Modern Day Chateau
Marin family of seven live the French country lifestyle both here and abroad.
By P.J. Bremier
(page 1 of 2)Family is important to Matthew Le Merle and Alison Davis, and so is the time they spend together. The English-born couple has five children at home—Max, Tallulah, Louis, Felix and Leo—and a large extended family living abroad.
So when they sought a second home, they looked for one where they could welcome all the relatives at any one time and accommodate friends in summer. They also wanted their children to be acquainted with their European heritage.
In 2001, after a yearlong search, they found the 15th-century Château d’Oigny en Valois, an officially registered Monument Historique in France, where they now spend Christmas, Easter, summer and other vacations.
While choosing a château makes sense given the family’s origins, they purposely didn’t look for one in Southern France, with its Mediterranean climate, olives, lavender and stucco homes. “We have all of that in Tiburon,” says Le Merle, co-president of the angel investment firm Keiretsu Forum of San Francisco and the North Bay. “We wanted our second home to be different.”
He and Davis, managing partner of the private equity firm Belvedere Capital LP, found their Tiburon home 11 years ago after a long, fruitless search on the Peninsula, says Le Merle. Only one day of house-hunting in Marin convinced them “this was the place to be.” Here their spacious Mediterranean-style home is set on six acres with wraparound and water views, a sports court and gardens filled with lavender, lemons, herbs and roses. Inside, colonnades, curved walls, pitched ceilings and large spaces define many rooms.
Several spaces, including the kitchen, living, media and children’s rooms, underwent some stylish but practical changes in a recent redesign by Yvonne Lowry of Transform Your Décor in Tiburon and her design partner Alycia Freeman. The kitchen has a fresh coat of paint and new hardware; designed for entertaining, it also has a fireplace, twin islands and refrigerators, and multiple workstations. This is where the family eats, but when guests come meals are served at a dining room table that cleverly converts into one for billiards.
“My favorite space is the grand living room,” Lowry says. “It has large curvy sofas in a fern-green crushed velvet, parquet floors and a wall of windows that face the bay.”
There are other rooms that might easily qualify as favorites—the wine cellar, gym, study or library—but the Le Merle children especially like the indoor pool, where Lowry has incorporated outdoor-like colors: a watery blue for the ceiling and a Mediterranean sky blue for the columns.
Lowry consulted each child about preferences for bedroom decor. Tallulah picked soft pink with accents of orange; Louis suggested a skateboarding theme; Leo chose a football motif and Felix a safari one. Max, the oldest, went for sophisticated neutral colors and pieces from the family’s art collection.
Image 2: The alcove off living room is ideal space for piano.