Friday Fun: Chateaux and Manor Houses

Can we ever have too many chateaux? In France they have a term for those houses that are not too extravagant but aspire to be chateaux or manor houses: Maison de maitre. The Master’s House. Let’s leave aside any classist (and gendered) connotations for a moment and dream of letting everyone have access to them!

Boath House, Nairn, Scotland. From Boath-House.com
Nearly a chateau in France, from thisisglamorous.com
Villa near Paris, from cote-maison.fr
American version of European style, from dsdixonarchitects.com
Simple and slightly windswept beauty, from lobsterandswan.com
I wouldn’t mind even this really tiny house, from feld-architecture.eu

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Romanian Road Trip: Mountain Country

When I was young, I always wanted to go to the seaside on holiday in Romania and couldn’t understand why we had to follow the national tradition of a week at the seaside followed by a week in the mountains. Nowadays, however, I much prefer the mountains (at least in my home country – for beaches are pretty similar everywhere in Europe).

The first part of our road trip was heading north out of Bucharest up the picturesque Prahova Valley (particularly colourful at this time of year) to Braşov. We only stopped for lunch because both the cable car at Buşteni and the Peleş Palace in Sinaia were closed on a Tuesday, but if you ever go that way, you should stop and check out both. (By the way, the s with cedilla is pronounced ‘sh’).

Peles, the summer residence of the Romanian kings in the 19th/20th century. From gandul.info
The Sphinx, rock formation caused by the heavy winds at the top of the Bucegi mountains, accessible only on foot from the Busteni cable car.

We stayed a few days in Braşov, also known as Kronstadt in German, because its symbol is of a crown on an oak tree. Not to be confused with the Russian Kronstadt near St Petersburg, it was a bustling medieval and Renaissance town of craftsmen and merchants, where German, Hungarian and Romanian ethnicities lived together in something resembling harmony.

The coat of arms of the city on the town hall.

While it does not have the grand architecture of Sibiu (which is where the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy lived), it is still full of beautiful old buildings, some of them more renovated than others.

Nightfall in the main square of the Old Town, with the Hollywood-style lit-up sign of Brasov.
View of the city from behind the sign.

It is also home to one of the narrowest streets in Europe, appropriately known as ‘Rope Street’. Each window looking out onto the street has been decorated by a different artist.

I have a soft spot for Braşov, though, and not just because it has been the scene of many an escapade during my high school and university years (it is only 2 hours from Bucharest, so we went skiing or hiking nearly every other weekend). It is also surrounded by mountains, so in just a few minutes you can be in the forest and feel that you have left all the urban hustle and bustle behind you.

We stayed at a very nice hotel here too, in the Schei neighbourhood, which was just outside the Old Town walls and was traditionally the only place where Romanians were allowed to settle. This was the view from our balcony.

The weather was not as kind to us here as it was throughout the rest of our trip. It only rained a little bit, but there was cloud cover, which meant we didn’t get the best views of or from the mountains. And it was very cold for two days, with some snowfall, especially up in the ski resort Poiana Braşov, where I learnt to ski again as a grown-up after a ski accident in my childhood put an end to winter sports for me, as far as my parents were concerned.

A world away from the mellow autumnal landscape below.
All is well, however, when you can warm up your icy toes in a hot tub at the Hotel Sport.
Since it was out of season, we had the whole place practically to ourselves.

But it was the interplay of nature and architecture, as well as the friendly cats, which made us love Braşov.

Gate to the Old Town.
The tower of the famous Black Church in the background.
We kept passing this abandoned house on our way back to the hotel. I would love to renovate it and keep a few cats there. 

This is getting too long, so I will have to tell you about the next stage of our journey in a separate blog post. I had some hard choices to make about which route to take to Sibiu, where my younger son’s godparents live. I was initially planning to go via Sighişoara, which is the most beautiful medieval towns in Romania, but a bit farther away. In the end, time and other circumstances made us opt for another route. But, as you will see, we discovered a lesser-known treasure there as well.

One last fond look at Braşov. 

If you go there, try their Bulz (a sort of polenta and cheese mix rolled up into a ball) and their Papanaşi – enormous doughnuts traditionally served as a pair with blueberry jam and cream. Extremely filling – I can’t believe I used to be able to tackle those as a dessert. I now could barely finish one as a main course!

From retete.unica.ro

Friday Fun: Hunting Pavilions

I don’t approve of hunting, but I could easily find another purpose in life for these charming pavillons de chasses (hunting pavilions). The Book Club Pavilion maybe?

The unusually shaped pavilion in the Forêt de Dreux. From Wikimedia.

A breakfast pavilion for those hazy summer days in Kassel – maybe to read Enrique Vila-Matas? From KasselMarketing.de

More of a gatehouse than a hunting lodge at Brockenhurst, although I expect they might still do the odd spot of hunting around here.

Sadly neglected, this charming little outhouse of Chateau Blossac. From mymajorcompany.com/sauver-blossac fundraising page.

The oversized luxury, now a tourist centre from Chassons.

Another renovation project in St Germain-en-Laye, Pavillon de la Muette, from LeParisien.fr

Another crumbling French beauty from Pinterest.

More of an orangery than a hunting pavilion, in Plas Brondanw in Wales, from contentinacottage.blogspot.uk

Last but not least, one of the most famous of them all, the Pavillon de Galon in Luberon, France. Renowned not so much for its architecture, as for its gardens. From Regions de France.

 

Friday Fun: Villa, Villa, Villa

No, not Aston Villa (the only thing I know about that football club is that the first boy I ever went out on a date with was an Aston Villa supporter, and I imagined they played somewhere in front of a white plantation house with a portico – perhaps I was confusing it with cricket!). It’s villas that could be dreams for some and nightmares for others, the future for some and the death of architecture for others. Controversial ones, in other words!

Futuristic villa in Rhodes, from Cotemaison.fr

And they do have an outhouse for the books! From Cotemaison.fr

Flights of Birds villa in Portugal, from Home Design Lover.

Highly exposed design again, from Zachary Horne architects. Luckily, the owners have a dog to warn them.

Sci fi style desert house in California, from Weburbanist

Another Spaceship inspired house, this time in Denver, from Weburbanist.

The blend of greenery and view make the Today House in Hiroshima, designed by Kimihiko Okada (a woman architect) rather special. From Inhabitat,

Rolling holiday homes in Lithuania, from Do Architects.

 

 

Friday Fun: Contemporary and Futuristic Homes

Glass seems to be the building element of choice for futuristic homes. Let’s just hope there’s no one waiting to cast any stones!

The mountain chalet updated in Colorado, from onekindesign.com

It’s all about the views in this Brazilian home, from Casa Claudia.

High ceilings seem to be compulsory in modern houses, as in this Spanish house. From Casa Luxo.

Inverted clifftop house (bedrooms downstairs, living room upstairs) from habitusliving.com.

Another American extravaganza, from houses-design.info

Now we move onto futurism, from luxuryhomedecor.org

More modest and sustainable: a container home. From mycontainer-house.blogspot.com.

Friday Fun: The Windows Have It

You can’t get enough daylight in winter, especially if you are stuck in a basement office, so here are some houses that use windows in a creative way, to give you the illusion of more space.

Scandinavian, of course! From fotoblooblogspot.co.uk

Townhouse in Ghent, from notey.com

The mastery of Japanese narrowness. From kotaku.com

House in Rock Creek, US, from ArchDaily.

A Japanese house that gives me vertigo just looking at it, from The Systemlab.com

The heaviest glass doors you can imagine, from modernarchitecture.com

 

Friday Fun: My Favourite Kind of Houses

Just in time for Christmas, it’s only right to show my true colours and admit that, although I like bold architecture in public buildings, I actually dream of living in a Georgian or Queen Anne house. I love the symmetry and uncluttered look of that period. See if you agree with me…

Georgian house in Wiltshire, from Tripadvisor.

Highgrove House, also known as Prince Charles’ residence. From The Fuller View.

A modernised mews cottage, most probably, from House & Garden Magazine UK.

The French are pretty good at this kind of architecture too. From Periwinkleliving on Tumblr.

The Americans have adopted it, of course, in the Colonial Style. From Williamslove.blogspot

Another French version of it from further south in Provence. From architecture-lafourcade.com

And finally, this is what a (wealthy) Georgian Christmas would have looked like:

From the Jane Austen Centre.