After a three-year, multi-million dollar restoration, Los Angeles interior designer Timothy Corrigan is now the ultimate host at his sprawling Loire Valley estate, Château du Grand-Lucé.
When my friends arrive for the first time in the picturesque main square of the village of Le Grand-Lucé, the same thing almost always happens: They call me up and say, “OK, we’re in town. Now how do we get to your place?” That’s because they’re expecting to head off into the countryside and up a long allée bordered on both sides by majestic old trees before the château comes spectacularly into view. Instead, I say, “See those big gates? You’re here.”
That’s not as unusual as it might seem. In fact, many of the great French châteaux are in or near their villages—Versailles, most famously—as the towns typically grew up expressly to provide these grand residences with the support and services they required. As it happens, Le Grand-Lucé has two squares, and Château du Grand-Lucé has gates opening onto both of them.
Passing through the main entrance, my guests find themselves in the château’s formal courtyard, the Cour d’Honneur (Court of Honor), directly before the front façade of the château, a vantage point that gives no hint of the expansive gardens, fields, and forest that await on the house’s other side. It’s almost as though you were visiting a hôtel particulier, or private mansion, in Paris—one revealing the strict, quiet, and correct architecture the French refer to as sober. A perfect example of the refined Neoclassical style, the façade is completely symmetrical with slight projections at the sides and center to give it depth; and almost entirely unadorned, with the exception of an ornately carved pediment featuring the family crest: a sublime exercise in elegant restraint.
As I’ve always believed that, whether you live in a small apartment or a big house, the most important thing is to make your guests immediately feel that they’re welcome and at home, I found various ways to offset the inherent formality of the Cour d’Honneur and the strict Neoclassical architecture. Whereas originally the entry court would have been paved with cobblestones, I’ve introduced a mix of gravel, grass, and topiary to give it more of the flavor of a front lawn. And while the court should be entirely devoid of planting according to tradition, I added abundant climbing roses to the walls enclosing the space and hydrangeas along the base of the façade, all of which help make my guests’ first introduction to the château a little more warm and welcoming.
First impressions count. And I want people to feel that they’re visiting a country house and not some imposing castle, even before they walk in the door. 323-525-1805; chateaugrandluce.com.
Edited by Jenny Murray
Images and text courtesy of © An Invitation to Château du Grand-Lucé by Timothy Corrigan with Marc Kristal
Photographed by Eric Piasecki
Published by Rizzoli, New York, October, 2013