Trompe-l’œil Triangles

Breaking Through The Ceiling

Ceiling decoration, Upper Loggia, The Breakers,1893-1895, Newport, Rhode Island

The Vanderbilt’s summer “cottage,” The Breakers, was built between 1893-1895. No expense was spared on its decorative elements. The painted ceiling  of the Upper Loggia depicts three decorative canopies against a blue sky, bringing the outside into the room that served an an informal living room. The loggia faces the Atlantic Ocean and its windows can be opened to create a breezeway during warm weather.

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Connecting The Tiles

Mosaic Ceiling Tiles

Detail of Ceiling Mosaic, Billards Room, The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island

The Billiards Room ceiling was designed in the style of ancient Rome, with marble, alabaster, and other semi-precious stones covering the walls, floor, and ceiling. Mosaics one the ceiling included sea motifs.  Dolphins, which can be found as decorative elements in several rooms, are an ancient symbol of hospitality. The room was designed by the architect Richard Morris Hunt.

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Rule of Thirds Copper Style

Copper Kettles Rule The Kitchen

Copper Kettles, The Kitchen, The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island

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The Breakers in Newport, RI

The Grand Staircase

The Grand Staircase, The Breakers The Vanderbilt House), Newport, Rhode Island

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On the Road: Newport, Rhode Island


Once of the earliest grand houses in Newport, Chateau-Sur-Mer was built in 1852 and later expanded and remodeled.

The ballroom is one of two rooms that retain the original French style. Most of the main rooms of the house were redone in the Eastlake style when it was expanded by architect Richard Morris Hunt.

The Chateau was built by William Wetmore, who made his fortune through the China trade, an occupied by his family until the early 1960s. The grand hall was added by Hunt.

The library was designed and built by Luigi Frullili, an Italian designer. The ceiling was constructed in Florence, disassembled, and reassembled in the Chateau.

Frullili also designed the dining room, which had leather wallpaper.

The lower side of the staircases are painted with a continuous tree of life that grows to the third floor. Jut was used for the surface to paint.

On the Road Again: Newport, Rhode Island

The Gilded Age

Newport was the summer getaway for the rich in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They built summer “cottages” based on French and Italian chateaux and grand houses.

Today we toured The Breakers, the summer home of indusrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt II, possibly the richest American at the time. He made his fortune through railroads and shipping.

Built between 1893-1895, the house has 70 rooms and 20 bathrooms. The great hall was the site of many balls and parties.

The silver panels in the morning room are actually platinum and will never tarnish.

The ceiling in the billiards room is an intricate mosaic. The wrought iron chandelier is so heavy it had to be attached to supporting beams. Because a previous house had burned, Vanderbilt required the structural elements be steel instead of wood.

The Circassian walnut and gilded panels in the library were designed to look like tooled leather.

The solid marble tub in Mr. Vanderbilt’s bathroom had to be filled with hot water several times before the stone was warm enough for the bather to enter the tub.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the founder of the Whitney Museum, was a daughter of the house. This is part of her bedroom.

The grand staircase was designed with steps 2 inches shallower than normal so women wouldn’t trip on their long dresses.

Below stairs, though actually on the first floor level, a huge kitchen was the site of meal preparation.

Unfortunately, Mr. Vanderbilt only enjoyed one summer at The Breakers before falling ill. He died in 1899. The house remained in family hands until 1948, when it was leased to the Perservation Society of Newport County. They purchased the house and 90% of the furnishings in 1972.

The Breakers and other gilded age properties of the Preservation Society are open to the public, though check the seasonal closures if you plan to visit. Hopefully, the sun will come out tomorrow.

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