It took seven skilled stonemasons seven long years to dismantle Château du Hénan, an ancient French castle, situated on the banks of the river Aven, before they painstakingly rebuilt it, stone by stone. It’s a narrative that sits well with the property’s fairy-tale appearance, including steely gray turrets and rough granite walls, which have since been sympathetically paired with a host of modern features that only add to its unique appeal.
Originally constructed between 1426 and 1450, the castle was rebuilt and extended by many families over the years until eventually, in the late 20th century, it fell into disrepair. Bought by the current owners in 2000, it was then that, in line with permissions from Architects des Bâtiments de France, each and every block of the 11,302-square-foot (1,050 sq m) structure was removed, cleaned, and reinstated.
A Modern Fairy tale
So diligent were the architects and craftspeople about the quality and provenance of new materials that a quarry was dug in the grounds to source rare granit de Trégunc, a stone not available elsewhere in the region. As well as the weathered façades, features including lime-covered walls, exposed beams, and a number of original fireplaces were brought back to their former glory, along with an impressive spiral staircase that sits in the 15th-century tower, and winds gracefully towards the upper floors.
Among the contemporary modifications undertaken during the full renovation, which spanned the best part of the last 20 years, the most striking is an expansive glass-and-wrought-iron ceiling that seamlessly links the 15th- and 18th-century wings, while at the same time, illuminates the spacious foyer in the castle’s main tower.
The owners really did think of everything. This is an incredible opportunity to own a jewel of French heritage—David Bilder
“The contrast between old and new is particularly successful,” says David Bilder, founder and CEO of David Bilder Real Estate, in La Baule-Escoublac, France. “The roof and indeed the modern footbridges sit perfectly with the ancient build.” Other modern additions include a smart-home system and geothermal subfloor heating. “This really adds to the overall feeling of warmth,” says Bilder. “The result is that this is now a desirable, and extremely comfortable, family home.”
Throughout the ground floor, three reception rooms, all with generous windows overlooking the tranquil river or private parkland, are anchored by the light-filled main living room, formerly the castle’s kitchen, which boasts a monumental, expertly restored limestone fireplace and a lofty 11-foot (3.5 m) beam-filled ceiling.
Highlights include the 1,076-square-foot (100 sq m) contemporary dining room, a billiards room, an elegant, wood-paneled library, and two offices, each with custom-made furniture. “In addition, there are three fully equipped kitchens, the largest of which is kitted out with La Cornue cabinetry and appliances,” explains Bilder. It also has a rustic floor laid with handcrafted terracotta.
Move upstairs to find no fewer than eight bedroom suites, five in the 18th-century wing, with the remaining three in the 15th-century section of the castle, plus another office. These are linked by an attractive teak walkway that passes through the grand entrance hall under the architectural glass roof.
The contrast between old and new is particularly successful. This is now an extremely comfortable family home—David Bilder
“All have top-of-the-range fixtures and fittings,” says Bilder. “These include bathrooms clad in marble, slate, and tadelakt, as well as solid oak floors.” The principal suite features a handsome limestone fireplace and a double-height beamed ceiling, as well as a custom dressing room and en suite spa-style bathroom with a tub overlooking the river.
Climb further to the second floor to discover a photographic studio, an attic, and another bedroom suite, as well as access to the third-floor guard room via a narrow granite staircase. This in turn leads to the ornately carved parapet from which views stretch over the 99 acres (40 ha) of woodland and sweeping meadows towards the river, the 1.2-mile (2 km) stretch of riverbank that belongs to the estate, and out to the Atlantic Ocean.
It is indeed a magical combination, further enhanced by a series of charming outbuildings, including a 15th-century chapel and circular “monks’ tower,” a boathouse, a vast, newly built wooden barn, beehives, a flax-drying shed with terrace, a detached guesthouse, and a 2,153-square-foot (200 sq m) games room. There is also a large garage, a workshop, and ample staff accommodation, plus a series of elegant themed gardens—Japanese, Moorish, and Irish to name but a few—and a brand-new swimming pool.
All reasons why this property is truly exceptional. “Throughout the renovation the owners really did think of everything,” says Bilder. “This is an incredible opportunity to own a real jewel of French heritage.”
Banner image: Frédéric Vasseur