Channel 4's Chateau DIY: Inside Château Trois Cloches, France – House Beautiful

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This 20-room chateau is situated in the Seine-Maritime region of Normandy.

Chris Smith and Jolyon Latchmore made the monumental decision to chase their French dream and purchase an abandoned 20-room chateau in the Seine-Maritime region of Normandy in June 2022. Inspired by Dick and Angel Strawbridge’s own Escape to the Chateau adventures, they hope to also transform it into a successful wedding venue.

The couple — who bought Château Trois Cloches for €580,000 — still work and live full-time in London. Balancing a hands-on renovation in France with life in England is no easy feat, but they have big plans (and plenty of DIY tricks) to convert the stable into an eight-room wedding suite on a shoe-string budget.
As they share their journey on Channel 4’s Chateau DIY, Chris and Jolyon speak to House Beautiful about taking the plunge to buy a disused chateau, creating their dream orangery, and why they are ‘the gay version of Dick and Angel’…
Chris: When I was younger, we always used to visit France with my family. A family friend had a place in France and we would visit every half term. Every time we would drive past a chateau I would ask for the car to be stopped so I could run out and have a look. I was only around 13 years old and always wanted photos outside the chateaus. I just loved it — the architecture, the grandness. I just fell in love with them from a really young age. This was all before the original Escape to the Chateau series, but as soon as that came out, it was an extra catalyst really.
This chateau was slightly more manageable than others. Some you look at and don’t even know where to start. Ours has a good wing, a bad wing, and everything in between.
Jolyon: Weirdly I did too, but I didn’t realise until years later. When I was a kid, I wanted to run a hotel. I remember drawing pictures of amazing hotels and chateaus. Once when I was on holiday, I was thinking how great it would be to have a project that would also use our passion for DIY and hosting. At the time, we were thinking of Mozambique, but it felt too risky as a lot of investors has lost money. Then, we started thinking about something we could do to also keep our jobs. We then found that you can buy a chateau in France for the same price as a one-bedroom.
Escape to the Chateau showed us that we could do it, but it also meant that prices of chateaus had gone up as a result of the show. You can buy some really stunning properties further down in the south of France, but we needed somewhere that we could get to in about four-and-a-half hours door-to-door because of our jobs. It makes such a difference otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do it.

C: Watching the show made me think: if they can do it, we can do it. Dick and Angel’s chateau was so much cheaper, but then they also had more work to do. We’re very similar. I’d almost go to say that we’re the gay version of Dick and Angel. Jolyon is very good at the engineering side of things and I’m more of the interior designer.
J: I mean, everyday we’re getting French lessons!
C: For me, the biggest lesson is learning how to have patience in France. No one works during the summer season. You couldn’t get a tradesperson. They take their holidays very seriously. I’m not the best at being patient when it comes to getting things done, so that has been my biggest lesson.
J: It’s also about not being scared to give things a go yourself. We’ve been quite overwhelmed by the amount of work we have to do, but breaking it down into little chunks will help tick the jobs off. We thought there would be a lot of jobs where we would have to call people in, but we’ve ended up watching YouTube videos and working it out ourselves. It might not always be perfect, but it’s amazing the amount of things we’ve been able to achieve.
C: I didn’t want to go on the show at all. I hate being in front of the camera. In all of my jobs I’ve always been behind the camera, so I was dreading it. Jolyon had the idea. After the first episode, I was thinking that it’s good. It does really slow you down. Everything you do has to be done three different ways, with different camera angles. We would usually spend a weekend powering through something, but on the show you have to stop so they can fade down from a different angle. When you watch it back, it’s really good to see the whole process you took to get there. You’ve got a memory of what you did. The crew are incredible as well.
J: We were both a little bit terrified about how we would come across on TV. We didn’t get to see any episodes until they aired for the first time. I was really nervous about telling people! Apart from getting my name wrong and skimming through a lot of hard work, we’ve been really lucky.
C: The crew spend a lot of time with us. It takes maybe four or five days to film something, but then you get about 12 minutes of airtime per show. They condense it down a lot. They’re quite interested in batching jobs together, so they can tell a bit of a story about it. For this series, we’re doing a few rooms that are close to each other. We shuffled around our schedule a little bit, but it’s worked well.
C: The previous owner of our London house hadn’t done much to the property in 60 years. It was all very dated with floral wallpaper. We were lucky because it taught us a lot of lessons. We were also used to the relentless pace of doing it up, socialising and working. It all helped massively. The real difference is the scale — everything takes twice as long.
J: It gives you a real sense of perspective. A tiny leak back in London would have stressed me out, but now I chuckle about it. Pretty much every week we’ll discover a new challenge. It’s a huge, old building, so there’s always going to be something that needs our attention.
C: The costs in France are different, too. It’s generally more expensive for dry materials. Things add up when you’re painting a room that’s three times the size of the average space in London. We can’t really afford to make mistakes.
C: There wasn’t a chandelier, so we started from that point because that was going to be the central focus of the room. We found a chandelier from The Lighting Company that was perfect. It looked like it had been taken straight from Paris. We based the whole room around that. The brown floor tiles were hideous, with nothing redeeming about them. We couldn’t afford to retile the whole space, so we decided to use tile paint. It worked really well. We opted for a traditional white and black.
J: I feel like it’s quite reflective of the 1930s and 1940s. We try to be as sympathetic to it as possible. As the plants grow, we really want it to become quite tropical in here, almost like a rainforest. Until summer kicks in, we’re not going to see the full effect. I’m also passionate about lighting. There’s always more you can do, but by getting the lighting right you can really transform the space. The orangery was already a beautiful room, so we haven’t changed that much really.
C: The trellis was already painted. Jolyon made these two enormous tables from planks of wood we found in the stables. We’ve now got this big banqueting table which seats 25. We want the room to be multi-purpose, so that people who rent it out can use it as a dining room or for dancing at a wedding. It’s got to have the flexibility.

J: It started recently. We have an old sewage tank around the side of the property — it’s not very glamorous! — and they’re not allowed anymore. People are coming in to dig three giant holes for these enormous compliant septic tanks. That’s one of the reasons we created an organic pond now because we knew part of the garden would be destroyed by this big project.
C: If you don’t have a compliant septic tank in France, you have to get one installed within a year by law. We’ve always budgeted for it, which is around £35,000. It’s not going to be beautiful or anything, as it’s basically just a hole in the ground that will be covered up.
J: This will allow us to put bathrooms in place that we weren’t allowed before. The layout of the property, as far as bathrooms are concerned, was really weird. They just seemed to be in odd places. There’s one really big bathroom that has no toilet, and then there’s another really tiny bathroom. We’ll now be able to change all of that. Even though it’s not a very exciting project, it does mean we can change how the space is used.
J: I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights caused by worry, especially around all the rising interest rates. It’s going to be a challenge to earn money from the chateau, but we need it to earn money as soon as possible. I’m confident that once it’s up and running, it will pay for itself. The challenge is just getting to that point where we’re earning enough to cover two mortgages.
C: We’d like to be able to rent it out for families or big groups of friends. Plus, we’d love to have small weddings here. People could use the orangery and the outside space for weddings, and hopefully one day the stables. Maybe we could even run retreats here too.
J: We’re hoping our friends will rent it this summer as a soft launch because it won’t be completely finished. That will help with the bills and see us through to next season. Hopefully by Christmas 2023, we’ll be open for holiday rentals. Then, in summer 2025, we plan to have the stables ready as a wedding venue.
You can follow Chris and Jolyon’s renovation journey on Instagram @chateautroiscloches.
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This is a really elegant design, and best of all, it’s reversible. With Angel’s clever Art Nouveau styling, this duvet cover captures the essence of the wild meadow and cutting garden at the Chateau. Pillowcases are included.
With a moonlight, flowers and foliage, all in a gorgeous rose dawn colourway, this painted scene reflects the magical feel that Angel often says she experiences when she sees the Chateau at night.
This elegant cushion takes inspiration from The Walled Garden at the Chateau. It encapsulates Angel’s love of Art Deco with the fun and colourful garden-inspired prints.
If you like dark, dramatic and mysterious interiors, then add this striking wildflower wallpaper to your shopping basket.
One of our absolute favourites, Potagerie is a joyful celebration of a French Chateau garden with its vegetables, herbs, flowers and bees.
The elegant Potagerie duvet cover features carrots, courgettes, artichokes, sweat pea and bees, with flowers from a century-old wallpaper also providing inspiration.
This elegant grey curtain has a pencil pleat header and is fully lined, which improves the drape and enhances the overall look.
Inspired by the blossoms that grow at the Chateau, this design features a beautiful white blossom trail with a red butterfly set on a basil green background.

Lisa Joyner is the Senior Digital Writer at House Beautiful UK and Country Living UK, where she’s busy writing about home and interiors, gardening, dog breeds, pets, health and wellbeing, countryside news, small space inspiration, and the hottest properties on the market.

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