Friday, March 6, 2015

A Beautiful 16th-century Spanish Country House with Enchanting Gardens

Living Room

Growing up in the 70's and 80's in California, Spanish style furniture was in our living room.  A place I was told for when company came over and you "sit and visit".  We had two large gilded paintings that flanked an antique mirror over the settee.  One was of a beautiful Spanish dancer and one of a handsome Matador; equally regal in colors of ocher, rich browns and blacks, and golds with a touch of magenta on her lips.  I loved it.  I use to bring my reading books into the "sit and visit" room, a perfect formula for creating designs in my mind of the storied characters.

While reading about this 16th-century country house in Toledo Spain, once a monastery, now beautifully restored as a country home with enchanting gardens, I imagined its history of monarchs, diplomats, marquess and marchioness, of a Spanish Civil war, and exiles from France returning to Spain, and once again my love of design, and history of a place brought the reminiscence of the "sit and visit" room to a lacquered memory.

The lovely rooms of Cigarral de Menores are fresh and open, not heavy, and flooded in light.

A 19th-century rice paper Chinoiserie panel hangs between a 17th-century Spanish mirror and an easel that displays a late-1500s portrait.  Typically Spanish style has been handled with a heavy hand, here the design is fresh, light and really quite a pretty mix; the chalk white walls and the crushed red sofa lend a sophisticated touch next to the travertine tables and abstract sculpture. Contemporary in feel with a nod to the past. 


This is the old kitchen which dates from the 1920s; antique Spanish ceramics and tiles array this beautiful space.

Iberian pottery from the 16th through the 19th-centuries are lavishly displayed on built-in shelves;  original doors from the estate's monastery days.  The Spanish table is from the 17th century.

Family furniture fills the rooms.  Among the highlights are 16th-century Spanish table and bench and 19th-century chairs.  A gorgeous painting by a Mannerist painter hangs prominently in this historic home.

The owners, *Marquess Gregorio Maranón president of Teatro Real Opera House and his wife Marchioness Pilar Solis-Beaumont, a lawyer and historian, desired to respect the spirit of the house, while providing for themselves a comfortable home; bringing the house gently into the modern world without losing its traditional air.

* A Marquess is a nobleman, landowner, of hereditary rank or Peerage or aristocratic title.  A Marchioness is the wife of a Marquess.  In case you are like me and love English films and always wanted to know who ranks who...

Royal, Noble & Chilvalric Ranks
Grand Duke
Grand Prince
Sovereign Prince
Baronet/Hereditary Knight

The marquess has carefully preserved the study of his grandfather, the elder Gregorior, who's large photograph is mounted on the bookcases full of books about Toledo, which climb to the library ceiling and around the cased, silled, and shuttered window.  On the windowsill is a Victorior Macho sculpture of the writer Benito Pérez Galdós.

A 2005 Hernán Cortés Moreno portrait of the marquess overlooks the master suite's living area, which includes 19th-century landscapes of Toledo.

14th-century Mudéjar plasterwork frames the chapel's altar.  Art, artifacts, and beautiful stone floors provides a peaceful place to pray.

Blanket a pergola that leads to the swimming pool.  A lovely walk on a warm summer's day or in the cool of the evening.

 The decoration has a clarity and a simplicity that complement the sober brick-and-stucco architecture, which happily accommodates contemporary gestures.
-  Marquses Gregorio Maranón

19th-century brass bed and gilded mirror were both owned by Maria Cristina, wife of King Ferdinand VII in this lovely guest room.  Did you notice the gorgeous crown at the top of the canopy?

With an average rainfall of barely 14 inches a year Cigarral de Menores  (the property now covers 37 acres) gardens have been restored with drought tolerant plants and trees: olive trees which provide the family with oil, orchards which provide almonds, figs, cherries, pomegranates, and apricots.   

Several wells help, the oldest being a Moorish one dug in the 10th- century. 
 - Marquess Gregorio Maranón

Ducks, partridges, herons, foxes, rabbits, owls, nightingales, golden orioles are just some of the wildlife at Cigarral de Menores.  The marquess and marchioness also have a chicken farm, two dogs whose names are Lao and Kofi, a donkey named Bruno, and a pony called Chipirón.

Weekends at Cigarral de Menores are invariably relaxed - meals with family and friends, explorations of Toledo's nooks and crannies, trips to the area's endless historical sites. 
- Marquess Gregorio Maranón
16th-century tiles pave a terrace overlooking the Spanish city of Toledo.  The views from the olive-treed hilltop have remained unchanged for centuries.  Just a short 15 minute walk away, church bells are the only sound they hear coming up from the streets of the town.  Lovely.

17th-century fountain anchors the arbutus garden.

Contemporary water feature by Cristina Iglesias.  The view of Toledo peaks from among the cypress and olives.

Marquess and Marchioness Maranón and their miniature Schnauzers Lao and Kofi.

I hope it's lovely where you are...
xx Rié

Photo Credit: Architectural Digest


  1. it's quite cold still in chicago so life in spain is all the more enticing!
    congrats to you for being a finalist in best blog, was at the conference and thrilled when i heard your name.

    1. Debra, Thank you, how kind. I was very disappointed I could not attend... But, I am so happy to have you come by and to find your blog! Here is to Spring! I will be following your lovely blog. Have a wonderful Saturday! Rié

  2. What a wonderful home and oh wow, the gardens…dreaming of warm spring days and gardens…happy weekend, Rie!

    1. Thank you for coming by and taking the time to leave a kind comment! You both are amazing! I wish you everything lovely! Rié

  3. What a divine post! One of my favorites ever!

    Do you have a pinterest button on your site? I wanted to pin every picture; but couldn't get it to work!

    Love this blog!!!!

    1. I am still pinching myself that Penelope Bianchi reads any of my posts!! All I can say is thank you for your kind words! And no I am sorry I don't have a pin it button, I need to install that. If you have a MAC you can just grab and drag the picture to your home screen, and from there up load them to Pinterest. If not, I can email them to you if that would be helpful, it would be my pleasure. Just let me know. All the best to you Rié

  4. Very interesting blog. A lot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that attract others, but I'm most definitely interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know.


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