Bring Home Bunny Mellon Style

The book BUNNY MELLON STYLE offers readers an intimate portrait of the famous—yet famously private—collector, gardener, and philanthropist through the lens of her many homes.
Bunny Mellon Cape Cod writing desk
A writing desk sits before a bay window in Bunny Mellon's Cape Cod house. The casual setting captures many of Bunny's signatures: painted floors, a basket for gathering flowers, a topiary, and plenty of books. Photo by Daniel Sutherland, courtesy of Gibbs Smith Books

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 Mellon's Oak Spring living room
In the living room at Oak Spring, Vincent Van Gogh’s Wheat Fields, Auvers, hangs above the mantel. In the left corner, is the door to a small "Bunny" bar for easy access to her pre-lunch Bloody Mary. The sofa is slipcovered in yellow-and-white butterfly fabric from Tillett Textiles. The bookcase doors open to reveal favorite works of art. Louis XVI painted chairs in printed linens round out the seating group. Photo by Thomas Lloyd, courtesy of Gibbs Smith Books

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.


Bunny Mellon cupboard in Nantucket house
Favorite themes of painted floors, cupboards, and chairs are pictured here with Bunny’s preferred method of ceiling lighting, which imparted a soft glow to the room. Bunny admired objects for their function and beauty. Photo by Bryan Huffman,  courtesy of Gibbs Smith Books

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

Bunny Mellon Style book cover
© 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Used with permission of Isabelle Rey

Bunny Mellon Style (Gibbs Smith, 2021) by Linda Jane Holden, Thomas Lloyd, and Bryan Huffman.

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