Have you ever been bitten by the jealousy bug? I must say that the first time I came across Los Angeles interior decorator Timothy Corrigan showing the wonders of his very own, authentic French château, I was a little jealous. Corrigan, however, is so clearly a generous enthusiast who is equally stunned at the wonders of this showpiece that it’s impossible to stay envious.
I think I first came across the restored château and its genial caretaker in a spread in Architectural Digest and I know that I I saw it on the YouTube channel Quintessence, so when I saw Corrigan’s gorgeous coffee-table book, An Invitation to Château Grand-Lucé: Decorating a Great French Country House, on the markdown table at my favorite bookstore a while ago, I went for it. I decided to read it now as perfect escapism while on Covid confinement.
The book is set up as though Corrigan has invited you to a country weekend party at his home. You see the house as his guests would, touring the impressive hall and salon before traipsing out to the gardens, seeing which one of the fourteen guest rooms he has selected for you, having breakfast and so on through a magical country weekend. You can sense Corrigan at your elbow, regaling you with the history of the house and triumphs and travails of its restoration. His mantra is “comfortable elegance” in rooms that are genuinely used, not period showpieces.
The house really does have a remarkable history, starting with the first owner who apparently had a heart attack upon seeing it finished, so overcome by its beauty. His daughter and heir was so beloved by the people of the village that the château was saved from depredation during the Revolution. It served as a hospital for British soldiers during the First World war and was eventually taken over by the French government, parts of it being used as a municipal parking lot, tourism office, and movie theater.
Corrigan’s bid to return it to its glory as a private home was successful, but he had to follow strict guidelines in restoring the parts that were deemed historically significant. For example, some replica French doors were unacceptable because the mullions were a 1/4” wider than the originals. When it came to adding a kitchen, Corrigan had to build fake walls from which to hang the cabinetry in order to protect the 18th century boiserie (woodwork) from any damage.
My favorite room, Le Salon chinois, features rare painted panels depicting the artist’s highly exotic vision of China. The panels were hidden behind boards that had protected the room during its years as a hospital. Corrigan surmised that the Germans would have looted this treasure had they known it was there. And speaking of treasure, paintings from the Louvre were hidden beneath the stage of the château’s own theater to keep them safe during the Occupation.
As fabulous as this house is, Corrigan sold it for less than he spent acquiring and restoring it. He’s now working on a new “fixer-upper” – Château de la Chevallerie – that you can also visit on Quintessence. I would be most happy to accept an invitation to visit any time that he is ready to have guests and we’re all out of quarantine.