By Cailey Rizzo
April 12, 2019
AFP Contributor/Getty Images

Earlier this week, the house where French novelist Victor Hugo completed “Les Miserables” opened to the public after a multimillion-dollar renovation.

In 1856, Hugo was exiled from France for criticizing Napoleon’s empire. He moved to the island of Guernsey, where he spent 15 years, completing some of his most famous works and decorating a house in his own unique style.

The Hauteville House became one of Hugo’s most extravagant creations, featuring an inimitable display of his tastes, including tapestries, silks, and woodworks that span an eclectic array of eras, from Gothic to Renaissance to Baroque. It’s a destination not only for literature fans, but lovers of interior design and architecture. Hugo was not only a writer but a man of fabulous taste.


“When you set foot in Hauteville House, you enter into the spirit of Victor Hugo,” Gérard Audinet, director of the Maisons de Victor Hugo, wrote in a new guide to the museum. “You thought you were entering a house, but you are really plunging into one of his works.”

The house was donated to the City of Paris in 1927 and transformed into a museum. It now attracts about 20,000 visitors each year.

But last year, the house was starting to show the strain of its years. Flooding was damaging the wallpaper, furniture, and flooring; and Paris could not afford the €3 million necessary to bring the house back to its former glory. Billionaire François Pinault (whose company owns Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and Puma) stepped in with funding, saying that the house itself is “a work of art.”


After the 18-month renovation, visitors can enjoy the house in its restored glory. One special attraction is the glass conservatory at the top of the house, where visitors can see the desks where Hugo completed “Les Miserables” and “The Toilers of the Sea” and gaze out at the Guernsey views that inspired these works.


The Hauteville House is open every day besides Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., April through September.