1.02.2009

Palm Beach :: Pre Mr. T

This elegant Grande Dame, Majorie Merriwether Post , was the real hostess for my little fantasy New Years' Eve gala from the previous series. I can assure you that she would roll over in her grave if she ever dropped in on her beloved home in it's current incarnation as Mr. Trumps' Palm Beach Palace of Noveau Rich Ostentation and Wretched Excess, aka Mar A Lago Club.

My party was a small ode to a former time, when gracious elegance ruled, in which she reigned as the Hostess with the Mostess in her homes (notably Topridge, Hillwood & Mar A Lago) as well as her yacht, Sea Cloud. She had more husbands than houses, which makes for a rather complex family tree once those branches starting branching out to mulitples of children and grandchildren. I joined one branch of that tree through a momentary ( 6 year ) marriage.
This view of the living room gives some idea of the scale of her home. The main house was around 67,000 square feet, with the total reaching 110,000 square feet once you toss in the ballroom and other adjacent buildings in the compound. (as a point of comparison - a typical Wal Mart is about 25,000 sq. ft. ) Officially,the room count is 118.

Though I never met her ( she died in 1973), I was fortunate to spend some time in this incredible house in the '80's. My favorite memories are not of the awesome size and baroque decor but rather of two small details ... .. . the silver pantry and the bathtubs. The silver pantry because it was a 10 x 20 ft. room of floor to ceiling shelves just crammed with the most glorious and dazzling sparkle I had ever seen. It was as if Tiffany, Cartier and Asprey had combined forces just off the kitchen! It should go without saying that the bathrooms ( around 35) were quite lux. "Mommy da" (as she was known to the family) specified the required marble/marble everywhere and then added the nice little touch of gold fixtures in her own suite. Considering the layers of priceless furnishings, art and imported architectural details , this wasn't a surprise. My puzzlement was why each tub had two sets of Hot/Cold fixtures ... . one above the other. I just couldn't figure it out. Finally had to ask .. .. .
"What's with the four fixtures on the tub???"
( What do you think - any guesses?)
In spite of my obvious ignorance at bath details in grand beach houses, I did manage to sit down in the living room one afternoon for a photo op. Do you think there are enough hand carved golden cupids holding up that table with the "floral" arrangement constructed of seashells?

In the meantime, my husband and his brother are outside by the divine parrot fountain ... with the question du jour being "What are we going to do with this place!??" No one in the family wants it, we've all chosen much simpler lives. We gave it to the United States government, as a winter White House, and they gave it back ( maintenance too expensive for them). We figured there really weren't that many people on the entire planet who would want to take this on ... . perhaps a Saudi sheik trying to break into Palm Beach society. Nah ... . they didn't really give a damn.

Then WHO????

Along came The Donald.

Sign of relief.
_________________________________
By the way - about those bath fixtures .. .
Mommy da believed in the curative effects of bathing in salt water, so the top set is for sea water and the bottom for fresh water.

10 comments:

paris parfait said...

She really knew how to live, didn't she? As for Trump, he's done some good things and some excessive things - I'd say Maralago falls into the latter category.

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

She must have been awfully tired from cleaning that house. I can barely scrub one bathroom let alone 35! I would have really enjoyed seeing it before ol' Donald got to it. Must have been fascinating for you as an interior designer. Lucky you!
Catherine

willow said...

The Donald? Oy.

What a fabulous project. Yes, lucky you!

Carla said...

What a house, shame someone with style didn't buy it or someone that loved her style. Great piece thanks so much and Happy New Year Carla

Paula Scott said...

OMG, I had no idea that this was all a personal connection! I was so fascinated and intrigued by the images alone!
And, I never would've guessed why four faucets. Never. I tired, but nothing came to me.
It's a good thing Mr. Donald had some spare change for this incredible signature that Mommy Da left behind! Otherwise, it would be in a state of ruins perhaps by now. Thank you for the lovely visit!

Leau said...

At the Biltmore House in Ashville all the "facilities" have faucets label Hot, Cold and Mixed! Those would have been my guesses. Love the salt water addition! This was a great series, loved the personal connection. What a life!

J ..de Santa Fe said...

I've been quite frustrated that my settings haven't been allowing me to post replies to your thoughtful comments ... . . so This Is A Test!
I've played with reconfiguring and
hope this works ... . JJjjjj

Paris Atelier said...

Oh My! What grandeur! You are a lucky girl! How did I let this prime piece of proerty slip through my hands!?! That Trump always foils my plans! JK I loved this post it is a perfect topic and a perfect post! Bravo!
xoxo
Judith~

Cote de Texas said...

love this - veddy impressive!!!

oh, but truly - the trailer, I am dying - I want it sooooo bad! I would take the trailer over Mar a Lago - seriously - are you really on the way to Marfa? and I adore that rug outside. I might have to fly in and join you for dinner on the table with the linens outside! too adorable.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Her home here in dc, Hillwood (which i've blogged about) has a cistern in the basement which collects rainwater -which was specially piped to her bathroom so she could wash her hair with it!