This castle is something to behold, but its renovation is so much more than merely beautiful.
Helping the Earth never looked so beautiful.
Take a look at the gorgeous Chateau Gudanes.
It has an even more gorgeous story behind it.
This chateau was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, the same architect who designed Marie Antoinette's personal mini-chateau, the Petit Trianon, and parts of Place de la Concorde in Paris. Beautiful, right?
The Chateau Gudanes, located in the south of France, was built in 1741 for Marquis Louis Gaspard de Sales. Apparently, he threw some pretty lavish parties. It's rumored that even Voltaire allegedly attended a few. The chateau managed to survive the French Revolution (some didn't fare so well), but soon the era of aristocratic parties was over and the chateau sat vacant.
Until the 1990s, when developers bought it with the plan to transform the 94-room castle into 17 luxury apartments. They weren't granted the renovation permits to so drastically alter a historical monument, so the chateau just sat there, crumbling.
Then, in 2013, the crumbling chateau found its new loving owners.
Those owners are Karina and Craig Waters. They're from Perth, Australia, and they have two kids. After deciding they wanted to purchase a home in France, they took many trips and saw a whole bunch of places that were "renovated, clean, and neat" ... but that's not what they wanted.
They wanted someplace with a little more life.
Thanks to an online search by their 16-year-old kid, they stumbled across Chateau Gudanes. When they visited it in person, they knew. This was the one. They signed their final contract to purchase the chateau in 2013.
This is more than a story of some well-to-do Australians buying a cool place in France. It's an amazing expression of how valuing history, caring for a community, and listening to each other pays off. It pays off by helping the Earth. Really!
For starters, a 2011 report from Preservation Green Lab found that reusing a building can actually help an entire community reduce its carbon footprint!
How's that for an unintended consequence?
Now, to logistics of castle reuse: The couple decided that Craig would return to Australia while Karina supervised renovations (while she lived in the stables!).
Such a massive renovation project hasn't always been an easy process.
They've been renovating since November 2013. Karina's taken intensive language courses and had to persuade the very strict — and very slow — French bureaucracy that decides whether owners can renovate historic monuments to allow her to proceed. She got permission, but not easily, and getting the necessary permissions to continue the work continues to be a struggle. But she keeps going!
And it's all been worth it.
The blog they started to document the whole process beautifully captures their intent:
"Our aim is to tread lightly and gently — to preserve the atmosphere and authenticity of the Chateau and region as much as possible. She will be renovated but her rawness, wear and history will not be erased, but instead integrated."
It's beautiful. Even the mere first opening of a window is cause for celebration.
Much more beautiful than luxury apartments ... and it's not just about what looks good. They're also preserving history.
And get this: Renovating this older building also turns out to be better for the planet than building a fancy new place.
You might think newer buildings are more efficient and so better for the environment, but it's actually a little more complicated than that. Preservation Green Lab's 2011 study found that there's a possibility it could take 10-80 years for a new building to be a net positive on climate change.
Helping the Earth never looked so beautiful.
Look at all the beautiful elements of the renovations ... all helping the Earth, bit by bit.
Many of the "new" items in the chateau aren't new at all. They're found from "brocantes" or vintage and antique stores from the Ariege region, where the chateau is located.
While their goal is to renovate the castle and preserve history, such a cool choice is made even cooler by the fact that such a renovation benefits the planet!
And they've got big plans for 2016, too. As they have stated on the website where they're tracking their progress:
"Our plans for the future keep changing and evolving, and they are only in their infancy, but we hope to welcome you as soon as possible. Ideally, to begin, a cafe and tours, even in its well worn state. By 2016 we would like to also offer you accommodation, a gift shop, and facilities for weddings, music festivals, local fêtes, workshops, conferences, seminars and courses.
And their renovations are moving right along.
To encourage others to follow their lead, they're hosting on-site historical renovation classes.
As the renovations continue, the chateau has opened its doors to The Messors, a group of conservationists whose tagline is "A way of life so far behind, it's ahead," and they hosted a 15-day workshop "to immerse participants in the conservation of cultural heritage encompassing decorative art, architecture, history and regional culinary culture."
Life is truly returning — literally and figuratively — to the Chateau Gudanes.
And visiting them virtually (their blog, Instagram, and Facebook are amazing) is a true get-overwhelmed-with-beauty experience.
Each day, a new discovery.
They recently hosted a wedding at the chateau to give their future plans a trial run.
Even though they're nowhere near done with renovations, their vision is clear.
"The Chateau won't be a pretentious museum piece, but rather, a place to visit, reconnect with the earth and people, and restore the senses, just like she herself has been restored."
The world is already too full of luxury apartments. But it's not too full of unique historical places like this. (Could it ever be?)
By putting their money into historical preservation and renovation, this couple isn't just investing in themselves and their own finances. No. They're investing in something that they can share with everyone.
They're keeping our world beautiful and interesting, full of history and full of life.
They're restoring something that the public, even centuries from now, can enjoy and experience.
A recent blog entry sums up the reasoning behind their effort: " ..to be led by our dreams rather than be pushed by problems. "
It's a beautiful message of hope.