Before and After: This old French Chateau in Cognac has been transformed into a modern home

Tour this alluring Southern French maze – from the chandelier in the clock tower to the speakeasy in the basement

French Chateau project
(Image credit: Julie Berry / @restore_the_chateau)

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

French Chateau project

(Image credit: Julie Berry / @restore_the_chateau)

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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French Chateau project

(Image credit: Julie Berry / @restore_the_chateau)

‘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. 

French Chateau project

(Image credit: Julie Berry / @restore_the_chateau)

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.  

French Chateau project

(Image credit: Julie Berry / @restore_the_chateau)

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. 

French Chateau project

(Image credit: Julie Berry / @restore_the_chateau)

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.

French Chateau project

(Image credit: Julie Berry / @restore_the_chateau)

The Chateau after renovation

French Chateau project

(Image credit: Julie Berry / @restore_the_chateau)

‘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. 

French Chateau project

(Image credit: Julie Berry / @restore_the_chateau)

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.  

French Chateau project

(Image credit: Julie Berry / @restore_the_chateau)

‘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. 

French Chateau project

(Image credit: Julie Berry / @restore_the_chateau)

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.

French Chateau project

(Image credit: Julie Berry / @restore_the_chateau)

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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.

French Chateau project

(Image credit: Julie Berry / @restore_the_chateau)

We'll take a one way ticket to Cognac, please.