Edith Wharton's The Mount & Interior Design

Instructor: Amy Jackson

Amy has a BFA in Interior Design as well as 19 years teaching experience and a doctorate in education.

Edith Wharton is known for her writing, but she was also an authority on architecture and interior design, and a contributor to the American Renaissance. This lesson will focus on her home The Mount and its noteworthy interior design.

Who Was Edith Wharton?

Edith Wharton is thought to be one of America's greatest writers. She wrote an astounding 40 books in the same number of years. While she is well known for her fiction books, she is also regarded as an authority on architecture and interior design, and a contributor to the American Renaissance.

Her own home The Mount has its own noteworthy interior design. Let's take a look at her ideas on design and get some more details of this impressive home

Early Life

Born in 1862 to a wealthy family, Edith lived during a time when women were expected to marry and have children. She however, broke through those boundaries with many literary works of fiction, architecture, interior design, and travel.

Married to Edward Wharton in 1885, her life consisted of travel and houses. During this time, she developed her interior design skills. In 1897 she co-wrote a successful book on interior design and architecture, The Decoration of Houses. Many consider it to be the most influential book on the subject written by an American.

The Mount Inspirations

Wharton believed a house should incorporate the design principles of proportion, harmony, simplicity, and suitability. Wharton collaborated with architects, designers, and landscapers to see her design vision become reality at a home her own.

The Mount was originally built on 113 acres of land in Lenox, Massachusetts. It was inspired by the Belton House in England and was finished in 1902. Created to be one complete work of art from the house to the gardens, the design was influenced by European traditions but adapted to American landscapes.

Wharton began working on the design of the house and gardens with Francis Hoppin, the interiors with her colleague Odgen Codman, Jr., and some landscaping with her niece, Beatrix Farrand.

The Mount, Lenox, Massachusetts
The Mount

The Mount Construction

In the construction of The Mount, Wharton put all her design theories into use. The house itself is three stories, stucco clad with green shutters, and built in the English Georgian style. It has 25 rooms and 16,000 square feet of living space.

Built on the side of a hill, The Mount overlooks three acres of formal gardens, as well as having panoramic views of surrounding hills and lakes. The house and gardens are influenced by designs of the English, French, and Italians. Also included on the property is a two-story stable, gatehouse, and greenhouse.

One of the gardens of The Mount
The Mount garden

The Mount's Interior

Wharton thought New York was ugly, reinforcing her sensible interior design. Her interiors are sparse rather than cluttered with furniture. All the rooms work together in similar styles.

Wharton believed that interior décor has to coexist with the architecture as a unified whole, and each room is designed for its function. At The Mount, all ground floor rooms open into a vaulted gallery hall, for displaying Wharton's collected art. The arches in the gallery are influenced by European design.

The interior also boasts ornamental ceilings with plaster reliefs, a library built to hold over 2,500 books, a servant wing, and an eight-bedroom attic for servants. While most of the furnishings were inspired by her European trips, there are many American Colonial features like the exterior shutters and awnings that speak to the American Renaissance style.

Library at The Mount
Library The Mount

Edith lived at The Mount for only nine years, moving to France after her divorce from her husband in 1913. The Mount was sold to a series of private families, who sold off much of the acreage. It eventually fell into disrepair.

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