Spring renewal means that soon, in New England, we’ll start to see those young shoots of the first plants that make an appearance after winter and we’ll see buds on the early blooming trees and bushes. It also means spring cleaning; getting rid of the dirt and debris that always seems to hang on as winter leaves.
A quick look on the internet, under the topic of “Spring Cleaning” lists a number of influences, ranging from living in cold climates before the technology of the washer and dryer, thus needing to hang recently washed household furnishings outside, to the religious and cultural, including during the Jewish celebration of Passover, which falls in the spring in the Northern Hemisphere. (http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-origins-of-spring-cleaning.htm)
My mother was in the secular camp when it came to spring cleaning; it was all about the time of year and the need to open the windows and literally wash away the winter grime on every surface, including windows and walls. Everyone in the family had to participate and every drape, bedspread and blanket was washed and hung out!
When I married into a Jewish family, and started celebrating Passover, I learned about the religious and cultural reasons in Judaism for spring cleaning.
Part of the observance of Passover requires a thorough cleaning of the home to be rid of all leavened grain products (chametz), and only consuming unleavened grains (mostly matzoh) for the 7 or 8-day period of Passover in part to remember the speed with which the Jews needed to leave Egypt (and their leavened bread and other foods) after many generations of being enslaved. http://www.jewfaq.org/holidays.htm
“Preparations for Passover begin typically a month before the holiday commences, with traditional Jews emptying their homes of the five Biblical grains (rye, oats, wheat, barley, and spelt), as well as any foods derived from those grains. Additionally, Ashkenazi Jews (of Eastern European origin) remove a separate additional class of foods called kitniyot, including corn, peas, beans, and rice. The idea is to remove anything that rises, recalling that the Jews left Egypt in haste and their bread did not rise, leaving them with flat (and very difficult to digest!) Matzoh. The grains used in Matzoh are monitored very closely so that they do not bake long enough to rise fully.”
My favorite comment from this blog post, as it continues:
“The spring cleaning preceding Passover involves not only cleaning your living spaces, but also your mind, as you examine what “enslaves” you in your daily dealings emotionally as well as what can get filled with hot air and puffs up in your pantry.”
What else is holding you back? I think spring is a great time to reassess your home’s interior, not just from a cleanliness perspective, but from an interior design perspective, too. Before making any changes in your interior environment, ask lots of questions! Collect images of rooms and furnishings that inspire you – you can do that on-line, using Pinterest Boards, for example, or do it the old fashioned way, and have a hard-copy file of images.
Sometimes, just asking questions will start you on the journey to a more authentic environment; here are some questions to begin…,and add questions of your own!
What are you holding onto, that you want to let go? What do you want to embrace?
Do you come home from a hard day at work, to sit in an uncomfortable chair? Can you relax in your home?
Do you have art work that you inherited that you just don’t like, but keep anyway? This is not about running out and just buying new things, it’s really about taking stock of what you really want to surround you in your life.
What do you really want to keep and what can you sell, give away or otherwise remove from your home that doesn’t speak to you about your life and who you are?
Can you showcase your favorite collection in a way that makes you smile every time you walk by it?
Does your space meet the needs of all your family members?
It’s about making choices and really examining how you want to feel in your own environment. Don’t hesitate to contact design professionals for help; often having professional help is more cost-effective and certainly less frustrating than repeatedly trying to address design problems that are not in your field of expertise.
Do you feel comfortable with many objects surrounding you?
Do you enjoy collecting and collections?
Do you prefer the minimalist approach?
Do you prefer more traditional furnishings styles?
Or something eclectic?
Do you like embellishment?
Do you like saturated colors? Is color important in how you express yourself?
Or something more subdued?
Do you like to bring the outside in?
Nothing like something (somethings!) from nature to inspire design thoughts…. I enjoy working with colors that range from subtle and muted to vibrant and bright; nature so often does a great job of mixing both!
In New England, 2012-2013 has been a more traditional winter than last year’s. Snow and colder temperatures arrived as they typically do for the winter, and now we still feel like it’s winter in March. No question, spring will arrive, (and it has officially) but along with many other folks, I wanted to jump start the end of winter and welcome spring with a visit to the Lyman Plant House at Smith College in Northampton last weekend for their annual spring bulb show.
I visited the show on the last weekend it was running, so some of the blooms were starting to fade, but my trusty iPhone and I couldn’t resist capturing the wonderful colors!
From an article on Mass Live on February 22 (www.masslive.com):
“This spring’s event features 3,000 tulips, 1,500 narcissus, 400 hyacinths, and 2,000 other bulbs such as crocus, iris and freesia, all purchased primarily from a Connecticut importer who gets them from the Netherlands.
By the time the show arrives, ‘everybody is desperate for spring,’ (commented) Madelaine Zadik, manager of education and outreach at the Botanic Garden on the Northampton campus.
‘And it’s not just the color of the flowers. You walk into these greenhouses and the fragrance is just amazing,’ she said.
‘We don’t realize how we’re really lacking fragrance outdoors at this time of year.’”
My husband, Bill and I visited the Vanderbilts’ Biltmore Estate last November. I wrote about the house and its interiors in a previous post; here are some of my own photos along with other images, showing the magnificent grounds and gardens at different times of the year.
More from the Arboretum (from the Shrub and Spring Garden areas):
From http://www.fredericklawolmsted.com/biltmore.html: ”The final touch that Olmsted added was a lake, called Bass Pond. He added two islands in the lake to add to the scenic value. It also added a private place, which pleased Vanderbilt.”
Frederick Law Olmstead, the great American landscape architect, was the designer of the grounds, and determined the site for the house, as well. Olmstead first visited the 120,000 acre site for the Biltmore in August of 1888, with George Vanderbilt, when Olmstead was 66 years old. In Witold Rybczynski’s wonderful book, “A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmstead and America in the 19th Century,” (http://www.witoldrybczynski.com/other-books/) quoted Olmstead’s proposal to Vanderbilt of how to tackle the landscape of the immense estate (page 380): “‘My advice would be to make a small park into which to look from your house; make a small pleasure ground and gardens; farm your river bottoms chiefly to keep and fatten livestock with a view to manure; and make the rest a forest, improving the existing roads and planting the old fields.’” Olmstead produced a 36-page report detailing the main landscape components of the estate.
A map of the gardens at the Biltmore is below; as you can see there are a number of different gardens and trails and water features; I will be highlighting just a few of the areas:
“The last great project that Olmsted was involved with was the laying out of George Vanderbilt’s 120,000 acre Biltmore Estate near Asheville North Carolina….”
“He stated that the land would be better suited to have a grand garden area close to the house, and have the majestic views beyond it with 80,000 acres of the land being turned into a grand Forest, which became the basis for the Pisgah National Forest. Olmsted also designed and built a 9 mile arboretum that wound from the house to the French Broad river and back up to the house….”
A small section of the three-mile approach road to the Biltmore Estate, including indigenous, as well as more exotic plant varieties:
The Italian Garden, with three reflecting pools is to the left of the house, when you approach it from the front.
Some summer images of the Italian Garden:
The Conservatory, surrounded by the Walled Garden, is to the left of the Italian Garden, when approaching the front of the house; the Walled Garden and Conservatory are full of ornamental plantings.
Images of the Walled Garden and the Conservatory (closer to the house are the Italian Gardens), taken in the 1950′s:
Recent summer images of the Walled Garden’s plantings, with the Conservatory seen in the distance:
November images from the Walled Garden:
And, the Conservatory:
And inside the conservatory, during our trip in November, the staff had just “decorated” for Christmas:
Olmstead, in addition, encouraged Vanderbilt to consider managing the forested land, (from
“‘Much of the land that Vanderbilt purchased for Biltmore had been cleared for farming and timber. Olmsted prepared instructions and trained foremen to improve the existing patches of woodland by removing poorly formed and damaged trees, thus giving the best trees more room to grow. He also began reforesting eroded and worn out farmland and by 1891 had planted 300 acres with white pine. He carefully documented his work, writing a report in 1889 titled, Project of Operations for Improving the Forest of Biltmore. This may be one of the earliest forest management prescriptions in the United States.”
Ultimately, the Vanderbilts couldn’t afford to maintain all the 100,000 acres of forest land;
“…Edith Vanderbilt sold approximately 86,700 acres of the estate’s forested mountain land—known as Pisgah Forest—to the federal government on May 21, 1914, to form the beginning of Pisgah National Forest. In 1968, sixty-five hundred acres of Pisgah was designated as The Cradle of Forestry in America by an act of Congress and thousands now visit the restored Biltmore Forest School campus annually.” (biltmore.com)
Having spent the last year working on membership for the IFDA-New England, starting in 2013, I will be continuing as a board member, working on special projects, as well as being the President-Elect for the New England Chapter. It’s a great organization and brings design professionals and vendors together! I was also given the Rising Star award by the chapter at our annual Holiday Party, last Friday night. It’s been great working on the board this year, with so many committed people and working with Rob Henry as president has been a fab experience. I look forward to working closely with Nicole Hogarty, our incoming president for 2013.
My husband, Bill and I recently spent a few days in Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville is home to a great arts community, as well as a large medical center, but its most opulent attraction, is the Biltmore Estate. The largest private home in the US, George W. Vanderbilt’s Biltmore House was opened in 1895, with over 250 rooms! So, on a rainy November Wednesday, we took the tour, and joined the ranks of the over 1 million yearly visitors to the 8,000 acre estate!
From the brochure provided by the Biltmore :
“On Christmas Eve, 1895, George W. Vanderbilt, III officially opened Biltmore House. Three years later, he brought his bride, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser to Biltmore, and in 1900 their only child, Cornelia was born here. After Vanderbilt’s death in 1914, Edith and Cornelia continued to call Biltmore home, with Edith assuming management of the estate. In 1924, Cornelia married the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil, and they loved and entertained in Biltmore House. In response to requests to increase area tourism during the Depression and to bring money to preserve the estate, the Cecils opened the house to the public in 1930. Today, the Biltmore Estate remains family-owned and has become a successful business…,” with William A.V. Cecil, one of Cornelia’s sons, having taken over the estate in the 1960′s. The elder Cecil’s successful management has been continued by his son, the current CEO, William A.V. Cecil, Jr. and his daughter, Dini Pickering, the VP of the Board of Directors for the estate.
The House – The Exterior
“Construction of Biltmore House was under way in 1889; it was a massive undertaking that included a mansion, gardens, farms, and woodlands. George Vanderbilt engaged two of the most distinguished designers of the 19th century: architect Richard Morris Hunt (1828-1895) and landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903). The centerpiece was a four-story stone house with a 780-foot façade—a monument that would rival the surrounding mountains in grandeur. Hunt modeled the architecture on the richly ornamented style of the French Renaissance and adapted elements, such as the stair tower and the steeply pitched roof, from three famous early-16th-century châteaux in the Loire Valley: Blois, Chenonceau, and Chambord.” (www.biltmore.com)
The House – The Interior
(The Biltmore House) “…would feature 4 acres of floor space, 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. The basement alone would house a swimming pool, gymnasium and changing rooms, bowling alley, servants’ quarters, kitchens, and more.” George Vanderbilt, unmarried when he had Biltmore built, did much of the interior decoration himself, with the help of his architect, Mr. Hunt. (www.biltmore.com)
Here are a few of the rooms…