In this episode of the PEMcast we conclude our three part Historic House Crush series with a conversation with Karina Waters, who has taken her love of historic structures to the next level by lovingly and painstakingly restoring a crumbling chateau in the French Pyrenees.
At PEM, we have an incredible collection of artworks, but we’re also responsible for a number of historic structures, some of which have seen over 300 years of occupants come and go. And there is no shortage of crushers lining up for each one of our daily house tours.
If you’ve been listening to our series on historic architecture, then you know we’ve been talking with architects and historians, curators and preservationists, all who have dedicated their professional lives to historic buildings and the stories they tell.
In this last part of our series, we bring you the story of Karina and Craig Waters, who had the idea to buy a small village home somewhere in France. You know the kind of place — maybe some pale blue shutters close to a boulangerie. They didn’t set out to buy a chateau. But that’s just what they did. That’s right, a 94-room chateau called Chateau de Gudanes, built in the 18th century in the Pyrenees. It sits in a village full of the descendants of cooks, gardeners and maids that have been employed at the chateau throughout its long history. A history that reads like the history of France itself.
We caught up with Karina on the phone to hear about her family’s undertaking of this major renovation. A story that has caught the attention of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, The Huffington Post and more than 200,000 Instagram followers. Fortunately for us, Karina thought doing our podcast would be cool.
Karina’s blog, dubbed the Captain’s Log, includes breathtaking photographs of the chateau and is a beautifully written, play-by-play of the sometimes frustrating renovation experience, often caught up in bleu, blanc et rouge tape.
You’ll want to follow the progress of Chateau de Gudanes…on the blog, on Instagram and maybe even in person, if, like others, you take the time to follow Karina home from the village train station. There, you just might find yourself laying tile or cleaning out a still untouched room. Because, after all, this is more than just a restoration of a building.
As Karina says, “It makes you think more deeply that buildings are not just bricks and mortar, but they have a history and they have memories and they are the keepers of these memories.”
Karina’s dream, after 800 years of the chateau’s “turmoil and upheaval” is to “be the person that sets the foundation” for its sustainable future for anyone who may come to visit it and love it.
Since we last spoke with Karina, the interest in her project has kept pouring in. The Chateau de Gudanes recently won a prestigious medal of honor from a foundation honoring French and European historic preservation.
On the Captain’s Log, Karina wrote a heartfelt THANK YOU to those who have been “believing in and recognizing our beautiful place on Earth.”
To help support restoration efforts at Chateau de Gudanes, you can shop on their online boutique for things like the card below and other products and gifts local to the region.
Find more of our #HistoricHouseCrush favs on Instagram: @bluekatycat travels around England crushing on old houses and tells their history through the longest Instagram captions you’ve ever seen.
If you’ve been listening to our series, you may remember Joel Lafever from our trip to York, Maine this summer. Joel is the Director at the Museums of Old York and has some innovative ideas about presenting historic houses to the public.
Back when Joel was hired for the job in York, he and his wife Janet were living in Washington D.C. In their search for a place to live in York, they came across an old farmhouse very close to the center of town. Though they’ve been there a few years, the couple still sort of obsesses over the quirkiness, the lines, the play of light on the walls throughout the day. They call it their Little Blue House.
It all makes for the perfect backdrop for professional looking daily photos of their beautiful baby son Peter Charles.
During our summer visit, we learned about the house, the couple’s love of photography and their perfect combined interests: their subsequent impressive Instagram following. Janet (@jcbphoto) has nearly 35,000 followers and Joel (@jtlefebvre) nearly 800.
More local to us here in Massachusetts, Matthew Dickey of Gore Place, the historic estate of Governor Gore, is Boston’s man about town. Check out the Back Bay shot below by _madickey_.
Listen to the PEMcast on iTunes, Soundcloud and pretty much anywhere you listen to podcasts. Producers for this episode are myself, Chip Van Dyke, Caryn Boehm, Whitney Van Dyke and Melissa Woods. Corbett Sparks is our audio engineer.
For more on what we’ve been up to for #HistoricHouseCrush, read this post to learn how Tosa Two Heart, a participant in our Native American Fellow program this summer, started crushing hard on historic houses after meeting a New Orleans architect, who also happens to be the father of one of our curators. Earlier posts in our Historic House Crush series can be found here and here.
Our social media campaign #HistoricHouseCrush has been good fun! If you’ve just taken a great photo of a historic place — maybe on PEM’s campus or somewhere else in the world — be sure to tag it with #HistoricHouseCrush on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, so the historic house crusher community can enjoy it. (Our accounts are here: Instagram, Twitter (@peabodyessex) and Facebook.)