With a keen eye for design and a passion for art collecting, it’s clear that Dutch couple Johan Bouman and Pieter Franssens have put their unique stamp on Château de la Resle, the luxury and über stylish chambres d’hôtes they run in Burgundy, as Anna McKi
When it came to choosing where to put down roots in France, Johan Bouman and Pieter Franssens were looking for somewhere that combined a dream setting with stacks of potential when they began their property search.
Fast-forward 10 years and the Dutch couple are happily ensconced at Château de la Resle, the stunning Burgundy property they have called home since 2005. But it took time, a year and a half of searching in fact, until Johan and Pieter found the one: a run-down château in the department of Yonne. It ticked all their boxes and was perfect in terms of scope for development and its proximity to Holland and Paris, a necessity for Johan’s work.
“I own a food company in Holland and the reason we moved to France was because I was setting up the French branch at that time. We took the opportunity to buy somewhere with space, something old, and a place where we could have the horses at home,” remembers Johan, who is no longer actively involved in the day-to-day running of his company.
After seeing countless properties across Burgundy, Johan says they liked Château de la Resle, and the six hectares it encompassed, immediately. “It’s on top of a hill, so it’s overlooking the valley and has beautiful views. The composition of the various buildings, which were built between the 17th and 19th centuries, gives it a rather nice functionality but offers a feeling of intimacy as well.”
The estate consists of the château, a caretaker’s house, stables, a farm building and a vast garden, and while there’s no denying it’s a spacious property, Johan says it wasn’t too big for the couple to imagine transforming into a home for themselves.
In the beginning Johan and Pieter didn’t plan to run a business in France but they knew, if it turned out they liked the French way of life, that they wanted somewhere with the capacity to set up a chambres d’hôtes or a hotel. And, Château de la Resle certainly had ample space for business potential.
When the couple bought the property, situated on the outskirts of the village of Montigny-la-Resle between Chablis and Auxerre, it was owned by a Parisian family who used it as a holiday home. It hadn’t been touched since they did some renovation work in the 1960s, and was in great need of a new lease of life.
“It’s the kind of house that if you don’t live in it permanently then it deteriorates very quickly. They did some work, but that was 50 years ago, so we basically had to redo everything,” remembers Johan, who says that although the property wasn’t falling apart, they still had to do a lot of work to make it their own while respecting its rich history.
“It’s been a 10-year project. We set out that timescale in the beginning, and it really did turn out to take a decade, which I think is still pretty quick given that we had to do the basic things like replacing the electrics, the heating, the windows and the roofs. And, because it’s so big, by the time you really get a grip of it you’re three years down the road,” says Johan.
While the couple did all the planning and designing for the renovation, they employed local craftsmen and builders to carry out much of the work. And, with the hard graft of the building work underway, Johan and Pieter set about creating the impressive and unique combination of interior design that Château de la Resle has become known for.
“With period properties, often they’ve either been made completely contemporary which loses, in our opinion, the character, or you get the old-fashioned châteaux that are a little bit dusty.
“So, we really wanted to combine the best of both worlds and to renovate it with respect, using authentic colours and bringing in modern comforts in a subtle way,” says Johan, who adds that the contemporary pieces that the art-collecting duo has displayed
“It’s been a 10-year project. We set out that timescale in the beginning, and it really did turn out to take a decade”