This elegant guest room is a part of a suite of four interconnected rooms. Given their grand size and prominent location—directly above the Vanderbilts’ own bedrooms and sitting area—these guest rooms were probably among the most elaborate in the house. The suite could have been shared by a family or groups of guests visiting together. The North Tower Room, like all the guest bedrooms, is elegant but also designed for comfort.
FAITHFUL AND TRUE
The North Tower Room opened to the public in April 1995 after two years of exhaustive research and restoration. The original fabric in this room was still left on the wall. “This allowed us to do an accurate reproduction,” says Ellen Rickman, director of museum services and floral displays. “In storage we also had all the furniture from this room which still had remnants of the original fabric.”
This is the fifth in a series of articles featuring the Biltmore House and Guest Cottage on the Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC. The home was built by George Vanderbilt between 1889 and 1895.
The Custom Home Furnishings School in Swannanoa, NC, has had a long-time relationship with the Biltmore Estate and is running an educational program called “The Total Experience at the Biltmore,” offering five-day classes that take students out of the workroom and on location, and from concept to completion shows students how to work with a real client in a real environment, including design, fabrication and installation of a window treatment for the home. Next month The Total Experience class creates window treatments for two bedrooms and a hallway at the Guest Cottage.
From the drapery fabric on the walls to the border fabric and even the trims, a faithful and true reproduction was created. Even the upholstery trims on the furniture were authentically reproduced.
“We also had in storage just the headers on a couple of the drapery panels,” says Rickman. “Again we were lucky that not only did we have the fabric, but we knew exactly what the drapery looked like.”
During the depression, the butler at the time had taken the draperies down from this room, had cut them down and they were sewn to fit another room. “This was a way to economize back then,” says Rickman.
“Fortunately, the butler saved the top heading. The neat thing was that when we started doing this project, we found these in storage,” she adds.
The drapery headers still had rings on them and the hooks were still in place on the window alcoves. “And surprisingly, the hooks still fit,” says Rickman. “We knew with certainty that they belonged in this room.” The draperies were then accurately reproduced.
Fortunately, there were people way back then that were “pack rats” because there was a tie back also found in storage. “So we knew how to make them just like the original ones,” says Rickman.
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.