Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Magical Morning at the Hillwood Estate, DC

On Saturday I went with a group to Hillwood Estate, a property in DC which I'd never heard of before. It was owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post (Postum Cerael Company) and this lady had built up a magnificent collect of French and Russian art pieces, displaying them in this mansion which she had purchased specifically to turn into a museum, inviting friends and colleagues to visit and view her treasures, and then donating the estate to the public after death so everyone could experience the wonder of these fabulous and often priceless artifacts.
She had been the only child of Charles William Post and he had kept a tight rein on her throughout his life so that when he died she felt like a released bird and at the age of 27 was one of the wealthiest women in America. While taking an active interest in the company, she also traveled across Europe throughout her 3 marriages and built her collection which would become known as one of the finest in the world.
It felt like a privilege to be able to walk so freely throughout the mansion and gardens, and get so close to the exhibits. Upon entry we all just stood, not knowing where to look first or what room to head towards. Visitors can roam wherever they please, I only noticed a couple of doors marked 'private'
 This is part of a painting from Russia called A Boyer Wedding Feast painted in 1883 by Konstantin Makovskii, acquired in the 1960's just before Marjorie opened her house as a museum. The rich colors and detail are incredible.
 Every piece of the house was furnished luxuriously, there was detail on the walls, the floors and the ceilings, yet it didn't seen overdone because of Marjorie's exquisite taste and planning. Every room was inviting, and rather than feeling how ostentatious it all was, I just gasped and marveled at the wonder of it all.
Every doorway and every light switch was decorated.
The jewels on a Faberge egg; there were some beautiful pieces here.
Photography was allowed everywhere as long as flash wasn't used. There were some serious photographers there but it was nice to see they didn't block any of the rooms with tripods. Everyone was walking through the house along their own route, and as we came across each other we smiled, exchanging praises at how amazing this house and contents were.
There were quite a few portraits of Marjorie around, mostly of her on her own. And I also spotted a few of Winston Churchill...
The Dining Room made my jaw drop. I was in awe of the place settings, those gold plates and beautiful teal stemmed glasses.
All over were collections of china in vibrant colors, cleverly displayed in darker corners or against neutral walls, catching our eyes with strong splashes of color. I loved this small vase noting the incredible detail in the painting.
I've never seen one of these before, in fact there were many things here that I'd never seen before.
The Library with another fabulous portrait surrounded by intricate detailing in the wall and fireplace.
A bedroom. Exquisite. With many Wedgewood ceramics.
One end of the upstairs floor was Marjorie's bedroom suite.
This hallway led to 2 dressing rooms and closets. The wallpaper was silver with decorations. As I walked through I could smell perfume and wondered if it was actually coming from the walls and carpet, embedded from so many sprays from long ago, or a cleverly hidden air freshener.
This beautiful French screen had a mirror set in the middle and a clock with cherubs. Would look wonderful next to my bed...
The French Drawing Room.
More beautiful artifacts from the Icon Romm which housed a lot of her smaller items including her Faberge eggs.
I had to go back to the Dining Room again before I went outside to the gardens.
The garden was very serene despite being able to hear traffic in the background from the city. There are many established trees and the whole area is broken up into 'rooms' creating little quiet arbors on the grounds.
Some of the gardens are formal with benches and sculptures and there are also quiet shady walkways under huge trees with rampant dark green undergrowth.
The Japanese Garden is spectacular with many Japanese elements, some of which you don't notice at first. There were stepping stones and a little bridge crossing the pool with many sculptures.
A huge greenhouse is home to many orchids. Outside is the cutting area where fresh flowers are used to decorate the house, the cafe and where also fresh produce is grown to be used at the cafe.
I adored this English hare.
I wasn't sure about these sphynxes but there were definitely intriguing.
The French Garden which is overlooked by Marjorie's bedroom.
There's a Dacha and an Adirondack style house in the gardens used for exhibitions. I noticed all the buildings had these cool eagle snow guards on their roofs.
This is easily the most sumptuous and the most enjoyable mansion I've ever been in. Marjorie knew exactly what she was doing with her home and collections, every intricate detail was meticulously planned to give an ultimate experience for the visitor. I felt like a kid in a toy store. I came the closest to experiencing what it must be like to open a treasure chest, discovering jewels beyond my wildest imagination. Marjorie knew that most people would not be able to experience the really luxurious in life, and so had created a world where we could, for a few hours imagine what it must have been like. She has given to the public some of the most beautiful treasures in the world, displaying them in surroundings where they can be fully appreciated, rather than in a private display or stuffy museum. It felt wonderful to have such freedom in this house, to really enjoy it. You're even allowed to bring your own food in or purchase food at the cafe and eat it anywhere you choose in the gardens where there are many small seating areas scattered around.
Here is the website where places I haven't even mentioned are shown and more detail given. I will definitely be coming here again, this really is where fabulous lives.

No comments: