Feeling Bookish: Invitation to Chateau du Grand-Lucé
Well, I must admit, I had a wonderful week of reading design books. The best of the bunch was a surprise: An Invitation to Chateau du Grand-Lucé: Decorating a Great French Country House by acclaimed designer Timothy Corrigan. I'm not sure why this one wowed me the most, but I will credit it largely to its rich storytelling qualities and - oh, yes - the Frenchness of it all!
Corrigan chose to lay this book out an unusual way: he broke it out into parts as though you were staying at this esteemed Loire Valley estate for a long weekend. Rather than predictable numbered chapters (1, 2, 3...), you progress through the rich visuals and descriptions by way of events such as "Settling In" or "Evening in the Gardens" and the like. This engaging presentation paired with the rich photography skills of Eric Piasecki make "An Invitation" a book you'll try to devour in one sitting Frankly, Eric's photos are composed so cleverly that you on some pages you feel transported right into this massive French estate. Stunning!
First, let me establish that the book is huge, not unlike the estate itself. Yet Corrigan's desire to pull you through his adventure of restoring this historic manse is something I think most art lovers can relate to. He makes the oversized topic seem intimate.
Behind the home itself is a larger story. Here's an American designer fighting to protect and lovingly rehabilitate a crumbling property on foreign soil. While others wanted to transform the private property into a hotel or other commercial affair, Timothy had a vision for bringing Grand-Lucé to its former glory and infusing it with a hefty dose of California cool - all while having it serve as a private residence. And he won the battle.
How, you ask, do you infuse a rich European mansion with a decidedly West Coast attitude? Timothy's design mindset can be summed up with this passage from his firm's site:
"No matter how beautifully a space is designed, it is not entirely successful unless it is also comfortable, practical and livable. Mixing elements that are new and old and from all around the world, our work is classic but with a fresh, comfortable feeling."
Formal gardens and gilt-framed walls would tell you at first that this is a very formal home. But look beyond and you'll be greeted with relaxed seating and playful fringed pillows that make you want to curl your feet up on the sofas. Is it formal? Yes. Is it livable? Amazingly, yes. Timothy convinces us that this historically important property makes for the perfect private home. He's made it approachable and inviting. And with this book he has actually invited us into his home. He is so convincing as a gracious host (even if only in our imagination) that the book leaves us wishing he actually would extend an Invitation to Chateau du Grand-Lucé.
Well, if this book is my only invitation to visit the estate, I thoroughly enjoyed it!
For more on this great designer, go here.