An Intimate Look at Maisons Laffitte

The city of Maison Laffitte, with its magnificent chateau, is very close to Paris. The area used to be called Maisons-sur-Seine – the Houses on the Seine – until the chateau (built in the 1600’s) was bought after the French Revolution by the banker Jacques Laffitte. Maison Laffitte is the city of horses and contains the largest hippodrome in the Paris region . It’s not unusual to see riders in the city streets or in the nearby paths of the forest of Saint Germain-en-Laye. I got most of my information from these websites: here, herehere, and here and dug up a little information about the architect here.

Shall we start our tour?

This is taken on a rainy day from my car (while I'm driving *ahem*) and as I'm crossing the Seine

This is taken on a rainy day from my car (while I’m driving *ahem*) and as I’m crossing the Seine

This one is a little nicer - closer up, and a view from the side.

This one is a little nicer – closer up, and a view from the side.

And here is where you actually enter - from the back.

And here is where you actually enter – from the back.

Right through these gates (taken on yet another grey day in Paris)

Right through these gates (taken on yet another grey day in Paris)

The architect of Maison Laffitte was François Mansart. He made popular the style of roof that you see in Paris – the one that is sort of boxy-looking with little windows that stick out. It allows for the most habitable space possible without creating a building that is too tall. Although this style was first seen on part of the Louvre, built in the 1550 by Pierre Lescot, a house that is built in this style takes after Mansard’s name instead and is known as “mansardée.”

See the roof there? There's a slight incline, and almost flat on top, with dormer windows. That's mansardée.

See the roof there? There’s a slight incline, and almost flat on top, with dormer windows. That’s mansardée.

When you get inside, you’re in a marble and plaster vestibule that was enclosed only by iron gates (which are now located in the Louvre). There are four eagles, which are the symbol of the noble Longueil, who was granted the territory of “Maisons” by the king.

maison laffitte10And to the right is a staircase that is typical of Mansard, where part of it is “floating” and seems to be suspended in midair without the pillars.

maison laffitte11When you go up the stairs and turn left you’re in the Italian Apartment, or the King’s Apartment. Because of course Longueil built the house so it would be fit to invite Louis XIV to stay there during his hunting trips to the forest of Saint Germain-en-Laye.

Fine attention to detail.

Fine attention to detail.




A wall of mirrors, similar to the one Mansard's nephew built some years later for the Chateau of Versailles.

A wall of mirrors, similar to the one Mansard’s nephew built some years later for the Chateau of Versailles.

We were definitely saved by the little audio pieces that told the history to children who could have easily become bored.

maison laffitte15From the window here, we can see across the bridge (over the Seine) towards La Défense in the distance. You can see why this is such a prime spot now, as it was then.

maison laffitte16The portrait here is of the king, of course, since these quarters are devoted to him.

maison laffitte17

Pucker up baby.

maison laffitte22

And here is the king’s bedroom.

maison laffitte19and its magnificent wooden floors

maison laffitte20

along with his bathroom. Gives a whole new meaning to “on the throne” doesn’t it? laffitte21

Continuing on the second floor, we now come to the room on the right – the queen’s bedroom, which Maréchal (Sergeant) Lannes, the Duke of Montebello, who served under Bonaparte took for his own. He became Maisons’ owner in 1804 in between campaigns and settled his wife and five children there, but was mortally wounded in 1809.

maison laffitte26The intricate floor in the circular “Mirror Room” which was used for scholarly discussions and intimate musical performances.

maison laffitte24The room itself . . . maison laffitte25

Hm. Where shall I put the clock? Here? Or here?

maison laffitte27There is fine attention to detail everywhere you look.

maison laffitte23The walls made of crushed marble

maison laffitte28the cloth wallpaper

maison laffitte29whose borders are all sewn by hand!!!maison laffitte34

As you can see, we’ve moved on to other quarters (and I have less pictures here because the little radio thingies had lost their charm for the kids).

maisons laffitte1Downstairs on the first floor (or ground floor for you Europeans) left, we have the Room of Captives – that of René de Longueil, its original owner. It’s called that in tribute to King Louis VIII’s victory over the Spanish.

maisons laffittea1And on the right hand side we have the Count d’Artois’ room. Although most of Maisons Laffitte was built in the Baroque style, this room was redone in the Neo-Classic style by Bélanger for d’Artois. He was very discreet, however, and did not deviate too much from the building’s origins.

maison laffitte30Yes, I realise you can’t see anything at all in this picture.

Okay, moving right along because the kids are bored and hungry! Let’s peek downstairs at the servant’s quarters, where all the fun happens if Downton Abbey is to be believed.

maisons laffitteb1Stone floors.

maison laffitte32A large, stone bath, filled with hot water by servants carrying copper kettles.

maisons laffitteb3The kitchen

maison laffitte31with its immense fireplace.maisons laffitteb2

And secret passageways that lead to an outlying building that is now a private school, called L’Ermitage.

No, this is not the passage. That one’s secret!

maisons laffittec1The banker, Jacques Laffitte was instrumental in the Revolution and even injected 400,000 francs of his own money to save the government from financial crisis. He eventually gave up his government position and retired to his very own Maisons Laffitte, where he parcelled out the land – tearing down the renowned stables to build modest dwellings for the middle class. Like this.

maisons laffitted1And this.

maisons laffitted2The Chateau de Maisons Laffitte was bought by the State in 1905  to avoid demolition, and in 1914 it was declared an historical monument. No one lives there now.

maison laffitte36However . . . I must tell you that real people actually do live in those other houses!

maisons laffittee1Maisons Laffitte. Not just for horses!


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I am the daughter of a symphony musician who was raised in upstate New York, and I simply breathe all things classical, be it music or 19th century literature (English and Russian). I married Sir Renaissance in New York City, and before I knew it, he had swept me up and brought me back home to his own country. So here we are. Three children, a rather ordinary life in a rather exceptional place. I am now ‘A Lady in France.’

Posted in France, Tourism, Tout le Reste (Everything else)
11 comments on “An Intimate Look at Maisons Laffitte
  1. Alison says:

    How fascinating! I truly wish we had more time in Paris (and ahem, sans kids) – we would definitely do more sight seeing and picture taking. I love the look into the bedrooms and ‘downstairs’.
    Alison recently posted…Through The Lens Thursday #9: HandsMy Profile

  2. I’ll take the modest dwelling for the middle class 😉
    And the gate is one of my favourite features – very impressive!
    (I love your posts about France, brings back good memories)
    Kerstin @ Auer Life recently posted…Experience2014 – February Round-UpMy Profile

  3. Andrea says:

    Gorgeous! I just love peering into these old homes – and imagining what life was like behind the walls. Thanks for the tour, even if the kiddos thought it tiresome. :)
    Andrea recently posted…Math WhizMy Profile

  4. Keely says:

    I wish to travel with you. These are gorgeous!
    Keely recently posted…Working From Home With Kids: A Primer.My Profile

  5. Ann says:

    What a wonderful tour! I love going places like this; if I ever make it to France, I’m sure I’ll be seeing it in person.
    Ann recently posted…Bittersweet Treats in PasadenaMy Profile

  6. Which one is yours?
    tracy@sellabitmum recently posted…She Loves Me AnywayMy Profile

  7. Tamara says:

    The bathroom! Oh boy. I bet that was pretty comfy by his standards. Although the bed doesn’t even look fit for a king. Was it king-sized? Looks like not!
    I keep looking at these and wondering what kind of lens I’d need to photograph inside and out. It would require switching, I think.
    Or just using my iPhone!
    Tamara recently posted…The Funny Words & Phrases That Have Had Me Laughing For Years!My Profile

  8. So beautiful! I love the wallpaper and the floors!
    I would love to see it someday!
    Kim@Co-Pilot Mom recently posted…The Traffic WhispererMy Profile

I'm Jennie. Welcome to A Lady in France! I write books, and also this blog on faith, French culture and recipes ... ( To continue reading, please click here. )

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