“From Decay to Splendor: The Renovation of a 600-Year-Old French Chateau”


Jean-Baptiste and Erin were a newly-engaged couple, and they were looking at various options for them to relocate to his native France. Needless to say, they encountered some obstacles along the way. However, they didn’t give up, and they actually hit upon an idea that seemed to fly in the face of all logic. Although it seemed foolhardy, they decided to engage in the stuff that fairy tales are made of, and they decided to purchase and renovate an old French manor. There is no question that this grand old lady had a tremendous amount of eye appeal on her exterior, but after the couple had signed all of the checks and dotted and crossed all of the t’s and i’s, they were in for some unpleasant surprises. You see, even though this old mansion was gorgeous from the outside, the inside did not look very good at all.

Chance Meetings

Of course, before we get into this, there is no question that this would be a business deal of a lifetime. Moreover, it actually started off with a chance meeting. London-native Erin Choa wanted something different in her life, so she decided to go the north and on to Scotland and she elected to study in the Scottish capital city of Edinburgh. While she was on her program there, she would ultimately meet the person that would become the love of her life.

Jean-Baptist Gois actually goes by JB for short, and he made his living as a mechanical engineer. He came to Scotland because he wanted to start off on a nine-month program, and he ended up liking it so much that he stayed on the job for another nine YEARS instead. Once he met Erin, the two fell in love and had a storybook romance, and decided to become engaged. They were both 31 years of age, and they were wondering what their next great adventure would be. Oh, if they only knew just where their storybook relationship was going to take them!

The Barrier of an Unknown Language

Once the pair decided to go back to JB’s native France, they immediately began to look into their options. First of all, Erin had steady work as a medical doctor, but unfortunately her occupation has never been one where she could simply fold it up easily and just up and move wherever she felt like. Moreover, Erin did have some skills in French, but they weren’t yet good enough that she could earn a proper living in her fiance’ JB’s homeland.

Of course, they were leaning towards relocating to France, but if that were indeed the case, they would have to think about a different career path for Erin. Of course, they wanted to share the plan, but after some brainstorming they ended up landing on an incredible venture that not just Erin would partake in, but both of them as a couple would be engaged in. Indeed, it was a complete shift from anything that they had ever went through before.

Lightbulbs Going Off

JB and Erin both decided that it was time for them to change their career paths, so they decided that they would shift into a venture that was so new and exciting that it was also strange and intimidating at the same time. You see, this young couple had a grand appreciation and interest in history and historic things. They decided that they would look into some historical buildings, and they had a bit of an epiphany. They want to break out of the mold, and they decided they wanted to rent out properties to various customers during the holiday season.

This is when the couple had a brainstorm that they thought would be just crazy enough to work. They decided that they should purchase a class French chateau in the beautiful French countryside and offer the property as a wonderful place for tourists to stay. They would literally have the tremendous luxury of staying at a place that was just dripping with history. However, before they decided to go forward with purchasing this French castle, they knew that they would have plenty of obstacles and they would have to proceed with caution.

Everything is Relative

Erin and JB knew that at this point their idea was nothing but that – an idea. They also knew that if they wanted to get it off the ground, they would have to weigh their options as carefully as possible. If they invested in a marvelous property such as this one, they would end up draining their personal savings. Still, they definitely wanted to compare not only the costs of purchasing their own chateau, but they also wanted to gauge just how much it would cost to maintain it as well. Would it be comparable to the average price of continuing to live in Edinburgh? That is one thing that they had to figure out.

Just having a one-bedroom apartment in this Scottish capital was actually difficult enough. They were struggling even in Edinburgh, and if they had tried to live in London, it would have been equally as difficult, if not almost impossible. However, once they took a long, hard look at the facts, they determined that the way they were living at the time wouldn’t be that much more difficult than living in this lovely French Chateau. The more they thought about it, the more they realized that they should simply just take the plunge and hit it with both barrels.

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

Naturally, Jean-Baptiste and Erin were excited about the possibilities. They were a young couple who were making a monumental, life-altering decision together, and they packed up their home, relocating from Britain. They took their cat Oscar with them and embarked on a new life for themselves in the exquisite French countryside.

Of course, like any other prospective homeowners, they had to start pretty much from scratch. They first had to find a property. Thus, JB and Erin immediately began researching properties in the French countryside that had a lot of history attached to them. Thus, they set out on this search, not knowing full well what their path in life would look like and not knowing how it would play out.

Closing It

In order to look for their dream French mansion, they started out by traveling throughout the country. They visiting and examined at least ten different properties in person. Additionally, they would also scroll through hundreds of other potential candidates, browsing mansions and chateaus online like kids in a candy store. Of course, there was one problem. Many of the chateau they either visited or looked at simply weren’t worth the tremendous investment they put forth.

Chateau De Bourneau

After they embarked on an organized, methodical, and exhaustive search, they finally came across what would become their dream home, and an incredible it was indeed. It was called the Chateau De Bourneau, and this incredible piece of real estate was located in a forest near the village of Bourneau, in the western French area of Pays de la Loire. Simply put, this property was just exquisite.

To put it mildly, this was their dream home, and they fell head over heels in love for this classic 15th Century French manor. Of course, the current iteration of the building had been newly constructed in 1863, replacing the initial construction which had fallen into ruins. Thus, both JB and Erin knew that the next inhabitants of this castle would have quite the advantages given to them.

Not At All That Rotten

Although the Chateau de Bourneau was definitely a neglected structure, the castle still had its original 19th-century plumbing system, and that was good because it meant that JB and Erin would have one less problem that they would need to take on. Of course, they continued to brainstorm ways to get this classic manor back up to speed, but they also needed to think about how much satisfaction they had in the property.

Erin and JB also had to take into account some of the many travelers that they would be seeking to host in the near future. How would they take into account the comfort and personal enjoyment of these travelers. In the end, the stunning appearance and charm of this chateau was just too much for them to resist. With pen in hand, they took that leap, becoming the owners of the property. It didn’t take long before they discovered that they were taking on a tremendous challenge.

Just Like Field of Dreams

If this couple was looking for a classic European castle, the Chateau De Bourneau definitely fit that bill. Considering that it had historical roots dating back to the 15th Century, it was definitely a treasure that anyone would appreciate. Additionally, the castle came with some sprawling grounds that covered 16 hectares, complete with an authentic medieval moat. This castle also came complete with several georgeous turrets.

The chateau was definitely a hidden jewel on the perimeter of a forest. It was a structure with stunning architectural grace, and there was no question that the grounds were brimming with potential. What made the whole situation a thing of beauty was that it was on the market and it was ready for the right buyer to come along and purchase it. Yes, the property had a charming outward appearance, but nobody besides Jean Baptiste and Erin were interested in the property. You see, this property did indeed have one enormous problem.

Honky Chateau

The chateau was simply not in a very good state. It was not move-in ready in any sense of the word. You couldn’t just set up shop there, simply because it had just been neglected for far too long. There were three decades of neglect, and literally everywhere within eyesight was an area where the chateau was in a bad fix and needed renovations.

A Castle With a Medieval History

Chateau de Bourneau is not only a castle with a lot of eye appeal, but one that is steeped in some fascinating history as well. This manor actually goes all the way back to the Middle Ages, and the original foundations of the site were first built and secured on this site in the 1460’s. The site had actually had royal permission from King Louis XI in order to be built! However, this once-majestic castle now had a long, uphill climb to get back to its former glory.

The moat was leaking almost constantly today, and those window frames continued to rot through. JB and Erin knew that whoever took possession of that chateau would be responsible for building it up and providing their own resources on a do-it-yourself basis. Even though the chateau was slowly rotting, they knew with an immense amount of TLC that it could be restored.

The Chateau Worthy of a Dream

JB and Erin would eventually close on this property, and they would call the Chateau de Bourneau love at first site. Of course, when they described it in their own words, they called it “Coup de Foudre” or “Lightning Strike.” They actually were able to purchase the property for 680,000 Euro, or roughly about $775,000 U.S. dollars.

Of course, to do this meant they would have to use up literally all of their personal savings, and take out a bank loan in the process. The fact that they were able to make such a tremendous decision and go ahead and carry it out required a lot of fortitude because there was great financial risk in attempting to spruce up this long-neglected chateau.

Going Back to the Basics

The Chateau de Bourneau absolutely had a decadent exterior. However, this was definitely belying what was going on inside. The chateau wasn’t in ruins, but the living conditions were barely standard. Moving in to the chateau was not going to be a smooth transition for JB and Erin, but they knew that they could do it with a special type of dedication.

Of course, at least in one respect, the couple did have its fair share of luck. They had a plumbing system that was very old but still working, bathrooms, running water, and a solid heating system. The massive expanse of the chateau would need a tremendous amount of work in order to maintain it. As they continued to plod along, they would discover the many secrets of the chateau, which were deep inside and ready to see the light of day again after decades or even centuries.

Whistling While You Are Working

Erin and JB would divvy up the tasks. They worked continuously on the chateau, often pulling 14-hour days to make this beautiful old lady shine once again. There was a tremendous amount of neglect, and so it required them to go over every inch of the property, which tipped the scales at over 10,500 square feet.

To make matters worse (or better, if you will) there were ceilings in these tremendously tall rooms that measured at least 13 feet high. This chateau was bursting at the seams with humongous potential, ready to make it more beautiful than ever.  The couple knew that now that the purchase had been made, they couldn’t go back. Whatever repercussions occurred from buying this dream home would be something they would have to deal with. Erin and JB had no idea what majestic secrets they were about to uncover.

Peeling and Chipping Paint

Of course, this engaged couple had known from the get-go that they had wanted to purchase a chateau that needed to have some elbow grease, simply because they knew it was a project that they both would enjoy. With the Chateau de Bourdeau, they were fully prepared to do just that and completely through their own handiwork. The first order of business was to take inventory of their new purchase and prioritize which assignments would be easier and which ones would be immediately urgent.

This attention to detail went right down to the front doors of the castle, which themselves were in bad need of some touching up. There was some matte paint that coated them, and it came across in a garish shade of blue. JB had to carefully chip the paint away so that he could sand the doors. He then primed the doors and repainted the doors. However, there were plenty of challenges remaining before this 10,000 square foot historical relic could see the light of day once more.

Part of the reason why they were inspired to work on the bridge was due in part to the fact that they found a sepia photograph dating from 1908 that depicted how the bridge originally appeared. That gave them some idea of how the bridge looked, and it also gave them quite a few clues as to what they wanted to do with the bridge now. They repainted the railings of the bridge, and they changed it from white to green. Of course, once they were done with the bridge, they had to go inside the walls of the chateau in order to do more.

Hidden Treasures

JB and Erin went through each room of the humongous chateau, and they ended up finding all kinds of interesting things during the course of their renovation project. This couple kept finding thrilling little artifacts, objects, and other remnants from a time gone by. They had been forgotten by time and stored in various places, just waiting for someone to find them and put them on display or file them away as a keepsake.

Antiques Everywhere

Of course, JB and Erin continued to go full blast with their restoration project on their dream chateau, but they kept coming across more and more antique furniture pieces as they went along. Indeed, they were pieces that would make any antique collector pretty much drool. For example, they found an untouched dressing table that had been stashed away for decades in the turrets in the attic.

When JB and Erin had bought the property, really about the only thing they thought is that they were just getting a good deal on a historic old French castle. They didn’t think for a minute that they were also going to get such a huge treasure chest full of antiques! However, it definitely gave them that much more of an incentive to make this home shine again as much as possible. Of course, the chateau gave off a mountain of its own charms, but the couple also wanted to give it their own touch. Thus, they kept looking for their own decor, and they were continuously finding deals when they went shopping for them.


Besides restoring their castle, JB and Erin also had a lot of fun shopping around for these antiques to make the castle come alive. After ordering a tasteful set of antique chairs that were manufactured in the 1800’s, they realize that their newest acquisition fell right in line with the period when most of the structure was built.

One of their most remarkable finds would have to be these giants urns pictured above. They were purchased for the equivalent amount of 80 U.S. dollars at a regular home and garden store. This was just one of the many eye appealing finds they bought in order to help their dream chateau take shape. Yes, it did several months of intense work, but before long they knew they could start inviting people invite.

Hey, Everybody! Come On In!

Finally, at long last, JB and Erin were able to open their castle up to visitors. They flung open those newly-painted doors that went to their Chateau de Bourneau and they invited guests that wanted to stay there. Of course, there was a catch: they hadn’t actually finished renovating the castle! The 16 hectares that comprised the castle grounds would require a lot more work, and it would be a huge challenge trying to find funding for it.

However, it actually made the reservations go easier when the couple was able to blend work with the ability to share their space. The first guests were beginning to make those reservations, and they start coming on in to that castle! However, even though the Chateau De Bourneau was now back in business, JB and Erin still had some major unanswered questions. For one thing, how were they going to be able to keep up with the costs of the continued renovations?

A Business Model Uniquely Composed

Although it was a gradual process, more and more tourists flocked to the chateau property. They saw the breathtaking views and the ornate facade, and they just fell in love with the place just like JB and Erin did. Because this chateau was just so irresistible and appealing, JB and Erin’s guests derived an immense amount of pleasure from the chateau. It was truly a fantasy fairy tale life in this French countryside.

Of course, during this journey of owning a chateau, JB and Erin have definitely come across a lot of unique stories. First of all, there is no doubting the fact that JB simply doesn’t look like your run-of-the-mill chateau owner, there have been numerous occasions where he has been approached by guests and they have asked him just where the owner might be! He usually gives them a knowing smile and simply tells them that he is the owner. Of course, he and Erin are still working on renovating this castle, and they have used the proceeds from hosting guests for that purpose. For now, it is absolutely a miracle that they have been able to survive this financially. Things have not always ran smoothly in their journey as chateau owners.

The Work Still Continues

One of the appealing features of the Chateau De Bourneau would have to be the kitchen, simply because it has a remarkable built-in stone fireplace. However, the kitchen still needs a lot of work done to it, because it simply isn’t functioning the way that JB and Erin feel that it should. Moreover, the rest of the chateau will still need some further remodeling, designing, and unpacking.

Of course, matters get complicated even further once you realize that at this very moment they don’t have a working fridge in the chateau’s kitchen. However, JB and Erin continue to be resourceful, and one way or another, they continue to ensure that all of their guests always enjoy their stay. Of course, they are far from the first chateau owners to be able to do this.

A Ghostly Past

You see, the Chateau De Bourneau has had many past incarnations. Like many other French castles, this structure was actually abandoned during the French Revolution. They rebuilt the chateau eight decades later after a local individual was inspired by all of the royal and extravagant structures in the nearby Loire River. After, the chateau would stay with the same family until they finally sold it in 1954.

Of course, the next incarnation for the chateau was every bit as interesting. During this lifetime, this large French castle was converted into a home for Algerians that were fleeing their colonial wars, veterans who had fought for the French during that battle, and others who risked being retaliated against. It wasn’t too long after that, and this building was used as a place for refugees who were escaping the war situations in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The last incarnation has come in these latter days.

Luxury the French Way

The rooms where these Southeast Asian refugees once lives have now been completely remodeled and they definitely serve a different purpose. The rooms have been divided into unique cottages, and this part of the estate is actually able to host up to three-dozen-and-a-half people if need be. Each cottage also has its own swimming pool, which is something that JB and Erin insisted on adding.

Once you walk into the guests’ quarters, one of the first things that you will notice would have to be the wooden fireplaces. This area definitely has a personal touch, simply because the fireplace is filled with wood that Erin chops herself. This place is also a dream come true even though it isn’t in the main home. Indeed, there have been many romantic dinners in these cottages, and there will be many more in the future. Needless to say, JB and Erin’s remarkable home makeover story was something that just couldn’t be kept private. The news continued to spread, and it didn’t just spread among the tourists either.

Birds of a Feather

Enter Dick Strawbridge and wife Angel Adoree, who run a series on the United Kingdom Channel 4 entitled “Escape to the Chateau.” Dick is an ex-lieutenant colonel in the British Army, and coincidentally they too are in the process of restoring their own chateau in the fields and forests of France.

Of course, throughout their time of filming this series, they have continued to be fascinated with this couple’s Chateau de Bourneau. Thus, there have been several occasions where they have popped over and gave Erin and JB a nice visit. They not only want to compare experiences, but they also want to stay up-to-date on all of the renovations that are going on at this neat castle. At this current rate, there is no guarantee that the renovations for this incredibly large estate will ever stop, but it is definitely a labor of love between two people who not only care deeply about each other but who have found their magical home as well.

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