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At first glance, this house depicts village life on the banks of a river in an old bourgeois house with blue shutters. In reality, it is another matter entirely. From the large windows that punctuate the facade, a long story unfolds before our eyes. Odilon de Mercœur (the 11th century founder of the Clunisian priory that made this place famous) was not insensitive to the striking beauty of this natural setting where the Allier seems to curl up on itself, diverted from its run through the mountains that surround it. Standing high on its banks to better withstand the fury of its floods, the houses form a sort of stone sentinel that almost defies time. Among them, the Maison CHA-RI-VA-RI is a joyful mix of old and new and offers stunning views of the village. It is ranked among the most beautiful lookouts in France.
In 1953, my Parisian grandmother returned to her Auvergne origins and Lavoûte-Chilhac became our family's holiday destination without fail. In 2013, our love for a house here brought about a significant change in lifestyle. As professionals of art and space planning in Paris, we decided to use our experience for a personal project. We also longed to live in an area surrounded by volcanoes and mountain streams, in a valley preserved from time and mass tourism. Not to mention the abundance of fortified villages where streets dotted with hollyhocks wind between winemaker's houses built in Volvic stones and volcanic blocks.
Built in the Clunisian village of Lavoûte-Chilhac, this building escapes the waters and floods of the Allier river by perching on the banks. As a mark of wealth for the first owner, the dimensions of the property make it stand out in this village with an agricultural past. The result is a mixture of regional architecture - with the use of Volvic stone paving to decorate the facade - and the classical architecture of the 19th century mansions. The primary interest of this building is its location and the view it offers from its living rooms and bedrooms, encompassing the peninsula, the medieval bridge, the Cluniac priory, the abbey church and the mountain in the background. The priest's garden leads directly to the river and its pebble beach via a flight of stairs.
Built in 1867, the Maison CHA-RI-VA-RI, was certainly designed for a person of note: ceremonial staircase, large living rooms and a service corridor that would have accommodated a significant number of house staff. During the 1920s, it became the summer holiday residence of a Parisian family. Due to the cost of maintenance, these summer visits soon became few and far between. In the 1970s and 1980s, the estate was divided and the plan was redrawn with unfortunate partitions. Our goal was to restore it to its original state, removing additions that tarnished its original splendour and erasing decades that brought architectural disasters. We then named it after a local tradition - the Charivari - a ritual where participants would form a procession at the end of a wedding which, particularly when poorly tuned, caused a dissonant din that would end when the groom offered them drinks. In 1938, the Chilhac charivari remained famous for its longevity when a groom resisted the procession for a whole eight days! The name of our house is a nod to him and the tradition that is still in use today.
The Maison CHA-RI-VA-RI is an anti-hotel, in the sense that we have chosen to make four guest rooms in a place that could have accommodated three times more. We have done this so as not to hurt the original volumes, to preserve the intimate spirit of the house and to offer our guests the luxury of space in rooms between 34 and 45 m2. These volumes have also given us the opportunity to display furniture and oriental antiques for fifteen years. The house is therefore a harmonious blend of antique furniture and industrial and more contemporary designer pieces. All graphic works are originals of known and unknown artists, they can be found in the art books that litter the furniture in the bedrooms and lounges.
From the house, a small path runs along the Pic Rouge (a dormant volcano) and leads to the small town of Blassac which has a Romanesque church whose wealth is showcased by its frescoes from the first half of the 14th century. During the summer, a neighbour of the church offers free guided tours. About twenty kilometres away, Prade is famous for its river beach that faces a volcanic flow with basalt columns. Less well known are the cascades of the Besque, a surprising geological fantasy in the form of a multitude of small waterfalls that can be followed with minimal effort. The place is discreet and quiet, we have been alone on each of our visits there.
72 € - 82 € per night
The ground floor has communal areas, living rooms, a dining room, an exhibition hall and a balcony overlooking the garden. The first floor is reached by a Volvic stone staircase which leads the four guest rooms. Each has a separate entrance, a toilet and a shower room or en suite bathroom. Two rooms have a view of the village: "Mercoeur" and "Le Bois" which are 32 and 34m2 respectively. The other two are 45 m2 with a view of the river: "Atlas" has a bath and "CHAM" has a walk-in shower. A pretty priest's garden with direct access to the river is downstairs.
Every year, the gallery proudly presents the work of an artist wishing to exhibit.