My second Wharton post takes a look at a non-fiction book dedicated to the house she lovingly designed and built called The Mount. Located in Lenox, Massachussetts, Wharton lived here from 1902 to 1911 when she permanently moved to France. The Mount was her first full scale house project overseen by her from the ground up. And what a beauty it is.
I love houses and interior design so I was very pleased to discover that Wharton had passions for both subjects as well. In fact, her very first published book was on the art of interior decorating. How many people knew that? I didn’t. She also wrote books on garden design and loved traveling to such places as France, Italy, and England to draw inspiration.
At Home documents Edith’s early childhood briefly before delving into her first house projects – those homes she occupied during the beginning of her marriage in Newport, RI and New York City. The novel quickly moves on to the first design ideas of The Mount and the chaos involved in building such an estate. The reader also gets quite an impression of the ‘gilded age’ with all its splendor and money. Several famous architects are discussed as well as first hand anecdotes of the society that visited Edith in her many homes.
Stepping inside The Mount once it’s finished is breathtaking. The pictures throughout the book are stunning – some literally taking my breath away. I cannot imagine living in such monstrosities and was amazed to learn that Wharton’s house was built on a rather narrow budget!! I also adored thinking of her sitting in The Mount’s corners, writing away at Ethan Frome.
I wouldn’t recommend At Home to everyone, just those of you would might really enjoy a book devoted to architecture, beauitful stately homes, and Edith Wharton. You get a real sense for who Edith was and how her passions filled her writings. The book reads very easily and didn’t feel dry a single time. The pictures are worth the rather large price tag – sometimes I would find myself just staring at them, wishing I could walk the gardens (which I totally can and plan on doing someday!). Such a gorgeous addition to my collection!
Hearing of Edith Wharton through the words of her great friend, Henry James.