This graceful, feminine room was decorated in 1897 and 1898 in preparation for the Vanderbilt wedding. Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom was originally designed as a counterpart to her husband’s bedroom before they were even married.
According to contemporary accounts, Edith Styuvesant Dresser Vanderbilt was considered “a very charming young lady” and “the perfection of hostesses.” Her oval-shaped private space is decorated in the Louis XV style, which originated in France around 1725 and was popular both in the United States and in Europe from the time it was first introduced. The draperies and upholstery were made from a rich, silk cut velvet with a purple and gold decorative scheme, which was the original color scheme.
According to Ellen Rickman, director of museum services and floral displays at the Biltmore Estate, the project of restoring the draperies in Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom was a very big project for them. “This project had to be as accurate as possible,” said Rickman. “It launched what had been under way for several years to go back and return the rooms to their original appearance.”
BED AND BREAKFAST
Second, as with the Breakfast Room, a break came when looking to recreate the room’s original fabric. Research was conducted first in the United States to find a company capable of reproducing the fabric. “The vertical repeat was approximately 76 inches long,” says Rickman. “And the fabric was a hand-woven, silk-cut velvet. Because of the complex design and the difficulty and cost of setting up a loom for custom-made fabric, there were no companies in this country who were willing to undertake the reproduction of the fabric.”
A company in Europe was finally found that would take on the job, and the fabric was woven in the mid- to late-1980s by Tassinari & Chatel of Lyons, France. “We later discovered that this was the same company that had originally designed and made the fabrics for this room 100 years earlier,” said Rickman. “Tassinari & Chatel had even retained the original loom pattern from which the material had originally been made.”
This restoration project, along with the Breakfast Room, took almost five years to complete because of the complexity of the design of the fabric and trims. The cost of the total project was about $200,000.
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles featuring the famous Biltmore House, which was built by George Vanderbilt between 1889-1895 in Asheville, NC. Next month we will feature “The Total Experience” class of the Custom Home Furnishings School and its creation of the draperies and swags in the Living Room of the Guest Cottage on the Biltmore Estate.
Patricia Sprinkle is the managing editor of Sew WHAT? Magazine, published monthly by Professional Drapery Seminars Inc., Swannanoa, NC. Its mission is to help drapery, slipcover and upholstery professionals with all of their fabrication and design needs.