French Riviera

Our client asked us to recreate the setting for the Hitchcock film ‘To Catch a Thief’ with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Set in the French Riviera, there were tall cypress hedges and glimpses of the sea from the cliffs and a famous winding road. Here in Washington, DC, we started with a rewatch of the film. The existing house was a version of Le Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s folly at Versailles outside Paris, France. We would need to integrate the elegance of the house into the landscape. The house sat some 20 feet below the grade of the road.

We used tall tightly clipped arborvitae hedges interspersed with emerald green arborvitae for a change of color every 8 feet. The panels of clipped arborvitae are a deep gray green contrasting with the emerald green. Gray cedars flank each of the corners of the quatrefoil pool. Upright European Hornbeams line the entrance to the parking court. There is a true Mediterranean feel to the driveway and entry court.

The alluring bend in the steep driveway down to the house is reminiscent of the famous movie scene when Grace Kelly and Cary Grant are driving along the windy roads of the Rivierra. As you wind down the driveway, there are glimpses of the quatrefoil pool which is Mediterrnean blue. A tapis vert of green lawn off the limestone house is simple and elegant and a spectacular terrace of cream and pink travertine marble wraps the rear and side of the house. Entering the parking court, a stone fountain built into the hillside dominates the space with hedges carved into the tall stone wall. It all looks so simple and elegant, as though it was effortless.

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© 2017 fritz & gignoux landscape architects