Like many of you, Gentle Readers, I have been tearing through The Gilded Age on HBOMax.
Created by Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame, it essentially IS Downton Abbey, just earlier and New-York-ier. Mr. Fellowes clearly embraces the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to show development, and I, for one, am not complaining.
Designed by the architectural firm Peabody and Stearns in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, the massive house was completed in 1891. And I do mean massive: the house has 36,000 square feet of living space that includes 19 bedrooms. 19!!
Tragically — and this is not hyperbole; it IS tragic — the house contains no original furniture. None. Everything you see in these pictures (and there isn’t much) is a replacement. I was hugely disappointed, of course, but three features of the house almost made up for it.
First is the intricate, hand-carved wood. Whereas the interiors of the mansions in the TV show The Gilded Age are tall, light, open, and airy…
…Hill House has dark, carved wood on the walls, stairs, columns, fireplace surrounds and beams in all public spaces.
It gets quite dark and moody. I love dark and moody.
The second remarkable feature is the gold-leaf ceiling in the dining room.
Not paint, actual gold leaf. These pictures do not do it justice: the ceiling is stunning.
The third and final feature is the Italian, hand-tooled leather wallcovering in the same dining room.
The wallcovering is in such bad condition now…it doesn’t look grand anymore. It looks kind of creepy, actually. Flaky and reptilian.
But just imagine how amazing it must have been in 1891! It looks like it used to be rich golds and greens. Showy, yes, but amazing and stylish? ALSO YES!
That’s the fun of visiting house museums, for me: imagining how people actually lived in the space. We know that President McKinley had a meal or two in this room…I certainly hope he appreciated the wallcovering.
Annie Elliott Design is based in Washington, DC, with offices in St. Michaels, Maryland and Middlebury, Vermont. Thank you, Houzz community, for voting us Best of Houzz – Design for the third time!