It doesn’t always have to be chateaux. I would be quite happy with these ‘little’ gems.
Just back from a holiday in Romania, where I am always stunned by the diversity of traditional architecture (and the often disappointing standardisation of modern architecture). Here are a few of my favourites.
Sunny spells announced today after yesterday’s stormy weather, but more grey bleakness still to come. So of course I cannot help but wish I were far, far away from it all, in one of these luxurious villas. (Small aside: have you noticed how most celebrity homes and holiday villas featured in magazines are rather tacky and over-decorated? It wasn’t as easy as you might think to find something appealing… even when money is no object.)
The final one is purely conceptual for the time being and might prove a little too much for my claustrophobic tendencies, but it’s the perfect desert island for someone.
Let me introduce you today to homes of famous writers or artists, which no longer function as homes. In most cases, they’ve been pulled down to make way for progress, but not before bankrupting their owners.
Fortunately, some houses escaped this fate, even though the owner had to sell them to pay off debts. Alexandre Dumas, for instance, overreached himself when he built a magnificent chateau (known as the Chateau de Monte-Cristo) just outside Paris, including a little island with the most ambitious ‘writing shed’ in history.
More higgledy-piggledy pictures of the beautiful area I have had the pleasure of calling home for the last five years…
You could do worse than live in a chateau near Lausanne, like David Bowie did in the 1980s. Apparently, Switzerland was too quiet for his taste after his marriage to Iman, but if you like winter sports and vineyards, and you don’t get invited to celebrity parties anyway, you should be fine.
In other words, still more inspirational houses that once belonged to writers and artists in France. Most of them have been turned into museums, although the last one has had an interesting fate.
Just in case you are thinking that these are all too good to be true (certainly without a talented gardener or two), below is a sad story of aspirations and loss.
The Manoir du Breuil near Calvados in Normandy belonged to Lucien Guitry, actor and father of the slightly more famous Sascha Guitry. Whenever Françoise Sagan spent the summer at Deauville in Normandy, she would look covetously at this house perched on a hill and occasionally be able to rent it for a few weeks. Then, one night in August 1958, she won a huge sum at roulette and the very next day she purchased this property.
Unfortunately, there was no happy ending. The house required major renovation works, particularly after it was damaged by fire, but Sagan was a compulsive gambler, buyer of fancy sports cars, drinker and drug addict, so there was never enough money left over. A huge backdated tax bill was the final nail in the coffin. She was forced to sell the house, although the generous friend who bought it allowed her to continue living in part of it until her death. The house has now been completely remodelled by the current owner, the CEO of Eurotunnel.
My lifelong dream was to own a chateau with a magnificent view and a vineyard, where I could write (of course) but also run my training courses and serve my wine to a captive audience. Here are some chateaux which come close to my high demands.
A few beehives would also not come amiss! Where did you dream of living when you were a child?
Seems like I can never get enough of houses in France, especially those which belong to writers and artists. I’m ranking them in order of luxury. Some of them appear to have come from moneyed backgrounds, others seem to have made a fortune from their work… or perhaps houses were much cheaper back then. Here’s to hoping!
Barn conversions are very popular not just in France, but all over the world. Here are some examples:
I can’t help hearing my grandmother’s voice, clucking somewhere above my shoulder: ‘Tsk, tsk, why would people want to live with cows and pigs?’