Houzz Tours: Edith Wharton’s The Mount

June 2, 2018

Today I’d like to take you on a tour of some remarkable property that has undergone a huge restoration to make it back to its former glory. It is The Mount, the home that Edith Wharton had built in 1902 in Lenox Massachusetts. Even though many understand Wharton since the first girl to win the Pulitzer Prize and could be familiar with her fiction, you might not understand she authored several novels about decorating and garden design. The Mount is where she put her theories into practice and where she finished a number of her most famous works, making it”an autobiographical residence.”

In 1897, Wharton co-authored her first published work, The Decoration of Houses, together with architect Ogden Codman, Jr.. Together, along with architect Francis L.V. Hoppin, they designed The Mount, an estate in which Wharton authored many functions, including The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome. They sited the home atop a rock outcropping to make the most of the views of the Berkshires. There is so much to show you that we’ll take a tour of the gardens later this week. For the time being, let us go inside!

Tired of dirty and oppressive Victorian architecture, Wharton was much more interested in the pleasing classical proportions of Italian architecture. This shows in the gallery on the main floor.

The gallery allows access to all principal rooms on this floor, including the library, den, drawing room, dining area and staircase. Even though the gallery is filled with objects Wharton gathered on her extensive travels, the distance was retained quite clear for flow and entertaining.

Among many details in the gallery is that this bas relief of John the Baptist.

The floors of the gallery are marble terrazzo.

Wharton ardently believed that the key decoration of a library should be novels. She was also a big proponent of built-in shelves.

The built-in shelves and paneling are walnut. The photograph over the fireplace is of Wharton writing in her desk in this area.

While the picture portrays Wharton writing in her desk, she actually did a lot of her writing in her mattress.

The drawing room is the largest room in the home. Highlights include big tapestries inset into the paneling on either end of the space. The originals were from the early 18th century and have been reproduced from photographs as part of the restoration.

Should you look closely at the front right corner, then you can see one of many first doorknobs that lived.

The drawing area was reimagined by Charlotte Moss in 2002, who honored as much of the original French-inspired design as possible. French doors lead out to a huge veranda.

The drawing area, though very big, includes three intimate conversation areas.

The home was in a terrible state of disrepair once the restoration began, and the elaborate ceiling has been water damaged. Work on the broad moldings, particularly on the ceiling and the fireplace in the drawing area, was painstakingly recreated and restored.

The light-filled dining area was superbly recreated by Bunny Williams. As in the drawing area, these doors lead out into the long veranda.

The one photograph Williams needed to go on revealed white French armchairs, a round Victorian dining table plus a pillow to get a favourite dog. (Those actresses who carry small puppies around in their bags did not start the puppy trend).

Floral arrangements vary with the seasons.

Like the majority of the rooms in the home, the dining area has a marble fireplace.

For orientation purposes, the butler’s pantry is to the left; you may see the most important staircase through the doorway; adjacent to that is the gallery; and also to the right of this area is the drawing area. I took this picture with my back into the doors that lead to the veranda (we’ll get a good look in the veranda in an approaching ideabook).

The dining area is filled with intricate plaster pieces designed by Wharton’s design partner, Ogden Codman.

The plaster sculptures were predicated on the work of Grinling Gibbons, a 17th-century English woodcarver.

Just beyond the dining area is the butler’s pantry.

Exquisite built-ins continue into this utilitarian space.

This is the house’s most important staircase, situated at one end of the gallery. Windows bring in the natural light. Wharton believed in bringing the outside in and supplying lots of access to the outside, visually and physically.

The animal-print carpet was a part of a showhouse setup and not Wharton’s selection.

A gorgeous wrought-iron railing pops up the staircase, and oil paintings fit perfectly into the panels. At the time, the design of this railing was likely to be used outside, but Wharton did not think in such boundaries between indoors and outside.

The restoration on the next floor is continuing. This floor included the bedrooms, boudoirs and several bathrooms. Wharton believed that a hallway was a principally a passageway and not a living space, thus it’s left relatively plain. It leads to the majority of the rooms on this floor, including a guest space for Wharton’s pals like Henry James.

That is Wharton’s boudoir. It’s an upstairs retreat (not her bedroom) that included eight still-life paintings from Milan, a gorgeous marble fireplace and much more ornate plasterwork. It was here that she may have worked in a desk, captured a nap on a daybed, or entertained her intimate friends.

Restoration continues on the next floor. One accomplishment was recreating this background in a guest bathroom. It was replicated by Scalamandré in 2006 based upon remains of the first paper found there.

Historic properties like The Mount are all our state’s treasures. The Mount is one of those mere 5 percent of National Historic Landmarks dedicated for girls, and restoration and upkeep are expensive. Support The Mount together with your visit, or in the event that you can’t make it in person, make a donation online.

Stay prepared to get a tour around the gorgeous grounds and gardens of the estate later this week.


The Decoration Of Houses (1897) by Edith Wharton – $16.73
Are you fascinated by The Mount? If so, you are going to like Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman Jr.’s advice on the decoration of homes.


An Affair with a House by Bunny Williams – $40.95
Bunny Williams, who restored the dining space, has restored a beautiful New England home and gardens of its own, making her a poetic option to work on The Mount. This book is filled with information concerning the restoration of her home.


Charlotte Moss Decorates: The Art of Creating Elegant and Launched Rooms – $31.50
Charlotte Moss has been a perfect selection for restoring the drawing space in The Mount. If you’re interested in seeing more of her job, this is a stunning and inspiring book to enhance your collection.

Ancient Colors
The Modern Butler’s Pantry
Away into the South of France

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