Thursday, January 2, 2014

La Lanterne, Versailles

Happy 2014! One of my favorite gifts I received over Christmas was an antique copy of the book "The smaller houses and gardens of Versailles 1680-1815" from 1926 which I have been lusting over for years. The first house mentioned is one of my favorite houses that I have ever studied, La Lanterne.
The house is well known to many as it has become the basis for manydesign ideas in the early 20th century and even more recently. A few years back (2008) I blogged about a project HERE by Bories and Shearron which took this lanterne construct for the design of a new house. My friend THE DOWNEAST DILETTANTE noted a number of lanterne houses HERE.  Above you see a current aerial view; since 1959 the house has served as the country house of the Prime Minister (now President)  of France.
 Blessedly, as you can see, the house hasn't changed much down to the landscaping and gravel forecourt.
These smaller houses of Versailles, as the book explains, were mostly built as getaways from the nearby Palace of Versailles for courtiers.  They would not actually live in these grand but small houses but rather use them as hideaways to relax or keep scandalous intrigues and affairs away from the gossipy court.
This is certainly one of the largest houses featured in the book but certainly less impressive than the estates and chateaux these courtiers called home (and much larger than their apartments at the palace!). La Lanterne was built in 1787 as a hunting lodge for the comte de Noailles who became a leader throughout the Revolution and later the duc de Mouchy.
 The house sums up the best of French design into one perfect little jewel box much like the Petit Trianon.
From the plan you can see the derivation of the name. The main block of the house is narrow and allows for windows on both sides of all rooms; giving the house the appearance of a lantern at night when lit from within.
These vintage 1926 images show many of the interior spaces. Simple but refined detailing is found throughout. Limestone floors match the limestone exterior. Restraint is shown which is key.
Remember this is a simple country palace, er, I mean house. The rooms are small and residential in feel and not palatial. These houses weren't built to impress visitors like a grand country chateaux but to be a private retreat for the owner.
I wonder what the interiors are like now? I suspect as the house is a national treasure they haven't been allowed much alteration other than perhaps some modern furnishings. If anyone knows of the house being published recently please let me know!
I'll be sharing other small houses from the book in the next few weeks. Enjoy!

15 comments:

Paisley Curtain said...

A very Happy New Year to you. We all your followers are so much looking forward for your informative posts in the year 2014.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Thanks Paisley -same to you!

Dovecote Decor said...

I too found an old Versailles book at the furniture library in High Point. I'd tell you what it is, but I'd have to unwrap it. I have also been enjoying Timothy Corrigan's Grande Chateau Luce; one of the remarkable restorations of the century in my little mind.
Best,
Liz

Anonymous said...

You might find more pictures of la Lanterne in the Connoly/Zerbe book "les Pavilions" when Amb and Mrs. David K.E. Bruce rented it as a retreat.

Mark D. Ruffner said...

Hi, Stefan,

Your posting reminded me of that interesting phenomenon where executives with big offices (including the President) sometimes have smaller atteched offices where they actually do their work.

Unknown said...

One of my first rather extravagant book purchases for myself was a copy of that book right out of college when I still didn't have a real job. Spending what I spent on that is still a lot for a single book twenty years later, but it is still one of my favorites and La Lanterne my favorite building in it. David Adler's house for Mrs. Ely has also long been a favorite of mine and I would agree with Down East Dilettante that it is the best adaptation I know. I was privileged to have a private tour a few years ago and fell even more in love with it. It is currently for sale and a bargain if several price ranges over anything I could consider.

Loi Thai, Tone on Tone said...

I will have to hunt down a copy of this book! Happy New Year, Stefan!
Cheers,
Loi

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Anonymous -I have that book -i'll have to check this weekend!

Mark - thats a good connection I hadn't even considered. lots of Clinton jokes with indiscretions there!

Unknown - books are a necessary extravagance! So jealous you had a tour of the Ely residence!!!! Lucky lucky dog.

The Devoted Classicist said...

La Lanterne is one of my favorites, too. I even like most of the inspired off-shoots.

designchic said...

What a treasure that was to receive...love seeing the images!

Windlost said...

What a delightful "house". I'd love a retreat there for a few days. Can you imagine all the light inside. Glorious!!!!

Happy new year Stefan. All the best, Terri xo

Ann said...

Very informative and not to mention extravagant! Happy New Year!

Architectural Watercolors said...

Happy new year S! All the best!

A great post on la Lanterne with wonderful illustrations, and you have a real treasure in that book!

Actually, the property for decades now has been a private retreat for the President of France -- so no, you aren't going to find any recent interior photos, unfortunately.

Henhurst Interiors said...

Beautiful. It looks like a fabulous book, looking forward to seeing more.
Happy new year,
Phyllis

un ami de la Reine said...

Thank you so much for posting about this book.

I have stayed in the town at Versailles on many occasions and was utterly unaware of this book but am certainly familiar with some of the houses in it.

That one copy on ABE books had my name on it, I swear.

Best regards,
Philip