One Woman’s Château-Life Voyage

Catherine Roger on merging an antique business and château lifestyle

An integral part of our Château Life season is honouring the inspiring femmes who have taken the great plunge to buy and renovate a French château of their own, a term in French coined ‘châtelaine’. Among them is the beautiful and intriguing expat Catherine Roger, owner of Château Marcellus, where we shot this season’s AW Château Life campaign.

As we spent our week in Marcellus with Catherine on location, we learnt about her incredible story, dedication and constant devotion to maintaining and restoring the charming Château Marcellus. A popular destination for travellers, artists and influencers alike, there is an indescribable element of this historic castle that continues to impress and inspire all those who visit.

L’histoire de Catherine

Catherine and her late husband Samuel, a French native, purchased the château in 2020. The couple were primed for an architectural project of this magnitude as owners of Origines, an antique business specialising in architectural antiques and garden ornaments.

Catherine shares her inspiring story with us in her own words below.

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From Rêve to Réalité

One evening in mid-March 2020, my husband Samuel and I watched the film "Little White Lies" ("Les Petits Mouchoirs"), which I highly recommend. The film prompted us to reconsider our vacation plans, and our thoughts turned to Bordeaux. The city, especially its promenade, is reminiscent of my hometown, Rostov-on-Don.

Feeling inspired, I told my husband, "Sam, if the opportunity arises, I'm fully behind moving to Bordeaux within the next ten years." By then, I had already identified several châteaux at very appealing prices, significantly lower than those in Paris.

Sam was captivated by the idea, as his father had always dreamed of owning a château. He quickly organised a trip. We visited various sites, inspecting 17 castles in three rounds. Of all the castles, Château Marcellus captivated our hearts. The only step left was to sell our house in Richbourg in the Paris region and relocate to Château Marcellus. Everything progressed smoothly until the onset of COVID-19.

We hosted a splendid birthday party for Samuel in February, playfully discussing the coronavirus. However, the quarantine that followed significantly tested our relationship, nearly leading to divorce. Fortunately, we managed to overcome these challenges and preserve our bond.

We faced several challenges in the initial buying and selling process, from selling our house in Richbourg to complications with banks and insurance companies that delayed the transaction by three months. But ultimately, everything aligned perfectly. In October, we were finally able to make our permanent move to the château.

Falling in Love with Château Marcellus

The realisation dawned when Samuel, with his extensive experience in the antiques business and having visited countless locations, sent me photographs of captivating architectural ruins. We were drawn to the Lot-et-Garonne region, where we encountered Château Marcellus, a castle with a rich history and brimming with potential.

My connection to Château Marcellus developed suddenly yet profoundly, igniting a passion that led to an arduous three-year restoration endeavour. Throughout this time, I meticulously planned each room's restoration, often feeling as though the château itself was directing its rebirth.

In the future, we aim to open an authentic bathhouse and transform a 16th-century tower into a winter lounge, creating a cosy retreat where guests can enjoy the fireside ambience and read leisurely while awaiting their meal. This deep engagement with the property undoubtedly confirmed that it was the right choice for us.

Des Moments Difficiles

Certainly, there were numerous challenges along the way. The most harrowing was during the reconstruction of our swimming pool. I took on much of the work myself, which was both physically and mentally demanding.

One particularly intense moment occurred when Samuel and I were on a scaffold about 2.5 meters above the pool's bottom—it suddenly collapsed. Miraculously, we escaped without injury. This incident, while frightening, underscored our resilience and deepened our commitment to restoring the château, making the successful completion of each project phase immensely rewarding.

Merging Château Restoration and Architectural Antiques

A considerable aspect of my husband's business was procuring architectural pieces, such as fireplaces, from historical estates. This background has endowed us with a distinctive outlook on the restoration process. We are committed to meticulously preserving or authentically recreating each element, utilising classical techniques to maintain the château's architectural integrity and historical accuracy. This parallel approach enhances our ability to honour and sustain the legacy of both the château and the antiques within it.

I have a special affection for the collection of antique dishware within the château. Seeking out unique pieces, such as 19th-century goblets and delicately crafted blue vases, consumes many of my hours, exploring both in-person and online. These cherished items do more than just beautify our spaces; they are silent narrators of history. Each piece holds a unique story from a bygone era, connecting us to the richness of the past in the most intimate ways.

Catherine’s Antiques and Design Tips

When integrating antiques into your home, versatility is key. Each piece should fit seamlessly within your existing decor and enhance it, whether by creating striking contrasts with modern elements or complementing other antiques.

I focus particularly on the synergy between different materials and styles, such as the elegant blend of marble and clay or the classical allure of busts and mythological figures. These considerations ensure that each antique not only stands out individually but also contributes to the overall harmony and unique narrative of the space.

Understanding the interplay of light is crucial when decorating. The placement and temperature of lighting can dramatically transform the ambience, influencing how colours and furnishings are perceived. Both cold and warm lighting have their roles, depending on the desired atmosphere.

Additionally, incorporating varied textures plays a significant role. Employing a mix of surfaces, from monochromatic and textured to smooth and vibrant, can add depth and intrigue to an area. It’s essential to strike a balance that complements the overall aesthetic while enhancing the room's unique features.

La Vie de Château and French-Inspired Living

This journey has deeply ingrained in me the French "art de vivre," a philosophy that extends beyond mere elegance to embrace a hedonistic enjoyment of life's daily pleasures. Living in the château has enriched my appreciation for the moment, allowing me to relish the serene beauty of our surroundings and indulge in the exquisite flavours of local cuisine. These experiences are quintessential aspects of the French lifestyle, and I endeavour to share this sense of joyful living with every guest who passes through our doors.

If Catherine’s story has piqued your interest in Château Marcellus, continue reading for her description of several of the enticing events that she hosts in her historic home.

Events and Retreats at Château Marcellus

“At the Château, we specialise in hosting various events and retreats that cater to the elegant and memorable experiences our guests are looking for.”

The Château is a breath taking venue for weddings. With its historic architecture and picturesque landscapes, it offers a romantic backdrop for couples to exchange their vows.
We take pride in providing a comprehensive and seamless experience, from the planning stages to the final toast, ensuring every detail is meticulously crafted to meet each couple's unique desires.

Grand Balls
We are also excitedly planning a grand ball, an affair filled with sophistication and glamour. This event will invite guests to step back in time to a period of decadent dance and splendid music, all set within the majestic walls of the Château.

Spa Retreats
Recognising the need for relaxation and rejuvenation, we have recently organised a small spa retreat. This spa offers a tranquil escape where guests can enjoy a variety of treatments designed to soothe the mind, body, and spirit.

Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or a day of pampering, our spa retreat provides the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Unique Culinary Experiences
To enhance our guests' culinary experiences, we offer exclusive caviar tastings. These sessions provide an opportunity to savour the exquisite flavours of premium caviar paired with champagne amidst the château’s luxurious setting.

We are also opening a small restaurant that will serve various gourmet dishes crafted from local, fresh ingredients, providing guests with a taste of the region’s rich culinary heritage.

Each offering is designed to provide an unparalleled experience that elevates the natural beauty and historical significance of the Château, making every occasion truly unforgettable.

A Note for Environmentally Conscious Travellers
In response to the growing demand for sustainable travel options, we are thrilled to announce the upcoming opening of an electric vehicle charging station on our grounds. This addition will cater to environmentally conscious guests, allowing them to recharge their vehicles conveniently during their stay or on their way to travel.

Merci Beaucoup

We are so grateful to Catherine for allowing us to film our French-inspired fantasy in her incredible home. Hearing your story reminds us of the power of resilience and the importance of cherishing each moment through our own version of "art de vivre."

À bientôt!