There is always an element of fascination with renovation rescues and makeovers, showing the sexiest bedrooms, and the sleekest bathroom transformations. Rooms renewed and ready to be lived in, with attention in the detail, and always complimented with colour matched flowers overflowing from large vases on every available surface.
We are a long way off from sharing anything as grand as this. Our greatest challenge to date has been in consolidating the Château, focusing on rebuilding it's foundation and structure, allowing us to walk around safety.
But, these past 15 months of work has allowed the Château to now welcome its restoration, a complete contrast to its almost complete ruination just a short time before.
From the start, we had to employ an architect. This was a requirement by the Historic Monuments (HM). So, Monsieur Numen Munoz set about drawing up the plans of the existing Château, and devising a numbering system for each room. In his dossier he added photos, and a description of what work would be need to be done to each room to ensure the Château was structurally 'safe'. This dossier was submitted to the HM for approval, and we finally received the permit to begin work several months later.
We tendered out to three French Builders, and one Catalonian. Two of the French didn't even respond, and the other handed over a costing on a piece of torn off A4 note paper. The Catalonian builder, however, used the dossier and costed out each room based on the architects numbering system. I should point out though, that many of the local building companies were not equipped to take on this project - some of them sole proprietors. In short, the Catalonian builder and his team of twelve merry men won hands down, and work began in the last week of November 2013.
From some older plans, which the architect ended up finding, the ground floor (rez de chaussée) plans were drawn up. When we purchased the Château, we could only walk into the vestibule and a few of the front salons. The ceilings and floors here were intact, and the work required will be mainly focused on restoration rather than consolidation.
I invite you to join in on a small tour of some of the ground floor, downstairs salons and areas that were consolidated during this phase, starting with room 001, otherwise known as the gold room or music room (highlighted on the right hand side of the plan above).
Piece No.1 - Le Salon de Musique
This salon only needed reinforcement of the main beam, which had rotted at one end due to water damage. A steel sleeve was used, rather than having to replace the entire gold gilded beam.
Piece No.2 Le Salon de Rose
This salon required a steel sleeve to the main beam also. Only minimal work was required in this room. The parquet flooring in the corner has rotted away and needs replacing though in the future. This is the room with the marble love heart on the fireplace mantle, and the recent discovery of the fresco behind the pink panelling.
Here you can see the original beam which required consolidation with a steel sleeve.
Piece No. 3 Le Vestibule
The ceiling in the main vestibule needed full replacing. The rotted wooden 'rib' or 'whale bone' shaped structures, which give the curved shape to the vaulted ceiling, were replaced or repaired, using traditional methods. The work in this section took six weeks to complete.
Fortunately, the 18th century ceiling rose was still intact, and saved, complete with its ancient chandelier hook.
When the work on the ceiling was in its final stages, we were advised to paint the vestibule whilst the scaffolding was still in place. We chose a soft blue grey colour. The sun reflects the pastel colours of the stained glass, and often the vestibule appears in either lilac or pale blue.
The gracious stairs have also been consolidated so they are safe to use for the moment, but you can feel many of them sink beneath your feet as you climb up or down, so they will need further consolidation in the future.
In the middle picture, you can see the curved wooden skeletal structures that shape the vaulted ceiling. And, the last picture on the right, the completed vestibule ceiling.
Piece No.4 L'ancienne Salle à Manger
Propped up with scaffolding, this salon was just safe to enter when we first visited the Château. It required two new beams though, as both ends of the original beams were rotten. The flagstones were pulled up, and concrete poured to allow for the installation of infloor heating. The original flagstones will soon be relaid. Moss and weeds were removed along with the strong smell of mould.
I managed to find a 'before' 'before' (as in before the water damage, which occurred when the previous owners had the Château) picture of this room as well. One good thing which came out of the damage was that the water washed away the cream paint, revealing the coloured effect underneath.
Piece No. 5 La Bibliothèque
We have just found out, from the family who last lived here, and whose relatives owned the Château after the Revolution in 1789 until the 1950's, that this room was once used as the library.
When we first purchased the Château this room was a mess. The floor had fallen in, and the ceiling had partly collapsed. Mould and mushrooms were living happily, without a care in the world.
Once again, another concrete floor was poured. Now it's ready for infloor heating and the reinstallation of original flagstone flooring.
This month, the walls of this room will be plastered. Then in early May, two teachers and six students from the University of Toulouse will be onsite for three weeks to transform the plastered room into a more traditional 18th century salon, as it once would have been. If all goes according to plan, this will be completed, and ready for infloor heating and stone floors, by late May.
These are the designs that they have come up with for this room.
Piece No. 6.
This may take the award for one of the worst 'before' photos of all time! This room was converted to a kitchen when the Château was used as a school holiday camp between the 1960's and 80's. Like the other salons, a concrete floor was poured. The timber flooring in the room pictured below, where the small window and frame are visible, had rotted, and a new floor was installed.
Piece No. 7 (The Second Part of the 1960's Kitchen)
Following all the removal of the debris, a concrete floor and oak beamed ceiling was installed. The concrete stairs (shown in the photo on the above left) installed in the 1970's by the French government leads to another level of rooms.
I will leave the tour at No 7. for now, but promise to continue, with many of the downstairs rooms to show and tell, plus another few levels upstairs.
Maybe one day soon we will be able to have something ready to be lived in and shared, rather than simply looked upon...
Château de Gudanes.