Tabulous Tastemaker ~ Edith Wharton

January 24, 2017

By Tab Byrum

I haven’t done a Tastemaker post in a while, so I thought today would be a great day to do one on one of my favorite authors and decorators, Edith Wharton. Several years ago I went through an “Edith Wharton phase” where I read as many of her books and short stories I could get my hands on. I love the way she writes and of course, her stories take place during America’s Gilded Age as well as beautiful descriptions of trips across the ocean to England, France, and Italy. One thing many people don’t remember or know is that Wharton was known for her interior design capabilities and the gorgeous designs she came up with for her home, The Mount, as well as helping others with their own homes. Wharton was born on this day in 1862 in New York City, her parents were George and Lucretia Rhinelander Jones and it’s said that the saying “keeping up with the Joneses” refers to her well to do family. (above image via)

A young Edith Wharton. (via)

Young Edith grew up during the Gilded Age of the America and Europe following the Civil War, she attended the best schools and her family traveled extensively through Europe, going the first time at the age of four and staying for six years. Wharton didn’t have her first novel published until she was 40 years old, in spite of that she proved to be a prolific writer publishing 15 novels, 7 novellas, and 85 short stories before her death in 1937 at her home in France.

A look at the original version of The Decoration of Houses on the left and a version from Rizzoli available today. (via)

In 1897 Wharton’s guide to interior design was published under the title The Decoration of Houses, the book was against the Victorian style of home decor and was much more in favor of strong wall and ceiling decorations as well as well-suited furniture and favored homes using symmetry and balance in their decoration. The Decoration of Houses is often cited as the beginning of Interior Design becoming a profession for people with Elsie de Wolf being one of the first. If you have a chance to read a copy of The Decoration of Houses do so, it’s still very relevant today and if you’re a fan of gothic romances or just good stories check out a Wharton novel or collection of short stories. Here’s a look at some images from Wharton’s life, Enjoy!!!

The Mount, Wharton’s country home located in the Berkshires in Lennox, Massachusets. (via)

A look at the interior of one of the rooms in The Mount. (via)

The Library at The Mount, note the photograph on the left of Wharton sitting at her desk in this room. (via)

Another of the beautiful books on design Wharton wrote this one looks at Italian villas and gardens. (via)

Edith Wharton, 1862-1937 (via)

As a side note, you can visit her country home The Mount, definitely on my list of beautiful things to do. 

Words are my own.

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