Meet Craig and Karina Waters, an Australian family who were looking to buy a farmhouse in France. In 2013 their search wasn’t bearing fruit, but then their son found something exciting on the internet: the Chateau de Gudanes, an abandoned, neglected and ruined chateau tucked neatly into a deep valley in the French Pyrénées.
They drove 500 miles to view it, and instantly fell in love. It’s a Class 1 Historic Monument designed by Parisian architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, famous for his neoclassical, architectural symmetry, including the Le Petit Trianon and Place de la Concorde. And rather than tear it down or gut the property to build their own interior, they are lovingly restoring it as much as they can to its former glory.
Even more exciting, is that Karina is documenting the journey on their website — specifically Karina’s French chateau restoration blog, aptly named “Captain’s Log” — their Facebook page and Instagram feed. Photos above capture the highlights, and there’s also a video tour.
The couple hopes to have enough of the 11,000-square-foot estate restored by 2016 that they can open a cafe and offer tours. It could also serve for weddings, festivals, and other public events.
“Our aim is to tread lightly and gently – to preserve the atmosphere and authenticity of the Chateau and region as much as possible,” they write on their website. “She will be renovated but her rawness, wear and history will not be erased, but instead integrated. In keeping with this, we also plan to use energy efficient principles and sustainable refurbishment. This means up cycling and recycling as much as possible, including building materials, design features and decor.”
But first, some history about this grand building.
Chateau de Gudanes was built in the mid eighteenth century on behalf of Louis Gaspard de Sales, Marquis de Gudanes. Gaspard, also known as the “King of the Pyrénées”, was an influential member of the Toulouse Parliament, and ironmster of the Ariége.
Located on a ledge overlooking the Midi- Pyrénées, en route to Plateau de Baille, Chateau de Gudanes was constructed on the site of an earlier fortress, dating back to the 13th century. However, the previous castle was largely degraded in 1580, during the religious wars.
Over time, just like its predecessor, Chateau de Gudanes also suffered tremendous neglect and fell into disrepair – the roof collapsed in four places resulting in extensive water damage, mould and destruction. The majority of the interior became rubble and was completely inaccessible, bar three rooms, due to the result of ceiling, wall and floor collapse.
Incredibly Preserved 1950’s Time Capsule Home