in the medieval district of Châteaudun
1½ hours from Paris by car or train, 45 km from Chartres and 50 km from Orléans, at the foot of the impressive defensive castle in the town of Châteaudun, is a maze of narrow medieval streets worthy of a scene described by Victor-Hugo. When following a steep road down towards the river Loir, it is possible to glimpse the high, protruding hills that border the garden of this house. These mineral formations, now wooded, were created in the Upper Jurassic period by the sea which hollowed its way through this area. Towards the river, numerous hiking trails make it possible to appreciate an area with a view, prior to stopping for a drink in a lovely little waterside café, reminiscent of Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”.
Behind the outbuildings, the other side of the plot is taken up by a 3-storey building, with its own private entrance.
The main house
This 360 m² house is constructed from rendered dressed stone, with exposed dressed stone quoins and surrounds framing the openings. It rises unequally like a villa, spanning two, three and four levels, with a steep slate roof and no regional features. Its existence is marked by two construction periods. Town archives bear witness to a construction under Louis XV, of which there remains but a kitchen on the garden level, with a well that is accessible and has water all year round courtesy of the river Loir; an asset much appreciated for watering purposes. The remainder was built between the Second Empire and the Third Republic: a solid house resembling a villa, flanked by its old, robust wing and, to the rear, by a vast outbuilding, with a currently empty flat.
The courtyard is utilitarian. The main entrance at the time it was initially built could have been via the garden where the gates opening on to the street lead to a relatively low flight of corner steps, flanked on either side by wrought iron railings. Unless visitors had chosen to enter the courtyard in a horse-driven carriage.
Once through the carriage gates leading to the courtyard, visitors face a large outbuilding, with the house on their left and other outbuildings on their right. The main building is then entered on the side via double doors, adorned with grilles dating from the second half of the 19th century.
The current owners have sought out and magnified the eminently French character of this house in its layout. The conversion and decoration highlight a very French way of using balance when decorating: the harmony of warm and cold colours, the addition of features, not too many, nor too few, and a wonderful blend of the contemporary with the old to create an easy way of life.
Visitors enter a 20 m² hall, paved with beautifully preserved, period cement tiles from Maubeuge. Their success was such under the old French Empire that their equivalent was found in a patrician’s house in Beirut. Said hall provides access to a 25 m² dining room. A semi-circular alcove housing a 1900 wood-burning stove which, with its copper cupboard, can still be used for keeping food warm. The ground floor has an ideal layout for combing family life with entertaining: two lounges, respectively spanning 35 and 20 m², a 30 m² fully fitted kitchen which opens directly on to the garden and a toilet. The stairway is bordered by old wrought iron railings. The rooms have been given large surface areas so that the owners can easily receive guests and yet privacy has been preserved courtesy of the ingenious layout coupled with tasteful modern-day home comforts. The 6 bedrooms and the bathrooms are on the upper floors.
The main bedroom, illuminated via two large windows, is extended by a recent, panelled bathroom, also featuring a tall window. Another two bedrooms, a bathroom and a toilet, all recently converted, take up this level.
A few steps lead to a flat, set slightly apart on a half floor: a large bedroom and a vast bathroom, probably more recent. Next to it is an attic.
This top floor houses another two bedrooms, both with sloping ceilings, one of which has a brand-new window, as well as a large dressing room. All the windows are double-glazed.
The caretaker’s cottage
A large outbuilding set at right angles to the main house was once home to a caretaker. The remaining vast, empty flat, spanning two levels, is now used for storage purposes. Two garages on the ground floor free the courtyard of cars. On the right-hand side is an old loose box for the horse that drew the carriages and the building’s storage areas. The latter adjoining the rental building to the rear.
The rental building
This building awaits full renovation works. A carriage entrance and a small gate give access to an area which could be transformed into a carpark. The ground floor comprises useful storage areas on one side and a stairway with wooden balusters. The upstairs is composed of two flats facing one another; each with its own entrance. Divided into 3 or 4 main rooms, they are in need of reorganisation works and to be brought in line with current day construction and living standards.
The attic space, spanning almost 200 m², could be used to create additional living areas.
The walled, rectangular garden, extending in front of the kitchen and the lounge, runs alongside the street, the noise of which can scarcely be heard. A swimming pool, protected by a rustic safety fence, borders the left-hand side. A gazebo dating from the original construction period, is an invitation to take tea facing the flower beds in spring.
On the right-hand side, the sloping cliff forms a wooded mystery, surprising in the centre of town. It is not certain whether, in the initial design of these premises, the idea of taking advantage of this buttress was intended. And yet, this robust presence brings additional mystery to the foot of the feudal castle just like the rustic constructions in fashion in aristocratic gardens just before the French Revolution. The impression is reinforced by the existence of caves with tunnels that can just be glimpsed, and where, during the owner’s childhood, grapes were crushed barefoot. The limestone of the caves is ideal for laying down wine and it can kindle the imagination of children, the limited size of the cracks nevertheless limiting all danger for them. Sports enthusiasts could, equally safely, enhance their physical condition with a gentle climb.
New owners have the choice of leaving the area in its relatively wild state or of designing an Italian-style, terraced garden, above that below.
The quadrangular, pleasantly flat section in question is laid out with plants: fruit trees (pear, Mirabel plum, apple and plum). Two spectacular olive trees, a majestic palm tree and a maple tree provide shade. Many species of flowers, including hydrangea, African lilies, various roses, lavender and all kinds of fragrant herbs, border the central, velvety lawn. A vegetable garden at the end is but waiting to be replanted.
This house, where residents forget they are in town, is big enough to accommodate family, friends and customers. The garden exudes a welcoming atmosphere, with its extensive design, the quality of its trees, its nooks and crannies providing privacy as well as the possible construction of hillside cabins. The tranquillity of the neighbourhood is a countrified asset reminiscent of what Passy was to Paris during Balzac’s time: a slightly crooked street and somewhat diverse buildings. It is even possible, with screwed up eyes, to hear the echo of horses’ hooves. The interior is elegant and in pristine condition. Spacious areas give residents room to breathe and copious amounts of light flood in through tall, double-glazed windows, giving rise to dreams of the prosperous and carefree era that preceded the First World War, directing the movement of the colours diffracted by the sun on to the cement floor tiles. Furthermore, the homeland of Proust’s works is but 30 minutes away.
The next-door building could be used for creating a residence for artists, a hotel and catering project based on a literary, musical, training or even meditation activity, a place for holding courses very near to the French capital, on a direct train line. Locals eagerly await the return of their “Fête des Laines” ‘(Wool Fair), stopped by the outbreak of the Covid pandemic. This large, historic, 3-day event, held every summer to celebrate the Middle-Ages and its customs with tournaments and street entertainers, takes Châteaudun back to what it might have been in the 13th century courtesy of its disguised inhabitants and its transformed streets.
|Land registry surface area||9003 m2|
|Main building surface area||359.97 m2|
|Number of bedrooms||8|
|Outbuilding surface area||500 m2|
Sixtine de Naurois +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.