I’d been wanting to visit the Château de Villandry for a very long time, a family residence of international renown, renowned for its topiary gardens and checkerboard kitchen garden. On my return from a trip to the Périgord region in early December, I had the opportunity to make a detour to Villandry and visit the château, which was decked out in its finest Christmas finery. I was lucky enough to discover these fabulous decorations as they were just being set up, and my experience was truly enchanting.
Villandry has existed since the Middle Ages, and the keep of this 12th-century fortress can still be admired today. The Renaissance part of the château was designed by Jean Breton in the 16th century, a period that strongly influenced the architecture of the gardens. There are many rooms open to the public, and it’s a pleasure to wander around the château’s elegant (but not busy) interior, with its harmonious blend of colors and motifs. Of course, the Christmas decorations add another dimension to the château, which may slightly alter my judgment (but I doubt it).
My favorite rooms were the kitchen for its rustic, country feel, the dining room for its soft salmon color, the vegetable garden room for its stretched fabrics, the tower room for its view, the moat room for its flowery fabrics and shades of green, the children’s room and, finally, the showroom with its oak frame, which is currently the setting for the enchanted forest I’ll tell you about below.
This visit at the beginning of December was, as I said, an enchantment, a moment out of time, an experience that made me live the true magic of Christmas. This year’s theme is Nature, and the decorations, combining ornaments, characters, animals and natural elements such as branches, moss and berries, have been arranged and combined to create delightful rustic or more refined settings, depending on the room. Inspiration is drawn from details such as the ivy that falls from a table or wraps around wall sconces. The place also exudes softness without being devoid of character, as evidenced by the beautiful table set in the dining room. A large undergrowth scene at the back of the room provides a green backdrop, perfectly in keeping with the harmony of the theme.
As for the fir trees, they’re all richly decorated in connection with Nature, and the ornaments include all manner of forest animals, mushrooms, foliage, ribbons and fabric flowers. The mantels are richly decorated, too, and we take the time to savor every detail in a cosy, festive atmosphere. The visit is all the more enjoyable when the fire is crackling in the living-room fireplace.
The kitchen is one of the rooms that makes the biggest impression on you, yet it is simply highlighted. Natural elements such as moss, ivy and pine cones contrast beautifully with the wood of the beams and furniture, and the warmth of the terracotta floor tiles. Here too, a little time is needed to observe every detail. This is one of the castle’s most beautiful settings (and yet there are few real Christmas decorations here), in which nature and its rusticity are represented.
Other eye-catching elements include small decorations placed here and there on the floor, or in the corner of a room: a little moss, a few branches and small mushrooms in wood or velvet. The staircase banisters are also decked out in their finest finery, with fir branches, bows, berries and owls. The view from all sides of the topiary garden or the checkerboard kitchen garden is also an attraction in most rooms. And let’s not forget the numerous paintings, which are also of interest during the visit, and which are enhanced by a well-thought-out play of lights.
In terms of interior design, inspiration is drawn from beautiful, soft greens in a variety of shades, patterned fabrics and pastel velvets, all tastefully combined with a floral touch that brings a great deal of freshness (which isn’t always easy to combine with a festive theme). In these pieces, the ornaments are less colorful and more reminiscent of a frosty Christmas.
But the highlight of the visit is undoubtedly the Enchanted Forest, located on the upper floors, where a completely different atmosphere has been recreated in the exhibition room. All the senses are on alert: you can smell the forest thanks to the many fir branches, hear the water from a well, listen to the sounds of the animals, not to mention the enchanting spectacle before you. I was transported to another world (that of Snow White, who can be seen asleep), and it was a lovely walk in this atmosphere, especially for me, who loves to use the forest theme for my table settings!
The Château de Villandry has captured the magic of Christmas and brought it to life. As I walked through each room, I was touched by the staging and the beauty of the ornaments, with the impression that the team members who staged this theme are true soul mates. All I can do now is look forward to next year, when I’ll be amazed once again by another theme…
If you’d like to visit the château, there are also night-time tours. For more information, click here.