in the Poitou region’s little, old town of Saint-Maixent
Saint-Maixent-l'Ecole is one of France’s rare little towns where the balance between quality of life and road and rail communication routes is excellent. The TGV train station, a 10-minute walk from this mansion house, has direct 110-minute links to Paris-Montparnasse as well as links to La-Rochelle taking less than an hour. Slip roads for the A10 motorway, linking the French capital to Bordeaux and Spain, are 10 km away.
Saint-Maixent-l'Ecole owes its name to the setting up in 1879 of the “École Nationale d'Infanterie” (French national school of infantry) which in 1963 became the “École Nationale des Sous-Officiers d'Active” (French national school for active non-commissioned officers). Up until quite recently, these institutions occupied the abbey buildings, now given over to culture and leisure purposes.
The abbey church itself has experienced many trials and tribulations since the 5th century AD. Reconstruction works commissioned by Louis XIV, on Romanesque foundations, gave the monument its current architectural finesse.
All around are medieval houses and Renaissance mansion houses.
The town stands on the top of a hill, below which the river Sèvre-Niortaise winds its way across the Poitevin marshlands before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean to the north of Ile-de-Ré.
The reception rooms, comprising two lounges with fireplaces and a dining room, together with a study, a kitchen and a back kitchen are all on the ground floor.
Four bedrooms are laid out on the first floor, with another two bedrooms on the second floor.
A bathroom, two shower rooms and three toilets are dotted throughout the building.
Two different stairways provide residents with independence, making it easy for them to move around.
The garden-courtyard provides access to a self-contained flat, with a new tile roof. It comprises two rooms with decorative fireplaces, a small kitchen, a bathroom and a toilet. Below it are the property’s two garages.
This mansion house is constructed over two levels of impressive vaulted cellars.
The mansion house
Its three levels stand in a corner of the garden-courtyard, providing and enjoying the privacy of the premises. The other two sides of the garden-courtyard are a perimeter wall, featuring two sets of gates, and the blind wall of another of the town’s historic buildings. The third facade, on the west side, overlooks a very quiet, little street in old Saint-Maixent which leads to the covered market place.
This mansion house has no openings on its north side. It is constructed from a gold-coloured, dressed limestone which enlivens a series of fine string courses, creating window framing and sills. Above a modillion cornice, five aediculae in the form of large roof dormers emerge from the break of the slate roof. The corner formed by the two buildings is softened by a raised section in the garden-courtyard, forming a sort of parvis, composed of three curved steps. The terrace, created in this way on the south and east sides, is ideal for taking meals outside, for reading or simply relaxing.
The architect opted for an entire order when he designed the entrance door, providing it with cable fluted pilasters in the upper section, Ionic order capitals as well as an entablature and enhancing it with an architrave, a smooth, rounded frieze as well as a dentil cornice.
The rectangular vestibule, with its beige marble floor tiles inlaid with grey veined decoration, houses the main stone stairway. The sober design of its wrought iron railings reflects the classical style of the facade. The lounge and the dining room, both equally luminous, intercommunicate and therefore provide a large reception area, easily spanning more than 50 m².
The grey marble jambs on the lounge chimney are fluted whilst a stylised floral motif enhances the mantel. The mirror trumeau features but a rectangular panel flanking a horn of plenty and stucco foliated scrolls. In the dining room, an entire wall lined with cupboards, featuring original moulded doors, matches the old floor-to-ceiling panelling that covers the other walls.
The ground floor in this section of the L-shaped house also includes a study.
The other section, which also opens into the vestibule, begins with a second lounge, perhaps used on a more daily basis. It features a large bookshelf unit as well as a large fireplace, drawing the eye not only to its blaze but also to its sober mantel and stone chimney breast. The ceiling is enhanced with exposed beams and the floor with terracotta tiles. Double French windows open the room widely on to the south-facing terrace.
It is followed by a kitchen, steeped in light via two windows and a French window, opening on to the same terrace, a back kitchen behind an exposed stone wall and a second wooden stairway.
This level comprises four bedrooms, laid out on either side of a large landing which, illuminated by two windows, corresponds to the vestibule on the ground floor. On the same side as the first two bedrooms, both with two windows, are a shower room (communicating with one of the bedrooms) and a toilet. The latter two also have real windows.
The two other first floor bedrooms also have two large windows and intercommunicate with one another. The first had a separate toilet, the water supply for which still exists, and the second has another door leading to the residence’s second stairway, the landing of which houses a bathroom with a toilet.
The main stairway is equally as wide as of the first landing, but its steps are made of wood and not stone. Two bedrooms are both illuminated via two roof dormers, the same size as windows. One has a water supply point. These two bedrooms can also be reached via the second stairway that an insulated atrium ceiling transforms into a lightwell. This landing provides access to a shower room, with a window, a separate toilet and a wardrobe.
The remainder of the space on the second floor is taken up by a vast attic, under an exposed roofing framework and with its original parquet flooring. This attic space includes two maid’s bedrooms, each with a small window overlooking the street, a wash-hand basin, a bidet and central heating.
The steps down to the cellars are under the interior stairway. A first level comprises several rooms, with packed mud floors, starting with a wine cellar. Another area houses a mains’ gas-fired Chappée boiler and a water softener. Stone steps then lead steeply down to a maze of vaulted rooms that give free rein to the imagination and, at the very least, fuel the thirst to know more about the history of these premises. An admirable octagonal pillar supports triangular arches.
The annex flat
Above the two garages, friends or older children particularly keen on having their own independence can make use of a living room and a bedroom, both featuring decorative fireplaces and large windows, typical of the 1950’s, a little kitchen, a bathroom and toilet. This flat has its own boiler and a new domestic hot water tank. The tiled roof has been completely replaced.
The property’s two garages are underneath the guest flat.
This floor houses the guest flat.
Opposite the terrace, bordering the two buildings comprising this residence, another three steps go up to an area laid to lawn and featuring flowers, surrounded by a well-trimmed hornbeam hedge, planted alongside the blind walls of the age-old neighbouring building. There are two gateways on the road side. The first set of wooden gates, set in a tall porch way featuring a cornice, is flanked by a pedestrian gate. The second set of metal gates, just in front of the garages, is for cars. The area between the terrace, paved with small stone tiles, and the lawn is covered with gravel.
Some residences immediately inspire confidence, exuding a feeling of well-being that appears everlasting. This is a question of balance between the elegance of shapes and the home comforts housed therein. A genuine soberness and good taste prevent any deception or unpleasant surprises. The history of this mansion house begins in its deep cellars and, no doubt, says much about the past of a little town steeped in heritage. The two stairways make the inside particular pleasant to live in. Whilst the guest flat satisfies a possible additional need for independence. New owners, not wishing to make this property their permanent residence, will nevertheless find it easy to return to this pleasant, little, enclosed haven of a garden-courtyard as the TGV train station is but a 10-minute walk and the motorway 10 km away.
|Land registry surface area||652 m2|
|Main building surface area||340 m2|
|Outbuilding surface area||119 m2|
Jean-Pascal Guiot +33 1 42 84 80 85
NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.