In "An Invitation to Chateau du Grand-Luce," Los Angeles designer Timothy Corrigan details the five-year restoration of his dream house, and boy, does he dream big: a 45,000-square-foot Neoclassical chateau on 80 manicured acres in the Loire Valley of France.
The 250-year-old chateau is a national landmark, and Corrigan's renovation was strictly overseen by the preservation-minded historical agency Les Architectes des Batiments de France. What's striking about the book isn't just the fantasy-come-true of owning a French chateau, but also the way the designer channeled his childhood in Los Angeles and made certain that, for the interiors, California casual trumped European grandeur.
"No matter how beautifully a room might be decorated, I don't believe in sacrificing livability," says Corrigan, who operates an online antiques gallery. "One of my friends said, 'This is the schmanciest place I've ever stayed — but also the most comfortable.' "
The designer offers some surprisingly accessible decorating ideas in "An Invitation to Chateau du Grand-Luce" (Rizzoli, $65). In a guest room
called Chambre du Soleil (Bedroom of the Sun), Corrigan offers color advice.
"If you want people to feel that a room is bright and light, use yellow -- not white, as people often think -- because your eye unconsciously translates yellow as sunlight," he says.
Instead of heavier velvets or damasks, Corrigan's choices were linen for the upholstery and unfussy curtains and simple matelasse cover on the bed. He also mixed wooden furniture of various styles -- a Biedermeier secretary, a Victorian octagonal side table and a 1940s French coffee table -- to keep the room feeling less formal. The final touch: sea grass carpeting.
"It's a little softer on the feet and doesn't stain the way sisal can," Corrigan says. "Rush matting was often used in castles throughout Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, and while it would not have been used in a chateau, I consciously wanted to bring the more casual California feel of sea grass to give that sense of relaxed comfort. The end result is a room that everyone loves and that absolutely screams: 'Come in, sit down and relax!' "
Corrigan's kitchen once served as the lady of the house's boudoir, which is why, he says, "unlike most rooms reserved for food preparation, this one has an oak parquet de Versailles floor."
The historical importance of the room created challenges. The designer could not mount cabinetry directly onto the 18th century walls; instead he had to hang them on a newly constructed freestanding wall. Corrigan used the pattern found on the original interior shutters for the room as a design motif for the paneled cabinets and island, which he topped with a counter made of Belgian marble that matched the stone on the existing fireplace.
"The stools are from Pottery Barn," Corrigan says. "And I simply put a lime wash over the finish and put on seat cushions made from outdoor fabric -- protection against the inevitable spills -- with a green and white gingham flange."
The metal pieces on the counter and on top of the upper cabinets may look like vintage European garden ornaments, but Corrigan says he sourced them cost-effectively: "They are tin things that I found on a shopping trip in Guadalajara, Mexico."
Corrigan has a slate of appearances and book signings coming up, all free except where noted. More details on Corrigan's site.
Oct. 5: 2 p.m. at Pottery Barn, Manhattan Beach
Oct. 9: 5:30 p.m. French Heritage Society presentation at Corrigan's Los Angeles home. Tickets: www.frenchheritagesociety.org
Oct. 10: 6 p.m. at Pottery Barn, Beverly Hills
Oct. 11: 10 a.m. presentation with Interior Design Camp, Laguna Niguel, (949) 643-2929
Oct. 15: Multiple locations in Atlanta
Oct. 19: New York
Oct. 20 and 21: High Point, N.C.
Oct. 22: Dallas
Oct. 24 and 26: San Francisco and nearby Corte Madera
Oct. 29: Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Oct. 30: Boston
Updated: The list of tour dates for New York and High Point, N.C., was revised based on new information from the designer's office.
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