Bold backdrop inspires Claude Bedding

In 2011, our curators completed a major project on the second floor of Biltmore House, allowing guests to see four grand bedrooms restored to their original splendor. Known as the Louis XV Suite, the restoration encompassed the Damask Room, Claude Room, Tyrolean Chimney Room, and the Louis XV Room.

The Claude Room in Biltmore HouseLike many rooms in Biltmore House, the Claude Room was named after one of George Vanderbilt’s favorite artists, the French painter Claude Lorrain. Born Claude Gellee (ca. 1605-1682), the artist was later known as Claude Lorrain after the province of his birth. During the Vanderbilts’ 1898 European honeymoon, Mr. Vanderbilt visited several collections of Lorrain’s work. Lorrain was considered to be one of the greatest landscape painters of all time.

The striking silver and cobalt wallpaper found in the Claude Room was the inspiration for our compelling Claude Bedding ensemble. As luxurious in design and grand in scale as its namesake, the handsome chenille comforter and accessories add bold flair to your home with sweeping shades of platinum, blue-gray, and charcoal intertwined with ivory and gold.

Featured image: Claude Bedding shown on Antler Hill Panel Bed with Belle-Sophia Chest
Second image: Claude Room in Biltmore House

On the Archivist’s Desk: A Century’s Worth of Records

Biltmore archivist Jill Hawkins is responsible for cataloging, managing, and preserving Biltmore’s historic records. With more than a century’s worth of manuscripts, books, photographs, drawings, and the like to handle, organization is paramount.

Biltmore Marketing MaterialBiltmore Winery video, circa 1985

One of Jill’s projects is conducting an inventory of outdated Biltmore marketing materials, which is no small task. Some of the items have labels, helping to put the pieces together, but many do not. From hard copies of video mailing tapes to recordings of commercials from as far back as the 1970s, there are literally dozens of boxes of material to be processed.Archived Marketing Film

The marketing materials include three types of records: audiovisuals, photographs, and paper documents. The audiovisual materials are the least stable of the three and must first be digitized before they can be cataloged. Jill sent the master videotape collection to be digitized first and is now preparing to send a collection of film reels to be digitized.

Chauncey Beadle’s Incoming CorrespondenceBeadle Correspondence, circa 1925

Jill is also processing estate superintendent Chauncey Beadle’s incoming correspondence. Of all George Vanderbilt’s principal managers, Beadle’s archival collection is by far the largest.Nursery Dept. Records

Beadle said he came to Biltmore for a month and stayed for a lifetime. From his initial role as Biltmore nursery supervisor in 1890 to his final role as estate superintendent until his death in 1950, there is an enormous amount of correspondence to be processed. From files and files tightly pressed…Boxes of Beadle Correspondence

…in boxes and boxes…Beadle Correspondence

…which fill shelves upon shelves.

Accessions: Biltmore Dairy FarmsBiltmore Dairy

Cataloging new accessions is an ongoing project for Jill. Accessions are documents and objects acquired through either donation or purchase to be added to Biltmore’s archival collections. Most recently, she received some items from the days of the Biltmore Dairy.Time Book open

Perhaps most notable is a “Time Book,” providing a record of names, hours, and wages of dairy workers from January 1908 through October 1909.Biltmore Dairy coupon book

Another fascinating new accession is a coupon book, likely from around the same time.Coupon book open

With such a massive and ever-growing amount of material to manage, Jill certainly has her work cut out for her—but she assures us that it is a labor of love.

Reading Between the Wines

As a collector whose interests included fine wines and great literature, George Vanderbilt sought the best of both to share with family and friends at Biltmore.

“In honor of our upcoming Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics exhibition premiering in Biltmore House, our winemakers have created two new wines to showcase George Vanderbilt’s passion for great literature and fine vintages,” said Jill Whitfield, Wine Marketing

Known as the Library Series, the wines’ commemorative labels feature silhouettes of beloved literary characters with backgrounds resembling fine leather and gold detailing inspired by volumes in George Vanderbilt’s library.

“We wanted the labels to convey that same sense of richness and texture that you find with the covers of classic books,” Jill said. “And the characters we chose represent romance and mystery—two enduring themes in literature.”

Pencil sketch of Sherlock Holmes for Library Series labelVolume I of the Library Series is a velvety and fruit-forward red blend with flavors of blueberry, blackberry, and hints of oak and vanilla. The dapper detective on the label was hand-drawn by Lisa Vogel, Assistant Art Director, and bears a marked resemblance to Sherlock Holmes. In his “Books I Have Read” journals, George Vanderbilt notes having read some of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mysteries.

For Volume II—a white blend with light honey flavors, a touch of spice, and a crisp finish —Lisa drew two figures standing with their backs to each other. Their stiff body language and early 1800s style of dress mark them as the central characters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice which can be found among George Vanderbilt’s books.

Label for Library Series white wine“Each volume of our Library Series celebrates Vanderbilt’s lifelong passion for learning, his friendships with notable authors, and the intriguing collections in his vast library,” said Jill. “The Library Series wines feature a remarkable blend of handcrafted taste imprinted with distinctive style.”

Our Library Series wines are available during the exhibition at the Winery, in select estate shops, and online.

Designed for Drama brings together the artistry of great literary works, costume design, and movie making. More than 40 award-winning movie costumes will be on display throughout America’s largest home, accompanied by the original books in George Vanderbilt’s 22,000-volume library that inspired the films. Elaborate costumes from recent films including Sherlock Holmes, Finding Neverland, Anna Karenina, and Far from the Madding Crowd will bring many of Vanderbilt’s favorite stories to life showcased in the grand spaces of Biltmore House February 10–July 4, 2017.

A Gem in George Vanderbilt’s Library

Once termed “one of the best read men in the country” by New York media, George Vanderbilt amassed a personal library of more than 22,000 volumes at Biltmore House, each of which he selected with great care.

In honor of our upcoming Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics exhibition, let’s take a look at a true gem within his literary collection: George’s copy of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), a first American edition of the book featuring illustrations by artist Arthur Rackham.

Arthur Rackham illustration 1

Peter Pan is familiar to most as the free-spirited and mischievous young boy of Neverland who can fly and never grows up.

However, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, one of Barrie’s four major works featuring the beloved character, introduces Peter at the tender age of just seven days old.

The vast majority of the book first appeared in Barrie’s The Little White Bird (1902) as a story within the story.

The popularity of The Little White Bird, thanks in large part to the several chapters involving Peter Pan, prompted Barrie to write the 1904 play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, a wildly successful production that broke nearly all previous theatrical records.

Barrie eventually adapted the play into another, better-known novel: Peter Pan and Wendy (1911)—but not before the chapters that first introduced the character were extracted from The Little White Bird and published as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

While the text was slightly revised for the 1906 publication to read better without the context of the surrounding story, more significant is the addition of Rackham’s illustrations.

Arthur Rackham illustration 2

His 50 beautiful color plates helped to make the book immediately popular and drew attention to the artist, who—aside from his success with Rip Van Winkle (1905)—was relatively unknown before then.

Another notable difference is the fact that The Little White Bird was published as a novel for adult readers whereas Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens was published as a children’s book.

This fact leads us to believe that Cornelia Vanderbilt, George’s daughter who was six years old at the time, may have played a role in his decision to add the title to his collection.

Beginning February 10, George’s copy of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens will be on display in the Banquet Hall of Biltmore House, along with multiple costumes from the film Finding Neverland (2004), which tells the story of J.M. Barrie’s friendship with the family who inspired him to create Peter Pan.

Feature: Arthur Rackham’s “There Now Arose a Mighty Storm” on the inside cover, and the title page of
Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens
Right: Rackham’s “Looking Very Undancey Indeed” from Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens
Left: Rackham’s “The Serpentine is a Lovely Lake” from Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

Gingerbread Architecture: Incredible AND Edible!

Ever since The Inn on Biltmore Estate opened in 2001, its Christmas at Biltmore decorations have included a miniature version of the hotel made from gingerbread. This year, however, Pastry Chef Cheryl Brookhouzen changed things up with her Walled Garden-inspired gingerbread Conservatory!

Gingerbread fox builds a snowmanAccording to her co-workers, Chef Brookhouzen’s vision and attention to detail make this gingerbread display truly over-the-top spectacular. Special features include rotating Christmas trees in the front and back, a lighted roof and windows, charming animals, and a host of other miniature touches.

Gingerbread Conservatory at The Inn on Biltmore Estate“We’ve been doing a gingerbread model of The Inn for nearly 15 years, so I thought it was time to try something new,” said Chef Brookhouzen of her design. “I hope that having something so different will delight our guests and make them interested in seeing what we create next year.”

Details of the gingerbread roof at The Inn on Biltmore EstateGingerbread Conservatory Fun Facts

1. The Conservatory was constructed with the help of 11 members of The Inn’s team, from pastry professionals to engineering, banquet, and purchasing services
2. Chef Brookhouzen baked the gingerbread in large slabs before cutting it into the right shapes
3. The display required 175 pounds of gingerbread dough, 160 pounds of powdered sugar, and more than 15 kinds of candy and snacks such as Kit-Kats, M&Ms, Sixlets, Sour Tape, Hershey’s chocolate bars, pretzels, old-fashioned candy sticks, mint candies, chocolate bears, chocolate caramel balls, chocolate leaves, lollipop trees, and more*
4. The windows and roof are made of poured isomalt sugar
5. The Conservatory shines with 800 white lights

*An additional 4 pounds of candy was consumed by the builders of the Conservatory!

Highlighting the Hearths of America’s Largest Home

Each Christmas season, our floral department selects a theme for décor throughout Biltmore House. This year, the team has interpreted the theme of “Hearth and Home”—inspired by stories of Vanderbilt family hospitality—throughout the house, emphasizing fireplaces and mantels in the grand spaces of America’s largest home. Here’s a glimpse at how this year’s theme has come to life…Breakfast Room mantel

In the Breakfast Room, originally intended for less formal dining, the mantel is draped with lights, garland, and multiple strands of beads for a casual, almost bohemian-style feel.Mrs. Vanderbilt's Bedroom mantel

Surrounding the low-lying fireplace in Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom is more richly colored garland, adding a touch of subtle seasonal elegance in the most feminine room in Biltmore House.The Music Room mantel

The mantel in the Music Room features a dash of classic Christmas crimson with simple strands of crystal beading. The traditional yet chic elements add genuine warmth to the special mantel, which displays carvings of the initials and life dates of Albrecht Dürer, one of George Vanderbilt’s favorite artists.Oak Sitting Room mantel

In the Oak Sitting Room, the theme of “Hearth and Home” has been taken to new heights. Lush strands of festive garland line the full mantel as well as sections between the room’s oak paneling and cornice frieze, adding emphasis to the high ceiling and its intricate plaster carvings.

View all of these Biltmore House fireplaces and more with a Candlelight Christmas Evenings visit.

Feature image: The Library fireplace and mantel

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

It is certainly no secret that the holiday season can be stressful. Between decorating indoors and out, entertaining family and friends, and last minute gift and grocery shopping, many of us find ourselves overwhelmed and exhausted during “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Luckily, The Spa at The Inn on Biltmore Estate offers specialty Sugar and Spice Treatments—the perfect combination to soothe and rejuvenate—throughout the season.

Begin with the Sugar and Spice Massage, a ginger and shea butter full-body treatment, to ease holiday tension. With customized pressure, our therapists perfectly tailor the experience to your personal needs. A skin-softening sugar scrub further enhances relaxation while providing invigorating exfoliation.

Then pamper your winter skin with the antioxidant-rich Sugar and Spice Facial. The custom botanical treatment will brighten your complexion, restoring that youthful glow. Enjoy a luxurious cocoa and cinnamon face masque as you relax with the comforting aromatherapy of sugar and spice.

The Sugar and Spice Pedicure will complete your experience and revitalize your soles. The warming and healing treatment begins with a cinnamon-infused foot soak followed by a hydrating ginger and shea butter massage for your lower legs and feet. A deeply hydrating honey foot masque helps to further soften your skin before an expert vegan polish application.

Yes, the holiday season can be stressful—but it doesn’t have to be. Treat yourself this Christmas with the soothing and rejuvenating elements of sugar and spice.

Bringing the outdoors in at Christmas

From dozens of decorated trees to miles of garland (yes, miles!), Christmas at Biltmore is a season characterized by twinkling lights, beautiful ornaments, and breathtaking floral arrangements throughout America’s largest home.

Although the general impression of the decked halls in Biltmore House is one of glittering splendor, some of the decorative elements are stunningly simple, owing their beauty to Mother Nature’s handiwork rather than any man-made creation.

Gathering hydrangeas in Biltmore's gardens“I’m all about less is more,” said Betsey Baker, a member of the Biltmore Floral team. Betsey came to Biltmore in 1999 as a plant expert at A Gardener’s Place, the charming garden and gift shop located beneath the Conservatory in the Walled Garden. In 2001, she joined Floral, which included cutting privileges for the gardens and grounds, and Betsey embraced the concept of “bringing the outdoors in” that meshed with her own natural style. Though officially retired for several years, Betsey continues to work with Floral on a reserve basis.

“For me, the beauty of arranging plants and flowers is that they tell me where they want to go,” Betsey said of her personal design aesthetic.

Christmas hydrangeas in the Music RoomThat was never more apparent than in 2009 when the estate’s theme was “Flowers, Fields, and Forests.” Betsey, who has cutting privileges in Biltmore’s gardens, created a particularly lush display featuring mounds of dried Hydrangea macrophylla that she harvested from the estate, spread out to dry, and then incorporated into her plan for the Music Room.

Dried hydrangeas in the Music Room“This type of hydrangea produces a large “head” of pale green blooms that is very full and tightly packed,” Betsey said. “After I clipped the heads, I hung them upside down to dry. As they dried, some of the flowers took on a warm cream and bronze hue, with beautiful pink tips. It gave the Music Room a natural blush of color that softened the massive mantel and drew out subtle tones in the woodwork and the furnishings.”

For Christmas at Biltmore this year, Betsey worked almost entirely with live plants in areas including the Halloween Room, Stone Hallway, and the Loggia.

“I used a lot of nursery plants and mixed in some tropical specimens that you’d expect to find in the house or in the Conservatory this time of year,” said Betsey. “I kept it simple, but it definitely brings a living, breathing energy to those areas of Biltmore House that aren’t traditionally decorated with Christmas trees and floral arrangements.”

1904 Holiday Menu Recreation: Mince Pie

In 1904, the Vanderbilt family’s holiday menu included mince pie for dessert.

We asked Biltmore Chef Spencer Hilgeman of Village Social to create recipes inspired by the archival 1904 menu book for a modern Thanksgiving celebration.

This video on our three-part series details the delicious mince pie inspired by the very same menu the Vanderbilt’s enjoyed at their 1904 Thanksgiving Dinner.

Two pages of the archival menu book at Biltmore
Archival menu book used at Biltmore House

Dessert: Apple and Currant Mince Pie with White Cheddar Crust

Mince Pie Dough
3 cups flour
½ pound butter, chopped and chilled
1½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup white cheddar, shredded
1 egg, beaten (egg wash for crust)

Combine all ingredients except water and knead until butter is incorporated into the flour. Add water and continue to knead. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Mince Pie Filling
6-7 Granny Smith apples
2 cups dried currants
1/8 teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup apple cider

In a medium pot, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until apples are soft and apple cider has reduced. Allow to cool to at least room temperature.

Mince Pie Finish

Roll out pie dough large enough to cut two circles 1-2 inches larger than your pie pan. Cut out 2 circles with a knife. Place one in the bottom of your pie pan and trim off any excess. “Blind bake” the crust in oven for about 15 minutes until it is very light brown on the edges. Remove and cool.

Fill bottom crust with pie filling. Place other dough circle over the top and trim any excess. Crimp the edges with a fork, brush with egg wash, and score in the middle to allow steam to escape. Bake at 350F for 35-45 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 30 minutes, and enjoy!

Vanderbilt Reserve Pinot Noir

Pair with our Vanderbilt Reserve Pinot Noir

Enjoy with our elegant Vanderbilt Reserve Pinot Noir Russian River Valley. Strawberry, raspberry, vanilla, and well-integrated oak aromas give way to supple fruit flavors.

Find recipes and video instructions for Chef Spencer’s inspired appetizer, Oysters on the 1/2 Shell with a Holiday Sauce Trio and his entrée, Blood Orange Roast Turkey.

1904 Menu Recreation: Roast Turkey

We asked Biltmore Chef Spencer Hilgeman to create recipes inspired from the archival 1904 menu book for a modern Thanksgiving celebration. This second video on our three-part series details a roast turkey entree inspired by the very same menu the Vanderbilts enjoyed at their 1904 Thanksgiving Dinner.

Entree: Blood Orange Roast Turkey with Heirloom Potatoes

Chef suggests using an 8–10# Airline Turkey Breast. This recipe also would work with a 10–15# Whole Young Turkey.

Compound Butter
1 Pound Unsalted Butter
2 TBSP Chopped Herbs (Parsley, Thyme, Chives)
3 TBSP Chopped Shallots
Zest of 3 Blood Oranges
3 TBSP Salt
1 TBSP Ground Black Pepper
Combine all ingredients and mix. Separate the skin from the breast and stuff the compound butter underneath.

Top turkey with 2 TBSP salt, 2 TSBP pepper and 3 TBSP olive oil. Roast uncovered at 375 degrees for 1 ½–2 hours or until the internal temperatures reaches 165 degrees.

Herb Roasted Heirloom Potatoes
2 Pounds Baby Heirloom Potatoes
3 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
3 TBSP Chopped Garlic
2 Shallots Sliced
3 TBSP Olive Oil
2 TBSP Salt
1 TBSP Ground Pepper

Combine all ingredients, ensuring the oil coats everything. Place on small baking sheet and bake for 30–45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until potatoes are tender.

Blood Orange Glaze
2 Cups Biltmore Century Red Wine
2 Cups Blood Orange Juice
1 Cup Sugar
2 TBSP Honey

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until a light syrup consistency. Allow turkey to rest before applying blood orange glaze.

Biltmore Estate Chardonnay

Wine Pairing

Enjoy with Biltmore Estate Chardonnay. Smooth and balanced with subtle floral aromas, crisp fruit flavors, and hints of oak.

Complete your meal with recipes and video instructions for our appetizer, Oysters on the 1/2 Shell with a Holiday Sauce Trio, and for dessert, Apple and Currant Mince Pie with White Cheddar Crust.