Buy Of The Week: Normandy

Hand-painted murals, ornate wood panels and floor-length windows set the scene inside this romantic Normandy castle

When she found Château de la Motte, she made up her mind to buy it immediately. Surrounded by six acres of parkland, overlooking two lakes, and enclosed within ancient stone walls, the six-bedroom house was in need of major repairs. But Beresford could see that the house, which was built on the foundations of an enormous 17th-century granite chateau, had a solid, strong fabric.

"Half the roof needed replacing," she says "but the rest of the structure was sound. There was no kitchen and only one bathroom and, of course, no central heating. The old parquet floors were almost unrecognisable, and there was different wallpaper on every inch of wall.

"I added three extra bathrooms and completed the other essential works, but the remainder was done with the help of eager teenagers belonging to various friends of mine, who would come out during the summer or for longer if they were enjoying a gap year.

"They would spend two or three hours a day stripping back the parquet floors with wire wool attached to their shoes and after a good session, they would leap out of the windows for endless games of ping pong."

In total, the chateau consists of a group of three large houses; the main house, built in 1821, which Beresford has made her home for the last 16 years, and two substantial gatehouses, the only remaining parts of the original chateau, dating from 1600, which she lets out to holiday-makers.

The interior of the main house is a testament to Beresford's unique sense of romantic style. After having studied and worked in design in Australia, she returned to England where she met her husband, the Australian film director Bruce Beresford.

"I have always enjoyed designing interiors, but I am not manifestly an interior designer. My talent is finding lovely things in junk shops and knowing where to put them - that's the part that I love."

The ground floor has two huge, pavilion-like rooms with rows of full-height windows overlooking the park. "It was the windows that sold the house to me," says Beresford - "and this room is lovely to come down to on a damp, cold Normandy morning." The kitchen looks on to the dining room through a wide opening that can be shut off with panels to create a more formal setting. "I keep the space open most of the time, unless I am entertaining the sort of guests that would prefer not to see the cats all over the kitchen," says Beresford.

Over the years, she has embellished the interior with murals painted by several different artists. The walls of the dining room were painted by Georges Margarin, whose portfolio includes Mick Jagger's dining room and the Cipriani Hotel in Venice.

A couple of local young artists, the Sineux, produced the decorations for the sitting room. Originally the doors in here would have been embellished with boiseries or ornate wooden panels, but they had been removed. The young couple painted replacements over the doors, and added ribbons and a picture of a sultry sky on the ceiling of the entrance hall.

The large master-bedroom has a parquet floor, which is continuous throughout most of the house, with four big windows facing east over the lake, and a weighty, rust-coloured marble fireplace. On the same level is a romantic chambre de bonne, with its wooden panelling and carved alcove. The library bedroom is a deep red, with floor-to-ceiling bookcases, and the en-suite bathroom has an under-water mural which was painted by Beresford's daughter. On the top floor are three further bedrooms.

Another long-term project that Beresford undertook was the restoration of the garden. It was full of wonderful old trees, but most of the grounds had turned to a wilderness. "With the help of the wonderful French landscaper Alain Richert, I made a rose garden around the house." The cultivated area blends softly into wilder parkland beyond the swimming lake.

But, now that Beresford's children are scattered all over the world, she has decided that she would like to spend more time in London where she will be more accessible. "It's going to be very painful to leave," she says, "but I've bought a little stone house nearby and I will be coming back."

Get the spec

What's for sale: a six-bedroom French chateau with two gatehouses that can be rented out separately

Serious kit: parquet floors, marble fireplaces, muralled walls, panelled wood interiors

Extras: six acres of parkland with rose gardens and two lakes in the grounds; extensive outbuildings, which could be converted

Buy it: Château de la Motte is for sale through Mme C Baudrant (0033 23327 2001), price €1.4m

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Property search
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager / Section Manager - Airport Security

£40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a critical role within the secur...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45-55k

£20000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is an established, ...

Recruitment Genius: E-Commerce Manager - Fashion Accessories

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Senior / Assistant Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Exciting new position available at an independ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn