Chateau du Saulou

Tine and Mads from Denmark spend holidays in France restoring their XVI century chateau with 7 fireplaces and authentic towers.
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Mads and Tine, the owners of Chateau du Saulou in Dordogne, Framce
Artiom Ganin has virtually taveled to Dordogne in France to talk with the owners of the XVI century Chateau du Saulou. Tine and Mads are a couple from Denmark, they reside and work in Copenhagen in human resources. How come they have a castle in France? Well, they love France and in particular they adore the French countryside. The couple had visited a dozen of French chateaux within 4 years before they found one for themselves - Chateau du Saulou – and it was love at first sight! They now spend their vacations among the picturesque hills of Dordogne working hard to restore their 500 year-old castle which still has the authentic furnishing and defenses. We've talked about the first steps they took on the path of bringing the chateau to its former glory. Tine and Mads told me why they decided to clear the ancient walls off the old plaster, what's the story with the castle's seven fireplaces and what Chateau du Salou will be in 10-year's time.


Castles and Palaces (CnP): Why out of many French castles have you chosen Chateau du Saulou? What was so special about it?

Tine and Mads (T&M): Yes, there are indeed so many lovely French chateaus, and it would be easy to fall in love with all of them - but we find Chateau du Saulou very special because of its original state, the 500 years of age and history, as well as a manageable size of the chateau and the estate. And then also because of the location – close by the river in the lovely Dordogne department. We love the yellow warm stone of Dordogne, calm surroundings.
CnP: The owners of Chateau de Meauce told me the it was number 25 on the list of properties they checked within several years – but once they saw it they knew they would buy it. How did you come across Chateau du Saulou?

T&M: In search of our dream property, we have visited 13 different chateaus and seen hundreds on the internet over the last 4 years. We came across the chateau by chance – we visited another property with a real estate agent – that one was not for us, but he mentioned that he had Chateau du Saulou in the portfolio, and we scheduled a visit immediately
CnP: What did you feel when you realized the chateau is yours?

T&M: When visiting the chateau, we fell head over heels in love with it and actually made an offer right away on the first visit. The owners accepted it, and we signed the first set of papers just 2 hours after arriving - under the tree in the courtyard. Crazy right? And when driving away after this, there was quite a lot of giggling in the car… and in the weeks after that .. We still pinch ourselves regularly – to realize we are so lucky in life to have become the custodians of the chateau feels both fabulous and unreal.
CnP: What was the state of the castle when you bought it?

T&M: The property is in "an original state", meaning that not a lot of renovation has been done over the years. For us this is really a good thing, as we can set our own mark on the place, lovingly and carefully restoring the buildings and the grounds. The chateau had not been lived in for some years, and it was dark and damp, and some of the buildings are also in a bad state of repair.
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CnP: Who was the previous owner?

T&M: The chateau has a long history, being built in the beginning of the XVI century. The family who sold the property to us bought it just after the French Revolution – so quite a long time in the same family. One of the family members who was born in the chateau lives very close by, and we have become good neighbours and friends and we really benefit from their great help and knowledge.
CnP: You come from Denmark, what's your background?

T&M: That's right. We are Tine and Mads, a Danish couple, currently living and working in Copenhagen. We both work within Human Resources in Danish companies, but our love of France and the French countryside draws us to France as much as possible.


CnP: I've been following your restoration journey – this summer you've removed the old plaster off the walls. Why did you do that?

T&M: The house has not been lived in for quite a while, and the plaster and wallpaper in the rooms on the first floor were very damp and in a general bad state of repair. The rooms were also very dark, as many walls were covered by moulded cloth – all of which had to come off in order to let the walls breathe.
CnP: What did you find under the old plaster – anything of particular interest? Or have you made any exciting findings in the estate or inside the chateau?

T&M: We did careful removal of the plaster, as we wanted to preserve any wall paintings, if there were any. But sadly, there are none on these walls, and it was obvious that plaster had been put on and removed and reapplied several times over the years – damaging anything behind – if there ever was anything.
T&M: We will leave the plaster upstairs for now – and explore and preserve further if there is something to be found. We have found old door/window openings in some of the rooms and when uncovering one of the tower rooms we did find the old arrow slits – this is an exciting find and we will integrate this into the design of that room. We also found a chest full of ancient books in the attic – the oldest ones dating from the XVII century.
T&M: We also found a chest full of ancient books in the attic – the oldest ones dating from the XVII century.
CnP: The chateau is an old and protected building. So, the restoration works can be carried out only by skilful craftsmen under supervision of a French historical architect. Who's helping you with the restoration and how do you get along?

T&M: We have been granted building permission after 10 months, where a skilled architect has helped us in the process. In the next step we have found a local historical buildings architect, who will help us with the detailed plans and getting quotes from builders. The first phase will be to save the listed stables, where the roof is in a bad state of repair.
CnP: Do you finance the works out of your own pockets?

T&M: For now that is the plan – which also means that this will be a many year restoration project. As the building is listed, we hope to get grants for some of the costs. Our Chateau is listed as ISMH, permitting us to apply for 20% of the costs of the renovation of the listed and visible parts of the building.
CnP: What is so special about Chateau du Saulou, which other French chateaux don't have?

T&M: There are so many magnificent chateaux in France and all of them are special in their own way. Most of the features of Chateau du Saulou you can find in other buildings as well. For us it is really the combination of architecture, history, style and surroundings – and the feeling the chateau gives us every time we open the gates. An old fortress being converted into a liveable chateau, with its towers and defensive structures. For us a chateau needs towers – and ours have two good ones.
CnP: What's your vision for the chateau – will it be your private residence, or will you open it for visitors – a hotel/restaurant/museum?

T&M: The current vision for the Chateau is to convert the stables into two 2-bedroom Gites, inviting guests to stay with us in self-catering accommodation. The Chateau itself will be our own home, we will renovate it with a possibility of also renting out B&B rooms.
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T&M: As we have both worked with leadership education and training for many years, a possibility could also be to conduct management team trainings on site. And further options could be to rent out the estate for photoshoots or similar.
CnP: There's a huge field next to the chateau – how do you plan to use it? Growing wheat or maybe lavender?

T&M: The field had wines previously and in the cave of the chateau we still have the huge wine press as well as several old wine barrels. Currently, we let our local farmer use our field for his Scottish highland cattle – they are such beautiful and calm animals, and lovely to watch.
T&M: In the future, we will probably expand the chateau gardens, planting more trees and creating small spaces outdoors such a potager, shadowy nests and calm sitting areas. We will definitely be planting more fruit trees and we might experiment with a little wine growing to return to history.
CnP: Your XVI century castle has 7 fireplaces and one of them is listed – what is so special about it?

T&M: When we first discovered the room with this magnificent fireplace, we knew it was the chateau for us. It has some very beautiful original paintings on it, depicting the stoning of Saint-Etienne. We are going to have a professional conservator help us restore these paintings, in order to keep them safe for many years to come.
CnP: How do you heat the chateau? Do all of the fireplaces function alright?

T&M: There is no heating in the chateau currently, and we are still considering how to best heat it, or at least parts of it. We will use some of the big chimneys and perhaps install word burning stoves to ensure good use of the wood burned.
CnP: What was your first night at the chateau like?

T&M: It was a wonderful sensation sleeping at the chateau for the first time. We did this in early spring, so the house was still very cold, and a lot of blankets, woollen underwear and socks were needed to keep warm. But that's all part of the adventure of living in such an old building. The massive walls make the chateau cool all year round – this has been very nice this summer, where the temperatures have been extreme for very long periods.
CnP: Which part of the chateau do you like most of all?

T&M: It is difficult to point out specific places in the chateau that we like the most, but if one should be mentioned it would be the beautiful room with the listed fireplace. It is really a very special room. We also love the big stone stairs that we have connecting the floors of the chateau – here you can really feel the history and the people who have lived in the house, as the stone steps are a bit worn by the countless footsteps walking on the stairs over the course of 500 years.
CnP: Does the castle have all modern amenities like WC, bathroom, laundry, electricity, water supply, sewage, central heating, etc?

T&M: We have running water (cold), WC and electricity in the castle – so when we are there to renovate, we can live in the house and cook food, brew tea and coffee, etc.
CnP: What's the oldest part of the chateau and what's inside?

T&M: The chateau is built in 3 stages, dating from the XVI, XVII, and XVIII century. The oldest part has the central big rooms and the two round towers. Luckily there are still a lot of original features such as stone floors, fireplaces and the central stone stairs
CnP: I've noticed in the pictures from the inside of the chateau that you have a lot of old furniture. How come you got your castle fully furnished!? Normally, furniture is the first things which is sold off at auctions by the previous owners.

T&M: We bought some of the furniture from the previous owners, and some was left for us when we were handed the keys. We also enjoy visiting Brocantes and Vide-Grenier markets when we are in France, and we buy some pieces of furniture and decoration. It's a big house, so we will need a lot of things to decorate it once it is finished.
CnP: I bet there is a number of legends about the chateau – please share with me one you love most of all!

T&M: With a house as old as Chateau du Saulou there will be legends, and we are sure that we will discover them over time. One that we know of, and that the villagers talk about, is that there is supposed to be a secret tunnel from the chateau to one of the neighbouring manor houses. This tunnel was supposedly used by the lord of the chateau to visit his mistress who was installed in the manor house down the road. We haven't found the tunnel – yet.
CnP: Any ghosts or spirits?

T&M: No ghosts discovered yet. Although we have a big white owl living in the attic. In French this owl is called "La Dame Blanche" – the white lady. We are glad that we were warned about the owl walking on the floor of the attic at night, as this can really sound like there is someone walking up there. We will have to remember to warn guests sleeping with us about this.
CnP: Any ghosts or spirits?

T&M: No ghosts discovered yet. Although we have a big white owl living in the attic. In French this owl is called "La Dame Blanche" – the white lady. We are glad that we were warned about the owl walking on the floor of the attic at night, as this can really sound like there is someone walking up there. We will have to remember to warn guests sleeping with us about this.
CnP: Why don't you live at the chateau all year round? Where do you live?

T&M: We live and work in Denmark and are lucky to have someone taking care of and looking after the Chateau when we are not there. We will renovate parts of the chateau to make it liveable, and then the plan is to live there half of the year in 7-10 year's time.
CnP: There's a village not far from the chateau – how do you get along with locals? Were they happy you bought the castle?

T&M: We have been received extremely well by the locals in the small hamlet that is close to the chateau. They are all wonderful people, and we have been invited to drinks by many of them, as well as having a beer or some wine at the chateau. They are happy that we have bought the house and want to renovate it and helping preserve the cultural heritage. People are very helpful and it's really a joy to be there.
CnP: Which other chateaus do you keep in touch with?

T&M: We keep in touch with many other chateaus on Instagram – exchanging ideas or help with things such as insurance, heating, etc. It's a great community and people are very helpful. We also see a few chateau owners in the area, visiting their beautiful houses and exchange stories and news.
CnP: If you look back – don't you regret embarking on this long journey?

T&M: Buying and restoring an old chateau will certainly be a rollercoaster ride with many ups and downs. We are so far fortunate that it has mainly been ups in the 2 years we have owned Chateau du Saulou and while you may regret the things you do NOT do, we have not regretted our decision to engage on this journey for a second. It's an amazing feeling and we look so much forward to all the adventures we are going to have.
CnP: What would you tell a castle lover who's dreaming about purchasing an old castle to restore?

T&M: When buying a chateau there are many things to consider – what is the state of the buildings, what is the right location for you, in the countryside, in a village, etc? Make sure you think about what size of property you want – many of these houses are very big with a lot of outbuildings, which can be costly in renovation and ongoing maintenance. But most important of all, live the dream. We at least have a saying, which is "what's the worst that can happen" – it seldom is as bad as you think.
We very much hope that you liked the interview with Tine and Mads, the owner of Chateau du Saulou in France.

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Photo credits: Chateau du Saulou

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