Our Story

We’ve had the joy of living at the Château de Lalande for 14 years. I met my best friend, Nic, a million years ago at Oxford university. The very first time we spoke, I told him, ‘We’re going to buy a château together one day.’ He thought I was mad, but the idea didn’t go away. 10 years later, at the age of 29, we each sold our two-bedroom London flats, and bought Lalande.

Nic and me at our first party at Lalande

Everyone thought we were mad. Everyone with the notable exception of my parents and my then boyfriend, Michael.

He and I loved nothing more than travelling around France looking at beautiful chateaux. We’d stand outside and take photos and imagine that we owned them!

On a ‘Chateau Rally’ with Michael and my great friend Oliver, who now makes beautiful paintings of Lalande

The first three years were hard – we lived amidst constant building work as we tore down walls to rediscover the original proportions of the rooms, removed asbestos, created a huge new sewage system, dug hundreds of metres of boreholes to install geothermal heating, and redid all of the plumbing and electrics. And at the end of this mammoth task, we still hadn’t started decorating! My parents, Nic, Michael and I were all living in insane discomfort (-10 degrees in the house during our first winter), but I was loving every minute. As was my father, who never once doubted his daughter’s sanity in taking on such a behemoth.

From left; Daddy, Michael, me, Nic’s sister, Nic

Sadly, at the end of these big renovations, my wonderful father became sick and he died in 2005. In quick succession, Nic had to move back to London for work, Michael and I split up after 10 years, and my mother and I found ourselves at Lalande without them. The death of my father sent me into quite a tail spin, and work on the château stalled for a while. But Lalande is a happy place and it gave me the strength to carry on. Michael remained part of this crazy family and his love for Lalande never wavered (he has now bought into the chateau and has created a stunning apartment for himself in the old groom’s attic). We started decorating and hosting workshops and eventually my mother found her wonderful fiancé, Percy. I couldn’t have dreamt of a nicer man to welcome into our family.

In February 2017 we were contacted to take part in a television series about Brits renovating chateaux in France. I thought it sounded fun and, on a whim, agreed to participate, (mainly imagining the hilarity of my mother on film!). By the following month a tv crew had come to film our annual Easter madness. We all expected to be a tiny part of an obscure show on an even more obscure television channel, and were surprised when we first learnt that it was to be a Channel 4 spin-off series from Dick & Angel’s legendary ‘Escape to the Château’! Even so, nothing could have prepared us for the incredible public response to ‘Escape to the Château DIY’, which has quickly become a cult classic!

I want to thank everyone for their support of ‘Escape to the Château DIY’. You can’t imagine how much it means to all of us who are struggling to ensure these buildings make it through our watch intact (and improved!) for future generations. We no longer feel that we are working in isolation, but are part of a supportive community who bring enormous joy into our lives. Although there is still an unimaginable amount of work to be done, Lalande is flourishing. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is what I was meant to do with my life. I love nothing more than bringing this magnificent building back to life, welcoming people to our home, and letting them discover the magic of this chateau.

13 Comments

  1. Patricia Francis

    I would like to visit and work with you for winter January 2021. I am from Montreal so cold does not scare me. I adore your blog.

    1. Stephanie

      That would be lovely! We receive volunteers through the Workaway website, check them out! And, if you email us through them, please remind me that we’ve already spoken about it here 🙂

    2. Stephanie

      Feel free to contact us via the website ‘Workaway’ – I’d be delighted to host you here. But I don’t know yet whether or not we’ll be accepting volunteers in January 2021 – sometimes I escape in the winter!

  2. Neil

    I have been watching the vlogs for the past few weeks, I am now enjoying reading the blogs. Both are very enjoyable and fill the gaps between jobs at work. All your guests seem to have have such a brilliant time during their stay.

  3. Susan Belville

    I love your videos. I discovered your YouTube series when I was in bed sick and binge watched them all. My 17 year old daughter and I spent two weeks in France last summer. I wish I would have known about you, because we would have stopped by for tour. Keep up the amazing work. You live life the fullest, which is how it should be. I can’t wait to come by the next time I am in France.

  4. Courtney

    Hi, I’m Courtney, a new follower and fellow history lover. I’ve binge watched all your Chateau Diaries on YouTube (perhaps more than once so I can watch the ads and add to your YouTube revenue!) and now I come to the blogs to read and feel the need to ask the question, does the elusive Nic know that his cover has been blown here on the blog, or is that a special treat for those of us willing to read and not just watch your life’s work in France? For some reason I assumed Nic was a blonde, but no, he is a brunette. The things you learn when you read…..!!!

  5. CHRISTINA MARIE LARSEN

    I have become addicted to your vlog.

    Beautiful scenery, animals, church and gorgeous people to fill your chateau with life, love and beauty…..

    Please don’t forget to include the “why” people have come to help out. Their stories are well worth a wonderful journey filled story mentioned also.

    I love to see the natural and man made beauty created in your very full life.

    I am amazed at what your family, friends and travelers have done to the lovely Lelande.

    Keep going Stephanie. You have all touched hearts a million miles away.

    I live in Kansas City, Missouri and feel I am transported to France every time I watch!

    Christina

  6. Rita Etchison

    I also have become an avid admirer of Ms Stephanie since I found CHATEAU DE LALANDE DIARIES ON YOU TUBE, just by chance. The more I read, the more interested I became about the life at the chateau. Indeed a wonderful endeavor at your hands. BRAVA!!!

    My daughter was planning to take her two girls (Chloe, age 10 and Olivia age 8) to summer camp in France this year, (both girls study French – level 2 and 3) so I mentioned CHATEAU DE LALANDE with the B&B feature and she was very excited to make a point to plan a visit there for 2 or 3 days. She Evan put me in charge of making the plans etc. When I am in the process of making reservations for the camp HERE COMES THIS UNFORTUNATE TRAGEDY of COVID19. Now all is on hold…..😥😥 Hopefully we will get out of it soon. We are all OK so far, nonetheless life if on stand by , só to speak. By the way, I have watched your quarentena. SUPER! Brave young lady I might say.
    Thankfully I am doing very well om a “preventive quarentena” that I stablished for myself. The only problem I am encountering with all this predicament is that I miss my daughter and grandchildren terribly. You see they live in Miami and I live in New York. We comunica-te everyday, but I miss their hugs and laughters and bikerings. Than again, I have to thankfully for us staying healthy. I tell them everyday, we are on this together with the entire world. I tell them to sing: “THE SUN WILL COME OUT, TOMORROW” …
    I am sure you were fond of Anne as a little girl, no? My daughter, Karina, she’s probably about your age. She is 43. And she would sing TOMORROW all the time. Nor her girls are doing the same.
    Oh my Dear, I just realized I am writing too much. Sorry!
    We will visit CHATEAU DE LA LANDE someday, somehow, GOD’S WILLING.
    YOU STAY SAVE YOUNG LADY
    Fondly,
    Rita Etchison

  7. Alayne

    Dear Stephanie,
    Your blog and your vlog have proved over and over that we are soul mates as our interests in restoration, history, home decoration, music, antiques, paintings, travel, collections and celebrating the seasons are so very similar. I feel the joy when you express joy and respect the love you show for family, friends and the chateau. I wish you continued love, much fun and laughter with the work you are doing to ensure the chateau continues blossom. Happiness always…Alayne

  8. amybee66

    I can’t recall how I found you on YouTube, Stephanie, but Im5 so glad I did! Now I subscribe to you, Michael and Angelina and Phil!

  9. Maduranga Pillai

    Hi when you say micheal, so mean Michael Potts is it?and I’ve been watching your videos for a while now and they have been wonderful and an escape amidst the pandemic.also I would love to volunteer at your magnificent chateau, I’m from Sri Lanka so this is going to be an adventure for me. I hope to renovate my proper some day in Sri Lanka we fall the, “Walawwa” an old magnificent house owned by the leaders of the village.

  10. Anita Evans

    Stephanie my name is Anita Evans and I live in Sydney Australia. I am married and have two grown up children who have left home. I have been watching a lot about your chateau YouTube because of the lockdown and now seriously addicted to it. I love love love love Paris and go there on my own about once a year for 2 weeks just to be myself and reflect. I would love to visit your chateau and stay there and get to know you. I am a a fantastic cook and I think I am a pretty good company (according to my friends) October is the best time for me but I would fit in with you. I know you get a lot of request but I would really really would love to meet with you and your family and Friends. Waiting for your reply. Anita. My email address is babyroy@live.com.au. By the way Sydney is an amazing place to visit.

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