Château Living Part II – Interior Detail


It’s grey outside today. The light filters through the old multi-paned windows into the Grand Salon, bathing it in a soft hue.

The main salon with my fav doors of the Château
We’re huddled on the sofa with our little electric heater, thermal underwear and layers of blankets. I can’t say I’m getting used to this cold, but we’re certainly comfortable and warmer days are teasing us mere weeks away.

The view to the outside is a wonderful green panorama of the multi-hundred year-old trees in the gardens. In some places it appears subtly warped and wavy, as if viewed through a distorting mirror at a carnival. It’s a testament to the old glass, fabricated by blowing and flattening the panes by hand. When you move your head the view moves with you, giving the impression you really are living in a dream.

Everything is a little like that inside the Château. Grand and imposing when seen from afar, yet slightly off-center when you come in close, dabbled with imperfections and mixes of old and “new”. The soul of an old building that has seen many hands and much time.

We’re all still adapting to it, including Polly.

We think the staircase is gorgeous, but Polly has a decidedly different opinion
For a dog that has spent most of her life in small spaces rarely more than 2 feet away from us, these massive rooms and hallways are a bit overwhelming. She walks gingerly on the old floors, unsure of their firmness and has decided the dining room table, or rather the space underneath it is her new den. Mid-mornings and mid-afternoons are spent safely on her dog-bed in this spot, snoring away from the exhausting work of patrolling the vast grounds outside.

The only time she gets truly anxious is when one of us goes upstairs, as that requires approaching “the staircase”. This grand piece winds up the three stories of the Château from the right side of the entrance hallway. It’s a beautiful 6-foot-wide spiral of aged oak and wrought iron, the steps uneven and worn from centuries of feet. We think it’s gorgeous, but in Polly’s doggie-mind it has been labelled a scary-and-evil-slippery-beast-which-under-no-circumstance-will-be-touched. No amount of coercing or treats has been able to change her mind on this singular point, so Paul has to carry her upstairs when we got to bed.

But I digress…

I promised you an interior tour today, a peek inside our incredible Château living space, so let me take you around in pictures and words and show you a few of my favorite things.

General Layout

The main Château building is basically a very large cube. It’s three stories high with 4 entrances facing South, East, West and North, a deliberate orientation that’s very common in French Château from this timeframe. South-facing rooms would have been used in winter, while those facing north would remain cool for summer and the family would move between them for comfort. Nifty, right?

The south face of the Chateau. There are three floors; downstairs, middle and upper (which includes the towers)The main entrance hallway runs norht-south with rooms off to each side
The outside probably looks much as it did when it was first constructed in the middle of the 19th century, complete with a small balcony on the 2nd floor, but the inside has undoubtedly changed several times.

The main entrance is the North door, and from here you enter a long hallway that runs right through to the South door, with rooms off to each side as well as a staircase off the right-middle to the upper levels. Everything is tall and grand with ceilings that are  at least 4m high, and multi-paned windows that stretch almost to the floor.

You definitely get the Chateau “vibe” in this place!

Some of the downstairs rooms are just lovely, especially the main salon & dining areas, both located on the left side of the entrance hallway. Others however are rather oddly shaped and small, back-rooms off the end of other rooms with no real purpose or meaning. The kitchen is perhaps the least exciting area of all, and feels more like an afterthought than anything else. It’s a long alley on the West end of the building with nothing special to set it apart. I wonder what it originally looked like? 

Upstairs there’s another large north-south running hallway with rooms off to each side. The owners renovated everything here transforming this level into 4 elegant bedrooms, each with their own bathroom. Everything is decorated tastefully with long flowing curtains, period furniture, and large gilded mirrors. There are several fireplaces too, framed in beautiful marble (but alas not functional).

One of the light and airy upstairs bedrooms
Finally there’s the third floor (including the 4 towers) which is completely unrenovated and bare. It’s a daunting project that serves to remind how much work the owners must have done to get the other two floors in the Chateau looking as they are. I really have no idea how damaged this place was before their reno, but I’ve read enough accounts from other Chateaux owners (see this one, for example) to imagine how much work there might have been.

I am in total awe of what they’ve achieved.

Oh and finally (but not least) there’s a secret room, as all good Chateau’s must have! Half-way up the main staircase is a wooden door, curved to blend into the wall, and behind it is another small staircase the leads to a fourth, hidden room. Was it a spot for secret rendez-vous? Or a room where the master of the house could retreat and read his books? Perhaps a sewing room for the lady? Either way, it couldn’t be more perfect.

The Interior Doors

If you asked me to pick the one architectural detail that I find most beautiful in here, I’d have to pick the interior doors.

The interior doors are one of my fav features
The pale turquoise and gold hardwood panels are simply drop-dead gorgeous. They are bold statements that not only separate the rooms, but frame them in classic style. It’s a trend that started in France in the 17th century when decorative arts started to be incorporated indoors, and it’s on full display here with over 10 of them inside the house, symmetrically arranged for maximum “wow factor” as you enter each room.

The downstairs doors are over 10 feet high, rectangular and superbly imposing, while the upstairs ones are more rounded and more feminine. They are all paneled apart from one set that separates the main salon and dining room. Here the architect seems to have had a moment of wistful folly replacing the heavy wood with delicate, pastel-colored stained glass. It’s old and fragile, the pieces set in lead and it projects wonderfully whimsical colors when the crystal chandelier is lit on the other side. I think it’s the single, most beautiful piece of architecture here.

The only other stained glass in the mansion is in the West entrance doorway which is strangely hidden away. The panels here depict the aristocracy (the baron and baroness of the mansion?), and are beautiful in their own right, but I still prefer the more muted and abstract set in the living room.

Personally, I think the interior doors make this place!


Floors, Moldings & Design Accents

Another unique feature of this Château, as is true of many of its age, are it’s floors and design accents.

I just love the upstairs hallway stone flooring
Several of the floors here have been tiled over, very likely a modern update made during the most recent renovations, but a few of the rooms still have old hardwood floors of intricate design, as well as (my favorite) a diamond-patterned stone floor on the 2nd level. It’s a spectacular floor that was clearly restored and kept for its unique beauty.

Ceiling accents are another wonderful detail. Many of the rooms have heavy crown moldings, and are embellished by elaborate crystal chandeliers set in large plaster medallions. They anchor the high ceilings, and provide an elegant centerpiece for each room as you enter.

The walls themselves are simple and clean, painted in either cream or pale turquoise, but the original Château likely had much more elaborate designs, as was the popular décor at the time. Perhaps there were patterns on the ceiling, and flowery wallpaper with wood panels along the bottom-half of the walls? Maybe even hand paintings? It’s fun to imagine the possibilities.

Other little details incorporated by the current owners do a lovely job of keeping rooms in period vibe. Gilded mirrors in the bathroom, marble fireplaces, wrought iron curtain tie-backs, and all the original antique metal window openers. You do feel rather like a baroness as you walk through the place.

We Only Use a Small Portion Of It All

As you might imagine we only use a small portion of all the rooms in the Château.

Most of our time is spent either in the main salon, the dining room (where Polly and Paul have made their den) or the kitchen, and our nights are in one of the bedrooms upstairs. It’s a house made for a large family (or noblesse) and with only the three of us it is veeery big indeed. I have to admit that our many years on the road have made me appreciate cozy and smaller spots, so I would really need to adapt to something this large.

The massive grounds, on the other hand are not a problem at all. Spring is on its way, and sunnier, warmer days are starting to tempt us outdoors, where lots of space is a total bonus for us nature-loving three. So, we’re off outside and will take you along for a tour there next week. See you then?

So, my dear readers what do you think of the Château interior? Is it your style? Or would you do something different? Could you live in a big place like this? DO share and comment below.

She’s a grand, grand place
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