The first time I visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum I went on the guided tour. It was like taking information in from a firehose and there wasn’t time to pause and stare at your favorite bits. So much of the museum is about the atmosphere Gardner created. I wholeheartedly recommend the tour, and I am glad I was able to return and spend a couple of hours on my own.
Isabella Stewart was born in New York City in 1840 and moved to Boston when she married her husband Jack Gardner at age 20. She inherited her father’s fortune and began collecting art. Her friend Bernard Berenson helped her pick up some magnificent Italian Renaissance art from Venetian royalty experiencing hard times. She began designing a Palace to house her collection with exquisite attention to detail. It is located in Fenway and you gain admission with just $15.
When I looked back at my photos (non flash photography is allowed) at days end I realized that I was taking more pictures of decorating ideas that I was of the most renowned pieces. (Check out January 25 blog). Here are the top 8 design tips:
- Make the most of first impressions. Don’t let your foyer become just a shoe dumping ground.
2. Paint at least one wall “zappy blue”. The last paint color that inspired me was Jefferson’s choice of robin’s egg blue in Monticello. This is even more exciting. Gardner created the recipe and sent it to Italy to be mixed. I wonder if my local Sherwin Williams can recreate this.
3. Take your objects d’art out of the cupboard and dedicate a sideboard or table to displaying them.
4. Add walls or doors when your art collection outgrows your display capacity.
5. Find clever space for bookshelves on top of hallways and doorways.
6. Take your “great room” to the next level. I once went to a fundraiser at the Governor’s Mansion that the Reagans built but Jerry Brown refused to occupy. It’s owned by a couple who filled every square inch with furniture. This sparse version (and only half is in photo) feels so much more grand.
7. Build around a courtyard. I’m creating this out of my postage stamp backyard.
8. Create a snug. Room too large to be cozy? Use fabric to create a room within a room.
And remember good design is timeless.