Magnificent Homes of America – The Biltmore House Part Two

Aerial shot – via Flickr

In Part One of my tour of the incredible Biltmore House
I wandered through the public rooms on the main floor.
These are huge spaces,
built on a grand scale with soaring ceilings, ornately carved surfaces,
and priceless furnishings – all meant to impress…
and they do!

Grand Staircase – via Biltmore Estate


But, seeing the private spaces on the upper and lower levels is even more intriguing to me.
It’s gives a closer look at the facinating people who called Biltmore home,
from the Vanderbilt family and their friends, to the many servants who made life so luxurious
for the few.


What I didn’t realize was how special it was to be able to
tour these private rooms at all! The suite of four bedrooms on the second floor
were not open to the public until 2009, after being closed off  for 100 years!

Restoration was tedious and time-consuming. Each room had unique issues.
For the renovation of  the Louis XV Room below
a team of curators and conservators traveled to France to collaborate with
 Tassinari And Chatel in Lyon
 to insure the exact replication of the gold and red silk cut velvet that adorns the windows and the walls. Meanwhile,
tradespeople took on the painstaking task of cleaning, repairing and restoring what was worth saving.


As I’ve discovered in other "Magnificent Homes" I’ve visited,
it takes a lot of  skill, patience and detective work to uncover the original finishes.
At the Biltmore, they found clues under door mouldings and drapery brackets,
which lead to the fabulous paint colors and fabrics you see here.

Louis XV Room – via Biltmore Estate

This is my favorite of the four refurbished bedrooms.
It is a classic example of  the Louis XV period, with the delicate curvature in the furniture
and lavish use of gold in the fabrics and finishes.

But there is a lot more to this room than it’s opulence…
It is considered the "True Heart of Biltmore", according to Romantic
It was Edith Vanderbilt’s special room and where she chose to give birth to her only child,
In the tradition of her mother, Cornelia delivered both of her sons in the same room!

It is said that the wonderful lighting that filtered through the windows
reflected off the gold silk fabrics and created a radiant shimmer that was captivating
to both Edith and Cornelia.
It was definitely mesmerizing the day I was there!

Tyrolean Chimney Room – via Biltmore Estate

The Tyrolean Chimney Room is my second pick on the second floor.
Named for the overmantle constructed from Tyrolean tile
I like it because it has a unexpected simplicity and "charm"
not seen in other parts of the house.

What’s interesting is that George Vanderbilt was drawn to this tile at all,
given the lavishly ornate style he was known for.

He found the tile stove on one of his many trips to Europe and
was determined to find a way to incorporate it into the Biltmore.
By making it into an overmantle, he repurposed his treasure in a very effective way.
It’s now the focal point of the room.
I could definitely stay here for the night!

Downstairs is a story in itself!
Armed with vivid imagery and drama from Downton Abbey episodes,
it is easy for me to imagine the lives of the many caretakers
who lived and worked in the basement of the Biltmore House.

servants quarters – via Biltmore Estate

Servant bedrooms are a stark contrast to those upstairs.
Note the light on the wall above the bed – a constant reminder that
they were on-call 24/7.

Basement main kitchen – via Biltmore Estate   

Mr. Vanderbilt made sure the main kitchen was equipped with latest
inventions in food preparation. But for the staff, it was still a very labor intensive process
to create the lavish meals that were served every day upstairs.

From a design perspective, there is so much to look at here!
I love the utilitarian aspect of the kitchen that made it so functional,
but it’s the craftsmanship that gets my attention!
Check out the patterned tile floor and and the turned legs on the work table.
Even the large oak door is beautiful with its six pane divided glass.
And what’s not to love about the hanging light fixtures! " Industrial Chic" in its original form!

bowling alley_via Pinterest

The basement wasn’t just a working environment for the staff.
It was also a place for the family and friends to play.
The bowling alley, built by Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. in 1895,
was a favorite with guests.
Great utilization of typically wasted space in a basement, don’t you think?

Indoor swimming pool_via Pinterest

But the indoor swimming pool is the shining star, in my opinion.
It was considered an engineering feat in its time, with an elaborate system
devised to pump in the water and then heat it.
I love the tile work that covers the entire space.  It too required a highly sophisticated design
to create supports that could carry the weight of the tiles on the arched ceiling.
 With the pool empty, you can see the underwater lighting,
which was truly innovative considering that very few homes even had electricity at the time.
Imagine the delight of guests when they saw this engineering wonder!
You can almost hear the laughter…
In fact, there have been reports of  hearing strange sounds in the pool and even
seeing a dark figure swimming under the water.


I know I’ve only skimmed the surface of this magnificent home,
and as I write this, I’m reminded that I need to go back yet again
I’ve already mapped out it out – a roof top tour, although considered a little scary
if you’re afraid of heights, and then a Christmas Candlelight tour through the house to
see it all dressed up for the holidays.
Can you tell I’m enamored with this place?
Don’t be surprised if there’s a Biltmore House – Part THREE!


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