Ad Austrum is a luxury rental in the south of France full of charm, surrounded by fruit trees and vineyards. It is located 15 min from Uzès close to all the sights of Languedoc-Roussillon.
What is the story behind Château de Sibra, what was your inspiration to create it?
I have friends who live in the region and I have been visiting for years. It feels like the end of the world. But with the views of the Pyrenees and the wind from either the Mediterranean or the Atlantic, you also feel connected to the world. It’s a region that’s touristic enough but not overrun.
So I started looking around for a property to buy but didn’t find anything, until a call from an acquaintance about a place that was about to go on sale. The day I first saw it the weather was horrible. But as we were strolling through the park, I completely fell in love. I did my master’s thesis on Romantic landscape parks, so it really touched me. I had a harder time with the main building but the location was so amazing that I decided to take on the adventure.
We began by restoring the outbuildings as they weren’t liveable, then in the second phase, we moved on to the château. I am an architect by trade, so I oversaw the restoration and the interior design, with a lot of great people working on the project. I bought the chateau in 2017 and submitted the building permit in 2018, ready for work to start that summer. It took three years to complete and we opened in the summer of 2021.
How would you describe the atmosphere and interior design of Château de Sibra?
The château is a weird building as it is designed in a mixture of different historic styles - it’s a collage. For my generation of architects who are trained in a modern style, it’s extremely difficult and it took me a little while to realise what Villary de Fajac (who had redone the chateau in the 1880s) was trying to achieve.
But once I looked at the building as he intended, as a series of stories to be told, it became quite loveable and fun. Through the restoration, I hope we were able to reawaken and retell some of these stories.
It’s not like some chateaus with these huge spaces that you get lost in. It’s generous in size but also warm and cosy.
While the ground floor was lived in (with a very 1950s French style), the second floor hadn’t been used in a long time and was largely untouched (except for a new roof). Because it was in its original state, we had the old wallpapers and flooring to work with. We were able to reprint many of the wallpapers using the original paper and pigments and we had a team in Morocco who redid some of the tiles. In the places where we couldn’t recreate the original features, we interpreted them as closely as possible using the same colours.
In terms of the interior design, I wanted to put pieces of furniture in the rooms that stood in the space. But if you removed them, it wouldn’t destroy the existing room. I love contemporary furniture and have been collecting it all my life, so designing the interiors of the chateau was a good opportunity to declutter my home in Switzerland.
For Villary de Fajac, the Château de Sibra was a living experiment - he was developing a concept around living. So I really didn’t want to create a museum but rather honour this living experiment and protect it.
To you personally, what is so special about Château de Sibra?
The Château de Sibra is hugged by two small hills but with these grand views. So it is like you are in this cocoon, but a generous, wide-open one. It’s something that our guests notice also and many don’t want to leave!
It’s also special for me because I spent so much time researching and trying to understand the project of the Villary de Fajacs. It’s like they have become good friends and the project they started is something that I have taken on. They had this vision of creating an Arcadian world, which is again appealing to many people today. To devote your life to that experiment is something I find extremely fascinating and to propel it a little bit into our time is a fun challenge.