Getting away from the capital, something that Vincent Dewas yearned for when he unexpectedly came across the Domaine de Ronsard. Located just 155 km from Paris, this once-abandoned farmhouse nestled in the Perche regional natural park is ready to show itself off ! All thanks to the dedication of its new owner and his 2 years’ of hard work assisted by no less than 25 artisans ! Months of work supervised by the talkative owner, who recognised the raw charm of this farmhouse which dates from the late XIXth century. “A rare pearl”, now proudly presented as a venue and gîte and which boasts a decor where every single element has been carefully selected. A passion for antique fairs, flea markets and France’s famous “vide greniers” helped the owner of this newly-purchased property to meet the challenge of furnishing its 1,000 m² surface. The equivalent of 4 buildings to be decked out from top to toe with mostly second-hand items. Elements that only add to the authenticity of this residence which has been given a second lease of life thanks to an eclectic, beautifully-thought-out style. A location packed with country charm “that will continue to evolve over the seasons” where this Parisian welcomes guests to a former farmhouse, barn and adjoining stables, whatever the occasion – from marriages to birthdays or simply friends looking to escape for a weekend.” A unique concept of its kind (…) that sleeps 32 and can host 150 guests in the same room”, all at a stone’s throw from Bellême, one of the prettiest small towns in France. A real breath of fresh air for city dwellers in search of nature, wide open spaces and a complete change of scenery ! Bursting with Vincent’s ideas and overflowing enthusiasm, the Domaine de Ronsard will shortly be introducing various workshops – among other activities.
Domaine de Ronsard, gîte and venue. La Marinière – 61130 Dame-Marie. Reservation by phone: 06 42 88 51 19 or by e-mail: email@example.com
Vincent, can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m 37 now, and I’ve been passionate about antiques and decoration since I was nine or ten years old. My parents were always taking me to antique shops and garage sales. I have a degree from a communication school, ISCOM, and I’ve worked for several years as a project manager for events.
You already have several years of experience in the field of events. Having your own place to host events and putting your energy into your own projects: is this a logical continuation of your career or just a coincidence?
Five years ago, I wanted to escape from Paris. I craved space, the countryside and simplicity. My professional experience had been entirely business-oriented, and I wanted to work with individuals. I imagined a concept that would be unique in France, offering a beautiful setting, close to Paris, plenty of accommodation, able to sleep 32, and the capacity to gather 150 guests in the same room for a wedding or birthday party. I also wanted a job that I was passionate about, so that I could do what I love most in the world: bargain-hunting !
Tell us about your first encounter with this place, here in the heart of the Perche.
I was looking for a house that matched very specific criteria: a location near Bellême, in the Parc Naturel Régional du Perche, one of the most beautiful villages in France, that with work, could bring everything into line with my tastes, large spaces where I could organise the receptions I wanted, charm, character, authenticity, an isolated location with no neighbours and close enough to the railway station to be in the heart of Paris in an hour and a half. My estate agent found this rare gem. I arrived, parked in the middle of the farm and said to him, “this is the one”. An hour later, I made an offer, which I signed on the bonnet of my car. This farm had been for sale for over five years; at the time, no one wanted it, whereas today, it would have sold within the hour.
What is its history ?
It was a farm, with a dairy unit constructed in 1871. An engraved stone bears the name Leroux, the name of its architect. There have been several owners, and one person recognize me when I appeared on the programme “La Maison France 5”, with Stéphane Thébaud, and sent me a photo of herself in the courtyard, in the 1950s !
How is it organised ?
The main part of the farm is composed of four buildings. A farmhouse that now sleeps 16, a stable that sleeps 16 more in a dormitory, a barn that can accommodate 150 guests for receptions, and a second one used specifically for cocktail parties and receptions in case of bad weather.
How did you renovate it ?
More than 25 craftspeople carried out the work over two long years. I didn’t use an architect or a site manager. I drew up the plans, negotiated the estimates and monitored everything. It was a very rewarding experience, and I had to make the most of my managerial skills to ensure that everything was completed as quickly as possible. A large-scale project such as this is always a race against time because the season starts in the spring when the good weather arrives.
And the decoration ?
For the basics, I chose simple materials such as cement tiles and timeless earthenware that has been around since 1900 and that will outlast fashion! The decoration is more in line with current trends with, for example, an accumulation of ceramics and rattan furniture. Some of the walls are right on trend with eucalyptus green, terracotta and bluish-black, and this will evolve with the seasons! At the Domaine de Ronsard, not a week goes by without a change or development. (Laughs)
What did you enjoy most during the two years of work – you were fully involved from start to finish ?
When you’re not in the business, it is difficult to know the costs and prices. Especially as everything had to be planned from insulation to heating, plumbing, roofing, windows, floors and so on. Back at the beginning, I rolled up in my gleaming convertible with its cherished number plate. That was a big mistake! The estimates were all high and sometimes extremely far-fetched, picked out of the air. After that, I left my car in the village square and introduced myself as the new village school teacher. The quotes dropped by 30 to 50% !
Some people talk about « the art of the chase », and I practice that a little everywhere I go ! At the weekend, I go to garage sales, to the countless flea markets in the Perche region, to second-hand shops where everything is sold for a euro or two, or to Emmaüs.
You tell us that you scoured the flea markets throughout the Perche region for furniture and accessories. Tell us about your most incongruous, craziest finds or those you are most proud of !
Some people talk about “the art of the chase”, and I practice that a little everywhere I go! At the weekend, I go to garage sales, to the countless flea markets in the Perche region, to second-hand shops where everything is sold for a euro or two, or to Emmaüs. Sometimes I go on the web when I’m looking for a very specific object. My best deals have come about through the sellers’ lack of knowledge. A Pierre Frey sofa for 150 euros, Bertoia chairs for 50 euros each … and even a Hermes bag for 5 euros !
What kind of events can the Domaine de Ronsard host ?
The Domaine de Ronsard is ideal for large receptions with lots of guests. The venue lends itself wonderfully to a wedding or an anniversary. We can accommodate up to 32 people, with the remaining guests being transported back to their hotels by van. The 10 m swimming pool with its view of the Perche hills is extremely popular after parties! The place is also available for groups of 10 to 16 people all year round. Platforms such as Le Collectionist and Enjkey have listed it.
Tell us about your happiest memory here.
I don’t have one happiest memory; I have hundreds! I particularly love to see my brides’ eyes open wide when they see the place for the first time in real life. I post lots of pictures on my Instagram account, but nothing can beat seeing the real thing.
How would you like your business to evolve ?
I’ve just finished fitting out a professional kitchen, like those in the top restaurants! So, soon I will be organising cooking courses with top chefs. I also have a project I’m calling a “brocante tour”, where I’ll introduce people to the art of bargain-hunting and thrifty purchasing by teaching them how to unearth treasures at low prices !
Pictures : Valerio Geraci – Text : Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily