Two rooms inside the 250-room Biltmore House – the Second Floor Living Hall and the Salon – will re-open this fall after the estate’s Museum Services team restores them to their appearances as they were when George Vanderbilt opened the home in 1895.
In recent years, the Second Floor Living Hall has been used as an exhibition space; prior to that, it was interpreted as a sitting area. An early 1950s photo offered a glimpse of the original furnishings of this space—gilded sconces, paintings and a suite of oversized Baroque furniture placed around the perimeter of the room. Additional research led curators to determine that the room’s primary function was intended as a picture gallery and formal hallway.
“We’re constantly striving to interpret the house authentically as it appeared during the Vanderbilts’ time,” said Darren Poupore, Chief Curator.
Bringing the room back to its original state includes conserving all the furnishings, recreating elaborate window treatments and making structural changes.
“We discovered that the original upholstery was a gauffraged fabric—a rich wool velvet with a pattern pressed into it—in a striking gold color,” said Poupore. “We had it reproduced in France by Prelle, the same company that made many of our historic fabrics for the Louis XV Suite project.”
Green velvet draperies will adorn windows featuring exact reproductions of four pelmets (or valances). For two years, local textile artist Heather Allen Swarttouw painstakingly embroidered and appliquéd each pelmet to match the originals.
It’s always cool to see meticulous restoration work come to fruition. Can’t wait to see the rooms.