At the back of Dick and Angel Strawbridge’s 19th century chateau is a wonderful newly-built winter garden, as revealed in the seventh episode of the ninth and final series of Escape to the Chateau.
Eight years ago, when Dick and Angel were looking for a home in France to buy, Château de la Motte-Husson was perfect in every way, except for one thing – it lacked a winter garden.
Even when the sun is in short supply, the back of the chateau is always bathed in morning light, and so Dick and Angel have always wanted to create a glass conservatory, known in France as jardin d’hiver, or winter garden.
But in order to install the new winter garden, the old window frames needed to be removed, the original oak sill cut out, and the decorative wood panelling delicately removed, all before replacing it with new double doors.
A renovation of this scale required a lot of planning, as not only did it involve knocking through a large window, but adding a whole new room to the chateau by suspending a glass and steel winter garden, some 3.5 metres above the ground.
Once the foundations were built, the structure was put in place. Unloading 12 heavy pallets of glass and steel is one thing, but as Dick quipped: ‘This is like the worst flat pack you’ve ever seen in your life. It’s going to be about 300 fastenings.’
Aside from the actual green structure, the view from the conservatory was like no other.
‘Honestly, I could have this as it is, no windows nothing. It’s just stunning,’ Angel said as she discussed the flooring and how keen she was for Victorian-style checkerboard black and white tiles. While checkered floors can be found in Ancient Egyptian temples, they became particularly popular during the Victorian era.
‘I know that we need a breakfast table, as Dick needs to have his coffee. But do we want plants? I think we do but not to the exact of old-fashioned Victorian winter gardens because they had plants everywhere,’ Angel said, suggesting that her son Arthur’s avocado plant could take pride of place.
As the original winter gardens were where the wealthy grew tropical and sub-tropical plants, Arthur’s homegrown avocado plant was the perfect choice.
It was only once the winter garden’s roof had been fitted and the hard tiled floor laid, that Angel could bring in the soft furnishings, giving the glasshouse some glamour and adding a cosy living room feel by zoning the seating area.
But Angel was determined to go with a less is more approach: ‘You know what I’m like, I’m always putting twinkles and candles and cushions. Not here. You don’t really want anything getting in the way.
‘It does feel like a place that you’d put your feet up. It just feels like you could come out here and feel very, very inspired. It’s so peaceful, why would you spoil that view?’
Dick agreed: ‘I do like the fact that this is so still and peaceful. It does feel like you’re over the moat.’
As the winter garden gets most of the morning sun, Dick and Angel are using this new space as their breakfast room, and it’s complete with a coffee station.
Once the build – and styling – was complete, Dick, Angel, and their children Arthur and Dorothy, enjoyed their first breakfast in the suspended conservatory. ‘This place is going to be quite special and all your life it’s going to be here,’ Dick told his children.
Not only have Dick and Angel brought the chateau back to life, but they have opened up an underused area to create a new room. Now, a new glass conservatory sits on the back of the chateau, suspended in the air, giving the Strawbridges a special place to take in the views and enjoy breakfast at sunrise.
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