27 Oct How Opulence Can Be Relevant To Your Regular People Home
As a child, I was a voracious reader. There was a time during elementary school I clearly remember checking out three books every other day from my school library. I would put a flashlight under my pillow so I could read at night when I was supposed to be sleeping. I simply loved books…and stories…and literature. I especially enjoyed mysteries, but I also relished history and biographies of people from all areas of life who accomplished great things.
In my teen years, I started reading authoress, Edith Wharton. Her more famous titles are “The House of Mirth” and “The Age of Innocence”, but her short stories are where I believe her true genius lies. Her tales focus on the privileged class of her era at the turn of the century, and are filled with humor and wit. But not only was she a talented writer, she was also one of the first recognized American female interior designers.
In 1902, she built The Mount, her home in Lenox, Massachusetts. She penned many novels there and fashioned the home and astoundingly beautiful gardens around her design philosophy, which she highlighted in her work, “The Decoration of Houses” in 1897.
Five years ago, my husband and I took a trip to Massachusetts, spending a day at The Mount. We still talk of the grounds and the home.
You could even pick apples nearby.
It was all very inspiring and yes, romantic even, but I can see how people shy away from translating grand homes of old into something of relevance today.
It is sort of like couture fashion…I’m a regular girl, so how does that apply to me? Why should I look at it, think about it, absorb it at all if it is unattainable for me?
I had a conversation with an acquaintance recently about this very subject. She said, “Yes, I think seeing these old homes is kind of cool, but I never really feel like I get anything out of it other than thinking ‘that’s neat’. I will never live in a home like that so I don’t get it really.”
I believe the answer is quite simple…you can be inspired by it. You can take a mix of materials or a fabric pattern or a color scheme from a grand old home where you live or a Downton Abbey episode and recreate it your way to fit in beautifully with your home’s aesthetic. I wonder sometimes if we are so concerned with trends (chevron now, nope now it is hexagons, triangles!) that the thought behind how our home comes together becomes skewed chasing after the here and now, and therefore, the design falls flat.
Below you see a photo of a structure that is quite lovely, you might think it looks like a quintessential country home. But it happens to be a barn on Edith Wharton’s property…A BARN. Perhaps this will inspire you to put some thought into that eyesore shed? or that falling down lean-to against your garage? (ahem, cough, I’m looking at myself)
Perhaps if we slowed down long enough to look at design that has stood the test of time, we could find in it a connection to the space we live in? Whether it be a rented space, a garage apartment, a starter home, a forever home, or an apartment, I wonder if finding a tie to the past that inspires us is the way to an authentic home.
There is a particular space at The Mount that has stuck with me since I first stepped into it. It is a rather grand hall, but the colors and trim work captivated me.
It is a gorgeous space, and I can close my eyes and still see every detail. The barrel ceiling and that gorgeous blue-green trim hue against the creamy ivory background is perfection.
So here I am dreaming of a space Edith Wharton dreamed up and created over a hundred years ago. No, I don’t have a grand hall in my home, nor will I ever, but I do have a space that is getting a makeover. A makeover inspired by this space – a grand hall in a grand home – translated to a small room in my old home.
Next post will showcase this previous mess of a room turning into one of the prettiest rooms in the house!
For more information on Edith Wharton and The Mount, check out this website. This is a must-stop-and-see if you get the chance! I would love to go back!
BellamyPosted at 14:41h, 27 October
Everyone is different, that’s for sure. It amazes me how some people lack the vision to be inspired by everything around them so that it can be utilized to make their space more beautiful. As a lover of my home state Virginia, I have to share a palace of inspiration nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains built as a token of love. Visit if you have a chance for mounds of inspiration. http://www.virginia.org/Listings/HistoricSites/SwannanoaPalace/
GracePosted at 17:26h, 03 November
Hi Bellamy, what a neat neat place. I have never heard of that site before, but I would love to head to that part of the country in the near future and will keep it in mind. Gorgeous! Thank you so much for taking the time to share that with me. G
AntoinettePosted at 14:56h, 27 October
I hear you and I understand! From the books…..the flashlight……the vivid imagination and even the appreciation of those special people that have the capacity to create timeless design!
I aspire to to create spaces that inspire people to…..feel.
I almost threw in the towel this morning….but here you are in my inbox…..GETTING it!
GracePosted at 17:24h, 03 November
Hi Antoinette, what a thoughtful comment. Thank you so much. It is always nice to hear that someone else is seeing what I am seeing…and as you said, getting it. That is EXACTLY what I want when someone enters a space I have designed…to feel…to see with their eyes and feel the message of the room. Well said, well written. Don’t throw in the towel just yet. xo
sarahPosted at 15:04h, 27 October
Grace, THIS is why I love your blog. You make design so approachable. You are obviously very talented and knowlegeable, but you never come across as pompous or know it all. I get this post and what you are trying to convey. Just when I have given up hope on bloggers, you write this. Thank you.
PS. Cant wait to see your room
GracePosted at 17:20h, 03 November
Sarah, thank you so much! Don’t give up hope on bloggers just yet. 😉 xo
CristaPosted at 15:47h, 27 October
I really enjoyed this! Living in a 130 year old building with all new IKEA furniture is quite a juxtaposition for us as we attempt to make our home in Berlin… I’m going to think on this post and see how I can make our living space feel more like a home..bringing that tie to the past INSIDE our apartment. 🙂 Great work, Grace!
GracePosted at 17:19h, 03 November
Oh sweet Crista, how delighted I am to hear from you! Wow, 130 years!! That is incredible! Yes, I think that is a great way to think about it – and it IS possible with a home full of Ikea furniture to mix in the old and make it feel more authentic. I would love to see pics of your space! xo, G
Laura Ingalls GunnPosted at 16:05h, 27 October
Yes! Absolutely Yes! I am not one to really follow decorating trends. I love creating spaces our home that are meaningful to our family. Having just moved into a new to us 30 year old home I am currently working on a Windsor Castle meets Ralph Lauren’s Colo. estate.
I cannot wait to see your take on Ms. Warton’s room. She’s a true favorite of mine.
GracePosted at 17:16h, 03 November
Hi Laura, me too. Your home sounds amazing! I would love to see pics if you are willing to share when you are done. I love the old-meets-new home aesthetic. It is what I strive for in each space I create, whether for me or a client. G
EmilyPosted at 16:45h, 27 October
Two of my favorite things….great literature and interior design! I cannot wait to see what you have done after being inspired by such a magnificent place. And, I had no idea Edith Wharton was an interior designer. Love learning from you Grace!
GracePosted at 17:15h, 03 November
Emily, me too! She was an amazing interior designer and very ahead of her time! xo
Tracy @ Right Up My AlleyPosted at 19:45h, 27 October
I’m a big fan of touring houses. The Mount was on my list of houses to see this summer, but alas, it didn’t happen (hopefully next year). I love your pictures of the Mount and wish there was more picture taking inside the homes, but usually they won’t let you. Edith was an inspiring person, and I read Julian Fellows loves the Mount and felt it an inspiration for Downton Abbey. Edith’s sense of style was very different from her Victorian background. What I learn from her designs is balance and symmetry bring such an elegance and timelessness to a room. There is a lot for us “normal” people to learn from these grand homes. Great post Grace!
GracePosted at 17:15h, 03 November
Hi Tracy, good to know you are fellow historic home tour lover! You should definitely try to go, it is so beautiful! That is so interesting about Julian Fellows – no wonder I love DA so much! 🙂 I 100% agree with everything you said, great comment! Thanks for reading. xo
JacintaPosted at 04:01h, 02 December
I think I saw a short documentary focussed on this house…I thought it was so beautiful!
Anne Nonna MussPosted at 18:35h, 08 September
Was thrilled to see your post on Edith Wharton and The Mount. I too discovered this remarkable woman during my teenage years and decades later still love her dearly. Still cannot believe that her life has never made it to the big screen given the tremendous obstacles this woman overcame. Her humanitarian deeds, literary circle, quest for love, interior and architectural acumen and prolific writings are worthy of documentaries if not a BBC series.
We too toured The Mount and four years ago were fortunate enough to stand in front of her Rue Varenne Parisian residence for a picture with my sisters. Though now privately owned, a plaque gives Edith her due as a great American writer.
Cannot thank you enough for bringing Edith to your readers and can only wonder what Edith would make of her still being relevant and revered over a century later. Gotta join the Edith Wharton Society someday soon. Understand they met in DC this year and I would love to be amongst fellow admirers.
GracePosted at 08:39h, 21 September
Anne, your post gave me goosebumps! I feel your sentiments about her so strongly, and I totally get it. Gah, I would LOVE for someone to make a movie about her life, that would be amazing! Maybe someday we can both join the EWS. 🙂 My husband and I would love to get back to The Mount someday soon. Thank you so much for taking the time to write, I loved your comment. G