Anna and Philipp
Anna and Philipp bought this 18th-century château Le Fleur situated on the edge of Honfleur, in the Calvados region of France in 2019. Sharing a love for renovation, design and entertainment, they are a natural choice of owner to help restore this fabulous and historic building to its former glory.
Who can you bank on to share your château dream?
Once you set your heart on becoming a château owner the biggest challenge can be getting other people to believe in your dream. Sometimes it’s a reluctant partner that needs convincing. But for Anna and Philipp it was finding a bank manager who was agreeable.
An investment worth taking
Many banks didn’t want to take a risk, and when they finally found someone it was very stressful waiting to find if they’d get a mortgage. Happily for both the bank and Anna and Philipp, investing in the château has been an excellent decision.
The French connection
Anna was an English fashion designer and Philipp a filmmaker from South Tyrol Italy before they ran their château. But when they met where they were both living and working in Paris.
Owning and running a château had always been something that Philipp had wanted to do. But it wasn’t until the birth of their second daughter that Anna became hooked too.
So what made them decide to buy and manage a château?
A shared love for renovation, design and entertaining, and both having been brought up in the country helped. They wanted to give their two daughters an opportunity to escape city living. Plus there was the excitement of running their own business.
Love at first sight
When they were shown the Château Gonneville sur Honfleur in the heart of Normandy in August 2018, they knew this was the home they had been looking for. It took 8 months from seeing the Château for the first time to being handed the key to the property in May 2019.
The history of the Château
It was originally on a site of a fortified medieval building that had been burnt down. The main body was an 18th-century hunting lodge, then a wing was added a century later, which is why the building is not symmetrical.
Calvados – Normandy’s exclusive cider brandy.
The family who owned the property before Anna and Philipp had run a Calvados business here for 100 years. The orchards that were planted to supply the apples to make the brandy still surround the château and one day the couple hope to replant the orchards.
Inspired by the past
In the meantime, there’s more than enough jobs in the château to be done.
As they refurbish Anna and Philipp are often inspired by the discoveries they find in the building; old vintage wallpaper or layers of old original paint, for example, might give them ideas for colour schemes.
Restoring the past
The aim is to renew everything with respect for the history and restore original features where possible to keep the authenticity of the building. But they want to add modern touches too.
You can’t get your hands dirtier than this
The hardest and definitely least glamorous task was connecting the château to the main sewer system. That entailed Philipp digging a hundred-metre ditch from the road through the front garden, tunnelling under several tonnes of steps at the front of the house, and finally excavating a trench through the hallway by hand to bring in the pipes for water sewage and electricity. Definitely not a job for the faint-hearted!
Have they got any tips for would-be château owners?
As you might expect, they found it helps if you’re good with your hands and adept at learning new skills. So, if you’re practical, that’s a big advantage. And, of course, the more you do yourself the more money you can save.
And has the rebuilding been at all stressful?
Judge for yourself. The couple have launched a Youtube channel where they share their experience.
The title of their production? How to renovate a château without killing your partner!