Now that civilization as we know it has temporarily returned to the Colonies with the resumption of Downton Abbey, the most divine book has come my way about Living Artfully: At Home With Marjorie Merriweather Post…
Yoooo-hoooo… Helloooooo… Anybody home? I know, it’s been a while. I missed you. I did. You doin’ okay? I’m fine thank you and will explain my absence in a later post… so on that cliff-hanger…
Now that civilization as we know it has returned to the Colonies with the resumption of Downton Abbey, we may once again revel in the Crawleys’ gracious lifestyle. I look forward to the dinner parties as much as to what the dowager countess will say next. Or whom Lady Mary will snog next.
Meanwhile I’ve reveled in a gracious lifestyle this side of the Atlantic with the book Living Artfully: At Home With Marjorie Merriweather Post, by Estella M. Chung.
It is a marvelously illustrated account of the collections, people and parties of Post’s storied houses, which by the end of her life she had winnowed to three: Hillwood, outside Washington, D.C., where she was in fall and spring; Camp Topridge in the Adirondacks where she summered; and Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach where she wintered, now of course owned by the Donald.
The above photo was taken at Hillwood, where she lived from 1957 until her death in 1973. She wished it to remain open to the public as a house museum, and so it is. I hope to visit one day, but until then the Hillwood website is very well done and very informative. The book itself was written to accompany an exhibit at Hillwood that closed this month. (Dang.)
She entertained lavishly and impeccably, her invitations coveted by presidents and princes alike.
Post’s attention to detail was legendary. Blotting tissues for the ladies allowed them discreetly to remove their lipstick before gobbing it all over the exquisite linen napkins. You can still find these in specialty drugstores and the like, but I confess this detail in the book has inspired me to rub off my lipstick with the back of my hand before I swipe the old bouche with my vintage monogrammed treasures. I’ll have to track down some of these…
May I rant a sec? What people nowadays call “escort cards” are often simply place cards, as they have nothing to do with escorting one to the table. It is a shortcoming in my character, but things like this annoy the Emily Post out of me. (I do not know if Marjorie M and Emily were related, but I do know that Emily and her husband divorced because of his “affairs with chorus girls” according to Wikipedia, but I’m getting off the subject.)
This is an escort card:
Told through interviews with her youngest daughter the actress Dina Merrill Hartley (now 90), her grandchildren, and members of her staff through the years, author Chung’s writing is lively and anecdotal, with charming and often amusing stories. One of the maids confesses to secretly trying on Post’s jewels. I love that.
Here is young Dina’s childhood bedroom at Mar-a-Lago.
A guest room at Mar-a-Lago. I like how the bed curtain extends behind the bedside tables.
For you younguns out there, underneath the beehive on the left is Lady Bird Johnson, former first lady.
Looks like they had a lotta fun.
Thank you my precious Godmother Caroline for giving me this wonderful book. For those of you whose godmothers did not give you Living Artfully, you may purchase it at Amazon here, or your local indie bookseller at Indiebound.org here.
And just so you know, style and taste run in the family. Daughter Dina, “Deenie” to her friends, has a lovely house in East Hampton and is an accomplished watercolorist–apart from being a talented actress and extraordinary philanthropist. Granddaughter Nina Rumbough–all are derivatves of “Nedenia”–also has great looking houses and is a super talented photographer. I wrote about her here. And great-granddaughter Denia (Nedenia Hutton Craig) is the beauty and brains behind the new fashion line Dee Hutton.
I am lucky to know them all, and we had a ball recently in Atlanta when the fabulous Denia came to do a trunk show at my darlin’ sister’s house.
It didn’t hurt either that she brought her brother-in-law Nico Landrigan, who is adorable and president of Verdura.
He brought his trinkets, and we all tried on everything, just like Miss Post’s maid.