Two TV reality stars who left behind their life in East London to take on a mind-bogglingly ambitious renovation project in the Loire Valley are putting the final touches to the once-derelict chateau they snapped up for £280,000.
Dick and Angel Strawbridge bought the crumbling, 45-bedroom property two-and-a-half-years ago, and have been documenting their journey in the Channel 4 show Escape To The Chateau, which returned for a fourth series on Sunday.
Fans previously saw Angel discover a stash of rolls of antique wallpaper at Château-de-la-Motte Husson, which she used to decorate the honeymooon suite.
Now, with a busy summer of bookings fast approaching at the venue, Dick, 58, and his wife, 47, had resolved to recreate the effect in a winding staircase that was once used by servants – a design trick Angel insisted would ‘save them money’.
The process involved printing replica wallpaper patterns onto diamond-shaped pieces of fabric, which Angel then attached to the walls she’d covered with sponge to create a cushioned effect using a staple gun.
While Angel was forced to admit her ‘frugal’ design trick turned out to be a ‘really big job’, she said she was thrilled with her ‘fabulous padded cell’ when they finished.
Angel was thrilled to finish her ‘padded cell’ wall on the back staircase of the chateau which leads up to the honeymoon suite
Dorothy and Arthur’s playroom is in the theme of a circus playground complete with a helter skelter
Angel had her husband move a cast iron bath tub to the bottom of the bed in one of the rooms on the second floor
One of the sitting rooms is fit for the lord and lady of the manor as the couple give it their own unique touch
The Strawbridges are busier than ever, with seven weddings and 14 food lovers’ weekends to prepare for, and transforming the staircase that was once used by the chateau’s servants – and will now be the main route to the honeymoon suite for newlyweds – was at the top of Angel’s to-do list.
The property has a moat, a walled garden, a private forest and seven outbuildings that the couple have been converting.
‘I don’t want to do anything particularly fancy… But I’ve had an idea that could save us money,’ she told her wary husband.
‘I’m going to recreate what is in the honeymoon suite and have it printed on to material.’
Presenter Dick, 58, a retired lieutenant colonel, joked about his wife, 47-year-old Angel’s unusual idea: ‘You said it was going to be cheap, and then you started going on about bespoke printed material. It’s going to be a padded room.’
Dick and Angel Strawbridge have been documenting their renovation journey in the Channel 4 show Escape to the Chateau
The pair bought 45-bedroom Château-de-la-Motte Husson two-and-a-half-years ago
Reconsidering the tricky task ahead Angel added: ‘I thought this was going to be an easy job… But it’s not.’
Angel enlisted Dick’s help to hang the material after the crumbling walls of the estate – which is on 12 acres – had first been covered with plasterboard.
The pair then set about the painstaking task of making sure the patterns matched, as Angel went used a staple gun to secure it to the walls she had padded with sponge.
To create the cushioned effect the designer pinned brass tacks at each diagonal intersection between the contrasting fabrics.
Before, the winding back staircase was a crumbling mess and Angel wanted to transform it
With the help of her husband Dick, they plaster boarded the wall and added sponge padding before hanging the material
Dick and Angel Strawbridge have been working on their French home ever since they snapped it up for £280,000
Angel wanted to replicate the print from the vintage wallpaper she had put up in the honeymoon suite by printing in on to linen
Despite a brief panic when Angel realised there was not enough material to cover the 33sq m of wall required, she managed to pull together enough leftover pieces from the original stash of wallpaper to make it work.
She was thrilled with the finished project.
‘I feel overjoyed every time I walk through those doors because this was a really big job,’ she said.
‘It wasn’t because it was a massive room but it was one of those fiddly jobs that you keep putting off.
‘I love it down here, it is like a fabulous padded cell,’ she added.
Subway tiles adorn entire walls in one bathroom which Angel picked the decor out for herself, again making sure there was plenty of greenery to bring the room alive
Angel has put her own unique stamp on the interior decor with flares of bright prints and interesting colourways
Dick and Angel – who first met in 2010 and were the first to get married at the château – originally set themselves a ten-month deadline to drag their 19th-century building into the 21st century, tackling most of the work themselves.
The parents-to-two have won a legion of fans amused by the daftness of their schemes as they complete the work on their chateau at a fraction of the cost during each series.
In the last series they renovated an entire wing, and recently updated their children’s playroom in a bright garish circus theme as well as a British theme in another suite.
Angel’s love of taxidermy is scattered throughout the manor and as the pair continue to seek out unique items for their home, her collection grows.
Escape to the Chateau returns to Channel 4 next Sunday at 8pm