For sale: the real French fairy­tale House of Hol­land

This chateau has hosted celebri­ties – thanks to the owner’s fash­ion de­signer son – and is a good busi­ness propo­si­tion, says Liz Rowl­in­son

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page - Chateau du Lu­daix is on the mar­ket for €1.47mil­lion with Leggett Im­mo­bilier (0870 011 5151; french­es­

It has played host to celebri­ties such as Pixie Geldof and Ag­y­ness Deyn, and its clas­sic French looks and dreamy façade, clad in Vir­ginia creeper, have starred in nu­mer­ous fash­ion shoots. This isn’t any or­di­nary chateau; owned by the par­ents of fash­ion de­signer Henry Hol­land, it has star power.

It didn’t start out that way. When Stephanie Hol­land was house hunt­ing in ru­ral France, she didn’t have her heart set on a chateau but was look­ing for “some­where to shut off from the mod­ern world”.

She ran a man­age­ment train­ing com­pany with hus­band David, from Rams­bot­tom, near Manch­ester, and sought a large prop­erty at which to host re­treats with a “mag­i­cal fac­tor”. They owned a farm­house in Al­lier, in the Au­vergne re­gion of cen­tral France, and had fallen in love with the nat­u­ral beauty of the place, with its 500 chateaux and dozens of pretty mar­ket towns.

In 1998, their bud­get of £150,000 bought them an aw­ful lot of house, a 46-room fairy­tale chateau in the vil­lage of Mar­cil­lat-enCom­braille.

“We saw these huge wooden gates at the end of a pri­vate lane and I was im­me­di­ately in­trigued,” says Hol­land, a glam­orous 70-year-old wear­ing leop­ard skin jeans and thigh-high suede boots. “When the agent said, ‘It’s far too big and ex­pen­sive for you,’ of course we just had to take a look and it was a ‘ coup de foudre’ when I spied the four-storey chateau with fairy­tale tow­ers.”

Sit­ting glo­ri­ously at the end of an al­ley of trees in seven acres of tran­quil gar­dens, Chateau du Lu­daix was built in 1826 by the Count of Du­rat, the French am­bas­sador to Rus­sia, although its ori­gins date back to the 12th cen­tury. “I love own­ing a piece of his­tory,” says Hol­land. “It’s a place where you can close the gate and re­treat, and we have many guests that plan ex­cur­sions then never end up leav­ing.”

The chate­laine, the French bal­let dancer Ghis­laine Th­es­mar, had fit­ted a mir­rored stu­dio with a barre on the sec­ond floor. This fea­ture is still there and makes it a per­fect place to run boot camp re­treats, with the sprung floor of the stu­dio ideal for yoga.

Such is the magic of the place that while Th­es­mar was ready to sell the prop­erty, she “clung to the door, sob­bing” when she fi­nally had to leave.

The Hollands set about trans­form­ing the prop­erty into a venue to host sem­i­nars and wed­dings, and serve as a cham­bre d’hôtes. Ten of the bed­rooms were al­ready dec­o­rated, in­clud­ing the Leop­ard Suite in one of the square tow­ers.

“We spent the next few years col­lect­ing an­tiques from bro­cantes to fur­nish four more as well as the cosy re­cep­tion rooms down­stairs,” says Hol­land, who shares the bold and eclec­tic style ev­i­dent in her 34-year-old son Henry’s House of Hol­land col­lec­tions.

Her care­fully cu­rated col­lec­tions are part of the pack­age: she is pre­pared to leave ev­ery­thing from the an­tique tea­spoons to the 120 sets of crys­tal gob­lets and plates, sub­ject to ne­go­ti­a­tion. “I nick­named Lu­daix ‘chateau on a shoe­string’. Of course it costs a lot to run, cur­rently €42,000 (£37,000) per year. Re­new­ing the roof cost €150,000 alone.”

The cou­ple also added a swim­ming pool and re­fur­bished the “wed­ding barn” along­side the lawn with bistrostyle ta­bles, and in­stalled the Twen­ties Parisian-style “Fleur’s Bar”, named after their daugh­ter. Host­ing five wed­dings a year – bring­ing in £15,000 to £25,000 each – as well as train­ing cour­ses and a cou­ple of mod­el­ling shoots (through Henry), plus the €120 per night B&B, helped pay the bills.

“It is pos­si­ble to earn €200,000 a year from host­ing events at the chateau, but we have reached an age where we just want to wind down and head off in a Win­nebago,” says Hol­land, who has put the prop­erty up for sale.

“Henry comes here with his friends such as Pixie [Geldof ] and Agy [Ag­y­ness Deyn] to cel­e­brate his birth­day with a big party ev­ery May. He sug­gested we con­vert the huge at­tic into a New York-style loft apart­ment. It’s still got loads of po­ten­tial.”

In her 20 years at the chateau, she also learned that the lo­cals have cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions of the chate­laine. “My house­keeper told me to al­ways look the part (wear­ing wellies to pick up the daily bread was a no-no), and I worked hard to in­volve the mayor and the lo­cals in events. Many of them worked as wait­ing staff at wed­dings, and we of­fered tours for school­child­ren.” The chateau is reached by a 50-minute drive from Cler­mon­tFer­rand air­port, and the lo­cal vil­lage is a cou­ple of min­utes’ walk away with a baker, butcher, wine mer­chant and even a Lego shop.

So who will be likely to buy it? “Some­one who will see the busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties of it,” says Hol­land. “Our busi­ness is help­ing peo­ple run their busi­nesses the best they can, so we are very happy to as­sist the new owner get started.”

‘I nick­named Lu­daix the chateau on a shoe­string’ ‘It’s the kind of place where you can close the gate and re­treat’

IT’S A FAM­ILY AF­FAIR Stephanie Hol­land and her son Henry, main; the bar and chateau, be­low

WEL­COME RE­CEP­TION In­side the sa­lon at Chateau du Lu­daix

ELE­GANCE Dress­ing ta­ble, above, and the spa­cious din­ing room, be­low

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