half in the country and half in the town of Castres
On the east and Black Mountain side of the appealing, very busy town of Castres, it is surprising to find such a haven of peace adjoining all that our modern society can offer in terms of amenities, with even a shopping centre, that cannot be seen or heard from the property. Looking out over wonderful countryside, protected by neighbouring listed parklands, this property is 5 minutes from the town centre and 10 minutes from Castres-Mazamet airport, with its four daily flights to Paris-Orly and Charles-de-Gaulle.
The town has a wealth of shops, cultural activities (rugby is emblematic there) and its recent hospital has a very good reputation.
A motorway under construction will soon link Castres to Toulouse in 35 minutes.
(It would also be possible to purchase an old factory, once a part of the property, which is perfectly concealed by the outbuildings.)
The Maurice-Benne villa (1948)
This house is the work of architect Maurice-Benne who also designed Saint-Joseph-de-Laden church in Castres (1968). His plans date from 1948. The various sections and roof of this house reflect a style of architecture to be found in the south of France, where different units adjoin and protrude from one another, creating a unique building every time. Another aspect of this style is that the various sections, of miscellaneous sizes and heights, adjoin a main building, higher than the rest, this being determined in this instance by the height of the old mill so as to create harmonious continuity. The soberness of the straight lines dominates and the roof over the top section, covered with Roman tiles, is almost flat; those of the lower sections being marked by steeper slopes. This feature enlivens the building in a simple, balanced manner. The very modern classicism of the traditional architecture from the south-east regions is enhanced here by several modernist effects such as the layout and proportions of certain openings as, for example, that set in the south-west corner on the top floor of the main section. The stylistic base of the architecture, almost Palladian in its simplicity, makes it possible to give way to whims which can but be in good taste: these will clearly take the form of a wide variety of ornaments. The tone is set. The architect had no reason to hesitate when defining his style as it was a question of adjoining a modern building to the structure of an old mill, which featured on Cassini’s map. The structure of the mill actually reflecting great soberness, the task appeared to be easy, the old and the modern sections almost fitting one into the other. And yet, when moving around the house, it becomes obvious that the various levels are more complex than it first appeared and are more difficult to define with words. In fact, the new section itself has two separate accesses on different levels, said difference in levels not even amounting to that of a half-floor: one on the parklands side, the other on the river side. Furthermore, the same difference in levels has been preserved in the communication between the old mill and the new section. Therefore, considering the different levels, it is once again possible to note the same principle of four heads of Janus, said principle being founded on the same two axes already observed in the topography of the estate. Coincidence or not, the concept existing between the lines and structures will be clearly apparent to those attempting to look beyond the simplicity of what is initially seen. This approach, the principle of adapting an architectural style to a site, is reminiscent of a similar concept implemented by Jules-Hardouin-Mansart in the construction of what is today the town hall in the very same town of Castres.
In addition to the usual cellars and boiler rooms that are generally housed in basements, this one is special in that the biggest of its sections has been laid out as a private nightclub. It can be accessed via two entrances: one, inside, via the house’s vestibule; the other, via the outside, a sort of corridor under a terrace, illuminated via three openings, looking out over the garden. Coming from the outside, visitors access directly on to the dancefloor. However, via the inside, a few steps go down to an entrance hall leading, on one side, to a cloakroom as well as toilets and, on the other, to the dancefloor. The latter provides access to an alcove and, on the other side to a bar, an English gentleman’s club and a projection room. All sorts of lighting effects have been installed there, together with a sound system.
Thick double doors, with a door knocker and wrought iron studs, provide access to a large vestibule, with a 9.6 m high vaulted ceiling. It stunningly houses an impressive stone stairway with balusters, a copy of a 17th century original, which is quite obviously incongruous in a place where modernist effects prevail. A section under the overhanging landing opens into the entrance hall of the discotheque. The effect produces an attraction down towards obscurity rather than up towards the light. The actual ground floor is, in fact, a half floor higher than the level housing the vestibule. The latter features white marble floor tiles, with slight, ochre-coloured veining, whilst the landing and the lounge are paved with pure white and red marble tiles, laid in a chessboard pattern, the marble coming from quarries in Caunes-Minervois and Saint-Pons, the very same that were used during the construction of the Grand-Trianon in Versailles.
Facing the landing, a large lounge is widely illuminated via a bow-window which opens on to a terrace, looking out over the section of parklands which has been landscaped. Two French windows opening on to two small balconies on the river side let in the morning light, creating a most pleasant effect. A fireplace, with a thick stone mantel, takes pride of place in this room.
On the right-hand side of the landing, a music room of particularly harmonious proportions is also very pleasantly illuminated. It features white, slightly veined, marble floor tiles.
A corridor leads from the landing to a study which features the same marble as that to be found in the lounge and on the landing, to a billiards’ room and to a kitchen which, most unusually, still features its original furniture, cupboards and cold-rooms.
A short distance away, at the end of the hall corridor, is a self-contained studio flat comprising an entrance hall, a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom and a separate toilet.
The landing, where residents are close to the stairwell vault, is well illuminated by openings, half-way up the stairs. This level is entirely given over to bedrooms. On one side, the landing communicates with a bedroom via a lobby which also leads to a separate bathroom and a toilet. Opposite is an independent bedroom. It is followed by a third bedroom, a bathroom, as well as a fourth bedroom communicating with a bathroom.
The layout of the attic space reflects a certain originality. A fairly big attic adjoins a section housing two bedrooms and a separate toilet, the latter opening directly into one of them. A narrow stairway provides access to a third, so-called African bedroom, steeped in light and overlooking the parklands.
The old mill
Powered by the force of the waterfall, it could be made operational once again if new owners were to rebuild its mechanism.
Spanning two levels, constructed over cellars, it is worthy of being restored given the general robustness of the construction and its state of neglect.
The basement houses the residence’s boiler and laundry rooms. Another room contains the oil tank.
A large kitchen on the ground floor was once used for preparing bottled and traditional meat preserves. It features a fireplace and a tub for cooking. A first room overlooking the courtyard communicates with a stairway via a corridor. At the end of this corridor is the old machine room.
Above the machine room is a large room where it is easy to see the remains of wallpaper, whose blue motifs have not faded.
A hall area provides access to a sort of anteroom opening into an additional room. This room, at one time, communicated directly with the residence’s self-contained studio flat.
The caretaker’s cottage
This cottage spans 106 m² over two levels, constructed over 30 m² of cellars. Its traditional layout comprises living rooms on the ground floor and bedrooms upstairs. The ground floor includes a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom and a toilet whilst the upstairs is taken up by four bedrooms.
Next to the cottage stands a building in ruins, with only the walls and the roof remaining (all in a good state of repair). Spanning a ground surface area of 30 m², it awaits rehabilitation.
Standing a short distance away, at right angles to the cottage, this outbuilding can be used as stables or a garage. Its Roman tile roof is enhanced with a superb overhanging gable cornice. It spans a ground surface area of 178 m².
This property is most unusual not only because of its regional location (road and airport infrastructures) and its position in relation to the town and the countryside, but also because of its architectural qualities. It combines the advantages of the town and those of the countryside without any of their inconveniences and its balance is especially marked by contrasts. The effect is stunning. The old mill, for example, blends harmoniously with a 1940’s house. It is also so easy to move around between the various sections that there is no risk of overcrowding. A house for a family, for leisure activities or for a bed & breakfast activity, it exudes potential.
Furthermore, the possibility of purchasing the old factory and its land is an additional asset for all those who love rehabilitating industrial buildings.
|Land registry surface area||2 ha 52 a 79 ca|
|Main building surface area||742 m2|
|Outbuilding surface area||982 m2|
Philippe Fritsch +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.