As many of you who have followed us on Escape to the Chateau: DIY will have seen, we spent a lot of time and effort this year renovating our master bedroom. We thought you might like to hear a bit more about the history of this room and the background to our renovation choices. For those interested in the bird-identification competition we ran on Instagram and facebook – the winners are announced at the end!
A little history
In 1873, Chateau de Rosières was inherited by the ambitious Octave de Lavalette. His programme to modernise the chateau made a huge impact on several rooms, including the orangerie-like dining room, immense grand salon and the master bedroom. His changes weren’t just superficial – he set about knocking through walls, installing big, bright windows, raising and lowering floors and imposing that passion of the 19th century – symmetry – on the unruly, medieval chateau. The grand bedroom became entirely square, the ceiling was raised to an impressive height, and exquisite wood panelling was installed all around the room, focussed on the central feature of an intricately-carved wooden fireplace.
What intrigued us most were the eight large spaces in the wall panelling that had plaster board inserts covered with faded, 1970s wallpaper. What was it like when Octave renovated the room? How did he finish of this most imposing of rooms? Instead of just papering over what existed with something prettier, we took the risky decision to remove the boards and find out what, if anything, was underneath. Initially we found… cement. Yes, that’s right – grey cement walls. This was a little disappointing. But when we looked closer, we saw that around the wooden frames, under the plaster board, were lots of little nails holding remnants of fabric. Marc’s hunch had been correct that the panels would originally have held in place beautiful fabrics, framed by the wood panelling like eight enormous paintings.
We were inspired by this to try to recreate the original grandeur of the room and our thoughts fell immediately to chinoiserie. A passion of great home owners throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, it was a way to tell stories of voyages or display exotic creatures and plants that most people in Europe had only heard of. Amy had been following the work of British chinoiserie artist Diane Hill for some time and when we approached her she was very excited about the project.
Our idea was to have each panel contain a fictional scene from a part of the world that meant a lot to both of us. Diane very gamely set about researching and painting a huge array of creatures and plants, many of which she had never seen before, which gave the project even more resonance with the chinoiserie artists of the 18th-19th centuries. We chose the Caribbean for three panels – where we first met and lived together (Montserrat) and where we had a most wonderful and wild holiday (Barbuda). Then two panels for our honeymoon in Uganda, which included a trek in the little-visited Rwenzori Mountains with their unique and magical flora. For the final three panels, where else could we choose but our new home of Rosières, with its less exotic but perhaps more beloved plants and birds.
Choosing, painting on and then installing fabric was a new experience for both Diane and ourselves, and was far from straightforward but the effort was worth it. We have ended up with the most bright and beautiful bedroom I think I’ve ever seen, and something completely unique. In a later post we will acquaint you with the en suite bathroom, the history and renovation of which is also quite a story and revealed a lot about the previous form of the chateau.
Luxury B&B 2020
We will be renting this room out for luxury bed and breakfast weekends starting September 2020 (before that we have a little one on the way!) We are limiting our bookings to only 10 weekends between 1st September and 20th December 2020 and we have already booked five of these!
If you’re looking for a special escape – a birthday, anniversary, proposal, or just a relaxing getaway, you will be our only guests for the entire weekend. You can relax in the grand bedroom and around the chateau – sitting in the grand salon playing board games or perhaps having a tinkle on our magnificent grand piano. You can eat breakfast in the comfort of your own room or beside the woodburner in the sunny dining room, and you can go for walks in our 130 acre forest or into the surrounding hills. We will be as present or as absent as you want us to be and if you feel drawn to help us round the chickens up for bedtime, cuddle a peacock, collect wood for the fires, or even just sit and have a chat with us, then we welcome you into our home and life.
Whatever you want from your weekend, we can help to make it special. The price is 480 euros for a two night weekend stay with breakfast, and until Christmas 2019 we will be offering a third night for 120 extra. Due to renovations and regulations we cannot yet offer cooked evening meals but we can arrange picnics or afternoon tea for a small extra cost, and help you with booking any of our wonderful nearby restaurants. For an extra special occasion there is a three Michelin-starred restaurant just 30 minutes up the road with a spa next door!
We recently ran two competitions on Instagram and Facebook for people to identify two of the birds in our paintings. We were quite flexible on the exact name because of course they’re stylised versions of reality, so unless you got it completely wrong then you were entered! See below for the answers and winners. If you are one of the winners please email us at email@example.com with your address and we’ll send you your little prize!
Winner of the Instagram competition: @thepickledasparagus
Winner of the facebook competition: Natalia Watanabe