This longstanding client has a penchant for finding and renovating historic European dwellings with an abundance of character.
The project is in St Cyprien, France, a medieval town on the side of a hill with a massive church dominating the landscape. The Dordogne River flows down the beautiful valley and ends up in Bordeaux. The area is known as the Perigord Noir, ‘noir’ referring to black truffle, a local delicacy. The area is also famous for foie gras and duck.
The original property consisted of two separate buildings, one a former barn and the other a monastery, in the oldest part of the town. Both buildings dated back to the 12th Century and had remained largely unchanged since renovations in the 17th Century. However, while their condition was pretty decrepit, the fundamentals were sound. Over the course of several years, the two structures were renovated to create two beautiful stone houses contained in a walled garden, but still not connected.
To bring about that connection, Darren was commissioned to design a pool which needed to be sensitive to this culturally protected area in order to obtain building permission from the local mayor.
It was a complicated brief for many reasons. No wall was straight or square, the three metre high back stone wall was at an angle to the buildings, an adjacent building was the other boundary to the garden and there was a risk of undermining the buildings' foundations.
Darren’s pool design incorporates large raised sections either side of the pool decorated with huge antique olive oil urns. A shallow wading pool/ swim-out is against the back wall. A step goes all the way around the pool leaving a 1.5m deep section in the middle. The pool is rhombus shaped, following the line of the back wall.
The original grotto, which in a past life would have sheltered a religious icon, is incorporated in the back wall, creating a focal feature and reference point for the pool design. A recirculating line runs back into the pool from the mouth of a cherub mounted on the back wall.
A little nervous at the prospect of getting approval for a pool in such a historic place, the client was delighted when it was granted within two weeks of presenting the plans, a testament to comprehensive planning and a sympathetic design.
Two ancient structures are now unified in one unique, contemporary dwelling that honours their long, shared history while ensuring their future.