A special holiday treat I like to give myself is a stroll through Marble House in early December; it truly puts me in a festive mood. With 500,000 cubic feet of marble interiors it was considered the most lavish home in America when it was built by William K. Vanderbilt in 1892.
Though certainly lavish, the appeal for me is the intimacy of the rooms of this Preservation Society house, in contrast to its cousin, The Breakers. Magnificent at any time of the year, Marble House becomes even more magical at the holidays as each Christmas tree so elegantly enhances its space.
So with the weekend to myself, I slipped over late Saturday afternoon. My timing could not have been more perfect…the last rays of the sun were dancing off each ornament of the tree in the west-facing dining room…
and made the luscious smoky-pink marble room even more sumptuous!
One of the most magnificent I’ve ever seen in any museum, here or abroad, the Gothic Room is even more awe-inspiring as it is such a surprisingly small space but bounteous in its detail…the elaborate plaster tracery ceiling, four stained glass windows worthy of any cathedral, the intricately carved, full height Caen limestone chimney piece…all set off against the richest red silk damask walls (as also seen in the featured image above).
While it boasts a massive marble fireplace, the ballroom at Marble House is really about gold and gilt; the tree certainly doesn’t disappoint in carrying out this motif!
And then there is the dramatic stairwell that still impresses me after all these years. Recipient of thousands of “likes” whenever I post it on Instagram, it truly is breathtaking! Don’t you love the way the tree snuggles into the curve of the staircase with a skirt of pale cream poinsettia flouncing underneath?
(On a Side note: One of the docents reminded me that, due to its weight, the stairwell’s elaborate bronze chandelier is attached to a steel plate in the roof. When it was taken down last year for repairs, they determined that each angel on the corners weighed forty pounds!
As serendipity would have it, this little visit became much more than just about the interior of this special manse. As I was leaving, a luscious sunset was casting such a bewitching light that I was drawn to walk around the property…that same sunset provided a priceless backdrop to the Tea House overlooking Cliff Walk.
Finishing my stroll and rounding the front corner of Marble House, I discovered that the Christmas tree had just been lighted.
And to finish off this special afternoon, as I walked across Bellevue Avenue, a sight very relevant to the Marble House experience caught my attention…Mr. Vanderbilt’s firehouse (now a private home, featured in Living Newport, Houses, People, Style) with it charming shapes, was silhouetted against the fading sunset.
Newport (whom many consider just a summer “colony”) is so exceptionally beautiful in December that I’m providing images throughout this month on my Instagram account, Private Newport, as a series titled “Gorgeous at Christmas.” Do take a moment to visit us!