Sunday, January 27

Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Edith Wharton paved the road for future design bloggers

 If alive today,
 would Edith Wharton be a design blogger?

poised at her desk,
 Wharton  wrote about and influenced
the happenings of the interior design world
well before others, keeping her finger on the pulse of society

I dare write that if novelist Edith Wharton were born to this era, she would be a design blogger fascinated with history, architecture and with a streak of women’s liberation and social commentary mixed into the pot.  Well ahead of her time in the late 1800s, Edith hailed from one of NYC’s prestigious families, and wrote during a time where there was an emphasis on beautiful homes, dress and style.  Not content with her status in life, Edith was compelled to pursuit two of her life’s biggest passions; storytelling and decorating. 
  Edith's first book was on decoration and architecture, and brought a resurgence of popularity for the Robert Adam's style of architecture and furniture from the 1700s. Promoting the use of lighter hues of blue and greens and a classical, lighter feeling toward furniture and decorations as opposed to the heavier, darker colors that were popular during the Victorian era when Edith was writing.
 She loved gardens, decorating and architecture, yet she had strong opinions about women in our society.  Many know Wharton as the amazing famous novelist who won a Pulitzer Prize for the Age of Innocence, and published over forty books, but equally compelling and memorable are the elaborate interiors and architecture she described with remarkable detail in her novels.  Those of us who swoon over her design books, the Decoration of Houses and Italian Villas and their Gardens value her as one of our country’s first decorators.
"Decidedly, I’m a better landscape gardener than novelist",
Edith Wharton
  Wharton had a lifelong passion for gardening 
illustrations for the Italian gardening book were 
from artist Maxfield Parish
 "The traveller returning from Italy, with his eyes and imagination full of the ineffable Italian garden-magic, knows vaguely that enchantment exists: that he has been under its spell, and that it is more potent, more enduring, more intoxicating to every sense than the most elaborate and glowing effects of the modern horticulture.” Edith Wharton

Following the print of her very first book, The Decoration of Houses, many talents were influenced to follow their passions in becoming professional decorators, such as Elsie de Wolfe (known by many as one of America’s first decorators). Wharton's writing career began with writing about design when she co-wrote the The Decoration of Houses with her architect friend, Ogden Codman.  They channeled their dislike for Victorian architecture of overstuffed furniture, heavy drapery and cluttered spaces, by rallying the beauty and symmetry of the balanced and proportionate interiors and architecture from simple, classic design.  Since Edith’s parents were from New York City’s "Old Money" Dutch and English set, Edith was perfectly poised throughout her life to create her rich and detailed stories.  As is true throughout history, old wealth looks down on the newly rich’s flagrant display of recent success so Edith had a wonderful perch to view the fashionable society from New York City to Paris and Newport.  She wisely captured it all for us in many novels -- who can forget the amazing performance of Daniel Day Lewis, Winona Ryder and Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie version of the Age of Innocence, yet equally memorable are the beautifully set tables and decorated rooms.

In 1993, Martin Scorcese's motion picture adapted from Wharton's novel, 
the Age of Innocence, he captured Wharton's views.
Production Designer: Dante Ferretti | Art Director: Speed Hopkins | Set Decorator: Robert J. Franco & Amy Marshall

Wharton’s novels depict the American life in the early 1900s in a way that is both fascinating while chronicling the design of those times in an impeccable manner. Many of Edith’s characters (such as Lily Bart in The House of Mirth) are victims of social convention, trapped somehow in their lives, but women who strive to overcome obstacles – hail to the women’s rights point of view!
 Later in life, Wharton moved to Paris to live in the historic Saint Germain area and socialized with intellectual, artistic community she felt a kinship with, although she never abandoned her commitment to helping women.  During war, she helped to create workrooms to employ and support women.
Wharton’s country home in Lenox, Massachusetts is a testament to her talent as a decorator.  There is a recently published book about Wharton, her time living at the Mount, keeping us all entrenched and fascinated with this amazing women - check out
Wharton's country home in Lenox:  view from the gardens

 and the newly published book:
author Richard Guy Wilson; photographer:  John Arthur
photographs below - courtesy
 drawing room at the Mount
 Wharton's boudoir at the Mount
 dining room at the Mount
second floor salon entryway at the Mount
Wharton kept everyone abreast of design, style and social issues and without her the world of interior design may not be what it is today.
 It is apparent decoration, gardening and “nesting” stayed close to her heart through her entire life as she mused about it all, while still today keeping us on the edge of our stylish seats.  
Happy Nesting XO

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