Designers Céline and Pierre Génin left Paris for rural France to bring a fairytale chateau back to life
When couple Céline and Pierre Génin fell in love with a small, rundown nineteenth century chateau in the Eure-et-Loir region of France, they vowed to breathe life back into its crumbling walls. The home they’ve created is such a wonderful blend of contemporary and vintage, it caught the eye of photographer and author Sébastien Sireudeau who features it in his latest book ‘New Vintage French Interiors,’ £19.95 (Flammarion).
All images © Sébastien Siraudeau (Flammarion, 2015)
It seems the secret of the couple’s success is the fact they are historians as well as designers. Pierre – who recently revived super-stylish artisanal lighting company Lum’art – found himself becoming increasingly passionate about discovering the chateau’s history. He spent years studying the history of the house, poring over illustrated texts on the region and studying the land registry established under Napoleon Bonaparte in great detail.
Through studying old engravings, he re-discovered the original perimeter of the park that surrounded this magnificent house. What’s more, buried beneath brambles and ivy he found the geometric layout of a formal garden, its pools bordered with elegant walkways and its parterres planted with tree roses.
The farmhouse that used to stand on the estate is no more but there are numerous outbuildings including a pheasantry, cider mill, washhouse and fishpond that the couple intend to renovate in coming years. It is a work in progress but, for the moment, the beautiful winter garden and greenhouse are in use again, allowing semi-tropical plants to survive the cold winter months. These buildings also provide the perfect space for Céline to repot and collect cuttings as part of her ongoing project to restore the park’s own plantings.
Inside the property the couple embarked on a huge variety of improvements, uncovering more and more of the chateau’s history beneath the cracked paint and peeling plaster. They’ve constantly discovered hidden treasures during the renovation process with original details and ancient flooring coming into light at every turn.
It’s the way they have boldly juxtaposed vivid colours and contemporary design elements with the traditional ones that makes Céline and Pierre’s renovations really stand out from the norm. The firecracker red used on the kitchen walls and window frames provides a wonderful contrast to the soothing baby blue used on the adjoining breakfast room walls; this punchy red really creates a fabulous contrast to the century-old cast-iron Godin cooking range that takes pride of place in the kitchen.
All of the furniture in the living and dining rooms has a long history, some of it made by their family company Maison Génin, a furniture maker located on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, the traditional Parisian furniture manufacturing district. Céline has continued the trend by handpainting the porcelain table service seen in the formal dining room herself.
Joyful, artistic use of colour is apparent throughout the chateau. ‘Céline and Pierre boldly juxtaposed vivid colours and contemporary elements with traditional ones,’ says author Sébastien Siradeau. Red pops up again in a small sitting room, deep pink in the games room, soft greens in the formal dining room, while the bedrooms are painted in soft, soothing mauves, dusty rose and pearl grey. These confident colours work beautifully alongside the original tiled floors, fireplaces and bathroom fittings within the chateau.
Of course, lighting from Pierre’s company Lum’art is evident everywhere throughout the property – striking pieces like the La Varenne chandelier with its row of seven lights that hangs over the kitchen table and the Ombre de Lune ceiling light in their daughter Lucie’s bathroom.
Located near the chateau, deep in the French countryside, 125km west of Paris, Lum’art has been involved in the design and hand creation of lights for indoor and outdoor use for almost 50 years. Highly sought after, each piece is cut out, worked, welded and patinated in the original processes handed down through the generations. The company launches new collections twice a year and the collections are shown at the Maison et Objet trade fairs in Paris twice a year.
As each season turns, the couple always finds more to uncover and restore in this elegant family home. It’s an ever-evolving process that looks set to continue for many years to come.