Hugo, his decors

Victor Hugo’s third art was decoration. This aspect of his creative genius is less known and the museum is the only place where it is showcased. Hauteville House, which was entirely furnished by him, remains the house and work of art which Charles Hugo said aimed to be “education of the mind in the form of a house”. Some decorative elements which were made for Juliette Drouet for her Hauteville Fairy house, namely a Chinese lounge and a gothic dining room, were taken and installed at Place des Vosges.
The things that we know about the apartment in Place Royale (Place des Vosges) attest to Victor Hugo’s interest in decorating and the importance he placed in it. We also know that he liked to be involved in the decoration of his rooms. When he acquired Hauteville House in Guernsey, he could indulge this passion and furnished the whole house, as well as the one he bought a little further down the same street for Juliette Drouet. This was Hauteville Fairy.
The decor at Hauteville House has many symbols and references to his work and philosophy. They are also an expression of his creative inventiveness, with plenty of poetry, humour and unexpected features.
Victor’s style of decorating is not dissimilar to his writing and often plays on the oxymoron or antithesis of “the old Chinese Holland”. He liked to mix Chinese and Gothic elements, Flemish tapestries and Turkish rugs, Delft tiles and Japanese porcelain. He composed his ceilings by framing Aubusson drapes with oak-carved borders. He built fireplaces, the emblems of the quintessential home, as if they were cathedrals. He included objects such as tapestries with beads, torch bearers and antique furniture among his creations and used complete porcelain dining sets as decorative material. He made his own furniture by reassembling the dismembered parts of old chests. To do this, he hired a local team under the direction of Peter Mauger (father), Jean Mauger (son) and Tom Gore who worked from the drawings he produced.
When Juliette Drouet had to leave La Fallue, the house she lived in close by, she bought Hauteville Fairy with Victor Hugo who gave her the usufruct rights. This was the first house that the poet and his family had lived in on Guernsey. It was at number 20 Rue d'Hauteville. He designed the decoration for it between 1863-1864, again mixing chinoiserie and recreated Gothic furniture. Panels with drawings, engravings or paintwork mainly characterised the decor. The furniture and woodwork in the dining room were particularly decorated. While the formula had already been tried at Hauteville House, it reached its full scale here and can also be appreciated at Place des Vosges. Paul Meurice bought this furniture from Louis Koch, Juliette Drouet’s nephew and heir, and had it installed for the opening of the museum.