Thursday, April 28, 2011
My Chateau of Inspiration
When I saw this house in Newport, I fell in love. It stands on a green hill, grand but not haughty, elegant without being cold. Until the Vanderbilts started building their mega-mansions in the 1890’s, it was the palatial mansion in Newport.
When William died in 1862, the house passed to his son, George, who eventually became the governor of Rhode Island (1885-1887), and a state senator (1894-1912.) He hired Richard Morris Hunt to transform the house—which Hunt did, starting in 1871. He changed it so much that many people thought the original house had been torn down. Hunt later was the architect on the Vanderbilt’s Breakers and Marble House.
I include Mr. and Mrs. Wetmore at a dinner party in Chapter 13 of my book. A little ironic twist that they are guests in the fictitious Langdon mansion inspired by their very real home.
An Unlikely Suitor. I am very partial to wood trim (you would know that if you saw my house), so the paneling of the grand entry really spoke to me. Plus, the stained glass and skylight are stunning. I had great fun writing a scene where my immigrant seamstress character, Lucy, first walks into the house.
The second room I used was the French parlor—that I called Mrs. Langdon’s morning room. It’s notable because the wood paneling of the rest of the house is present there too, but Edith Wetmore had it painted white. As a lover of wood and its grain I cringed. But it’s a very feminine room in a very masculine house.
Third, was the Butternut Bedroom. I made this the bedroom belonging to my main character, Rowena. She’s very warm and unassuming, and I felt the color of the butternut wood suited her, and was a contrast to the formal, assuming, white morning room preferred by her mother.