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Travels with an Architect: A Restored Chateau in France, Farm Included

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Travels with an Architect: A Restored Chateau in France, Farm Included

November 12, 2012

Our friend Jerome Buttrick (a member of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory) recently spent a few days at the Domaine des Etangs in the Dordogne, a restored chateau complete with floating tennis court. Here's his report:

Owned by a Swiss woman who inherited the property from her father, Domaine des Etangs has undergone extensive renovation over the past few years. In the reception building, located next to the main chateau, you are greeted by a collection of colorful boots, a whimsical way of reminding urbanites that while they will be comfortable here—the boots are clean and new—you are really on a farm, in the country. There is a wonderful garden that the equally wonderful restaurant benefits from as well as cows dotting the premises.

In a "back to the past" way, you are placed somewhere between the vernacular of hundreds of years ago and the latest that the simple aesthetic life has to offer. The limestone walls are unaltered save for a brilliant renovation move: the massive, textured walls are sliced by openings, filled with single sheets of glass. The uneven stone surfaces, cleanly cut by a skilled craftsman's blade, retain the glass effortlessly. Door and window frames are not used where they are not absolutely necessary—deep walls provide overhangs. Where a frame, or a piece of hardware is required, the ghost of Carlos Scarpa appears as if to hand you what you need—a hinge, a coverplate, a frame—in solid copper. You can't help but pause and admire how reduced it all feels; it is the disciplined design strategy that stands out here, nothing is overwrought. For more information, go to Domaine des Etangs.

Photos by Jerome Buttrick, except where otherwise indicated.

700 domaine etangs cow

Above: A herd of cows reminds you that this is a working farm. Photo via Domaine des Etangs.

700 domaine etanges path

Above: The estate sprawls over several acres of farmland and forest. The main chateau alterations are still underway and will add several more rooms and a spa.

700 domaine 03 bottes

Above: A row of boots welcomes visitors. Photo via Domaine des Etangs.

700 domain des etanges 10

Above: A sunlit corner in one of the outbuildings, now home to one of the dozen or so guest suites.

700 domaine etangs dining room 10

Above: The simple dining room; the only color is provided by the upholstered chairs. Photo via Domaine des Etangs.

700 domain etangs green bedroom

Above: The primitive-looking rough-hewn chairs are surprisingly comfortable. Photo via Domaine des Etangs.

700 domain etanges shower sink

Above L: The plunge shower features a single temperature water that's a tad on the cool side (perhaps as a way to wake you to the fact that this is not all quite real, except that it is). Above R: The floors are also stone—set in radiant slabs that also carry all the plumbing and electrics, leaving the historic stone walls alone to do what they do best: support and shelter.

700 domaine etangs tub

Above: A copper soaking tub in a spa area.

700 domain des etangs tennis court

Above: A tennis court seems to float on the edge of the lake. Photo via Domaine des Etangs.

700 domain etangs water feature 1

Above: A stream is diverted to traverse one of the many biking paths.

700 domaine etangs exterior

Above: The history of the estate is not particularly interesting, to judge from the slim binder available on the property. One notable exception is that at one point several centuries ago, it was inherited by a Frenchman who brashly declared that he was not Catholic, thus setting him apart in a region otherwise very much inclined toward the church. As if this were not enough, he proceeded to murder several of his immediate neighbors. Soon enough, he was the recipient of a similar fate while on his own property.

See more of our Hotels & Lodging selections in France.

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