I walk past these massive, red doors most days, but I’ve never seen them open before. Sometimes as someone goes in or out of the small, pedestrian door there’s a glimpse of space and a flash of green beyond, before the door closes again. Yesterday, thanks to a conscientious decorator and slow-drying gloss paint, the doors stood wide open all day.
The doors face onto a narrow street, shaded by high buildings built straight on to the pavement either side. The view opened up through the doorway is surprisingly light and bright, even on a grey day. An open, stone paved courtyard and five large, evergreen magnolias, planted in matching Versailles boxes. That’s all.
It’s not a garden, but that’s not surprising. This is the cour d’honneur of a grand, seventeenth century hôtel particulier, built originally as the home of a single household, (a wealthy, extended family and the servants to maintain them). The hôtels typically have a paved entrance court and a second, garden court beyond the main residence. This building, unusually, is sideways on to the road. I know it has a real garden, hidden behind a high wall along the street. Yellow, climbing roses tumble out over the wall in summer and a blackbird sings there.
The cour d’honneur was the front drive of a seventeenth century town house, with stabling for a horse or four, depending on your status. Some are now just car parks but quick glimpses suggest that many are quiet spaces like this one. Light and air and a touch of green.
Another post linked to Thursday Doors.