Last weekend, I arrived at Marjorie Merriweather Post's Hillwood Estate (just outside Washington, D.C.) and immediately started photographing the grounds - azalea beds, statues and naturalized winding paths.
Ms. Post was a collector, philanthropist and in 1914 (at the age of 27) became one of America's wealthiest women, as the sole heiress of the Postum Cereal Company.
In 1955, she purchased this estate and began working with architects and designers to alter the mansion to house her incredible collection of French and Russian art. You can view some of the collection online, including a small navy blue Faberge egg that is displayed in the "Icon Room" on the main floor of the house.
Today I am showing you her French Parterre - a formal garden with intricate boxwood plantings situated below the terrace just outside the French Drawing Room. To the right of this photo (in the shade), there is an ironwork table and chairs. It was quiet, except for the sound of the fountain and I sat there trying to imagine the conversations that would have taken place here. (sigh) If only it were forty years earlier and Ms. Post could have told me all about her vision for a museum called "Hillwood."
I knew I would enjoy the grounds, the greenhouse, the art (and dishes!), but I had no idea how "complete" the experience would be. Marjorie Merriweather Post lived in this house like it was a museum, therefore every object is lit and displayed as she wanted her guests - present and future - to see it. Fascinating.
Now while we are talking about museum homes, I want to give you a vacation photography tip.
When you are planing a visit to a historic building with gardens (Monticello, Mount Vernon, Hillwood) arrive when it first opens in the morning and head directly into the gardens to take your photographs (when the other visitors are still inside getting acclimated). It is the only time of day that you'll have the property to yourself and won't have to Photoshop strollers out of your gorgeous pictures! You can thank me later.