THE BILTMORE HOUSE

THE BILTMORE HOUSE

A couple of years ago, my husband, Tom Claus and I spent three fantastic days in Asheville, NC, home to the Biltmore House. The place is awesome. It is the largest privately-owned home in the United States. The 250-room mansion features 33 family and guest bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, an indoor swimming pool with electric underwater lights and a bowling alley. We took an architectural tour and got to see behind the scenes.

A cozy room at the Biltmore

George W. Vanderbilt III knew what he was doing. His inheritance was less than his siblings, but he managed well. He called in the prominent New York architect, Richard Morris Hunt, who had previously designed houses for various Vanderbilt family members, to design the house in the Chateauesque style, using several Loire Valley French Renaissance architecture chateaux, including the Chateau de Blois as models. The house has similar features as France’s Chateau Chambord. He closely copied the staircase of the Chateau de Blois. The estate includes its own village, today named Biltmore Village, and a church in town, known today as the “Cathedral of All Souls.”

Christmas entry Hall

The collections at the house are priceless furnishings and artworks. The house is equipped with every convenience from elevators to refrigerators. The surrounding grounds, designed by prominent landscape architect, who also designed New York’s  Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, are impressive, encompassing 125,000 acres of forests, farms and a dairy, a 250-acre wooded park, five pleasure gardens and 30 miles of macadamized roadways.

Biltmore House was his  country home, a respite away from city life, and a place for his mother when she visited the hot springs in the area. It became an American icon. Unfortunately,  after his death and the passing of his wife, Edith Vanderbilt, it became run down, like other historic sites. Developers offered to buy 12,000 acres to build subdivisions. But George’s great-grandson, William A. V. Cecil, Jr. thought not. By the 1950’s Cecil had started a restoration project. The treasure was to remain with the Vanderbilt family.

Jan Aertsen van der Bilt had emigrated to this country from Holland around  1650. They prospered as farmers on Staten Island, New York and lived modestly. It was only during the lifetime of Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) that the family name became synonymous with extraordinary wealth. It was especially important to me to visit this architectural wonder, not only architecturally, but to follow the trek of the Vanderbilt family.  My affiliation with the 1867 Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk, CT connects me to the Vanderbilt name through the business relationship of Cornelius (aka as the Commander) and LeGrand Lockwood, same as the mansion mentioned above.

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THE COLOR, TONE & VALUE SAGA

THE COLOR, TONE & VALUE SAGA

Avant Garde - One of the four themes in The Mansion at Sofitel Macau

Avant Garde – One of the four themes in The Mansion at Sofitel Macau

Last week Jack and Jill were in a muddle with their choice of a dark paint color. To get out of their jam, they called in a professional. They knew the eggplant color had an edge, but they didn’t know how to use it. The designer explained how color, tone and value can work to their advantage. Together they created an environment that fit their lifestyle.

Dark colors, like eggplant, black and rich dark-chocolate brown can be a brilliant backdrop for art, furnishings, upholstery and more . . .  simply by contrast and color. You can see how the light colors pop against the dark walls in the picture above. Any room can be painted in dark colors–living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, family rooms. These dark colors are not new, they have been used forever. Dark wood walls, beams, wood floors  and furnishings were all used in the early centuries.

All the paint manufacturers have rich dark colors, Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Farrow & Ball all make quality paints. Sometimes, although you’ve chosen a dark color, it takes two coats to cover the paint on the walls to get the cover and depth those tones create. So how do you do this? Houzz, a popular site filled with design and decorating information has the answers with pictures: Here’s the link for you.

Last week’s blog talked about tonal distribution, and according to Ethel Rompilla’s and the New York School of Interior Design, Color for Interior Design, tonal distribution is a fundamental principle that goes back to the earliest interiors with the concept of nature’s distribution of tonal values. We feel more comfortable in a room with a light ceiling, medium walls, and dark floors, which parallel the tonal values of the sky, trees and earth. Understanding that, there are numerous variations and exceptions to the theory–like the walls of the black bedroom at Boscotrecase, and the still popular dark wood paneling in traditional rooms seen in the early centuries. In the 1960s to today, we love the variations of the dark walls and lighter floors in contemporary spaces.

This week we are also addressing chromatic distribution. A second general rule follows nature’s distribution of vivid color in its accessories, such as birds and flowers, and is also allied to Munsell’s theory that strong colors should not overpower weaker ones. The guideline states that the largest areas of a room, such as floor, walls and ceiling, should be the most neutral. As size is decreased chromatic value can be increased. Furniture or draperies can be brighter, and small upholstered items or accessories and other accents can be the most chromatic. Many successful interiors break this rule, but you should be aware that there is a chromatic range on walls in which, depending on the light, an intense color can become intolerable.

To be continued . . .

Other news . . . My publisher, Soul Mate Publishing, has  blogger hosts C.D. Hersh, featuring my book, Indigo Sky, on their Friday, April 29, 2016 blog. I would be honored if you visit and comment. Here’s the link: http://wp.me/p1tsn7-16j

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