Price From $94
This mansion in the heart of the Loire once belonged to the mother of novelist Marguerite Duras (who mentions the château in her famous work The Lover). Later, in the 1960s, its marble hallways were filled with students from a nearby engineering school, which used the building as a dorm.
In 1992, another curious owner took over management of the 14-room château: Bernard Valois, an artist who kept the mansion's 19th-century detailing (high ceilings, gilded mirrors) but added contemporary design flourishes, such as a photograph of a mysterious pair of eyes in the foyer. Last year, Valois and his wife, Christine, redecorated a former gatekeeper's house as a contemporary four-room cottage with knockoff Jackson Pollock paintings and sculptures that resemble enormous eggs. "My husband likes to turn things that seem ordinary into the extraordinary," Christine says. "He designed a 'Sputnik' bidet that has Japanese robots stationed around the tank."
Valois also tends a 12-acre garden of roses and clematises, where guests can find a shed stocked with complimentary bikes for exploring the area's 186 miles of riding paths.
Closed Oct. 19–Apr. 1.