Ugly Duckling

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Living on an estate helps me discover all the wonders I never knew I needed. Like a mudroom. For the shedding of dirty or wet footwear and clothing. I had never heard of it, but it’s one of those rooms that people pine for to help keep a house clean and organized. After tracking muck and dirt into the house for years (quite unavoidable when you’re renovating a château in the countryside), I started dreaming of one too. And at long last, here we are. Over five months in the making: Lescure’s mudroom.

When we first started exploring the house, room by room, opening door after door, it was a bit like walking into a noisy new classroom, with some children overly talkative and others very quiet. The ambitious chambers were eager to show off the remnants of their beauty and immediately told us all about themselves, who they were and who they wanted to become. Others were of a more reserved temperament, a little listless perhaps, having long ago accepted being an ugly duckling.

We have photos of the original state of every room before the renovation, but not of this one. This is the room no one would photograph. We used it to store renovation junk for years without seeing its potential. It was only when we emptied it to build a toilet that we realized we could coax beauty out of ugliness.

The original room had a high ceiling but was split up to create tiny chambres de bonne or maid’s quarters around 1900. We knocked out half of the beams to create a mezzanine, carving out more space and bringing natural light back in. We uncovered red terracotta tiles and salvaged an old hand basin from under a pile of debris. From then onwards there was no stopping our creative juices: a glass panel in the floor with a view of the 17th century sink in the cellar, an antique wallpapered door for the toilet, a cedar bench handcrafted by Thomas, and an old Venetian lamp paired with a modern Italian one (Ferruccio Laviani’s Kabuki). I love how Thomas and I are bringing it all together, playing with old and new, second hand finds, art and design.

The modest mudroom tells a grand story of self-esteem and self-discovery, of transformation from descent into decay into beauty. This ugly duckling has turned into a beautiful swan, my heart fluttering in its wake.

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