First, a thank you to designer Penelope Bianchi who was kind enough to send me this listing!!
Over the years many stories have been written by various bloggers (including moi) about the architecturally important manse “Pavillon de La Lanterne” – the 18th century hunting lodge located in Versailles Park in France. This romantic house consists of one main wing, long and one room deep, which makes it an enfilade – meaning each room connects to another in a straight line, without the presence of halls. You can stand at one end of the house and look each the rooms to the end of the wing.
Further, the name “La Lanterne” comes from the fact that the house is considered see through - being that you can stand outside the front of the house and see straight through to the back yard. The house is particularly alluring at night, when lit up.
Called “The Bachelor of France” and the “Secret Place of the Republic” – La Lanterne has not been properly photographed in decades. A huge thank you to architect/blogger Stefan Hurray for this photograph taken from his 1920’s book. This is the best photograph of the house available today – and it almost 100 years old.
The house on the Versailles grounds is hidden behind two fences and the air above it restricted, further limiting photographs.
Over the years, many architects have used La Lanterne as inspiration when designing large, custom houses. There are several of these La Lanterne inspired houses in the states and bloggers have written about many of them.
Some of these La Lanterne inspired houses are listed on the National Registry of Historic Houses and are found in books on architecture. When these houses happen to come up for sale, their association with La Lanterne is used as a selling point.
A few years ago, one of the most lauded La Lanterne inspired houses was sold – the David Adler designed house for Carolyn Morse Ely, built in Illinois.
The Carolyn Morse Ely House in Illinois, above, designed by David Adler, is a wonderful example of a La Lanterne inspired house. Notice how closely this house resembles the La Lanterne house. This house was recently sold and it was thrilling to see inside the house after reading about it for decades.
The living room in the Carolyn Morse Ely House by David Adler.
And here, is a second much lauded La Lanterne inspired house built in the United States in 1931. Known as Ker Arvor, the house was designed by Russell & Clinton of New York for Snowden Andrews Fahnestock (1886-1962).
The house is now listed for sale and photographs of it are online.
The house is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and was featured in Country Life Magazine in 1935. Its current houses totally renovated the house adding 18th century floors, European hardware, and handpainted wallpaper which was recreated from the original papers. It is located on 9.1 acres on Harrison Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island. The house is an amazing recreation of La Lanterne – except for the bright white stucco, as noted by famed blogger Down East Dilettante !
The back of the house with the covered terrace that overlooks the large yard.
Another view – here showing the swimming pool.
The terrace with porteries that block the wind and shade the sun.
Looking out towards the property.
Another view of the flagstone terrace.
There is a large French inspired garden past the pool.
The garden with sculpted boxwoods.
At the end of the box garden is the fountain that creates the symmetric design.
Close up of the front facade showing the wing – which is not a copy of the original La Lanterne wing.
Twin box flank a French window – on each side of the facade.
The large entry with marble floors accented with cabachon. This is the same floor found the entry of the Versailles La Lanterne. The house is furnished in French design with lots of antiques.
At the left is the large living room with the Versailles patterned parquet floor. I love the living room!!! It’s so warm and inviting!! A true Lanterne – there are windows on both sides of the living room – so that the front and back lawn are seen from here.
A view of the front windows. Love the French table and stool. Love the wallpaper and the window treatments. AND, I adore the shelves!!!
Along the back wall is another sitting area with antique French stools and a beautiful antique painting.
The dining room has gorgeous Oriental wallpaper.
The paneled library with blue and white dishes and fabrics.
The marble mantel. Such a pretty vignette in the library.
Behind the sofa is the console table and card table.
The wet bar with the large painted French cabinet. Through the door is the card room.
The card room with the Pompeian prints on the faux stone walls.
The kitchen. The house looks like it was probably decorated in the early 2000s. It needs a update – mostly in the kitchen, but I wouldn’t change too much else myself.
The breakfast room with the bakers rack.
The master sitting room. Love the paintings and prints.
The master bedroom – love this vignette!!!! This house makes me miss seeing this kind of decor more! Today, it’s trendy for nothing to match. I miss seeing things that look so good together!!! Love the mirror and the potted trees.
The master bedroom with the chintz fabric.
Well, this armoire needs help. But I like the paneling in this room. And I love the pink rug!
The guest room with twin beds and Starke sisal rug. Very classic and pretty!
Another view – love this sitting area with the fireplace.
Upstairs are a series of guest rooms.
And this one – which I like. Love the fireplace and the doors.
The New York Social Diary posted a few photos from a party held at the house, Ker Avror, which shows it in a bit of a less formal light. HERE. Here some partygoers at the front door – you can see the lantern effect here – the front door looks all the way through the house to the backyard.
And here, in the foyer – with the signature oval paintings.
It was such a thrill to be able to tour Ker Avror after reading about it all these years! And what is such fun is it’s not the only La Lanterne inspired house for sale.
Another French charmer is located in Chappaqua, New York. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that is where Hillary Clinton lives!! Wonder if this is her house?
But – it is another house inspired by La Lanterne of Versailles. This house is on 3.7 acres and is 7600 sq. feet. It was built in 1971 and has 6 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms!
The front facade is a very good inspiration. The facade has the same number of windows and is a correct adaption of the Versailles Lanterne. The only complaint is the roofline above the front section is wrong. Also, the the trim is a bit much – it adds a fussy detail that the simple La Lanterne avoided. And finally, this house doesn’t have the two 1 story wings that the original did and which add so much to the beauty of the house.
The back is another story all together! It totally loses the the La Lanterne criteria and I even wonder why they are using this label to sell the house? The La Lanterne is one room deep with windows on both sides, making the house “transparent.” From the back, you can see that important one-room-deep detail is missing here. Still, the house is pretty enough to give it a look!
Instead of graceful marble, there is tile with black cabochons. Hmmm. I like the graceful line of the staircase.
The living room has twin French sofas and is warm and cozy. The ceilings look like they are 8’ – which is low. A true Lanterne would have taller ceilings – 10’ and more.
The dining room with wallpaper.
The kitchen is really pretty! It looks like it was recently updated.
The family room – looks like it was enlarged which is probably why the Enfilade/La Lanterne details are now missing.
Pretty English style bedroom.
Guest room with French canopy.
Basement rec room.
Swimming Pool – which is really pretty.
I’d have to give this house a C- in the La Lantern adaption. The front facade is a good copy, but the rear facade is not a Lanterne at all. Also, there are no single story wings on each side, which is an important part of the design. And, the interior no longer has the rooms with windows on both sides of the room. I’m not sure they should use the La Lanterne label on this house!!
Let’s look at another contender!!
This house one sold already, but it is still on the internet. Located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, it again uses the La Lanterne label to describe the house. It is located on 5.8 acres and is 14,753sq. ft!!! It has 7 bedrooms and 8.4 bathrooms.
The approach to the house is very much like La Lanterne with the long, tree-lined lane.
The stone posts announce you are getting close!
And like La Lanterne, there are gates that close off the house. This house rates an A+ – on the facade. It has the two one-story wings. The roof line is correct, as are the windows. So far, so good!
Looking from the front door to the front gate with the French knot garden in the courtyard. Very La Lanterne.
The front hall is pure French with winding staircase. The only thing missing is the stone pavers.
Love this hallway.
The living room in green and hot pink. This room gets an A+ because it has windows on both sides of the room, making it a true La Lanterne design.
Same with the dining room.
The bar/library with the piano. OK. This is a great room to have a few drinks in!!!
The game room. True La Lanterne with windows on both sides.
At the corner of the house and the wing is this curved study.
The master bedroom. Hard to tell if the windows are on both sides here?
The grounds are large and very wooded and right nearby the Philadelphia Country Club. Here is a small pond on the estate.
The back of the house retains the La Lanterne design – so I give this house a B.
OK, OK – it’s not on the caliber of the Carolyn Morse Ely house!! But it’s a good copy of a Lanterne.
Do you know of another La Lanterne House????? Send me the address!!
What about the real La Lanterne????
La Lanterne sits on the Versailles property, off the street behind a picket fence and down a tree lined lane, and behind a stone wall. It’s impossible to just drive by it.
A tennis court and swimming pool were added by one Prime Minister.
A view of the house with the wings and the stone wall behind it. The guards rooms are in the right wing and the kitchen and staff is on the left wing.
Off the street is this gatehouse where the guards stand watch.
You would think they would replace this old fence or at least paint it!
Down the long lane you come to the stucco wall. It’s almost impossible to get a full photograph of the house.
Getting ready for a press conference.
As I wrote before, the house is so secluded, there are hardly any photographs of the house. It is used by the French Prime Minsters and Presidents as a weekend getaway and a summer vacation house, sort of like the French Camp David, except it is on the grounds of Versailles. Awwww… Poor French!!!
The house was built in the 17th century and was said to be a hunting lodge used by King Louis XVI. But it is also claimed that the house was given by Louis XV to the Duke of Mouchy who was governor of Versailles. OR, was it built in 1787 for the prince de Poix, Louis XVI's chief bodyguard? Three versions of the origins of the estate – take your pick!!!
Stefan Hurray, architect and fabulous blogger of Architect Design – got this book from the 1920s about houses at Versailles, where La Lanterne was a chapter – including rare, very, very rare photos of the house! A huge thank you to Stefan! Read more of his story HERE
La Lanterne in the 1920s – before the invasive tennis court and swimming pool were built. Look how gorgeous it is in its simplicity. The simple garden, the symmetry, the gravel court. Perfection!!! Just beautiful!
The layout: There is an entry with a dining room at its right and an office, living room, and lounge at its left. Upstairs are five bedrooms with bathrooms. At the left wing is another living room plus the guards rooms. The right wing – is where the kitchen is and the service rooms. The old stables is now a garage. The house is much loved by the Prime Ministers and Presidents who use it. It is said to have one of the best wine cellars in all of France!!!
The stairs and the marble floor with cabochons. There are no photos of the house as it is today, but I’m willing to bet the stairs look exactly the same. Is that the dining room to the right?
The molding, the bench. And notice above the bench – is that a plan for La Lanterne? Is this part of the foyer?
It looks like this plan of La Lanterne!!! Wow!!
The dining room. The stove. The chandelier. The table. The cane chairs!!! Amazing!
And the study that looks into another living room, via the enfilade. Love the chair, of course, and the mantel.
In the early 20th century, La Lanterne was rented out to American millionaires with the hope that they would pay to restore the house, which a few did at their own expense.
De Gaulle set aside the manse for Prime Ministers in 1959 and first Michel Debré moved in in 1959. At that time, La Lanterne was in need of a total restoration which Debre and his wife Anne-Marie undertook, guided by the curator of Versailles. It was furnished using antiques owned by the government. In 1962, Georges Pompidou, appointed Prime Minister, did not want use La Lanterne and he had his Minister of Culture, André Malraux, move in, where he stayed for seven years. Malraux was depressed and an alcoholic who was obsessed with the decor, which he worked on with help from Jean Coural.
There are so few photos of La Lanterne. Here is one on the grounds with de Gaulle’s Minister of Culture, author Andre’ Malraux. He was a close friend of Jacqueline Kennedy.
A rare photograph inside the house! When Malraux left La Lanterne, he moved into his companion’s house, below:
Andre’ Malraux moved into writer Louise de Vilmorin’s house, Verrieres-Le-Buisson, in France. She let him use a room which he turned into his study.
There is this one photo from La Lanterne – notice the paneling has been painted. Is this the same corner as seen above in the dining room in the 1920 photograph? It looks very much the same to me?!!? PM Michel Rocard in 1990.
It was Michel Rocard who added the tennis court and swimming pool, which I think totally ruined the estate! He should have placed the tennis courts further away from the house, instead of being right next to one of its wings. The total amount of the work was 2.9 million francs. "Not one of my successors has written to thank me” Rocard later complained. After Rocard, PM Edourd Balladur spent a lot of time of La Lanterne. When his dog died, he even buried him there – but after his term was over, he dug up the dog so that he could rebury him at his own chalet!!!!
Carla Bruni and President Sarkozy spent their honeymoon here and later, their baby went for a stroll.
President Nicolas Sarkozy took the keys over from the Prime Minister – and he frequently used the house, including on his honeymoon to the model Carla Bruni and photos of them walking with their newborn around Versailles were splashed in the tabloids.
But, Francois Hollande is the President who got into a bit of trouble at La Lanterne. His First Lady was his girlfriend – they were not married. At one point, Hollande invited an actress, Julie Gayet, to La Lanterne and they were photographed by the paparazzi, who took the photos through a well-known hole in the fence. It was said that Hollande knew about the hole and it was also said that one can easily step around the hole and not be photographed. Did he want his First Lady to find out about his new younger girlfriend? Was the First Lady set up? Many in France thought so and Hollande’s popularity suffered. His First Lady ended up in a hospital for a week, in shock over the photos. Later, after recuperating at La Lanterne, she was quietly stripped of her title and disappeared from Hollande’s life and the official web site.
Here is one of the photos of Hollande and his new girlfriend at the estate. His opponents loudly proclaimed Hollande should give the keys back to the Prime Minister because of the scandal. The Prime Minister and the President are in a constant tug of war over the keys to La Lanterne. I suppose it’s the lure of that wine cellar!
Today, the French have a new President with his own love story. It’s a May-December love affair but it’s the husband who is younger than the wife, exactly the same number of years as our own President and Melania! The French seem to be fine with it all!!!
The new French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte. Brigitte now denies she was ever Emmanuel’s teacher. Only the French!!
No word if they are going to be using La Lanterne or if they will return the keys to the Prime Minister!