‘Elegant’ Barry Dierks


Riviera Dreaming is the story of the American architect Barry Dierks and the Englishman Eric Sawyer, his partner in business and in life, and particularly of some of the fascinating people who commissioned the stunning houses and gardens Barry designed on the French Riviera, with Eric as garden designer, during the 1920s and 1930s. Barry graduated in architecture from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh in 1921, followed by studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Eric had graduated as an engineer from the Royal School of Mines, London. They met in Paris and during their nightly visits to the Ritz Bar, in the post-war euphoria of Paris and where ‘English was the spoken language’ one of those they encountered was Somerset Maugham, a contact which led to Barry’s first commission, the complete remodelling of La Mauresque, Maugham’s villa on Cap Ferrat in 1926.

Barry was 26 and Eric 36 when they set up their practice on the Riviera in 1925. They worked from Le Trident, the white villa they built together on the red rocks of the Esterel above the Mediterranean. The stunning houses they would design or remodel were occupied by some of the beau monde of the American and British community. Handsome and sociable, handling their open relationship with insouciance, they were soon very much part of the international set. They worked and played hard.

Barry became the leading architect of the Riviera in its heyday, where he built or remodelled over 70 villas for the glitterati. There is now a growing interest in his work in design circles on both sides of the Atlantic. Barry and Eric’s relationship would have been illegal in the UK at that time, but Barry was ‘dazzlingly good looking’ as well as being hugely talented. Along with Eric, they were known as ‘the two charmers’.

In 1940, when the majority of expatriates fled, Barry and Eric stayed on in the south and revealed their determination and courage in their respective adventures.

Riviera Dreaming is scheduled for publication in 2018.

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Pictures which include Barry Dierk’s houses on the Riviera


Barry Dierks & Eric Sawyer

From their own home built into the red rocks of the Estérel mountains and above the Mediterranean, Barry as the architect in the partnership, with Eric as garden designer and business manager, built or remodelled around 70 houses in the south of France. These were occupied by Americans, British and French, many of whom have their own fascinating stories.  Handsome and sociable, Barry and Eric were ‘the two charmers’ of the Riviera social scene in the years between the wars,  indeed leading a charmed life until the Second World War changed everything and revealed their determination and courage in their respective adventures.


A 16mm home movie in colour – Nice Promenade des Anglais & The Port in 1938