A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry,
and see a fine picture every day of his life,
in order that worldly cares may not obliterate
the sense of the beautiful
which God has implanted in the human soul.
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(Note: There are many spectacular images capturing the amazing beauty of Chateau Dumas. Allow enough time for your computer to load the images so that you don’t miss any. This is the third in the series on a millinery masterclass held in southwest France. Won’t you follow along with me?)
Discovering Chateau Dumas in the tiny village of Auty, France is a study in creativity, beauty and inspiration. My travels to Chateau awakens my slumbering senses with panoramic views of the French countryside and villages. The colors, fragrances and rustic beauty of this Mediterarean region are mesmorizing. It is hard to take it all in.
Arrival at the 18th-century chateau feels as if I am tranformed into a French Impressionistic painting. My spirit is renewed with the expansive vistas, tranquil gardens and the country elegance of Chateau Dumas. How I wish I could linger long into the night in the gardens.
Everywhere there is a vignette, art or indoor and outdoor beauty that makes me pause and catch my breath. This journey to Chateau Dumas is what is needed for reflection and the rediscovery of creativity that has grown fallow.
Even the 300-year-old marble stairs to the second floor are amazing. I leave my sandals off at the bottom of the stairs and feel the cool, time-worn marble underneath my feet as I climb to the second floor. I wonder if horses raced up the stairs during the upheaval of the French Revolution or the Napoleonic Wars.
The elegant second floor hallway is stunning and is accentuated with several examples of neo-classical trompe l’oeil–a style of painting that gives an illusion of reality. I look several times above the doorway as the corbels appear nearly realistic and three-dimensional. Wait. Do the doors appear as if they are paneled? It is amazing how the contrasts of light and dark create an illusion of something that is not.
Contrasts in shape and texture abound on the second floor. The gorgeous striped French linen ticking frames the double French doors at one end of the hall and luxurious, elegant red silk drapes the paned windows on the east side. Subtle nuances of pattern continuance mingle throughout the hall–the highly polished antique terra cotta floor tile laid on the diagonal, the illusionary diamond-shaped panel inserts on the doors and the antique flax linen heart with red embroidery set on a diagonally-placed terra cotta marble plant stand. Brilliant. The hall so creatively reflects balance and order that it feels quite tranquil.
There are four guest rooms on this section of the second floor–each unique and beautifully appointed. My breath is taken away by the beauty of these rooms. The guest room that I have is superb with a dramatic black chandelier, black marble fireplace, cameo-inspired border, gorgeous khaki green silk drapery–like a fine lady’s ball gown–that frames the extravagant views of the French countryside in the valley below. A lovely antique French chair in the corner is tailored with finely-crafted handspun flax linen. There is a tasteful white French writing desk in the other corner. I think I shall become a permanent guest in this room–at least for the remainder of the summer…then into fall…or perhaps, until Christmas. Dream.
An ensuite bath is the perfect ending to the day with the deep-soaking claw foot tub set on a golden marble floor. Windows to the east let in the early morning sun, and the customized chandelier designed to look like rain drops provides subtle lighting in the evening. What more could a woman want?
Additional guest rooms are to the north on the second floor, too. The circular stairs to the third floor leading to more individually appointed guest rooms is exquisite. The wood banister amazing. I wonder what kind of wood was used on the banister.
Across the manicured gardens is the Chateau’s expansive coach house–the second floor of the west wing is the dedicated millinery studio. The north lower level of the carriage house features a lovely little Chateau shop filled with vintage French linens, white-on-white embroidered sheets, pieces of machine and handmade lace, antique fine cotton night dresses/slips and rustic linen shirts, aged-silver and many other vintage French items. Local artisans’ jewelry, lavender sachets made with vintage ticking and linen, and fine French bath products are beautifully displayed throughout.
Exterior wall hugging stairs provides one entrance to the millinery atelier. Under the portico is another example of neo-classical trompe l’oeil opposite the teak garden bench. Clever.
I sneak a peak at the upstairs studio to catch a glimpse of what is to come in days ahead as we learn under the expert tutoring of Dillon Wallwork–a Royal Milliner– in a millinery masterclass (hatmaking). My anticipation for the masterclass grows–there are inspiring sample hats on display on four to five foot high antique carved wood hat stands, black and white striped hat boxes for our creations, sewing machines old and new, wood hat molds for crowns and brims and hatmaking supplies.
Off to the right on a display table is a brochure about the International summer straw hat festival held in nearby Septfonds–Estivales du Chapeau. Tomorrow. Septfonds is the heart of French straw hat making.
More about the millinery masterclass, one of the world’s great Estivales du Chapeau, a visit to a 1824 French hat factory and other sights of a dream trip to France in the days ahead as they unfold.
à bientôt mes amis!
Read more at French Dreams at Chateau Dumas.
Read more at Inspiring Beauty at Chateau Dumas.
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