Maison Picassiette

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

  • Set back from a modern and rather boring urban street in Chartres, an hour from Paris, is one of the oddest building projects I’ve ever come across. At the end of a narrow footpath, Maison Picassiette is the colorful creation of Raymond Isidore who was a middle-aged cemetery attendant. He built the small house for himself and his wife, Adrienne, then shortly after began to decorate it in intricate mosaics of broken crockery that he recovered from landfills and wherever broken plates could be found.

    Isidore was a deeply religious man, but it’s unclear why he chose to embark on the bizarre decorating project that took more than 30 years to complete. He began by decorating the house in 1938 starting from the inside. Everything was covered from the floor to the ceiling, tables, chairs, the sewing machine of his wife Adrienne, and even their bed!

    Over the years, Isidore’s obsessive project, which some might call an affliction, spread to the outside of the house. It was a private affair that Isidore didn’t seek attention for at any stage, but the attention came. In the fifties, people began talking about the house and visiting it. Isidore earned the lighthearted nickname of Picassiette, which translates to plate thief.

    He completed the work in 1962 when there was simply nothing more than could be covered by a mosaic. Two years later, just a day before his 65th birthday, Picassiette died. His house was purchased by the city in 1983 and opened to the public.

    Stand here using a not very good spherical picture, but you’ll get the idea.