A few years ago, I worked with a client on the restoration of a 17th century Chateau in the south of France. As it approaches its 400th year, it welcomes a new owner and new patron who will embrace its history and contribute to its story. As part of our research we toured a number of similar homes in the region and then I spent a great deal of time peeling back the history of the home and learning about how, when and for whom the house had been built.
The original owners raised sheep and it was later converted into a vineyard. It was built of stone in 1624, during the reign of Louis the 14th. The entry gate was marked by two tall stone columns, which were topped with headless lions. Originally the lion’s heads had been crowned with the king’s crown, which was a sign of loyalty and favor with the monarchy. Sometime during the French Revolution in the late 1700’s, the lion’s heads were knocked off or removed. It would have been dangerous to stand for the king during the revolution and either they were taken down by the owners or knocked off in defiance.
The gates open into a simple courtyard of crushed honey colored limestone. The courtyard contained a magnificent elm tree that shaded three-quarters of the space. Along one side there were wonderful green glazed pots that held roses and orange and lime trees.
Central to the courtyard was the home’s entry with a beautiful arched red door in a simple cut-stone surround. Though just a simple plank door, a decorative curved frame lay over the planks revealing its French country heritage. The house was full of mysteries and untold stories; meandering halls and formal parlors with thick parquet floor, halls of decorative tile and stone stairways seemingly carved from one massive rock.
This is a timeless house. Over the past 400 years it has gracefully withstood time, weather and neglect. So what about it has caused it to endure, and why do we consider it a timeless house? There are many reasons, however allow me to offer 3.
1. The Materials: The materials for this home are very simple; stone, tile and wood. These are long-lasting materials and are readily available for future repairs. Stone requires little maintenance; and as an architectural skin, it is one of the finest.
2. The Functionality of Design: Not only are the materials local and simple, but they are designed to work and function for a long time. For example, the windows have shutters for protection from harsh weather. The windows and doors are also positioned far enough inside the stone openings to protect them from water damage. Because of this “functional” design, the house can bear to be neglected without falling apart.
3. The Architecture: Not only is the house and its parts designed to be functional, it is designed to be beautiful. The house exudes charm. It’s simple yet symmetrical design is pleasing to the eye. Crafted in keeping with regional traditions, the home is appropriate to the region and nestles naturally and comfortably into its surroundings. The style of the home is not trendy, yet it is very stylish. It is a place people love and are drawn to.
Because of these reasons and many more, this is a timeless house.