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

Living France - - À LA MAISON -

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”

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