Biljoen is exactly what, as a little girl, I imagined a fairy-tale castle should look like ~ its four perfect corner towers rising out of a picturesque moat surrounded by a lush forest. Inside the fairy princess would twirl (yes, twirl) around a ballroom, which just happens to be one of the finest examples of neo-classical architecture in the Netherlands.
However. . . the adult in me will tell you that Biljoen does indeed have a rather exciting history. It was built in 1530 by Duke Charles of the Gelderland on the foundations of an earlier medieval brick house. It passed through the hands of several owners in the 17th century before it was purchased in 1661 by Alexander van Spaen, who added the afore-mentioned towers, classic Dutch bell-shaped roofs, and ornamental chimneys. Shortly after, it was seized by Louis XIV and became the headquarters of the French army, suffering extensive damage at the hands of the soldiers.
A devastating fire in 1780 prompted Baron Johan Frederik Willem van Spaen to redecorate the house according to contemporary neo-classical taste. It was he who added the extraordinary stuccoed ballroom for which the house is famous ~ the now all-white walls of which would most likely have been robin's-egg blue. What a sight that would have been! Fortunately, the furniture in the room retains its original blue silk damask upholstery, albeit faded. And I would be remiss not to mention the sumptuous tapestry rooms. Over time, the rich greens of the woven forests have shifted to blue. . . indigo leaves and fanciful beasts lending the tapestries an other-worldly aura.
In the 1860s the architect E.H. Eberson was hired to renovate the house, adding the Renaissance-style decoration to the entrance and the van Spaen coat of arms above the door. Thereafter the house was purchased by the Lüps family, who lived in the house until 2009, when they sold it to the Gelderland Trust. The house is currently undergoing renovation and is not open to the public.
More photos here!