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Edith Wharton’s Summer Home in Newport

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Festivities and fireworks started early this year at Private Newport when Town & Country kicked off the long weekend with our story on entertaining Newport style at “Land’s End.” How exciting and thrilling!! I couldn’t wait to share this with you…

Nick Mele grew up in Edith Wharton’s former home, Land’s End, overlooking the crashing waves off Newport’s famous Cliff Walk.

His grandmother was a legendary fixture of society in Newport and Washington, D.C., and today the photographer and his wife, Molly are a part of those tastemakers who bring the summer playground to life on the sea, at the beach, and throughout the salt-sprayed estates of Ocean Drive.

Their Instagram account,, often captures this side of Newport: the ambiance, the sensibilities, the details that set it apart from every other summer destination. “A charming patina from generations of being,” as Nick, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Town & Country, and Vanity Fair, describes it.

Many homes in Newport, like Land’s End, are only gently touched by modernity. They’re extravagant, yet livable at the same time. Here, we asked Nick to turn the camera on himself. His affection for entertaining is charged with memories of family heirlooms, customs, and rituals. He finds inspiration in the story of how something was used and who used it. “Newport is a town that refuses to forget its history and traditions,” Nick says.

The Front Hall

You never know who, or what, might greet you in a Newport home. Here, designer Camilla Bradley kisses Molly Mele on the cheek.

A Quintessential Newport Living Room

With buttercream walls, chintz and portraits on the wall, this room has said “family home” for more than a generation.

The Butler’s Pantry

Nick was intrigued with his grandmother and what made her a great hostess, though he, “didn’t appreciate until [he] was older that it is details that make up the grander scheme.” Finger bowls hold an attraction for him, and Herend china is taken often from the butler’s pantry.

A Simple Lunch

Yes, it’s a casual lunch of pasta and salad but that still provides Nick and Molly an opportunity to bring out the silver salt and pepper shakers, the oil and vinegar cruet, and an antique tole flower container.

What’s a luncheon in Newport without a decanter of arsenic and hemlock?

The Bar

That staple of a good party is narrow but efficient, located off the entry hall and opening into the billiard room and onto the pool.

The Flower Room

Cuttings from the garden are arranged here for parties.

The Billiard Room

Land’s End is not afraid of bold walls.

In a town of tradition, family is obviously important. For Nick, it’s never too soon to introduce his son Johnny to the world of good manners, “even if it’s a tough sell sometimes.”

Family Photos

The requisite piano photos display “Newport moments in time,” from Nick’s annual Fourth of July party to a long list of bold names including the Reagans.

“You couldn’t collect in a lifetime what has been passed down through three to four generations,” Nick says.

The billiard room includes other games.

Nick spent many nights as a teen playing billiards, chess, and backgammon in this room with friends.

The End of Another Summer Day in Newport

Overlooking the Cliff Walk, the garden at Land’s End was sited on space that once belonged to the greenhouse.

And from Newport, one of the seats of the American Revolution, let me wish you a  Happy Fourth of July — God Bless this Wonderful Country.

All images by Nicholas Mele, well-known in Newport and Palm Beach for his lifestyle portraits and interior photography. His work has been published in the New York Times, Vanity Fair online, Quest, Interview, Palm Beach Illustrated and Town & Country to name a few. 

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

13 thoughts on “Edith Wharton’s Summer Home in Newport

  1. What a piece! Thank you for beautifully and artistically capturing such a cherished part of our Newport lifestyle.

    1. Thank you, Barry, wouldn’t mother be having fun with all this?

  2. It is just so delightful seeing these beautiful
    pictures! Thank you so much!

  3. Love Mrs. Wetmore’s bunnies! What a beautiful photo with the ocean behind them!

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