Home Tour: Château de Gudanes

Inside the crumbling château coaxed back to life by “naive willfulness” (and many eager volunteers.)

“You don’t buy a château and think you’ll live the same life.”

It was internet cookies that led Karina and Craig Waters to buy a 94-room château. The Australian couple’s daughter, Jasmine, was on a school exchange in southwest France; as Craig followed her progress, his browser became inundated with property ads for the French Pyrenees. One pop-up featured the Château de Gudanes, a Dracula’s castle–meets–Downton Abbey in the Aston Valley. The couple tacked it onto a tentative property viewing list for their forthcoming trip.

It was love at first sight, but there was just one problem: The Château de Gudanes was a forlorn wreck. It had neither water nor electricity, let alone a functioning roof. Trees grew from its turreted chimneys. Interior scaffolds were reflected in antique mirrors. Rooftop snowmelt dripped over Empire wallpaper dating ...

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