Bernard-Henri Lévy, a French public intellectual (they have those, still) was catapulted to fame in 1977 for his book attacking France’s Marxist left, Barbarism With a Human Face. He’s since capitalized on that notoriety, publishing dozens of books, writing and directing movies, and regularly appearing on TV as a commentator. His private live is also splashy, having featured a marriage to actress and singer Arielle Dombasle and a relationship with heiress Daphne Guinness.
Lévy is less well known for his real estate holdings. “I live part of my time in Paris, part of my time in New York, part of my time in Marrakech,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I have too many houses and too many places to be in the world, and alas, the year is only 52 weeks.”
In an attempt to pare his residential obligations, Lévy has put a six-story, 6,400-square-foot villa on the tip of Tangier on the market with Christie’s International Real Estate for 6 million euros ($6.8 million).
Levy said he bought the villa in 2000, when he came across the house, and “it was the most magical spot in Tangier,” he said. “It’s at the top of a cliff, in front of Gibraltar, at the precise point where the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet.”
The house, which is located between similarly splendid homes that have been owned by the late publishing tycoon Malcolm Forbes and deceased fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, “was old,” Lévy said. “The spot was unique, but the house was ordinary, so I brought in my old friend Andrée Putman.”
Putman (1925-2013), arguably one of the highest regarded interior designers of the last 50 years, took to the house immediately and agreed to redo it from top to bottom.
“I had the feeling that if I trusted her, she might do a sort of masterpiece,” Lévy said. “And she did.”
They agreed that the guiding principle of the house would be to make it “the equivalent of a Mondrian,” said Lévy, who has written a book on the mid-century Dutch painter. “She was a fan” of the artist, Lévy said, “and this was sort of a password between her and me.”
The renovation took almost five years. “It was a big process, with materials coming in from all over the world,” said Lévy. “We had stone from Italy, iron threads from an old factory in America, some very special wood that could only be found in one place in Canada, so it took some time.”
The result is a glossy, open, bright interior filled with clear, linear forms. The living rooms have giant rectangular windows that overlook the bright, blue sea. The master suite, on the upper level, connects to a terrace with similarly dramatic views.
The house also includes a sauna, a gym, an 82-foot-long pool, and an outdoor salon. “I used it alternatively to work, and write, and to receive friends and organize parties,” Lévy said.
Levy and his guests were about a five-minute drive from the city center. “It’s in walking distance from the El Minzah Hotel, a famous hotel of the beat generation,” said Lévy, “and it’s in walking distance from the Villa de France.”
Now that he’s leaving, though, Lévy plans to leave as many of Putman’s decorations to the next owners as he can. “Real decoration that belongs to the house,” he clarified. “But, of course, I will not leave my books or my paintings.”