Adventures in feudalism |

Adventures in feudalism

Caramie Schnell
Dominique Taylor/The Vail TrailAn antique cash register adorns the solid walnut wood bar in the home's downstairs game room.

Webster’s definition of chateau is “French feudal castle,” which conjures up images of a wealthy, upper-echelon whose very existence is due in part to the toils of the lower class.

The feudal system is an antiquated philosophy. France is a socialistic democracy now. The U.S. is a democracy, too; how socialist it is frequently is up for discussion.

But wealth is alive and well in both countries and in the Vail Valley, in particular. And Beaver Creek’s elite “Parc de Fraise” area, which translates to “Strawberry Park,” is wealth incarnate.

A stunning 11,000-square-foot chateau located on Strawberry Park Road is for sale. Decorated wholly French country (down to the fleur de lis splattering the wallpaper in the master bath) the villa certainly harkened the French reference. And its lofty location in Strawberry Park, behind not one, but two, gates, makes it a modern-day feudal castle, indeed.

Slifer Smith and Frampton realtor Sue Rychel and owner Betty Lou Phillips escorted The Vail Trail through the French mountain chateau, up for grabs for a cool $16.9 million, on a recent wintry afternoon. Though this isn’t the spendiest mansion on the market – there’s a five-bedroom, five-level Vail Village property complete with an indoor swimming pool that’s going for $21 million – it’s pretty close. And with good reason. The French chateau’s front door alone is made of 5-inch-thick solid walnut wood and is adorned with magnificent Belgian hardware. The “thickness of the front doors is authentic and like those in French castles,” the informational handout for the house reads.

It’s not surprising the nine-bedroom, nine-bathroom home is decorated meticulously in the style of the French, down to the outside light fixtures that are “authentic copies of the ones on major streets in Paris.” Phillips has authored upwards of 20 French and Italian style interior design books and owns her own design firm based in Dallas. This home, Phillips’ second, is featured exclusively in her book “French By Design.”

Considering the taxes alone on the house in 2003 were more than $56,000, it’s a given that it has a laundry list of amenities, right down to the not one, but two, double-dryer, double-washer laundry rooms. In the book, a cutline for a picture of the homes front entryway reads “Towering over the village below, it takes its cue from nature’s rich resources, linking stone, iron, copper, and sand.”

A French quotation by Alexandre Dumas is painted on the kitchen wall (translated to: “An omelet is to cuisine as a sonnet is to poetry”). The room features two Maytag dishwashers (plus another in the pantry), a Dynasty stove, two warming cabinets, and a fully air-conditioned wine cellar. The floor is made from reclaimed flooring from, you guessed it, France.

The master bath, tiled in two-foot marble squares, features a freestanding “marble soaking tub” carved from a single piece of stone. The tub was lifted into the bathroom via crane before the copper roof was put on, Phillips said.

With not one but three ski-in options and two ski-out options for the home, the snow sport fanatic will certainly be satiated. Along with the anything-but-standard family room, living room and kitchen, there are two offices (one for “madame,” one for “monsieur”), a nursery and a playroom area complete with miniature cabinets, fridge, table and chairs.

The lower level of the home also features a “teen” room with a giant-screen TV, a workout room with an attached steam shower and sauna, an outdoor hot tub, and an expansive deck with snowmelt and a built-in oversized BBQ (that “can cook a dozen hamburgers at a time,” according to the home’s three-and-a-half page fact sheet).

French? Yes. Feudalistic? Maybe. An amazing place to live if you have the means to afford it? Most definitely.

Caramie Schnell can be reached for comment at

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