Well, you could have guessed my flight did not take off from CLT to JFK. Instead, I am booked on a train to tonight at 2am! Oh well, can’t argue with a couple more days at home, enjoying my parents fireplace and Christmas leftovers.
While the topic is fresh in my mind, I wanted to tell you about our trip to Biltmore House on Monday. We (parents, grandmother and I) had such a wonderful day strolling through the house, doing tastings at the winery, and having dinner at Cedric’s pub on the property. I served as tour guide since I was the only one to purchase an audio guide. I haven’t been to Biltmore in about ten years and plenty has changed. I thought I’d share of my observations from the tour:
Linen wallpaper painted with 24k gold.
George W.V. digs cool wall treatments
Damask, linen painted with 24k gold, silk, tooled spanish leather; the wall coverings at Biltmore were hands down my favorite part. Even today, the colors are tremendously sumptuous. Apparently Mr. V decorated the estate himself and dare I say, he should have been a celebrated interior designer? I think his work has held up pretty impressively. Though the design of the interiors are obviously of the time period, they really aren’t what you’d consider old fashioned or even entirely out of style. (Read: I want to live there.)
Portraits by John
Sargent Singer, that is. George and his wife Edith were friends with John Singer Sargent and he painted many of the portraits displayed at the Biltmore House. I especially enjoyed the ones of the Biltmore architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (of Central Park fame.)
The library where guests would gather for stories after dinner. They often read from A Christmas Carol during the holidays
Rooms for everything
After dinner the men would go to the Smoke room for a cigar or pipe… In the evening the guests would gather in the third floor living room to relax… At 5pm they would take their tea in the Tapestry Room and listen to music… In the morning Edith and George would have breakfast in the room separating their bedrooms and Edith would discuss her plans for the day with the housekeeper.
In the evenings Erin would fix her own dinner/eat in her one kitchen then walk about 10 feet to her one living room where she’d watch TV/work on her computer/talk to BC/relax. i.e. My rooms are entirely too multi-purpose!
Cage lights via Remodelista
I spied cage lights in the Halloween room in the basement! They were just like the ones I’ve been coveting from Repop NY. The Halloween room is a room downstairs that was painted especially for a party in the 20’s. If I closed my eyes I could totally envision the room full of masquerade masks on pretty flappers and their beaus having such a scandalously fun time!
Mrs. Edith Stuyvesant Vanderbilt
The best part of Biltmore is that there is record of the happenings at the estate. For instance: Edith Vanderbilt selected gifts to give to all the staff member’s children at the annual Christmas party. The children usually liked their gifts except for one girl who told Edith she could keep her paper dolls! (Can you imagine? My mother would skin me alive for being so rude.) But Edith just asked the little girl “What would you like to receive?” and the girl pointed to one of the glass ornaments on the tree. So every year Edith would pick up a glass ornament in Paris to give to the little girl until eventually she had quite a collection. Years later, the grown-up little girl’s cat knocked over her Christmas tree and destroyed all those glass balls from Edith Vanderbilt!
As I told my father “That’s what you get for having cats!”
Base of the Grand cantilever Staircase at Christmastime
I joked in my previous entry that you wouldn’t see Biltmore on “in need of preservation” list but the truth is being able to afford private preservation is really a unique and admirable thing.
After the death of George Vanderbilt (whose fortune had depleted after his expenditures on the house and some bad investments), Edith was left to run Biltmore all on her own. She sold some of their land to to create the Pisgah National Forest and other pieces of land as finances dictated, then later left for Europe. George and Edith’s daughter Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil returned to Biltmore in the 1920’s with her husband and when the Depression struck they decided to open the house to visitors. This decision helped to support the upkeep of the house and to build a tourism market in Asheville. Since 1930 the Biltmore Estate has been privately preserved, in that our ticket entry money helps the family to afford the amazing work they do in curating and restoring the property.
The Cecil family has been able to preserve the dream of their great-grandfather and have made the Biltmore House a place of inspiration, awe and wonder. It’s really a special treat to have the opportunity to glimpse into the past in this way. Those of you planning a visit, prepare for a glorious day!
Images via The Biltmore House unless otherwise noted