Towards the mid-nineteenth century, the town of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, about fifteen kilometres southeast of Paris, enjoyed a population boom. When the railway line was installed in 1859, it grew even faster. Baron Haussmann wanted to encourage the working class to move to the outskirts of Paris. But the low price per square metre attracted businessmen, shopkeepers and manufacturers as well. The gradual subdivision of the former grounds of the chateau enabled the wealthier classes to buy land and build villas in a residential area.
The strong demand boosted the building industry. Many architects moved in. Joseph Graf, a graduate of the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs, went into partnership with Frédéric Marin to establish an architects' office. Marius Tranchant's book, L'Habitation du Parisien en banlieue, published in 1908, singled out Graf as one of the "best architects of the suburbs" because of his "merits as a technician and an artist."
This fine drawing, richly framed in an Art Nouveau-1900 vein, reflects a neo-Norman suburban style of construction. Its typical features are brickwork, half timbering, turrets and an enamelled ceramic décor. The large glassed roof suggests an artist's studio. A large number of variants of this design, typical of the architecture of seaside resorts in the late nineteenth century, can be seen along the French coasts. Twin villas in a similar style, The Moon and The Sun, built by Graf at Mers-les-Bains (Somme), are still standing today. The Saint Maur villa, however, was demolished when the town was redeveloped.