The renovations (read stripping things back to the bare bones!) started in earnest the day we got the keys in March 2021. As we lived and worked in London until October 2022, our efforts were condensed into 7-10 day (fairly intense) stints, with a little (read a lot of) help from amazing friends and family members. Since our permanent move to France in the autumn of 2022, things have been just as full on, not least because we became parents to the wonderful Noah in April 2023, but also because of the sheer size and scale of the project we have taken on. We are currently more than a year away from creating our vision for a luxury bed and breakfast, gite, and leadership and wellbeing retreat business, but we our hoping our ability to get stuck in and do some hard graft will pay off.
While our DIY skills were somewhat limited (read non-existent) when we moved, we are learning news skills all the time and have surprised ourselves at how much we have managed to take on ourselves.
You can follow our adventures, as we take on the project of a lifetime, on our website, on Instagram, on channel 4's Chateau DIY or on our recently launched YouTube channel: The Chateau Adventures! We are currently only sharing our adventures up until the end of 2022, as our 2023 adventrues will be featuring in the next series of Chateau DIY in early 2024.
Ways to follow our adventures
The Renovations | March 2021 - July 2022
With keys, a hammer, chisel and sledge hammer in hand, we commenced renovations in earnest. Our first task was to strip the aptly named Pipe room, situated in the north east corner of the first floor, down to the bare stones. Between the three of us we made good (although in hindsight quite slow) progress. Considering the rudimentary tools we were using, it was a great first effort and there was a real sense of achievement from having completed the task together. There was also a painful sense of some very soar knuckles that had accidentally been hammered on a number of times!
Removing the plaster from what we had aptly named the 'Pipe' room. We'd initially called it the Bamboo room, as the lower section of wall was covered in bamboo - that was the first thing to go! We were very grateful for the help of Nicole's hard-working sister Josephine, who had travelled with her partner and his son to help us celebrate getting the keys.
Nicole attacking one of the many partition walls which we needed to take down. Thankfully, this one was fairly light work compared to some of the other walls we have had to take down, as it was constructed of only a thin layer of tiles.
For our next trip in June 2021 we had arranged a skip, which meant we were able to clear away the significant amounts of rubble and debris as we were working. Nick focused his efforts on taking down the walls in what we currently call the stone room, but which was previously made up of several rooms (including the pipe room). The walls were filled with earth, hay, and corn on the cobs, and covered in thin wood batons, likely dating back several hundred years. Meanwhile Nicole stripped the plaster from the walls in what will become the Petit Salon and Salle d'Entrée). We had yet to invest in any power tools at this point, so were mostly relying on a very manual and tiring process of sledgehammering and chiseling. We combined efforts to demolish the only bathroom in the chateau situated next to where Nicole had been chiseling the plaster off the walls in the petit salon. At this stage we opted to leave the toilet, as we were planning on camping in the chateau later in the summer to save on the cost of renting a nearby gite.
Reunited again. We were really pleased to once again be joined by Nicole's sister Josephine who flew in from Sweden to help us with the renovations. The three of us got through a lot of rubble in the eight days we were together!
Our very first camping experience at the chateau! We procured some net tents to help protect us from mosquitos, bats and other insects roaming around at night. It was a long first day of travelling and buying the necessary things we needed to camp there, including a fridge, bedding etc. Once we had cleaned the room we were staying in (the future dining rom), it actually felt really cosy. Showers were alfresco - a makeshift set up with the garden hose and a couple of throws hung on a string to protect our modesty. We also invested in our first ever power tool - a jack hammer. We are not entirely sure why we ever thought a hammer and chisel was the way to go initially. We made significant progress, tearing up the floor in the tower (a mixture of tiles, cement, earth, stones and sand), removing the plaster to what will be the garden suite and honeymoon suite, as well as taking down the wall between the two. It was a really great trip with some very fond memories, despite the hard graft.
It was an impressive site to see huge slabs of earth fall with a thud to the floor as we make good progress in demolishing the four metre high partition wall in what will become Le Grand Salon.