Domaine des Etangs offers a truly unique experience in the heart of one of the most beautiful areas of rural France. Set over 1,000 hectares of protected nature-filled countryside comprising forest, grassland and lakes, Domaine des Etangs is a converted private home that was transformed into a unique hotel in 2015.
At the heart of the property lies a fully renovated 11th century château, interior designed by Isabelle Stanislas. Numerous pieces of contemporary art fill the property from Matisse to Picasso to Ugo Rondinone. The chateau is surrounded by landscaped gardens and lakes, filled with art installations and sculptures including those by Richard Long and Irina Rasquinet. There are six farmhouse cottages, a longère, a vegetable garden, Gallo-Roman baths, two swimming pools, a floating tennis court and a Michelin star gourmet restaurant plus fumoir. There is also an art gallery with temporary exhibition works by Herman de Vries, Sheila Hicks Michael, Yves Klein Yayoi, Giuseppe Penone and Hiroshi Sugimot. The expert spa, Moulin des Etangs is located in a converted nut mill which is still in use today.
The Domaine is located in Massignac in the area of Charente, close to Cognac and the porcelain capital of Limoges. The area is famous as a lake region with rich flora and fauna and nature is at the very core of Domaine des Etangs – it is surrounded by vast fields where 800 Limousine cows graze and ponds around which guests may encounter flocks of flying ducks, cygnets or herons. The ornamental gardens surrounding the château are the work of unconventional landscape gardener, Camille Muller who has given it an unexpected charm, while also being open to experimenting with nature. The goal throughout the experience at the Domaine, is to draw on and rediscover the innate richness of this surrounding region; land, nature, produce, craftsmanship and history, and to express it in all its forms.
THE HISTORIC 11th CENTURY CHATEAU
The Château des Etangs was built in the 11th century and was the fief of the knights of Chasteignier de la Roche-Posay. The property was eventually inherited by Count Beaupoil de Saint Aulaire in the late 19th century, before being sold in 1919 to an agricultural engineer who had made his fortune in Indochina. In the 1980s, the Domaine was bought by the Primat family, who set about restoring the building, crafting and recreating a family home. It is no coincidence that “Family Portrait with Red Noses” by Hans-Peter Feldman now hangs on one of the walls. Domaine des Etangs is still owned by the Primat family and is managed by an expert team led by Laurent Branover (formerly Cheval Blanc, La Reserve, Oetker Collection).
This is an authentic château, gracious in its humility and it maintains the charm and the spirit of a family home. Its light stone facade strikes the perfect balance between earth and sky. Within the chateau there are seven vast suites and bedrooms, each of which are as different from one another as the stars after which they are named. On the ground floor, the library, the dining room, the smoking room and various lounges allow guests to while the time away with a book, a meal or a tipple. The château’s interior is interspersed here and there with antiques, tailor-made creations, unique objects and original artwork. A continuous dialogue is created between old and new, boldness and simplicity, and is brought to life by the architect and interior designer, Isabelle Stanislas.
A RANGE OF ACCOMMODATION
The property comprises 29 rooms and suites including six luxury farm cottages ranging from one to five bedrooms. The rooms and suites are located in the Chateau and longere and are all individually designed with fascinating collections of art and antiques to complement the decor. The cottages are located throughout the estate; between ponds, hidden in verdant hollows, or sitting in a meadow which stretches out towards the horizon. Warm and cosy, each one is constructed out of stone, glass and wood, making use of the traditional savoir-faire of expert craftsmen. They are easily accessible, thanks to electric cars which are available for guest’s usage. Dragon is the largest with five bedrooms and at the end of the vast entrance hall, there is a beautiful roman-inspired fountain. Licorne is a romantic one-bedroom cottage – just a stone’s throw from the chateau. All are decorated with wood, glass and stone and blend harmoniously with the open stonework to conjure a feeling of peace and romance.
ART & NATURE INTERWINED
Interspersed throughout the chateau and the estate is an extraordinary art collection. The Dragonfly collection is a universalist ensemble composed of works of contemporary and ethnic art, of minerals, books and scientific objects related to the topics that guide the philosophy of the Domaine des Etangs: Nature, knowledge and heritage. La Laiterie is a new exhibition space dedicated to encounters between art and nature. For its inaugural Poussières d’étoiles exhibition, La Laiterie offers an exploration of celestial roads, a wander between the earth and the stars through twenty-one international artists. This exhibition, built around the Dragonfly collection created by Garance Primat, is a cosmic journey inspired by Hubert Reeves. The exhibition will run until December 16th 2018.
ACTIVITIES FOR ALL AGES : OUTDOORS & IN
The estate offers a multitude of facilities including 10 electric cars, outdoor swimming pool heated from April to October, boating, horse riding, fishing, yoga, children’s playground complete with trampoline, swing, big chess game, ping pong table. There is an attic playground including card games, fancy dress, snooker, table football.
Every dining experience at Domaine des Etangs draws on its individual setting. Dyades is the Michelin starred main restaurant, overseen by Head Chef Loïc Lecoin. His style unfolds from day to day, not in keeping with the cycle of calendar seasons but with the cycle of nature that changes the course and the flavour of ingredients daily. For those staying in the farmhouses, they have their own “doorstep” service. Monade, the chateau’s dining room, can also be booked for private functions. The fields and the woods offer an al fresco experience, as do the barbecue options. There are different combinations for every location; every mood. The team works with local growers to reduce the journey from earth to table exploring the rich terroir of the Limousin region. The crayfish come from the Moulde river, which winds through the 1,000 hectares of woodland and ponds at the Domaine; the fruit comes from the farm, the vegetables from the kitchen garden. Everything is in tune with the seasons and what the earth is willing to offer.
The emblem of Domaine des Etangs is the dragonfly and nowhere is this more apparent than in the Moulin des Etangs spa. Like the dragonfly, everything here centres around a delicate equilibrium, a harmony between seasons, elements, complementary principles, and senses to imbue a sense of stillness. Skincare is at the heart of the experience – the belief that skin is far more than an external barrier – it is an expression of the innermost self. The treatments therefore focus as much on the surface as the spirit; on the balance between outside and in, between the visible and the unseen. There are five treatment rooms named after the five elements including one large couples room surrounded by ancient equipment from the mill which can still be used to make nut oil. Never before seen procedures have been created exclusively for Domaine des Etangs, which place the gestures and hand movements developed exclusively by us. A global approach, which was designed in total harmony with this remarkable place. Created in accordance with the specific needs of each individual guest and thanks to precise massaging techniques, pressures and palpitations, practitioners are able to relieve tension, firm and plump the face, relax and invigorate the body and unveil radiant skin and hair. Along with these treatments, both fresh and dried garden plants are used in the form of infused compresses and for bathing treatments, Charente salt is added to footbaths, while crushed and ground wheat serves as a base for bodily exfoliation treatments.
Creations Dragonfly is a collection of unique items, created by Domaine des Etangs, that aspires to transform the emotions, sensitivity and balance into objects. Each piece included in the collection originates from a tradition that has been nurtured by the passion and talent of these local craftsmen and is a limited edition, unique to a particular artisan and to the Domaine des Etangs. Unique products in the Creations Dragonfly collection include: Dans les rêves; a one-off handwoven mohair throw with silk edges, Singuliers; square and rectangular porcelain trays upholstered in vegetable-tanned leather and Ciel et Terre; an exclusive vintage Cognac that has aged for 22 years. Domaine des Etangs has designed a beautiful shopping boutique in the resorts chateau to showcase the products, which are also available to purchase via their website.
THE HISTORIC LOCAL AREA
At the heart of the region lie the two historic areas of Cognac and Limoges:
Limoges – the city is known for its decorated porcelain, much of which is on display at the Musée National Adrien Dubouché. In the historic center, medieval timber-frame houses line Rue de la Boucherie. Set in the former Episcopal Palace, the Musée des Beaux-Arts showcases the history of the city’s medieval enamel. The Gothic Cathédrale St-Étienne de Limoges took six centuries to complete.
Cognac – Cognac is situated on the river Charente, on one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. The town gives its name to one of the world’s best-known types of Brandy – a unique spirit in that it is double-distilled. This process can be viewed in one of the many “Grande Marque” Cognac houses which all have visitor centres. Most central in the town are Hennessy, Martell, Otard, Camus and Remy Martin. About 15 km (9.32 mi) East of Cognac is Jarnac, home to Courvoisier.
Bordeaux and its surrounding vineyards are just a 1.5 hour drive.
Other places of interest:
- La Rochefoucauld Castle –
- Cassinomagus Archeological site – the Gallo-Romans thermal baths of Cassinomagus are some of the best preserved antique monuments in Europe
- Bordeaux International Airport (170km)
- Limoges International Airport (54km)
- La Rochelle (2.5 hour drive)
- Angouleme (43 km) (Private Jet)
- From Paris Montparnasse to Angouleme (2.5 hours via TGV)