There are many reasons why you might start a blog, but documenting the revival of an 18th century neoclassical ruin seems like a pretty damn good reason if you ask me. In 2013, Australian husband & wife team Karina and Craig Waters purchased the Chateau de Gudanes, a decaying fairytale mansion in the Midi-Pyrénées that had been sitting on the market for four years.
Karina and Craig had just about given up on their arduous hunt for the perfect home in France when the couple’s son spotted the neglected property on the internet. Without hesitation, they drove nearly 500 miles in a single day to reach the unloved chateau that would change their lives forever.
Once the house had been signed for, the long and silent wait began for the restoration permits. Months went by while Karina anxiously awaited a response, but nothing. And then some more nothing, until the couple began desperately contemplating selling the house.
The previous owners, a foreign investment company that bought the chateau in the 1990s had planned to convert it into 17 luxury apartments– we’re talking a class 1 historic monument here. Naturally, the developers were denied the building permission and simply left the neoclassical mansion to decay. However, unlike the previous owners, Karina and Craig weren’t interested in turning a profit on the Chateau de Gudanes and simply wanted to restore the 94 room home to its former glory.
It wasn’t until Karina wrote to the French authorities explaining that they would have to sell the house because she wasn’t “feeling any love”, did officials finally grant the Australians their permits.
These dusty stairways and crumbling walls once belonged to the Marquis Louis Gaspard de Sales, who commissioned Parisian architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, (famous for his Petit Trianon in Versailles) to build him a grand abode that could host lavish parties for the likes of Voltaire and the crème de la crème of French nobility. When the French Revolution came around, the chateau was spared and later bought by a local family.
Today, it’s once again in the hands of a family who just so happen to be taking us on their journey with the Chateau de Gudanes, through its historic past, its chaotic present and its bright future.
Since work began, everything started to get a little bit more interesting. Karina regularly updates the chateau’s official blog and social networking pages with snapshots of the progress, thanks to a building team of six, who are working around the clock to bring this sleeping beauty back to life.
While her husband Craig has returned to Australia to look after the children and continue working (they’re going to need plenty more of those Aussie dollars), Karina has been left in charge. Her fears and triumphs as an ex-pat in a rural French village trying to manage this monumental project are all delightfully unfolding on the blog too.
Chateau de Gudanes’ hidden treasures are constantly being discovered during the renovation process, with original details and century-old paintwork being uncovered at every turn. Karina constantly finds herself going through the discarded piles of rubble being accumulated on the front lawn, looking for anything to recycle as the house undergoes repairs and reinforcements.
Recently, the builders discovered a three metre deep hole found under floor boards…
The “hole” has vaulted ceiling.
Builders will now excavate to see where it all leads…
It’s all very exciting stuff, you know, if you happen to like the idea of restoring an abandoned French chateau.
After the consolidation phase the Chateau has started to regain its energy and life back and the couple are being sure that they take this process slowly and gently to guarantee that the atmosphere and authenticity will remain.
With their progress continuously developing and their ongoing dedication to the restoration the couple were awarded the Medal of Honour 2016 of the Foundation Prince Louis de Polignac in October 2016.
These are the kind of stories and updates you want popping up on your Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds!
Follow the Chateau de Gudanes Facebook page for updates, ogle the Instagram feed and discover the blog to join this incredible journey.
Further read on The Good Life France
All Images (c) Chateau de Gudanes