gardens

the gardens at Monticello

 

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Monticello was Thomas Jefferson’s attempt at creating an American villa rustica, or gentleman’s farm. Jefferson wrote: “…cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, & they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty & interests by most lasting bonds.”

art, interiors

Edith Wharton’s elegant country style

ECS_The Mount_interior

It was in a country setting that Edith Wharton hit her stride. True, she was in a failing marriage and not yet a famous author, but it was at her country estate, which she called The Mount, where she met the love of her life and where she became, not just a writer, but a successful novelist. Somehow during these years (1903-1908) of glory and gloom, she was essentially building two houses: one real, The Mount, and one imagined, The House of Mirth.

 

ECS_The Mount

When she began designing, decorating, and landscaping The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts, she’d already co-authored a book, The Decoration of Houses (1897), about architecture and design with architect and friend Ogden Codman, Jr., so she knew exactly what she wanted (privacy, sweeping vistas, impressive gardens, European influences, and American touches, like green exterior shutters and green and white awnings).

She would not live there long, and she would have other homes, even another country home in France. Yet, one could argue that it was here where she began her singular and abiding devotion to creating—body and soul—a beautiful house and garden and a sense of place.

While living at The Mount, Wharton wrote: “Decidedly, I’m a better landscape gardener than novelist, and this place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth.”

antiques, gardens, inspiration

peacocks and potted hydrangea

ECS_peacocks and potted hydrangea

This is what I would call an enchanting entrance, and it leads (so I am told) to an enchanting place. Who wouldn’t want to follow that dirt road?

Furlow Gatewood, in his late nineties now, was born and raised in Americus, Georgia and his cluster of houses, where he currently resides, are part of his families’ original property. There is a main barn, three houses, and several outbuildings and gardens. After some time in Manhattan and Savannah, Gatewood returned to Americus and began his work designing, decorating, and living here.

He is self-taught and often begins a project without planning but relies, he says, on his vision and instinct. His knowledge about architecture, design, and antiques (not to mention “the art of living”) is widely respected and sought after. Those who know him describe him as the quintessential Southern gentleman with an exquisite eye for what is beautiful and interesting to him. There is a touch of whimsy to his style that is utterly inimitable. (See one of his rooms in previous post here.)

What I admire so much about Furlow Gatewood’s philosophy is his unstudied, yet classical approach to outfitting a room, and his willingness to take small risks that seem to say: “Just don’t take it all too seriously.”

architecture, inspiration

an American country house

ECS_Ruby Boyer Miller House_Harrie Lindeberg

One would imagine that simplicity on a grand scale would be hard to pull off, and yet, this rear façade image shows us how one man did just that. The Ruby Boyer Miller House was designed by architect Harrie T. Lindeberg, and is featured in the recently published Harrie T. Lindeberg and the American Country House by Peter Pennoyer and Ann Walker, as one example of the many homes he created.

Lindeberg, inspired by the past and influenced by many traditions, including English, French, Swedish, and colonial, believed in simplicity and comfort, and in designing homes that belonged to their landscape. At the height of Lindeberg’s career, the new American country house movement (1900-1930) was in full swing. One architectural critic described his designs as, “…comfortable houses with a domestic spirit, but at the same time beautifully executed works of art.”

Indeed, for while this is clearly a refined, stately home, it manages to seem quite welcoming.