Château de Villette is a remarkable 17th-century château that has been sympathetically renovated to offer 21st-century luxury. Set in 185 acres to the northwest of Paris, ‘Le Petit Versailles’ is a remarkable and historic château close to Paris. It features a seven-bedroom main château with connected east and west wings. Alexis Jamet, of Savills associate Agence Varenne, describes its history and transformation.
What is Château de Villette’s historical pedigree?
The château was built for one of King Louis XIV’s ambassadors. It was designed by François Mansart and built by Louis XIV’s lead architect. The gardens were designed by the King’s landscaper, André Le Nôtre, who was responsible for the park and gardens at the Palace of Versailles. This is why the château is often known as ‘Le Petit Versailles’.
In the 18th century, the Grouchy family became the owners through marriage, and rose to be prominent historical figures in their own right. Emmanuel de Grouchy was one of Napoleon’s top marshal-generals, but his glittering career was brought to an end at Waterloo.
His sister, Marie-Louise-Sophie de Grouchy, married the Enlightenment philosopher Nicolas de Condorcet. The couple were early champions of women’s rights, and Sophie entertained brilliant thinkers such as Voltaire and Rousseau at the château. She also engaged in a scandalous relationship with Lafayette, one of the key figures in the American Revolution, and it is said that Thomas Jefferson visited the château with him.
Could you tell us about the recent renovation?
During the 20th century the château fell into disrepair, but in 2011 new owners set out to restore its splendour. They are passionate about art and history, and it has been their aim to once again open the doors of the château to a new generation of guests. Over the past four years, the home, its gardens, the two spectacular lakes, the 16th-century wine press, the magnificent cascade fountain, the glasshouse and the orangery have all been renovated to the highest standards by the renowned French decorator Jacques Garcia.
The challenge for him has been to combine historical accuracy with a high level of 21st-century comfort and luxury. Everything was carried out under the supervision of Jacques Garcia in collaboration with Pierre-André Leblaude, chief architect for France’s historical monuments, and the château has been fully furnished with 17th-century antiques. Yet, look closer and you will also find a heated swimming pool, a security system and even a helipad.
The main château has also had a complete structural re-set, including a new Mansard roof (a style named after François Mansart himself). This ensures its integrity for the next 100 years.
Do you have a personal favourite among the restored interiors?
I would choose the large octagonal reception rooms on the ground floor. They have soaring ceilings and magnificent panelling, and – when opened up together – give stunning views of the fountain and the surrounding landscape. When the sunlight hits the water jets, the colours are indescribable. It truly is a magical place.
Details and contact
Price POA (Also available for seasonal rentals)
Contact Alexis Jamet