Christèle Ageorges would never have imagined going to live in the countryside. The interior designer lived her life to the full in Paris and had absolutely no plans to change her daily life. It is the fortuitous discovery of the village of Lectoure which will initiate the volte-face. The acquisition of a second home in this village of the Gers will quickly turn into a life project. Christèle will be caught up in the house and will leave everything to open a gorgeous place of accommodation and events.
For nearly thirty years, Christèle Ageorges has lived an exciting life in Paris as an interior designer for popular decoration magazines. A classic city life, punctuated by work, children, outings, dinners with friends, getaways and travels. Comfortably installed in their small workshop in the 15th arrondissement of the city, Christèle and her husband had absolutely no plans to change their pace and even less their environment. However, in the summer of 2017, during a walk on the Camino de Compostela, the couple felt in love with the village of Lectoure in the Gers. Back in Paris, they consider for the first time the acquisition of a second home in this small town. They bought the Manufacture Royale, a former 18th century leather tannery which would become their retirement home! Major works begin but as the house takes shape, a life project begins to grow and the desire to settle there full time emerges. In the summer of 2021, they move in and in 2022 the guest house opens its doors. Christèle loves her new life and wouldn't trade her old life for anything in the world...against all odds!
Christèle, can you describe your background and tell us about your life before?
"I was born and I grew up in the countryside, in La Châtre in Indre, country of George Sand. I had only one dream; have my A-Level and go to study in Paris to live a life there. I studied Art History and Communication because I was planning to be a journalist. Just out of school, I was lucky enough to be hired as a photo stylist by Claude Berthod, the editor-in-chief of Maison Française. After some time, I was solicited by external clients, and I became a freelancer for other magazines including ELLE déco, Marie-Claire Maison, Côté Ouest and for brand catalogs. I've been in this business for thirty years."
How did the project to open a guest house come about?
“I loved my life as an interior designer in Paris and there were absolutely no signs of any change! Except maybe when I went on vacation, I always imagined myself decorating the rental or the guest room that I occupied. In 2017, we walked on the way to Compostela with my husband and my two children. (every year since 2011, we have traveled a portion of a hundred kilometers of the Way and resume the year following where we had stopped the previous summer.) That year, we were crossing the Gers and the magnificent landscapes of "La Petite Toscane". Passing through the village of Lectoure, we felt love at first sight! When we got back to Paris, my husband and I were starting to look through real estate advertisements. For the first time, we wanted to buy a second home for our holidays and our old age. We visited this former 18th century tannery which did not particularly appeal to us. rained on First on board; it was an old abandoned retirement home that had been squatted... It was very dilapidated and it took an enormous capacity for projection to assess its full potential. I was less motivated than my husband who ended up persuading me. It was while seeking financing for the work that the guest house project began to see the light of day. In addition to accommodation, I saw it as an open place for shootings and hosting events: seminars, yoga retreats, family celebrations, exhibitions, etc. Encouraged by our children, we sold our workshop in Paris in 2021 to devote ourselves fully to this purpose. Until the opening in 2022, I went back and forth to Paris to complete my assignments... reluctantly. I no longer saw Paris from the same angle, and this feeling only reinforced my desire to live in peace and closer to nature. "
What is your relationship to Paris now?
"I don't want to go to Paris anymore! I absolutely don't feel the need to. It's an immeasurable source of stress: the world, the pollution, the traffic jams... Looking back, I don't know how I I was able to bear it. I can buy what I want on the internet and I discovered that the Province had a very rich cultural activity. In Lectoure alone, there is a Center for Art and Photography and a festival of music in the summer. And if I need to go to a big city, Bordeaux or Toulouse are more than enough for me!”
What do you like most about your new country life? What are the disadvantages?
"I love enjoying the sweetness of life in the village. Every morning, when I open my shutters and see the Pyrenees in the distance, I feel great gratitude. I admire the beauty of nature every day , even in winter. I feel much more connected to the Earth. The other very important point is our social life. Contrary to what one might think, it is intense and I meet more people than in Paris! First of all, there are the guests whom I welcome and with whom we share a common sensibility. It is an opportunity to meet wonderful people. Then, we have forged many ties in the village. The village is cosmopolitan, filled with former Parisians or foreigners from everywhere.Finally, we enjoy our friends a lot more: we have swapped dinners lasting a few hours for long weekends with them.
Honestly, I don't see any downside to my new life. Racking my brains, I would say that a medical emergency would force us to go to Bordeaux or Toulouse and that cross-country trips in France are less easy than trips to Paris. When my husband has to go to Lyon, there are no major East-West routes. Finally, you just have to get organized and it's occasional... :-)"
What is your favorite room or object in the house?
"We spend our lives in the kitchen of the house. We work there, share meals. It is bright, overlooks the garden. I also marvel at the little details throughout the house, which I regularly visit."
Can you describe your neo-rural routine to us?
"My daily life depends on reservations at the guest house. In general, in the morning, I go up for a coffee in Lectoure where I meet up with friends. We also meet at cocktail hour. Friday morning market that I don't miss for anything in the world!"
What are your favorite Gers addresses that you recommend to Mastic readers?
"As for gastronomy, I recommend the Racine restaurant five minutes from the house. It is run by a young Belgian chef, Lionel Creteur, and his Canadian partner. They cook natural products and highlight those who produce them. I like go antiquing on Sunday mornings in summer at the flea market in Fources, which is held under the plane trees in the round square of the village. I also like to go to Monsieur l'Epicier, a village grocery store in Saint-Clar, which sells local , organic and bulk."
Which Instagram accounts inspire you?
" I follow the account of my journalist friend @marieannebruschi to stay connected to Parisian news. I like the account of the interior designer @romainchancel for our common attraction of abandoned places, and the account of @deareverest for her lifestyle vision."
La Manufacture Royale de Lectoure
19, rue Claude Ydron 32700 Lectoure
picture cover © jérôme galland