The Maison Louis Carre is one of the most important private houses designed by Alvar Aalto. In the same way as the Villa Mairea it is a residence that brings work and private life together. The house is located on a sloping, south-facing site of roughly three hectares. Lower down the slope there is a swimming pool together with its plant-room building and at the side of the site there is a garage.
The house was commissioned by Louis Carre, a prominent French art dealer and gallery owner. After purchasing a piece of land in 1955, Carre contacted Aalto to ask whether he could design a new home for him. In the summer of 1956, Carre travelled to Italy where the architect was supervising the construction of the Finnish Pavilion for the Venice Biennale.
The Maison Louis Carre is a white-rendered brick building; the north elevation is dominated by a slate roof that slopes gently in two directions. There are distant references in its form to Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie houses and to the farmhouses of southwestern France. The main entrance is drawn inwards and located at the point where the roofs intersect. The stone is local sandstone, the same stone that was used for Chartres Cathedral, twenty kilometres away.
The south elevation is sculptural and there are parallels with the Muuratsalo Experimental House, for example, in its proportions. The Maison Louis Carre combines the results of the work of skilled Finnish carpenters with the delicacy of French elegance.
The plan of the house is apparently clear and cellular with rooms fulfilling different functions grouped around an entrance hall. The free-form wooden ceiling of the hall can be thought of as a recollection of Vyborg (Viipuri) library. This space has an almost sacred feel to it and daylight enters it rather sparingly through the windows above the front door. The walls and floor of the entrance hall are intended for displaying works of art.
A wide 'Venetian' stairway leads down from the hall to the living room. From the windows which run the full width of the wall there is an extensive view of the grassed courtyard area, nowadays edged with fairly dense woodland. Aalto's architecture leads the visitor skilfully from shade to light, from a higher level to a lower following the natural contours of the slope. The 'public' spaces of the house also include the study/library next to the living room, and the dining room on the other side of the entrance hall.
The private rooms and the gust room are located separately in the southern part of the house. Access to them is skilfully concealed behind the walls intended for displaying objets d'art in the entrance hall. The housekeepers' rooms are upstairs on the second floor.
The Maison Louis Carre is a complete work of art, as is so typical for Aalto. Many of the details and some of the furniture and light fittings in the 'public' spaces were designed specifically for this building. Traces of the work of Elissa Aalto can be seen in several places. Again, the external courtyard area is a continuation of the internal space in a way that is also typical for Aalto; the terraced slopes create a gradual transition to the swimming pool at the lower level and from there on to the natural woodland. In the early days there was a small vineyard growing close to the wall of the house!
The residential area of the Maison Louis Carre is about 450 m2 of which the four rooms upstairs on the second floor account for 89 m2. The rooms on the ground floor are grouped around the rather large entrance hall in a cellular manner: living room, study/library, dining room, three bedrooms, one of which has access to a small sauna, plus kitchens.