It was a gloomy, rainy weekend here in DC which gave me the perfect opportunity to kick start one my intentions for the New Year and make a visit to the Hillwood Estate & Museum. The former home of Post cereal empire heiress, Marjorie Merriweather Post, the Hillwood Estate is one of DC’s hidden gems–figuratively and literally.
The Cartier exhibition (ending January 11) is what finally prompted me to check Hillwood off of my DC to-do list. The jewels, as to be expected, were dazzling–Marjorie had exceptional taste and commissioned jaw dropping sets of diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, turquoise and coral as one of Cartier’s most important and prolific American clients.
I’ll be pulling out my copy of Cartier in the 20th Century for more inspiration and company history–it’s obviously so much more than the ubiquitous love bracelet so often seen on the arms of fashion bloggers today.
The estate itself–a Georgian mansion filled with 18th century French antiques and the largest collection of Russian imperial art outside of Russia–is pure opulence. Imagining the level of wealth required to fill a house with such treasures–not to mention maintain it (with the help of hundreds of staff, of course)–is almost unfathomable.
Some of the details that caught my eye included Marjorie’s insane collection of turquoise Sèvres porcelain (not pictured). Her kitchen was filled with hundreds of sets of exquisite china, and as evidenced by her immaculately set breakfast table (first photo) it’s no wonder she was revered as one of Washington’s finest hostesses.
Custom lavender velvet sofas with pop-up trays for drinks and snacks served as seating in the pavilion which housed a projector screen for after dinner entertainment. Velvet upholstered walls envelop the room and have an added bonus of sound proofing. Wouldn’t those sofas still be amazing today? keeping them in the memory bank!
No surface of the home was without ornamentation. The floors in two small anterooms flanking the first floor library were inlaid with brass sunbursts, doors were decorated with gilded carvings, and–my favorite detail–the brass ‘Do Not Disturb Resting’ signs on guest rooms.
Photos weren’t allowed in the Cartier exhibition, but the diamond set in the last photo showcased in Marjorie’s dressing room should give you an indication of how Marjorie rolled… dripping in diamonds.
If you’re in the DC area, put a visit to the Hillwood Estate & Museum on your to-do list. It really is a fascinating glimpse into the life of extraordinary wealth.
I’m planning to visit again in the spring to see the gardens, but in the interim I’ll be picking up a copy of American Empress to learn more about Marjorie’s fabulous life.