Chateau De La Ruche - A Life Less Ordinary

By Natalie Woods - May 20, 2018

I was in complete awe when I first watched Dick and Angel in ‘Escape to the Chateau’ buy their grand home and set about transforming it into not only into a profitable, desirable business but a beautiful, more exciting life for themselves and their family.

Every episode propelled me into a new daydream about life in a Chateau abroad. Doing up the interiors, shopping for antique French furniture at Vide Greniers, discovering old antiques in the loft and under the floorboards, drinking wine under the blossom trees… every, single, day.

I haven’t yet quit my marketing job (or convinced Dug to do the same), sold my house or bought my dream Chateau but I can introduce you all to someone who has…

Imagine my delight (after posting countless stories about my love for Escape to The Chateau) when I was introduced to @chateaudelaruche on Instagram. I had to know more!

Here is the story of a brave family who, six months after discovering Dick and Angel on catch-up TV, actually did realise their dreams of a life less ordinary and bought a Chateau in France that they plan to open as a boutique B&B this summer.

Rebecca, a Writer and Tim, a Software Engineer, both 37 swapped their 4-bedroom Victorian home in Linconshire and moved to the Pays de la Loire in September 2017 with their two young children; Rufus, 7 and Laurie, 5.
Despite being happy in their careers, Rebecca and Tim yearned for a more adventurous life. They knew that they wanted to run their own business and had loved renovating their home in Lincolnshire, but didn’t expect that their dreams and DIY skills would lead them to Chateau de la Ruche.

‘It feels like fate’, says Rebecca. ‘This all came about because I confiscated the TV remote from my channel-hopping father on weekend and chose the first episode of ‘Escape to the Chateau’ to watch. I was so inspired and sent the episode to Tim, who was working in China at the time. He loved it too.

‘We were intrigued and immediately started to hunt for a chateau in France. We found Chateau de la Ruche online and within 4 weeks we were viewing it.
‘I knew we were in trouble on the driveway. There was a fairy tunnel of trees and sweeping views of the Chateau across the meadow. I was in love immediately.
Image above: the fairy tunnel tree driveway that Rebecca first fell in love with.

‘The viewing experience was surreal – the Chateau had been closed up over the winter and we were the first people to enter it in months. Reality quickly set in. The estate agent pulled open shutter after shutter to reveal more dilapidation than the internet pictures had revealed.

‘I felt completely overwhelmed and we spent the first 3 hours of the journey home in complete silence. I felt certain we shouldn’t buy it but Tim talked me round, reminding me of the house’s beautiful potential.

‘We put in a cheeky initial offer to show our interest and then travelled back to meet with tradesmen before securing the Chateau for €400,000.

‘Back in the UK, we sold our house within a month. And six months after seeing the programme that inspired us to buy a Chateau, we were moving in’.

The Renovation

‘Renovating a Chateau isn’t for the faint hearted but we’re enjoying it,’ says Rebecca who started the process in January 2018. ‘I want to retain the history of the Chateau, so I shop for furniture at Brocantes and Vide Greniers. 
Image above: Renovations in the garden room are well underway.

‘My favouite is the Troc Ou Cash in Le Mans. I’ve picked up beautiful, antique upholstered French beds for under €35 a piece. 
Image above: Rebecca's beautiful vintage haul from local French Brocantes

‘The former owners also left us a lot of their furniture. A huge oak carved armoire and the 15 seat dining table and chairs are my favourite. 

‘We’ve found forgotten treasure too – beautiful antique cot quilts and old postcards and letters stuffed into a cavity behind a secret door. Every day we discover something new’.

To save costs, Rebecca and Tim are doing almost all of the renovation work themselves with the help of their family, friends and their next-door neighbour; Alain, a farmer. 

‘We’ve used French artisans for the electrics and plumbing, but we’ve re-plastered walls, re-glazed windows, fitted central heating, cleaned the exterior walls, stripped layers and layers of wallpaper and fitted bathrooms’, says Rebecca.

‘Anything we haven’t done before, we learn to do from You Tube. Just last week we watched videos about re-puttying windows before we began.

‘We’re on a budget before we open Chateau de la Ruche as a boutique B&B and wedding venue, so we have to be sensible on how we spend money but I never skimp on quality. 

Rebecca pays painstaking attention to detail on the interiors to create the luxury look she wants for the B&B. 

‘I fell in love with some De Gournay wall paper for one of our bathrooms, but it was completely out of our budget. I spent weeks searching online for the closest match I could find within our price range. I finally found a Colefax and Fowler paper inspired by a collection at the V&A that is almost identical – it’s going to look amazing and I can’t wait to get it on the walls,’ she says.

‘Each suite will be luxurious and slightly different. There’s ‘The Honey Suite’ named after the bees’ that were nesting chimney, ‘The Meadow Suite’ with sweeping views across the wild flower fields, and the ‘Garden Room’ with its huge, glamorous bathroom through the secret door we discovered after we removed some panelling. 


Images above: the wild flower meadows at Chateau De La Ruche.

‘There’s only a few months to go before we open our doors to guests at the end of this summer. There’s still a lot to do, but I hope everyone who visits will be wowed by the laidback beauty and grandeur of Chateau de la Ruche.’

Rebecca’s advice for buying a Chateau in France

Rebecca explains that the house buying process in France very different to the UK:

‘Firstly, estate agent fees are much more expensive but they sort everything out for you – they organise the surveys, attend every legal meeting and will even supply information on tradesmen and local schools if you need them to.

‘You also have to employ a Notaire to handle the Legal process of buying a house. Notaire’s are Government employees, so both the buyer and the seller can use the same Notaire which can make things easier. 

‘Try to keep on good terms with the people you’re buying from – you all have to sit down around a table twice in the process to sign documents and go through paperwork, luckily the family we bought the chateau from were lovely.

‘The other thing to think about is currency, continues Rebecca: ‘We become obsessed with the exchange rate in the run up to exchanging on the property. It felt like we were gambling every day.

‘We locked the exchange rate on some currency whilst we waited. I’m glad we did because the day before we exchanged, Theresa May almost lost the general election and the pound plummeted.

Chateau de la Ruche is located near Le Mans in the Pays de la Loire and will open its doors to guests from September. Rooms rates are from £150 a night. 

For more information visit www.chateaudelaruche.com

*All images belong to Rebecca @chateaudelaruche

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