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!