In the new book Bunny Mellon Style (Gibbs Smith, 2021), authors Linda Jane Holden, Thomas Lloyd, and Bryan Huffman offer readers an intimate portrait of the famous—yet famously private—collector, gardener, and philanthropist through the lens of her many homes. Fortunately for the curious, there are several. Beginning at her childhood estate in Princeton, New Jersey, and following Bunny to Cape Cod, New York, Washington, D.C., Paris, Nantucket, Antigua, and her beloved Oak Spring estate in Virginia, readers see a perpetually curious, self-taught woman increasingly embrace her own ideas of design, gardens, art, and architecture with creativity and confidence.
Bunny wanted her houses to feel lived in and loved with a certain casual air of hospitality that put guests at ease (though the butlers on hand aided that cause as well). In her homes, décor didn’t have to match perfectly, plants were encouraged to grow between cracks in the bluestone terrace, and paintings—even masterpieces!—were often hung simply without frames. The overall effect was luxurious in its ease. It was the mix of the very best things that money could buy offered in an unpretentious way that charmed Bunny’s many A-list guests throughout the years. “I loved your house,” confided First Lady Jackie Kennedy, admitting she’d rather live at the bucolic Oak Spring estate than at the White House. After finishing this book, readers can empathize.
5 WAYS TO CHANNEL BUNNY MELLON STYLE
A painted floor. Painting the floor brings a warmth and understated sophistication to a room, a design trick Bunny used in many of her homes after traveling to Sweden and seeing it done there.
Flowers all around. Whether it was topiaries on a desk, a small potted geranium on a table, or a mass of arranged flowers in the foyer, Bunny loved flowers in every room.
Books, books, and more books. Books in the Mellon houses were like flowers in their gardens—abundant, ever present, and beloved.
Appeal to the senses. Each morning, Bunny lit a favorite candle (Reine de la Nuit by the French candlemaker Rigaud) and let its fragrance waft throughout the house.
Make it personal. In Bunny’s home, an Impressionist masterpiece might hang near a children’s drawing, favorite baskets were always nearby to gather flowers from the garden, and chintz-covered chairs showed their wear, creating an atmosphere of disarming charm.
By Kirk Reed Forrester