Monday, September 19, 2016

Visiting Chateau Domingue: Timeless Materials, Classic Provençal Style

I’ve admired Ruth Gay’s Chateau Domingue atelier, warehouse, and gallery for some time. Hidden in a quiet corner of Houston, her company nevertheless attracts designers from around the world for her authentic French architectural materials, the wonderfully aged floor planks, and the compelling scale of her centuries-old chateau doors and limestone fireplaces.

When Jean-Louis Deniot and I were on our whirlwind book tour for our Rizzoli book ‘Jean-Louis Deniot Interiors’, one of the favorite parties was at Chateau Domingue in Houston. Ruth Gay’s fantastically stylish antique collections and showroom are her homage to Provence, and proof that style can transcend trends.

At the Chateau Domingue celebration, we loved spending time with PaperCity Editor-in-Chief Holly Moore and all our friends. Afterwards, we dashed to Ruth’s magical house surrounded by noble oaks. Ruth arranged cocktails and dinner in the garden and we lingered on into the night in a buzz of camaraderie and good cheer.

Come with me this week to meet Ruth Gay. We visit her house, with interiors designed by Pam Pierce, and see latest treasures from the South of France.

Ruth Gay’s Houston residence was restored and remodeled sixteen years ago—and feels as if it was built a century or two ago. The secret: limestone salvaged from demolished houses near St. Remy, antique lighting, natural linen, understated décor, old marble, and a paled-down color scheme inspired by natural Provençal tones.

Ruth Gay, founder of Chateau Domingue

Recently, I sat down with Ruth Gay, who founded Chateau Domingue in Houston in 2002

DDS: Ruth, it is such a great pleasure to visit Chateau Domingue. And your house, with its sequence of Provence-inspired rooms, is a dream, a reverie. How did you start Chateau Domingue?

Ruth Gay:
Diane, thank you for your kind words about my house.

We founded Chateau Domingue just over a decade ago. As with many new businesses, mine started with a dream, a need.

Renovating my house in Houston, I wanted to capture the feeling of centuries-old places in the south of France and in Tuscany and Umbria. I had fond memories of spending summers in remote corners of Provence and visiting historic towns in Italy.

When I started Chateau Domingue there was no place that I knew of in the U.S. that offered such things as Dalles de Chamaret flooring, or centuries-old window frames, or large-scale fireplaces, and old ironwork balconies or salvaged old marble.

For our house, we wanted a warm, soft feeling with old stone, beams, and limestone floors. My husband Jack and I could not find these elements, handmade, and with the soft glow of age. I went back to Europe to remedy that lack, literally by the containerful!

DDS: What is the history/background of your Houston residence?

Ruth Gay: 
I wanted the 1950s era red brick, traditional Georgian home that we bought to feel like a bastide, a gentleman's country house in France. When choosing floors, stone walls, counters, and even furnishings, I tried to imagine kids, dogs, family, and lots of friends really relaxing and enjoying themselves. This helped to direct a lot of decisions. I worked closely with Pam Pierce.

The interiors of our home now look and feel like the south of France. The red brick exterior (now covered in ivy) reminds us that we are actually in Texas. The new line of plaster Chateau Domingue will be launching this fall will soon transform the exterior.

DDS: What do you love and adore most about South of France style?

Ruth Gay:
I admire the cohesive traditional style you find in France where everything is warm and rustic yet still projects a certain polish and craftsmanship and elegance. The colors are soft, subtle, earth-inspired, and sun-faded. Nothing strident. I love also that through the centuries, Provençal and Southern French style have harmonious proportions. There’s a comfortable sense of simplicity combined with materials that are tough and timeless. Since I founded the company, I’ve also become quite obsessed with French garden ornament, fountains, water basins, garden gates, and outdoor architectural elements. 

DDS: What makes Chateau Domingue unique?

Ruth Gay:
Our style is very focused. We love the weather-worn wood, soft patinas, and materials that are unearthed in rural France. Our look is consistently French, with a dash of Tuscany. Our color palette is soft, sun-struck and sun-faded.

We collect old tiles, decorative objects, lighting, and ironwork elements, even handcrafted old glass. We specialize in architectural elements such as doors, doorframes, ceiling beams, window frames, mirrors and arches, many of substantial scale. We also offer rustic furniture, and occasionally I find wonderful old country-town signage. My secret: I get up very early to get to country flea markets, to meet dealers, and to roam through villages and find country houses being demolished.

Ruth Gay: We have a 15,000 sq ft warehouse, and an outdoor selection on display on three acres. We work with many architects and interior designers, as well as private clients. If they do not find what you’re looking for, we’ll find it in Europe. My sources gathered over a decade run very deep. I have long and close relationships with craftspeople, artists, stonemasons, and carpenters, cabinetmakers that all work in traditional styles.

DDS: Ruth, you also follow annual antique markets, as well as specialist dealers. You are a fantastic resource for paintings. The word ‘salvage’ does not quite seem noble enough for your inventory. But it is true that many French homeowners renovate and discard architectural elements like steel spiral staircases, balustrades, finials, weathervanes, cabinets, marble counters and historic signage. You bring these treasures back to Houston.

Ruth Gay:
Yes, Diane, every summer I set up my base in Avignon at La Mirande, a hotel I love. And our family stays in Eygalieres, a beautiful village south of St. Remy. It has a weekly market, and it’s well located for me to explore, meet dealers, and find new sources. I love the hunt. I’m obsessed.

DDS: Ruth, thank you. It was a great pleasure to visit.

Atelier Domingue

Atelier Domingue is a line of custom metal doors and windows offered by Chateau Domingue. The recent lines of architectural elements (Maison, Bastide, & Atelier) are all under the umbrella of Chateau Domingue. 

It was during her travels throughout Europe that Ruth first fell in love with the low-profile windows and doors utilized in ancient properties both distinguished and demure. Seeking a resource to recreate this look at home, however, Ruth identified a void and thus, Atelier Domingue was conceived. Committed to providing metal windows and doors that communicate a quiet elegance that is appropriate for homes honoring the contemporary, the time-worn, or an interplay of both, the artisans of Atelier Domingue Architectural Metalcrafts will fabricate custom, steel windows and doors reflecting a streamlined aesthetic with a nod to the sublime.


Images courtesy Ruth Gay, Chateau Domingue.

For more information on Chateau Domingue, call the Houston headquarters 713-961-3444 or visit

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