Interview: The Family Who Escaped The City to Renovate A French Chateau!

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Interview: The Family Who Escaped The City to Renovate A French Chateau!

Happy Monday! Today I would like to share a special post: an interview with someone living the dream! I was so charmed by the photos on Anna and Phillipp’s Instagram page, @chateau_gonneville_surhonfleur, where they slowly renovate a stunning French chateau and discover hidden features of the property while their little ones race about the grounds, that I had to reach out and ask if I could find out more! I hope you enjoy this interview! Please give Anna a follow if you are as charmed as I am!

Please introduce yourself and your Instagram

I’m an English designer who has been working for the last 10 years for Balmain in Paris. My husband Philipp is a German speaking Italian TV and film director. We met in Paris where we have lived together for the last 8 years and have 2 little girls who are 3 and 1.

Our Instagram account is: @chateau_gonneville_surhonfleur and it follows our family’s journey as we leave the city to start our new lives in the country, rescuing our 17th century chateau in Honfleur, Normandy.

What made you decide to leave the city and move into a chateau?

We loved Paris but after having children, we realised that the city life just didn’t suit us anymore. We both grew us close to nature and have fond memories of our childhoods so we knew we wanted to bring up our daughters in the countryside. I also found it increasingly difficult to have a good work/life balance, and so we began thinking about how we could make the change. Philipp has always fantasised about buying a chateau but I never really took it seriously until last summer when we had the epiphany that it was actually a great idea and could enable us to live a new life.

Can you describe the moment you bought the chateau?

We started looking for chateaux as soon as we came back from our summer break and ours was the second we visited. I loved it as soon as we drove along the drive and knew it was perfect for us. The process of actually buying the chateau was very long and a bit stressful to be honest, we spent months negotiating to then be outbid. Luckily we were able to increase our offer and it was accepted. In France there are 2 signatures during the process of buyinh so we did our first ‘promis de vente’ in October, then after waiting for our mortgage offer to come though we finally signed and got the keys in May. After almost a whole year since we first saw the chateau we couldn’t quite believe it.

What are the best and worst parts of renovating such a big old building by yourself?

We’ve only just begun our renovation journey but so far we’re loving it. The best part is being able to live in this amazing building and slowly discovering the secrets and treasures it holds. The worst part is that the chateau is huge and we have a very tight budget, we need to do as much as possible ourselves and be very frugal and creative in how we will renovate and also patience!

What are your plans once the renovations are complete?

If all goes to plan we hope to open part of the chateau to guests as a B&B next spring. Once the chateau renovations are complete we’d love to renovate the old stables and long buildings on the grounds into gîte and possibly a wedding venue.

Do you have any advice for those looking to follow in your footsteps?

I would say if your really want it then don’t be scared to go for it, life is too short to wonder what if. On a practical side, if you don’t live in France and know the process of buying, do your research before or find a great English speaking agent who can advise you.

Thank you so much, Anna and Phillipp! Wishing you all the best on your new adventure! Thank you for letting us follow along!

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