Biltmore Estate

Along the way we took a day to explore Biltmore Estate.

Everything about this reminded me of visiting one of Britain’s stately homes – Longleat or Chatsworth, for example, mixed in with a chateau in France for good measure. There was a working farm, a winery, a forest – and a house. My grandson said it was a palace, and I guess he was right.

My hips forbade me from accessing anything other than the two floors accessible without climbing stairs, but even so, it was a fascinating day. Built in the 1890s by one of the Vanderbilt family as his home, it was first opened to the public during the depression years. It is still America’s largest private house, and is owned by the grandson. The house covers 4 acres – just to put that in perspective, I grew up on a mixed farm which was just 8 acres, and which was large enough to support our family.

I expected something over the top grand and garish and was pleasantly surprised. Well, the Great Hall was a bit ridiculous, super-sized and worthy of nothing less than an absolute monarch, complete with thrones and an organ and somehow more reminiscent of a cathedral in its grandeur and size, but the rest of the house was rather lovely. My favourite bits were the hand-tooled leather walls of the billiard room, and the gold-painted burlap walls in one of the bedrooms. That’s right – burlap. Surely one of the cheapest and plainest of fibres (otherwise known as gunny sacking, or hessian, made from jute…)

And there were a couple of Renoirs, a painter who has always been one of my favourites. Lovely.

Unfortunately photos were not allowed inside, but here are some photos taken outside and in the grounds.


Biltmore Estate — 5 Comments

  1. Yes, the exterior puts me more in mind of a French chateau – or palace, as your grandson said. Pity they didn’t have an elevator or facilities for people who have difficulties (if only temporarily) with stairs.

    Did it spark any inspiration for new story settings? 🙂

  2. No, not really. At least, there was little there that I wasn’t already familiar with from elsewhere. The architect just pinched from here and there, different times and different styles – tastefully, but there really wasn’t anything original. Well, I hadn’t seen gunny sacking on the walls before…lol!! How South Asians must laugh about that – I loved the overall effect though.

    I have poked around extensively in UK, Scotland, and much of Europe and North Africa, not to mention a few bits and pieces of Asia, so for me it was more a matter of recognition and reacquaintance.

  3. Oddly enough I have come across burlap on the walls – and burlap painted over, so you get the texture but a different colour.

  4. But as the bedroom wallpaper in a 19th century mansion, all done up with gold paint? I have seen it as an artform in the modern context, but this juxtaposition just threw me. Loved it.

  5. Not done up with gold paint, no. But in C19th and early C20th buildings. I’d have expected it to be in servants’ quarters within a mansion, though, if it was anywhere at all.

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