Saturday, June 26, 2010

Brandywine Valley Trip: Winterthur

Winterthur (pronounced Winter:tour) was our first stop on our DuPont estate/gardens tours in the Brandywine Valley, and though the naturalistic gardens were beautiful - the mansion, a modest 175-room "country estate" in the middle of the dense Delaware forest, was quite possibly the most stunning display of antiques, art, and collectibles I've ever seen.

This post, and probably all of the posts of the trip will be picture heavy - as I was enamoured with the beauty and inspired at every turn. I hope you'll get as much inspiration viewing them from my vantage point.

Now: Winterthur, named after the Swiss city of Zurich where DuPont borrowed the money to move to the United States from France to produce french gun powder, didn't start out as 175 rooms. It was added to, year after year, sometimes as new collections were purchased. Henry Frances DuPont loved American antiques, and built a collection of them that is heralded as including some of the most important American art and furniture ever made. Enough of the history lesson, right? Onto the photos:

When you enter the tour, you first see part of the museum. Because the collection of antiques is so diverse, the DuPont's intended to always make the mansion a museum and library of their collection of art and furniture. This particular room is set up to show the bourgeoisie dining room of the 1800's.

Through a few more museum rooms, you find bedrooms of the curator and wife, a sitting room, and a long hall filled with gorgeous glass hurricane pendants before coming to quite possibly the most beautiful room in the entire home; the Chinoiserie Living Room:

The hand painted imported wall paper represents several trade scenes appropriate for the era and was shipped from China to the United States and then hung in this space. Because the scene was taller than expected, DuPont had the walls of the room coved to accommodate the excess paper. With such beauty, there was no way DuPont could choose from which end to shorten the masterpiece.

Filled with Chippendale furniture, a style heavily influenced by Asian design, and yellow damask slip covered upholstery, the room is stunning and scented to the heavens as it's filled with fresh flowers on almost every surface. The drapery kisses, then hugs the floor below it as it soars to the ceiling ending in a scalloped valance beneath a gorgeous cornice. When I walked into this room, I fell in love, and have been searching for chinoiserie wallpaper to create my own little piece of this here at CdlV. Stay tuned for that.

A closer look at the detail of the wallpaper and damask fabric. The room is filled with antiques and collectibles, most with an Asian flair. But there is a gorgeous set of crystal chandeliers and matching sconces on all the walls for the bit of sophistication and glam. The rooms at Winterthur are designed by a team of decorators and designers, and what makes them so beautiful and unique is the eclectic mix of styles. These are not period rooms - not all pieces here are from one period, or were intended by the maker or artist to exist so harmoniously. But with the trained eye of a decorator, and the stunning and sophistication of a true collector - it's hard not to be inspired, invigorated, and even a little envious.

More gorgeous hand painted wall paper in the silver sitting room outside of the women's music room. Meant to show the activity of a harbor in the bay of Naples, it features sailboats, sailors, and even Mt. Vesuvius. I was taken with the color - what sophistication? And the marble topped console filled with silver serving cups is just stunning!

This panelled office was Scott's favorite room. Any guesses why?

Because it's green! Yes, the gorgeous paneling is washed in a green finish. It's warm, inviting, and so absolutely perfect for an office ... especially when you pair it with the leather sofa and richly toned rug. See the dresser in the far left corner? That's actually a bed.

How would you like to store your candlesticks in this pantry?

And just before you leave the tour, the dining room. Perfectly proportioned and delightfully designed, it's a vision in pink, and filled with early American antiques. I don't even want to think about how much that table is worth ...

So that's Winterthur. Don't you want to make a trip? There is a more intimate 4-hour tour of several of the mansion rooms that were not on the regular tour we were on. Scott and I have plans to return for that tour, and several others when we have more time later in the fall.


  1. Fabulous estate Artie, amazing isn't the music today as well....

    Art by Karena

  2. My husband and I became members of Winterthur when we lived there...unlimited access to the gardens, etc. We spent many a winter weekend in the conservatory...a blooming respite from the dreary outdoors for these FL natives! Our sons took their first steps here, too. We also attended many plays on the lawns...most memorable was The Music Man...imagine music welling up from the lawns surrounding you. It was amazing! I hope you and Scott spend a lot of time exploring the wealth of beauty there in the Brandywine...You will not be disappointed. (And be sure to taste some battered mushrooms found in many places around Kennett Square...yum!
    (Your posts are bringing back so many wonderful memories for me!)

    Watch for a tour of homes in West Chester...I think it's still held in the fall. There are some amazing restored favorite being Landhope Farms...I do hope it has not changed!

    Jane (artfully graced)

  3. Artie, You are close to my neck of the woods!I was at Winterthur during this past Christmas season. It was magnificent. Don't you want to take that dining room home with you? I sure did!
    I am sure you thoroughly enjoyed your trip. Must sees in that area are also Longwood Garden ( and I see you enjoyed that beautiful place as well) the Brandywine River Museum, and all the great antique shops!

    Next time you are in the area you should travel down the road to Lancaster County and visit StoneGable. YOu have an open invitation!

  4. Artie, you are so close to me too! We are about 20 mins. from Wintertour! Be SURE to see Longwood Gardens!!!! It is magnificent! I would die for that dining room at Wintertour! All that ROOM to spread out! XO, Pinky

  5. Your descriptions match the elegance of the rooms. You are a gifted writer. I'll be in that area in the fall, and now I know I want to visit Winterthur. Thanks!