Villa La Tosca: A beachside heritage villa in a spectacular unspoiled habitat
Passepartout Homes’ property portfolio showcases a very exclusive collection of unique luxury holiday retreats located in 15 countries on four continents across the globe. What’s unique about each of our exclusive holiday villas is that every one is a home which has been lovingly built, rebuilt or renovated by its proprietors who invested their hearts and souls into creating a unique and special atmosphere for their guests. In this interview series, we meet the property owners who tell us the stories behind their exclusive holiday homes.
When Karin and her family stumbled on Villa La Tosca, they knew they wanted to restore this crumbling heritage property to its former glory. Located in a unique geographic location in south-western France on the Bay of Arcachon, a natural cove that juts into the Atlantic Ocean, Villa La Tosca was built at the turn of the century and is a typical example of Arcachon heritage architecture with Italian influences.
This gorgeous beachfront villa is just steps away from the ocean. Its 4500 square metres of lush gardens have been lovingly landscaped and complemented with an ecological pool filled with natural spring water. Villa La Tosca is perfect for a relaxing and rejuvenating luxury retreat in the healing ocean air, a romantic getaway, or for families who enjoy spending time together close to nature in a spectacular unspoiled habitat.
Originally from Amsterdam, Karin had an international career working in the textile industry for many big names like Adidas, Nike, Reebok and Disney, before starting her own property/hospitality business. She currently lives with her husband and two teenagers in Hong Kong. She tells us how they found this unique home-away-from-home with a little help from serendipity…
How did you discover this property and what made you fall in love with it?
It’s actually a funny story! In August 2005, my husband and I were on holiday in the Bay of Arcachon where he is originally from. We were cycling along the coast, admiring the villas along the way and stumbled on a property on the beachfront. We couldn’t see it from the beach as it was completely overgrown, but it was a big plot with no immediate neighbours and was directly on the beach. We thought it would be a dream to own such a house, but imagined that it probably wasn’t for sale, and if it was, the price would be very steep.
A few days later, my husband ran into a friend who’s a real estate agent. We had been looking to buy a place in this area for a long time so he asked him if he knew of anything for sale. He replied that there was not much available and what was for sale was very expensive. But he added that he had heard of a property which was about to go onto the market. Apparently an old woman had passed away and her son was selling her house. This happened to be the same property we had admired just days before!
We managed to find the notary who was looking after the property and he told us the former mayor used to live there. We went to have a look at the house and met the son of the old woman – the former mayor’s wife, who happened to have been a lovely lady heavily involved in charity. We told her son that we wanted to breathe new life into the house and preserve it as it is. We made an offer and it was accepted! Much later, we learned that the old lady had mentioned in her will that she wanted the house to go to a family who would preserve it.
What was the renovation process like?
The house was like a ruin when we first saw it! There was only one toilet and no shower. It was completely rundown and decorated with horrible sixties flower wallpaper. The garden was completely overgrown.
The renovation work was a huge task. The property was 900 square metres, and the land, almost 5000 square metres. We had found an architect specialised in heritage properties. The plan was to make 8 bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, a library, and a contemporary kitchen. We also added an outdoor terrace – which everyone thinks is original because it complements the house so well.
It took 1.5 years for the architect’s drawings to be approved and the permits issued. It then took 1.5 years to complete the renovation work to the main building and 1 year to complete the landscaping and gardening work. I oversaw the project from start to finish and did the interior design myself. With all the finishing touches, it took 4 years in total.
What is unique about the area and the property?
This area really seems like the most wonderful place on earth. It’s a protected area and is also one of three or four places in the world where birds migrate to. There’s a very high and very low tide here. During the high tide, the ocean can come up to the steps of our garden. At low tide, we can have 20 metres of beach stretching out in front of the house.
What’s unique about Villa La Tosca is that it’s ‘authentic’, something everyone is looking for these days. We offer 5-star luxury, with a butler and concierge services, and two cleaning staff. It’s also completely private: the only guests you have are the ones you invite yourself! We have created a very special place we’re very passionate about. We also offer a unique gastronomic experience. We have private chefs, one who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants, and our own organic vegetable garden which guests are free to help themselves to – as well as the apple and pear trees. We also have an ecological pool filled with natural spring water.
What type of visitor does Villa La Tosca suit?
For me, family and friends are what’s most important in life. This is the ideal place where families can come together. We’ve had families who live in different corners of the world come here to holiday together and spend time together. It’s also a great place for friends who like to golf: there’s a 9-hole golf course nearby as well as an 18-hole PGA golf course not far away.
Did you have any notable guests stay there?
We have had a few VIPs and several successful international businessmen stay with us but don’t mention names because ensuring our guests’ privacy is important to us.
Karin was interviewed by Isabel Putinja.
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