to the room. The beautiful integrated wooden bookcases with marquetry doors not only house collections of books but also authentic objects such as vessels, amphoras, and roman glass objects. I visited when the villa was hosting an art exhibition by French artist and designer Hubert Le Gall. His work, which includes sculptures and furniture pieces, were specifically designed for each room. My favourite pieces of his exhibition were in this room - two tall mobile sculptures facing each other called l’Iliade and l’Odysée. The two bronze casted pieces were defined by the artist as a representation for space and time, one illustrating the warrior side of Greece and the other evoking the movement of the sea and travel.

In my opinion, the most impressive room was the Andron or the Living Room. All the walls were covered in Seravezza marble with some inserts of yellow Sienna marble. The marble slabs were cut in pieces, creating a framing effect on the walls. The floor featured a central mosaic representing the fight between Theseus and the Minotaur. All the mosaic in the house was installed by Venetian craftsmen. Looking up, you can admire the incredibly detailed, hand painted and gold leafed wood beamed ceiling.

Right next to the Andron is the Family Room or Oikos. This room was dedicated to Dionysos, the Olympian god of wine and festivity. All the walls were finished in stucco, and you can find an impressive bas-relief at the top, representing scenes of Dionysos’ myths. Narrow shelves were installed on all walls and displayed Greek artifacts. This room had tall, double French doors with a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea.

Upstairs were the Bedrooms and Bathrooms of the villa. One room that really stood out to me was also one of the smallest rooms of the house. Madame Reinach’s private bathroom was composed of two rooms, one with the bathtub and another one for the shower. The shower was really narrow, with full height marble walls and an open-air ceiling. The back of the room had a curved alcove covered in mosaic, with a faucet system allowing for three types of jets. His and Hers Bathrooms both had their own marble bathtub which was carved out of one marble block.

The villa is filled with layers of luxurious materials and textures. The craftsmanship is remarkable - every room was designed with the highest quality of finishes. All the furniture pieces were commissioned by Reinach specially for this villa and were made by Bettenfeld cabinetmakers using precious wood species, which were sometimes combined with other materials such as bronze or marble. The feel of authenticity also transpires with all the little details such as the hand-embroidered upholstery pieces and draperies all over the house.

After Theodore Reinach’s death, the villa was given to the Institution de France and became listed as a historical monument in 1967.