David Thompson, an English cabinet-maker, writer and pianist, bought Bordeneuve in 1996, and I, Noelle Thompson, an American classically trained flutist, cook and gardener, met David shortly thereafter in 2000. Together we rebuilt the barn and house and made it into our own paradise for creating in written, musical, wood and vegetal forms. We ran the non-profit association AMICS out of the barn from 2006-2009 and were able to share this place with many creative and thoughtful musicians. David’s untimely death left this once vibrant space achingly quiet.
Bordeneuve and AMICS reopened in May 2012 as a multi-disciplinary artist residence – a beautiful and secluded spot in the foothills of the Pyrenees, where artists, writers and musicians can find the space for creating and thinking, for making and reflecting.
The barn at Bordeneuve is available to individual artists or writers to rent for a two-week to two-month long residency. Due to high demand, residencies in June, July and August have a maximum length of three weeks.
A stay at Bordeneuve is an unparalled experience of quiet and closeness to nature. We accept only one person (or a couple) at a time in order to preserve the quiet and concentrated nature of each retreat. Residents are encouraged to work without machines as much as possible and to work with the natural surroundings, the rhythm of the day, the changing of the seasons.
A residency at Bordeneuve can take many forms. For those who wish to share their work, AMICS, our non-profit, can organize an exhibition, a reading or a concert for a small, informal audience. Or you can come without the added worry of having a finished product at the end, using the time to work quietly at your own rhythm.
Your residency can be fully catered, if you wish to have meals and shopping taken care of. A fully catered stay includes three meals a day of seasonal, organic, local food (of which a substantial portion is grown in my garden) as well as a weekly cleaning, linen and laundry service. I am a trained cook and take great pleasure in cooking for people. Your stay can also include just two meals a day, or it can be entirely self-catered I am happy to provide whatever suits you and your needs best.
During your stay you have full use of the barn and its features:
Downstairs, you will find:
• a simple but fully-equipped kitchen with a large fridge/freezer, a five-ring, stainless steel cooker with 50-litre oven, plus food prep areas.
• a bathroom with a cast-iron claw foot bathtub, a dry (compost)toilet and sink (please note that there is not a stand-up shower for those with mobility concerns).
• a small workshop with a variety of hand and power tools
• a library/sitting room with Wifi* and a wood stove
• 20m² of covered terrace with southern light
Upstairs the studio has an open floor-plan. The artist has*:
• 95m² of living and work space
• Two double beds and a chest of drawers
• A small sitting area with sofa and chairs
• A large work table as well as an architects drawing table
• A Yamaha upright piano (LU-201C)
• Wifi** and a surround sound system
• A large wood stove for winter heating
• 20m² of covered balcony space that can be living and/or working space
* Please note that there is no television and no mobile phone reception. A landline can be provided upon request.
**For those who prefer a non-computerized environment, Wifi can be turned off entirely.
Hidden down a winding stone track, Bordeneuve is nestled in the woods and fields of the Chateau Castelbon in Betchat, France. For centuries, the house and barn were home to labourers who tended the château’s kitchen garden and livestock. Abandoned for over 30 years, the property was little more than a pile of stones when David bought it in 1996. We restored the buildings with two goals in mind: to preserve their unique historical integrity and to ensure that the restoration be as ecological and respectful of the surrounding environment as possible.
David designed the cathedral ceiling and oak framing of the barn, and he and I built it together with the help of a few friends. All the mortices and tenons were done by hand, and we raised the roof with the help of my trusty Peugeot 305, a huge oak A-frame, ropes, pulleys and a lot of nail-biting. The roofing timbers are made of locally sourced Douglas fir and the upstairs floor is a soft poplar which we milled ourselves out of whole trees. We rebuilt the walls stone by stone with a lime mortar and lime rendering, which allow the walls to breathe naturally and keeps the building “healthy”. The roof and floors are insulated with local lamb’s wool and recycled wood fiber insulation. A low-energy heat pump heats the water and two wood stoves heat the building amply in winter. The stoves also heat the water in winter, ensuring further energy economy and plenty of hot water during the occasional winter power outage! The furniture, doors and windows were made by David. Many pieces were even fashioned out of trees that fell on our track in winter storms.
Recycling and reclaimation are an integral part to our philosophy. In transforming the downstairs from wood workshop to library, bathroom and kitchen, I have tried to use only recycled or reclaimed building materials. Wherever possible the wood framing, bricks, windows, glass, tiling, flooring, etc. are recuperated from other building projects and reshaped to suit my needs.
The garden itself is slightly over an acre, but as it is surrounded by woods and fields, it feels endless. The space is designed to be as wildlife friendly as possible. Wood and stone piles attract a range of small mammals, insects and reptiles, and the trees are forever full of singing birds. In spring and summer, golden orioles, kingfishers, black and green woodpeckers and the great-horned owl all grace our woods, as do a myriad of other bird species. The garden is a great departure point for walking, bird watching and even the occasional summer dip in the brook at the bottom of the forest.
The garden is divided into sections: a woodland park behind the barn full of wildflowers and trees, a small meadow and the kitchen and flower garden. There is a large area in front of the barn that can be used for any projects that need a flat, open area. There are many little nooks and niches for sitting and reading, sun-bathing, or working quietly. The vegetable, herb and flower gardens are entirely organic and I am happy to share produce from it year round with my guests.