The story started at the beginning of the previous century. In 1906, Henry Vasnier, Director of the Pommery Champagne Maison, commissioned the Parisian architect, Louis Sorel, to design an exceptional building, which would serve both as somewhere to live and receive guests.
Work began in 1908. Standing alone on a plot measuring some 5,600 m² overlooking Reims with clear views of the cathedral, the future villa had everything in its favour. But aside from its prime location, it was its style that was truly appealing. Using audacious materials, Louis Sorel succeeded in combining modernity and tradition. Thanks above all to its concrete structure and metal frame, which were very unusual at the time, the villa managed to survive two world wars.
Other artists like Tony Selmersheim, interior decorator and cabinetmaker or Félix Aubert, designer,
joined Louis Sorel for this magnificent adventure. Well-known, fashionable artists, they charted new
territory in interior design. They were members of an ephemeral reflection group called “L’Art dans Tout”
which had already been dissolved by the time the villa was built. These artists were part of a movement
dedicated to utilitarian arts, symbolising a shift away from the major arts to interior design and decor, a response to changing lifestyles.
Together, they have crafted a work of exceptional homogeneity. It embodies quite simply one of the most exemplary expressions of the transition from Art nouveau to Art deco. Neither entirely one nor the other, it navigates incessantly between the two. Sometimes sober and rectilinear, sometimes adorned with cable moulding and volutes, the villa does not belong to either of them. It has its very own unique style. The exterior favours straight, geometric forms, close to Art deco, whereas the furniture and
decor tend more towards Art nouveau.
On completion the Managing Director of Pommery, Louis Cochet, took up residence in the villa and gave it its name. Abandoned after 1970, it was invaded by squatters for many years. The legend of a walled up treasure merely served to speed up its destruction. The walls were full of holes, the floorboards in pieces and the windows and doors broken.
In 1980, a request for a demolition permit heralded the sad end to this villa. But it was refused by the head of the French department responsible for architecture and building heritage, Michel André and it was placed under the protection of the city of Reims.
In 2004, Paul François and Nathalie Vranken, purchased the villa in which they wanted to locate the headquarters of Vranken Champagne. They began an ambitious refurbishment project.
The gauntlet, thrown down more than five years ago, of restoring this wonderful edifice to its identical former glory seemed crazy. But is there any more beautiful craziness than passion? Because that’s what this is all about. A passion for cultural heritage, a passion for beauty, a passion for artists. Spending energy and a fortune without counting the cost, that was the price that had to be paid.
Whereas many artisans are forced to go abroad to pursue their trade, the Vranken family kept an entire team of master builders with exceptional expertise busy for four years. These artisans, mostly from Champagne, are held in great esteem and sought after the world over. The results are truly edifying.
Discrete, attractive but not at all ostentatious, the Demoiselle does not reveal her charms immediately. You have to take things slowly, seduce her, undress her delicately with your eyes. As she gradually reveals herself, you will discover a grandiose work where each detail turns out to be a treasure.
An exhibition of the very best of French craftsmanship.
100 years after its construction, the masterpiece rechristened Villa Demoiselle is to open its doors to the public on 1 July. Sleeping Beauty has reawakened and will welcome her visitors to a magical, cultural and timeless encounter followed by a tasting of Vranken Champagnes. Champagnes in her image - fine and sophisticated.