The Mount, Edith Wharton’s former home turned historic house museum, is sacred ground for design aficionados. You see, in addition to penning some of the 20th century’s greatest novels, Wharton was also author of one of the most important books on interior design, The Decoration of Houses. Now, fabric from her own house is set to take on a new and important purpose. Just last week, The Mount donated five yards of fabric from the boudoir of the famed novelist, and it might just be the prettiest fabric used for face masks yet.
This initiative was led by Kate Louzon, the coordinator of the Berkshire County Coronavirus Community Assistance. Volunteers will sew face masks for local healthcare workers using this beautiful toile de Jouy design, which can be found on furniture and curtains throughout Wharton’s boudoir. Depicted on the fabric is a French fable dating back to the 18th century, Le Meunier, son Fils, et l’Ane, which translates to “the miller, his son, and the donkey.” This fable has also been illustrated on additional works of decorative arts, such as paintings, tiles, drawings, and postage stamps.
“We wanted to show our solidarity and appreciation for our local health care community,” Susan Wissler, Executive Director of The Mount, told House Beautiful. “The donation of the fabric is a small gesture but one we were pleased to do. Edith Wharton used her resources and influence during WWI to support humanitarian efforts. She is our inspiration during this time of crisis and need.”
A black and white photograph from 1905 shows the original fabric Edith Wharton used in her boudoir. As part of restoration work at The Mount, the house’s Interior Committee sought to reproduce and custom print the fabric. The French textile house Casal Tissus d’Ameublement made this impressive recreation possible.
Edith Wharton designed The Mount in 1902, along with architects Ogden Codman Jr. (who co-authored The Decoration of Houses) and Francis L.V. Hoppin. Wharton’s niece, Beatrix Jones Farrand, designed the kitchen garden and the drive at The Mount. In a 1911 letter to journalist William Morton Fullerton, Edith Wharton wrote, “Decidedly, I’m a better landscape gardener than novelist, and this place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth.”
The Chairman of the Interior Committee at The Mount, Pauline Metcalf, told House Beautiful, “The Mount was very pleased to be able to donate some of extra yardage of a specially reproduced 18th century toile de Jouy fabric for the making of facial masks for control of Coronavirus. As Edith Wharton herself was a valiant worker on behalf of Allies during World War I, the Mount is happy to continue in her tradition in helping to serve the cause today. A bonus is that these masks are the most stylish to be worn by most of the citizenry!”
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