I was a bit conflicted about yesterday’s post. I felt like it needed to focus on Washington, as, sometimes, I’m a bit of a purist. But my favorite president, when it comes to design anyway, is Thomas Jefferson.

Cliche, I know. It’s not as if I was the first to notice his deft hand at balance and scale. But mostly I like Jefferson because he was a thinker. His home reflects his ability to discern what he believed to be good and still allow the influence of others. He married what he thought an American home (estate) should be, while allowing the best of what he had discovered in Europe to creep in.

The entry hall reflected his interest in natural history, containing fossils, antlers, artifacts and the seven day clock of his own design.

Jefferson began designing Monticello when he was 25. He followed a standard, readily available pattern book. Construction began two years later in 1770 and continued for the next fourteen years. (And you thought your kitchen remodel took a long time.) Then he went to France.

The tea room connects to the dining room with sliding doors to accomodate larger parties. The plaster busts are Benjamin Franklin, Lafayette, John Paul Jones and Washington.

French architecture was a defining influence and he remodeled Monticello extensively to include the elements of design he learned there.

Ah, the enfilade, which ends with the view of Jefferson’s desk – designed to be used while standing – and leather chair.

The frieze, above, was part of the plaster work of the dining room (below.) The motif alternates with one of cattle skulls to represent Jefferson’s interest in agriculture and his working farm.

Clearly, Jefferson was focused on detail. Blue and white jasperware is inlaid in the chimneypiece.

The study, including the walnut bookstand of Jefferson’s design.

Jefferson’s bedroom connected to his study and the bed was tucked into an alcove between. The skylight provided an additional source of light; the portholes provided light and ventilation to a storage loft on the mezzanine.

That should be enough, right? He sketched his own curtains. How can you not love a president who sketches his own curtains?
All images House & Garden, April, 1993.
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail      rssrss

18 thoughts on “Monticello

  1. Such an amazing man. Friends have a winery in VA that has some stock that came from vines at Jefferson’s vineyards. How cool is that!

  2. Suzy – it does look cozy, but I’m a bit claustrophobic – I’m afraid I would have ended up sleeping on the floor!

  3. pve – Jefferson would have likely done better on the Mac than I. But I’m still trying. I may be old, but I’m stubborn.

  4. Meg – very cool, indeed. I did not know he made wine as well – he was probably one of those industrious types that only need 4 hours of sleep. Pity the sloths like me!

  5. Fascinating! I love President Kennedy’s comment to a room full of talented people in their respective field,that there was so much talent in the room, except for an occasion in which Jefferson dined alone (I butchered his speech,but you get the idea!)

  6. I had no idea Thomas Jefferson had dabbled with design (you’d think his other occupations kept him busy enough…).
    The pictures are gorgeous!

  7. Patricia, outstanding post! I’m so fascinated by Jefferson. I even downloaded the Ken Burns documentary. And of course I love my history books:)

    Have you seen Jefferson in Paris?

    Oh and FYI, I think Anthropologie has a leather chair now that’s kind of Jefferson-ish.

  8. Exactly as mentioned here — a most complex and fascinating man! Imagine attending a dinner party there! Interesting bed placement — yes — one would either feel quite cozy OR the “weight” of those walls and ceilings ….hmmmmm …… LOVE the gardens!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

  9. As one who lives in earthquake country, I am diggin’ the bed int he alcove. It sure would save those early morning “hey everyone! UP! to a safe place!” alarms. Heck, you could just stay in bed and enjoy the rocking!

    (That didn’t sound as naughty in my head…)

  10. It really is beautiful – I visited when I too young to appreciate it and boy do I wish my memory was better…guess I’ll have to go back.

  11. Jefferson was the one who brought the wine industry to Virginia. He thought that some parts of VA were very similar to France. I think he also brought pasta and ice cream!

  12. Great post; thank you.

    I’ve visited Monticello several times. I attended UVA in the same class as both Tina Fey and Steve Gambrel. I knew one of these people – who possessed a rather unpleasant character and temperment, although admittedly, talent in spades – but cannot remember even meeting the other.

    In any case, the ghost of Thomas J. loomed large over us all and inspired us to no end. Thanks for bringing back joyful memories.

  13. Anon. I had no idea Gambrel and Fey (and the equally fabulous you) were in the same class. You were kind to be so discreet. When the boys are a little older (so they can tell me they are bored, rather than just being bored) I’d like for all of us to go.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *