My new book is on the story of the American architect Barry Dierks, his partner Eric Sawyer, and the stunning houses they built on the French Riviera in the 1920s and 1930s - for those interesting clients who could afford them.
The Great War was over. Paris was humming with life, for the Jazz Age had begun. Barry, studying architecture at the Beaux Arts school and Eric, recently demobilised as a colonel from the British Army, first met working at a bank in the city. They would stay together for the next 40 years. Sharing Eric's comfortable apartment on the Boulevard des Italiens this stylish, sociable couple would spend almost every evening at the Ritz Bars on the Place Vendôme. In the frenetic gaiety of post-war Paris this was the place to be seen. Full of young Americans and the international set it was a melting pot where 'French was hardly ever spoken'. At this time only men were allowed in the main bar, the women being confined to a small paneled ladies' bar - the salon de correspondence - in spite of the sterling work so many had carried out during the war. Much went on at the Ritz bars. Somerset Maugham roamed the rooms, Chanel strolled through to her apartment on the floors above. Noel Coward wrote a play called The Ritz Bar (Semi-Monde) banned in England as immoral. The author Beverley Nichols composed a scathing poem Ladies of the Ritz about rich and elderly women waiting watchfully, for the 'stallions' of Paris.
Investing well in companies about to deal with post-war Germany, Barry and Eric decided to make their home and career in what was virtually another country - Provence. At Miramar on the Riviera beneath the Corniche d'Or and between St. Raphaël and Theoule, on a wild, almost uninhabited stretch of coast, Barry designed a Moorish-Modernist villa. This was to be both their home and show house for many years. White, flat-roofed, with patio arches on slender columns, they placed it on a ledge among the flame-red rocks of the Esterel, far above the sparkling Mediterranean. They called it Le Trident. Barry as the architect in the partnership, with Eric as garden designer, built or remodelled almost 100 houses in the south of France. These villas, which styles ranged from sleek Art Deco to Provençal to Palladian were occupied by Americans, British and French, many of whom had their own fascinating stories. Handsome and sociable, Barry and Eric were 'the two charmers' of the Riviera scene in the years of après guerre and avant guerre, leading a pleasurable social life until the Second World War changed everything and revealed their determination and courage in their respective adventures.