Monday, November 17, 2008


This weekend I had a friend in town and we went to visit the estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post, Hillwood. If you aren't familiar with her, she was an heiress born in 1887 who at the young age of 27 inherited the Postum creal company which through her 2nd husband, E.F. Hutton she transformed into General Foods: So - big bucks. She had a fascinating life and became a hugely important collector of Russian, French and English decorative arts from the 17-19th centuries. sterling silver light fixtures at the entry
Marjorie started to seriously collect French decorative arts in 1919 for her New York apartment after her first divorce. Later, while living in Russia with her 3rd husband (1937-1939) she became interested in Russian decorative arts and amassed a huge collection of imperial and religious objects. Always obsessed with royalty, she collected faberge works of art and portraits of many people of Russian nobility. gilded fountain off the breakfast room
Also a major collector of porcelain, her different sets of china are displayed around her house in beautiful lit cabinets ( you know I love that! ). These sets mostly have historical significance though as well as being pretty.rear of the house
In 1955 Marjorie bought Hillwood (a 1920's 25 acre estate )here in Washington to showcase her collections with the intention of turning it into a museum. In 1973 upon her death, the estate opened up as a museum.rear of the house behind lit statueformal french garden alongside the living room
After buying the estate she hired the architect Alexander Mcilvaine (the name of my kindergarden teacher!) to remodel and expand the house and gardens and the famous interiors firms French & Co. and McMillen & Co to help revamp the interiors. For 2 years they worked tirelessly to transform the estate into a majestic setting for her royal collections. The exteriors are quiet but trust me the interiors are sumptuous (unfortunately photography was not allowed indoors but i've included interior photographs from the website at the bottom of this post). terrace fountain off the living roomcloseup of lanterncloseup of statuaryother end of the fountain in the formal french gardenthe rose gardenThe elegant foyer; the large portrait is of Catherine the great that she had gifted to a Belgian banker who lent money to Russia to fund a war.The library is directly off the foyer. The beautiful portrait to the right of the door is of Marjorie in 1934 .another view of the librarythe enormous dining room. The table was originally in her Florida home, Mar-a-Lago and extends to seat more than 30 people. The tabletop is a marble mosaic of intricate design featuring 11 different stones (luckily the lace tablecloth shown here wasn't on the table this weekend and I got to see the actual table).
the cozy breakfast room off the dining room. The room is modeled on her breakfast room in her 1920's nyc apartment: the bronze grillwork is actually from the apartment. The green glass and gilt bronze chandelier comes from one of Catherine the great's palaces - the Catherine Palace outside of St. Petersburg.The icon room located between the living room and library. The case in the center of the room is by Faberge and features different Faberge items including 2 royal easter eggs.
Join me tomorrow for a tour of the beautiful Japanese garden!

All photographs are my own except the interiors, to learn more about the estate visit their website HERE.


pve design said...

Oh, thank-you for that tour! I will think of this with each spoonful of my cereal!
Your photos are wonderful!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Thanks, Patricia! It was such a beautiful place it was hard not to get a good photograph, even through the rain and wind (talk about monsoon!)

katiedid said...

How lucky that you live so close to so many wonderful architectural and design inspirations! Thanks for the beautiful tour!

Toby Worthington said...

By strange coincidence I happen to be reading a biography of Marjorie Merriweather Post. There are photos, but nothing as good as those you've posted.
For which, thanks very much.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Katie, I do feel lucky and try to take advantage of the opportunities every chance I get! Loved the write up Joni did on you, congrats!!
Toby, it is a small world, I find small coincidences like that all the time! I hope my photos are able to fill the story in for you a bit! Now we just need to get to Mar-a-lago!!

Paul Pincus said...

thank you for such a fantastic post / tour! the terrace fountain off the living room and lanterns are stunning! the gilded fountain is insanely beautiful : )

ps post's daughter, dina merrill, is also fascinating! you could spot her often in east hampton village looking gorgeous and late as 2001.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Paul, I loved that little terrace off the breakfast room as well with the gilded fountain! pure opulence! The gilding throughout the estate was especially bright, maybe it was redone recently? I don't remember it being as bright 5 years ago when I visited.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

It is all so stuffy, no? I like her story and general liveliness better than the decor of Hillwood. She had an awfully pretty house in Connecticut when she was married to her first husband, Mr Close (Glenn's great-uncle, I believe).

ArchitectDesign™ said...

AAL, the atmosphere is rather formal, as it was a home for entertaining diplomats and the like but I wouldn't call it stuffy. These interior photos appear dated,very posed and sort of fake, I think it felt more personal in person with many family photos and items dating it to the 50s&60s. But definitely a very formal home.

Topsy Turvy said...

So sorry I missed this on my trip! I love the gardens, and the fall color makes it especially pretty.


ArchitectDesign™ said...

I should have suggested it, Lana -Had I only thought of it! I know your love of gardens!!