The Follies of Le Château de Groussay
By Muffie Cunningham
One of my favorite 20th Century designers and tastemakers is none other than the uber-talented Emilio Terry. Terry was a rich, Cuban-born French architect who, just after World War II, turned Château de Groussay into a heavenly habitat for patron Carlos de Beistegui. The Château, which is located in Montfort-l’Amaury, was built in 1815 for the Duchesse de Charest, the daughter of the Marquise de Tourzel, who was the governess of the royal children of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
The extraordinary gardens at the Château de Groussay are classified by the French government as one of the Remarkable Gardens of France. Terry, along with de Beistegui and Alexandre Serebriakoff, created an exceptional garden oasis on the property between 1950 and 1970. Located due west of Versailles, the gardens at the Château dot the once-royal landscape with a Chinese Pagoda, La Tente Tartare, a labyrinth temple, and a maze, along with the more traditional Pont Palladien and La Colonne Observatoire.
It was the Swedish-inspired blue and white and parcel-gilt tôle tented folly, on the grounds of the Château, with a blue and white tiled interior, that first captured my attention. The regal proportions, gilded tasselled lappets hanging from the peaked roof tops, and knotted faux-fabric sashes, that captured my heart and imagination. Terry found inspiration from the Guard’s Tent at Drottningholm Palace, which was built in the late 18th Century for the Swedish King Gustav III. The interior at Groussay is encrusted with Dutch blue and white tiles in a nod to the Ottoman Empire. Modern, lushly upholstered banquettes lined the right end of the room, making it the perfect space for intimate gatherings, or a brief tête-à-tête.
As a contrast to the Tente Tartare, Terry designed the Chinese Pagoda in 1963. This whimsical three-tiered folly has fretwork panels and scrolled elements accenting the tin roofs. It sits beautifully on a stepped hexagonal stone foundation in the middle of a pond. The chinoiserie painted interior is as inviting as the setting.
The exotic Colonne Observatoire was created one year earlier, with an exterior staircase flanked by a delicate S-scrolled balustrade, and surmounted by a gilded star. This lush landscape is also home to the Italianesque Palladian bridge, and the moss-covered brickwork and limestone obelisks. An inviting walk through the gardens brings you to the pedimented folly, a welcome shade on a sunny day in the French countryside.
The fertile imaginations of Emilio Terry, Alexandre Serebriakoff and Carlos de Beistegui, created one of the world’s most glorious park-like landscapes. It is well worth the trip!
Feature image: Tent Tartare at Château de Groussay, courtesy of Yvelines Tourisme.