A 15th-century French chateau renovation
Rupert Taylor and Dagmar Busaidy used their extensive travels as inspiration for decorating their turreted French chateau – which they believe may just be their forever home. Feature Penny Botting. Photographs Robert Sanderson
Rupert Taylor and Dagmar Busaidy have spent the whole of their married life together moving around the world for Rupert’s work, spending time in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
‘We’ve always enjoyed picking up antique furnishings, fabrics and souvenirs from wherever we’re living,’ says Dagmar. ‘Over the years, we’ve collected traditional Omani wooden and brass chests, nomadic tribal carpets from Iran and Afghanistan, Chinese and Nepalese wardrobes and Balinese tables. We’ve relished collecting local antiques and curiosities along the way in some form or another.’ In fact, Dagmar admits that, occasionally, they get so carried away that each new house they’ve moved into has to be larger than the last in order to fit everything in.
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They moved to this house, a small 15th-century chateau near Bergerac, in 2016. One of the elements that attracted them was the curious mix of different towers. ‘Originally there were nine, but this became three when a wing disappeared in the 18th century, most likely as a result of a fire or the French Revolution. Each tower is a different shape and height but they all overlook the beautiful grounds.
‘We love the way the house feels both big and small at the same time – it’s a modest-sized chateau, so it’s still cosy enough when it’s just the two of us. The indoors and outdoors flow so well together and, on clear days, we can see the Pyrenees,’ says Dagmar.
When the couple bought the house in 2016, it had been run as a bed and breakfast since the 1980s. While this is something they hope to continue, Rupert and Dagmar decided to put the business on hold to first tackle a range of renovations. ‘The house needed more work than we anticipated, although the only structural changes we made were removing two partition walls in a bedroom and inserting a colourful art nouveau leaded window to bring some light in,’ says Dagmar.
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For the interior, Dagmar and Rupert waited before they made any decisions. ‘We like to discuss ideas until we agree on something we both like, so we decided to live in the house for a while to see how the light changes throughout the seasons. I firmly believe that if you listen, feel and let the property talk to you, it will tell you what it needs,’ says Dagmar.
The overall look they chose was one of comfort, beauty and practicality within the boundaries of the chateau’s history. ‘We wanted to keep things traditional and enhance the original features, which I think we’ve achieved by keeping schemes simple, clutter-free and only filled with things we love,’ says Dagmar. One of the couple’s favourite activities is to scour local brocantes. ‘We’re regulars now and many of the vendors know our style. We particularly like finding old pieces, occasionally dating back to the 16th or 17th centuries. Most large 18th and 19th-century wardrobes (especially Louis XVI and Louis Philippe) can be bought for less than their Ikea equivalents. The only problem is finding space for them, and the idea of moving them again is almost impossible,’ she says.
The couple plan to reopen the chateau for business as a chambre d’hôte. ‘We’re doing that with a mix of excitement and trepidation but, for now, we love living here,’ says Dagmar. ‘For the first time, our travelling days may finally be drawing to a close.’
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