When you first visit a flat or house, irrespective of the property’s history or the sales pitch delivered by the owner, friend or mediator, you immediately pick up on good or bad vibes: it’s here or nowhere, you think!
You’re won over by a combination of light, smell, aspect, and overall transparency etc.
In a word, it’s all about atmosphere.
This is how I came to be the owner of a castle-less castle in Normandy – a former château, reduced to two beautiful 17th century brick and stone outbuildings, erected around a large pond and fountain, in turn surrounded by moats. This castle-less castle, destroyed shortly after the French Revolution, was quickly christened “Où est le château?”(Where’s the castle) by good friends, and then given the humorous anglicized nickname, “Well château” by Marie-Claire Pauwles. It was love at first sight, not just because I immediately felt at home but for a more practical reason: the two buildings looked as if they would be relatively easy to renovate. No architect, no project managers, just the help of some Pays d’Auge craftsmen.
Two years of weekends were devoted to site meetings; there were no members of the Guild of Craftsmen to help, just a homemade office, comprising a large Samsonite case laid flat on top of a plank of wood, resting on trestles. Of course, there were the frequent trips to the ground floor of BHV department store, essential for finessing the project and to consolidate the veneer of professionalism I needed to deal with the first-rate Normandy suppliers and workmen… I learnt a lot.
Since then, it’s been pure pleasure: weekends away and short breaks, etc. The property boasts all the advantages of a château, particularly on the garden front with its hundred-year-old trees, natural springs and cool spots to escape the summer heat - yes, Normandy also has heat waves! In the house, I love the charming feel of the old building and the creature comforts it offers. And what’s really great is the huge number of friends who’ve come to visit me in Normandy – the icing on the cake, so to speak. So… more good vibes please!
Antoine Hébrard, Chairman of Who’s Who France, Le Bottin Mondain and Le Bridgeur