Here’s the crazy thing about the Chateau de Maisons, a gorgeous 17th-century estate easily reached from Paris by RER and then a quick walk: Louis XIV — whom you may remember him from all the sex on the BBC series Versailles — was here when it opened in 1651, and used it as inspiration for Versailles.
The architect was Francois Mansart, whom you may remember from his eponymous “Mansard roof” but probably don’t because the BBC never made a TV show about him in which he was constantly naked. He does, though, occasionally get an entire Pinterest board for his roofs.
Let’s take a look at this beautiful castle/historical residence, which is approximately 60% as amazing as Versailles but 100000% more enjoyable to visit, as it is closer to Paris and there are literally no crowds. I was there for an hour and saw precisely three other people, plus the cashier.
This chateau isn’t stuffed with furniture the way that the Chateau de Champs-sur-Marne is — and modern urban planning has meant the that castle is cut off from its former hunting grounds (now parkland). This is not, now, the best sited chateau near Paris, given that it opens onto some highways and backs onto a residential street — pretty, but it’s certainly not the jardin remarquable of Champs-sur-Marne. So a visit here really is about the house itself, and the furnishings that remain.
Like this Hall of Mirrors, above. According to man of letters Charles Perrault, Chateau de Maisons, “of which he [Mansart] had made all the buildings and all the gardens, is of such a singular beauty that there is not a curious foreigner who does not go there to see it, as one of the finest things that we have in France.” Perrault, by the way, wrote fairy tales including Cendrillon and Le Petit Chaperon Rouge: Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood.
In the 18th century, the house came into the hands of Louix XVI’s brother, the Comte d’Artois, who later ruled France as Charles X. His rule ended in the July Rebellion of 1830, which handed the monarchy from one family (the House of Bourbon) to another (the House of Orléans) but also created the conditions for the anti-Orléanist June Rebellion of 1832. Which is Les Misérables!
A few more design notes here. The herringbone floors: sigh. All the gilded moldings: Sigh. And how simple — almost Art Deco! All those right angles and rectangles, swoon.
The lower-floor vestibule is pretty empty of furniture but it’s still beautiful.
There is a billiards table in the game room.
And then this: actually my favorite room, with the stucco treated to look like terrazzo. Honestly — it’s a terrazzo masterpiece. (A little dark, but still a masterpiece.)