a different kind of house tour

Ever dreamed of spending a night in a French Chateau? How about a couple of weeks? Well, I had the pleasure of doing just that while we were away in France. The Loire Valley is chock-a-block full of chateaus from the ostentatious to the sublime (more on this one later). While many of the more historically famous estates have been turned into museums some are rented out on a weekly or monthly basis probably with the aim of covering some of the maintenance costs.

Chateau Mont Felix was where I called home during my time in the Loire Valley along with my extended family. Since we were such a big group it made sense to rent one large place rather than getting multiple hotel rooms.

The chateau was constructed in 1820 and is still owned by the same family. The principal rooms are stunning for their sheer scale and intricate details like the oak herringbone floors, ceiling medallions, beautifully designed cabinetry and 14 foot ceilings.

The home has an eclectic mix of furniture that has obviously been accumulated over decades of family use. While a lot of it doesn’t go together (hello, 1970’s brass floor light!) there is something to be said for the unusual mix. Recently, I’ve actually found myself drawn to images of large country homes that have that bohemian, thrown together, lived - in look. (I’m working on a post about this that I will share shortly.)

And let’s be honest, it can’t be easy to fill a home of such size. The scale of the furniture alone has to be on the extra large side just to fill the rooms! I ‘ll admit that I was desperate to do a little furniture rearranging but it wasn’t my house and honestly some of the pieces would have needed an army to move. And how about that picture arrangement above...while crooked and asymmetrical, doesn't it somehow work with the overall feel of the place?

The kitchen which was modest in size compared to the rest of the house had the most beautiful encaustic cement tiles. As you know, I seriously considered using a tile similar to this in my own kitchen. Seeing these floors, I wondered once again, whether or not we should have shouldered the extra expense and gone with these patterned floors.

Upstairs, there were a dozen little rooms many with their own fireplace. Back in the day, it was probably the only way to keep the drafty rooms warm. The interesting thing was that no two were alike! And check out the coffered ceiling peaking through in the last photograph. This was my bedroom! Each night I looked up at the ceiling and thought how lucky I am.

Finally, the best thing of all about staying in a place like this is that you get to live like a local if only for a short while. We shopped at the local markets, made our own food most nights, and ran down to the local boulangerie each morning for croissants. Honestly, it really doesn't get better than this!

off to paris – help me!

Yes friends, it's true. I'm off to Paris in a few days (poor husband is staying behind to work). Still, I'm very excited. It has been a long time since I've stepped foot in the City of Lights. Don't worry, I have lots of posts archived for you along with an amazing line up of guest bloggers. The posts have been trickling in all weekend and they are SO good. Full of interesting ideas and inspiring images that will keep you humming along. But before we get there I need your help. Where should I go? What should I do? I have a few places in mind. I'm definitely going to take some time to visit all the interesting flea markets or brocantes as they are called in French. I have a wonderful article from the September 2008 issue of the now defunct Gourmet magazine that discusses many of the big ones along with a few that are off the beaten path (always the better way to travel).

High on my list is of places to shop, is the concept store, Merci.

Merci is a cafe and homewares store where ALL the profits are donated to a children's charity in Madagascar. It's a shopping experience you can feel good about! From what I've seen so far, it is not going to disappoint.

I certainly wouldn't mind adding one of those bowls to my tabletop.

I'll also make my way to at least one of the Muji stores. Sadly, we don't have anything like this in Canada. I'm always a little overwhelmed by all the choice whenever I step into a Muji store so please send along your suggestions of what to buy here.

Finally, I'm going to make sure I take a small break from shopping and visit this restaurant in the flagship Galeries Lafayette store. Restaurant Laurier was designed by trend forecaster Li Edelkoort (who I adore!) and art director Andreas Mavrommatis.

Those hammered Moroccan pendant lights and open shelves full of vintage glass and ceramics are already calling my name.

I know I have hardly scraped the surface of all that Paris has to offer so please help me out. I'm open to all and any suggestions from shopping to eating to sightseeing to moments and experiences I just shouldn't miss. And of course, when I'm back I'll share all the things I have seen and done.

All images via Remodelista except the Muji store by Le Figaro - Madame.