We’re obsessed with Escape to the Chateau. We love Dick and Angel, their adorable children Dorothy and Arthur, and their epic dream home (estate, really) Château-de-la-Motte Husson. We’re also very much taken with Angel’s ingenious decorating skills – so we leapt at the chance to hear how she does it in this exclusive extract from their new book, Living the Chateau Dream. To order a copy for £17 (RRP £20) until 7 November, go to Mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193.
Looking back, I have heard many people talking about a dream, a business, changing their
life, but they haven’t done it. There is always a reason not to, often excuses. Not the right time, maybe next year; no money; not the right skill set. If I have an idea, I go for it. And I’ve always done everything on a shoestring because I’ve worked hard for every penny I’ve earned and understand its value. When I met Dick, his can-do personality was so refreshing. I’d met my match and the love of my life, and nothing could stand in our way.
When we started hosting weddings, we knew we needed a cloakroom. Finding a round, white ceramic ‘school sink’ in a brocante – a French flea market – for €50 was a delight. It was the kind that would have been used by four or five kids at the same time in school. Slight problem was that it didn’t work, but luckily I knew a very clever man who could sort that.
I also picked up an art deco mirror for next to nothing, which inspired a very crisp-looking art deco wallpaper that I used on the cubicle. I tried to keep the colours fresh and clean because this was a bathroom first and foremost. For the personal touch, I découpaged the inside of our doors with vintage magazines I had found in the attic. I used PVA and water, a 50/50 mix ; it works every time and really brought our simple door to life.
I stacked old suitcases next to the sink so you could place your bag there whilst washing your hands and added a couple of Lloyd Loom chairs we had lying around.
Around the sink we used metro tiles, because I knew that area would be used heavily and I did not want the walls to look grubby – tiles allowed me to wipe clean after every event. There was an original safe still in the wall, which we kept and tiled around. It’s actually very beautiful and useful for keeping spare toiletries in!
Practicalities aside, I added a little bit of fantasy with taxidermy and used bamboo from our grounds to create a geometric foliage display.
The Botanical Suite – on a Budget
The botanical suite was the second room we did after the honeymoon suite. We had named it ‘the botanical suite’ due to it being a calm and peaceful space. Because of how high up you are, it feels like you are engulfed by nature when you look out; everywhere is green and luscious. In the distance, you can see the beautiful orangery with its art deco windows and gorgeous structure. It’s a beautiful and very special view. That, and I like the word ‘botanical’.
It’s in the old servants’ quarters. The rooms are spacious but the ceilings are lower than the ‘high-status’ rooms. The floors are not oak but still good-quality wood and the doors are panelled and similar to those in the rest of the house. All in all, I would be very happy if I stayed there and I always use my fussiness as a guide to ensure everything is up to the right standard.
I had the furniture and had found a charming wallpaper in a local DIY shop. It surprised me how much I loved it. It was taupe with lots of embossed ferns. It felt right for the suite. Apart from plumbing in the bath at the end of the bed, which I’m sure Dick is writing a separate book on, the bathroom was where we threw the final energy.
(Dick: ‘It needed a bath.’ Those are words that strike fear into any man who knows that the only bath we owned was a solid cast-iron one, currently residing at ground level. I could see that getting that bath up the seventy-three stairs was going to be painful – and it was.)
Dick humoured me with the bath. I know he knew subconsciously that the bath would end up in the bedroom. I had looked at so many interiors magazines over the years and was romantically attached to the idea of having a bath at the foot of the bed.
I was after a monochrome art deco feel, but all the tiles I found that felt right were far too expensive, so I decided to use reasonably priced tiles – metro, square tiles and marble – but break them up with borders and details to give the feel of a really bespoke art deco bathroom, but at a good price.
The bathroom was finished off with a shop-bought mirror, to which I added an oriental black geometric wooden pattern to lift it into something completely unique and two Tiffany-style hanging lights. I even popped into the attic and found a fabric-covered picture that sits in pride of place by the window. The placement of the black and white tiles really elevated the bathroom and it looked quite luxurious.
Living The Château Dream by Dick and Angel Strawbridge will be published on 28 October by Seven Dials, price £20. The new series of Escape to the Chateau begins tonight on Channel 4, and then via catch-up on All 4.
TO ORDER A COPY FOR £17 UNTIL 7 NOVEMBER, GO TO MAILSHOP.CO.UK/BOOKS OR CALL 020 3308 9193. FREE UK DELIVERY ON ORDERS OVER £20.