An Updated 16th-Century French Château Seven Years in the Making
23rd October, 2018
When Didier Benderli arrived at a charming 16th-century château in the Parisian countryside, he was expecting a quick intervention. “Originally, the client asked me to come and change the paintwork in some of the rooms and put up curtains in the bedrooms,” says the French interior designer behind Paris-based firm Kerylos Intérieurs. But what followed was a total design overhaul. “We ended up breaking down and changing almost everything—and there is not a single pair of curtains in the château.”
Though a 19th-century renovation lovingly preserved its intricate boiserie, the property had fallen into disrepair—the château’s lifetime has spanned several ownership changes, religious wars, and the French Revolution—and Benderli found the house and its surrounding outbuildings in need of an update that married their history and his client’s contemporary lifestyle. “I wanted to restore the original identity of the château, which had faded with time, and consequently create a connection between the original architecture and new interior design,” he says.
Over the next seven years, he gutted the place, introducing new heating, ventilation, plumbing, and electrical systems and applying era-appropriate cosmetic fixes across the board: He restored fireplaces, installed antique parquet floors, and replaced windows and roofing tiles. He maintained the gilded accents that appear throughout the home—“We commissioned a cabinetmaker, stonemason, iron craftsman, and painter, among others, all of whom used traditional techniques in their work during the renovation,” the designer says—but in the kitchen, he removed partitions to create an airy Calacatta marble-and-steel gathering space for entertaining family-style in the 21st century.
Benderli’s genre-bending aesthetic naturally extends to the furnishings and accessories, a mix of antique-store finds and modern-design classics. “We started by choosing pieces that matched our respective tastes but also possessed the elegance that would match the environment,” he says. “The Danish design of Finn Juhl, Kaare Klint, and Alvar Aalto, and lighting by Angelo Lelli seemed to fit well.” That contemporary current is also highlighted by the artwork, a collection that ranges from a colorful Gaston Chaissac in the living room to a stark Lu Chao diptych in the master bedroom. The result is a home that will no doubt stand the test of time for another five centuries.
For the renovation of a 16th-century château in the Parisian countryside, French designer Didier Benderli maintained the home’s sense of history while introducing modern touches in keeping with the homeowner’s contemporary lifestyle. Asymmetrical furniture dominates in the library, where a midcentury sofa by Carlo de Carli and chairs by Ico Parisi surround a cocktail table by Gabriella Crespi. The floor lamps are by Philippe Hiquily, and the ashtray is by Fontana Arte Editeur.
A Peter Schoolwerth painting sets the palette for the piano room. A smoked glass-and-brass lighting fixture by Hans Agne Jakobsson hangs above a vignette composed of a midcentury sofa, a Vladimir Kagan chaise, and an Ado Chale cocktail table.
In the living room, the playful lines of a Carlo de Carli sofa mirror the abstract shapes in a custom rug designed by Benderli. The woodwork was painted gray to add depth and dimension.
A Finn Juhl sofa joins wood shelves by Gio Ponti, a Gino Sarfatti floor lamp, and a cast-aluminum cocktail table by Ado Chale in another corner of the living room.
“The dining room is my favorite room,” the designer says. “We commissioned sculptor Philippe Anthonioz to create a bronze-and-marble table anchored in the ground, which is in opposition to the light and magnetic spiral of the Poul Hennigsen chandelier.” The chairs are by Gio Ponti, and the rug is a custom creation by Benderli.
In a hallway, the classic checkerboard flooring creates graphic contrast to the gray walls and vintage leather-bound mirrors. An Arne Jacobsen Egg chair serves as a modern counterpoint to the original stone fireplace.
Rather than restore the original kitchen, Benderli removed walls and created a contemporary marble-and-steel gathering space designed for entertaining, with a La Cornue stove, Hainaut stone flooring, and custom French walnut marquetry.
Lighting by Olgoj Chorchoj plays off angular furnishings by Grete Jalk and Hans Olsen.
A 1930s Italian sofa by Guglielmo Ulrich, chairs by Gigi Radice, and a cocktail table by Fernando and Humberto Campana combine to create an elegant seating area in a bedroom dominated by artwork by Lu Chao.
Stilnovo sconces mirror lighting fixtures by Angelo Lelli.
Stenciled flooring makes a bold statement in a guest bedroom. Artwork by Mickalene Thomas hangs in place of a headboard, and linens by Caravane and Maison de Vacances echo the palette
A pair of Vladimir Kagan sofas, a polished copper Kam Tin cocktail table, and hanging lights by Poul Henningsen elevate the pool house. The floor lamp is by Silvio Bilangione, and the chair is by Helge Vestergaard Jensen
Deck chairs from the 1940s were restored and placed around an inviting swim area that’s part of a park designed by the English landscape architect Russell Page. “The grounds were restored and reinvented in the areas where there were no traces of the original design,” says Benderli
In a patio area, a pair of folding deck chairs by Preben Fabricius sits with side tables by Albert Larsson on natural teak flooring.