Thursday, June 3, 2010

Style cues from The Breakers

I admit. It's hard to relate to this.

Photo from

I was too busy gawking to take many photos. My jaw ached from dropping so many times.

The Breakers, the Vanderbilts' 1895 summer "cottage," sits on 13 perfectly groomed acres in Newport, RI. Its 138,000 square feet encompass one room whose walls are clad in perfectly bookmatched Italian Cippolino marble slabs. The morning room walls are gilt in platinum leaf.

Just the idea of a morning room appeals to me. With or without platinum gilding. Imagine. A room designated for one's mornings. It sounds so peaceful.

The upstairs interior layout allowed female servants to invisibly deliver clothes to one's closet. Yes. The Vanderbilts actually had house elves! Or the very best Muggle approximation. The next time I ask my children if they expect laundry elves to pick up their scattered dirty clothes, I'll have to add, "Remember. You're not a Vanderbilt."

Interestingly, The Breakers' kitchen had a more accessible aesthetic. After all, the kitchen was an actual working space. Not there to be admired, but to serve a function. And my eye, trained by what the New York Times calls the "vaguely prewar aesthetic" of Christopher Peacock and the vintage stylings of Restoration Hardware, found much that could be incorporated into a modern-day kitchen.

Sorry. No interior photographs were allowed in The Breakers.

The kitchen and butler's pantry both featured inset cabinetry. Not painted as in the Peacock style, but in a warm, fairly dark wood. Plain white tiles, perhaps six inches square and now very slightly crackled with age, covered most of the kitchen walls. Set tightly in a running bond pattern, the look echoed currently trendy subway tiles, but with a nice twist. The tile edges were square, not pillowed. Slight differences in height where tiles met created a lovely, subtle texture. A sophisticated, perfectly vintage look. Especially in a larger kitchen where the scale of the larger tile would be appropriate. The reddish square floor tiles were a similar size to the wall tiles and also set in a running bond.

In the middle of the kitchen stood a very large island with a zinc counter. I love zinc. It's soft. It scratches. It reacts with materials. It looked beautiful. Similar to stainless, but warmer. Another appropriate choice for a vintage-inspired kitchen.

The spacious baths (the house had 20 in total!) housed beautiful console sinks. They were reminiscent of these Catchpole & Rye basins. The tubs had four taps. Two (hot and cold) were for regular water. Two more (hot and cold) were for saltwater. Quaint, but probably not where the modern homeowner would spend his or her budget.

Even more ornate details spark inspiration. The Trikeenan tiles we'd bought for our master bath floor are reminiscent of a herringbone ceiling at The Breakers. (The clear tape covering the Trikeenan tiles make them appear glossy.)

But perhaps the best style cue from The Breakers. The one item that many of us would love to have.

The view.


  1. Ooh, ooooh! We were just there a few weeks ago! Okay, technically we were too frugal to get quite as close as you, but I like to think that we were there, enjoying the "cottages", though we were outside all the properties. Isn't the area so breathtaking? I'd live there over Albuquerque any day! :)

  2. Did you do the Cliff Walk? Such gorgeous scenery! We walked it on a super hot day ( for Newport...not hot for either Austin or Albuquerque).

    And the "cottages"! I especially loved one modest little villa, barricaded behind a high barbed wire and chain fence. The fence sported signs posted every few feet: Warning. Private Property. Keep Off Fence. Bad Dog! The "Bad Dog" especially got me. I pictured a disobedient mutt carrying a chewed-up slipper.

    Hope you had a wonderful visit and ate lots of seafood!

  3. I actually went there last year and was just amazing by all the houses in that area!

  4. That tile is to-die-for. I live in N.C. so I've been to Biltmore, but it looks like I'm going to have to make a trip north to see this home!


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