Towering above the sun-glazed pastures of Cognac in southwestern France, this formerly derelict Chateau offered a crumbling canvas for Julie Berry, who purchased the estate in January 2017. Since then, the former British guesthouse and bar owner has designed an imperial haven in the Grande Champagne region that epitomizes continental regency, elegance, and je ne sais quoi.
From an abandoned early nineteenth-century castle and cognac distillery is an utterly modern home that pays tribute to the fashionable land in which it stands.
How did Julie and her partner create this unrecognizable new space? The pair walked us through the design journey of a lifetime.
The Chateau before renovation
Four years ago, Julie was searching for her dream Chateau when her agent discovered the property.
‘We had seen a number of Chateau’s with this lovely agent, all with a much higher price tag, but we really hadn’t found ‘the one’, Julie begins. She shares how the agent was hesitant to show them around because of the inevitable extensive renovation process that lay ahead, but Julie looked past this, sharing it was ‘absolute love at first sight.’
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‘My Grandfather’s philosophy and advice was; if you feel like you can’t live without it, then go for it but if you can’t choose or you are in any way unsure, then leave it. With that advice in my head and heart…. I went for it and bought the Chateau,’ she adds.
When the couple bought the Chateau, they decided to juggle the renovation work with their businesses in the UK. ‘It was not easy trying to juggle both,’ Julie explains.
The Chateau during renovation
‘The biggest challenge was finding a team of builders and artisans for the Chateau who we could trust. We had a few hiccups, to begin with, but then found our team who are still with us now,’ she adds. Julie then expanded on the history of the estate, explaining how it was a cognac distillery that had remained in the same family for centuries.
The land houses several outbuildings and barns that remained undiscovered when the couple first began renovating. One of these buildings featured a large stone bread oven that the couple vowed to restore as part of the renovation process. On completing the refurbishment, Juile made homemade pizza, lamb casserole, and roast potatoes, and it worked just as perfectly as all those years before.
It was hard to pinpoint the room that the couple completed first, as the structural work made the renovation process feel harder. However, one defining moment was when they removed the roof to create a staircase access to the towers.
The Chateau after renovation
‘We took a triple chimney out, which was going through 4 floors, through the middle of each room, and we dug down the cellar by about 1.5 feet to enable another entire floor. When we eventually moved into our bedroom suite, it was heaven,’ Julie shares.
While every room has its own elegant charisma, the kitchen and pantry are some of Julie’s favorite spaces in the house. However, it is a close race between many other new areas in the home.
‘The cinema room with the bar I think will be so much fun, the dining room has a table big enough to seat 20 people, so there’s going to be some great times to be had in there,’ says Julie.
This wouldn’t be Cognac without a wine cellar, and this Chateau pays a perfect tribute to the Grande Champagne region in the most exclusive way possible.
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Julie also shares she is excited to share the space with her family once traveling resumes, before noting how her new grandson will enjoy the cinema room and swimming pool. While the renovation is still underway, you can follow their journey on Instagram, @restore_the_chateau (opens in new tab).
We'll take a one way ticket to Cognac, please.
Megan is a News Writer across Future Plc’s homes titles, including Livingetc and Homes & Gardens. As a News Writer, she often focuses on micro-trends, wellbeing, celebrity-focused pieces, and everything IKEA.
Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and expansive collection of houseplants.