Decorating Lessons from the Biltmore Estate

One of the highlights of the holiday season each year for me is a trip to the beautiful Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.  Every year the mansion is completely decked out from basement to attic with festive trees (there are over 70 of them!), garlands, lights, and other delightful frivolities.  It’s truly a magical experience for everyone in the family.

After so many holiday visits to this lovely home, you can’t help but pick up a few things that you might want to add in your own home.  It’s only natural!

So, today I am sharing ten Christmas decorating lessons I’ve learned from the beautiful Biltmore Estate.  I apologize for the quality of photos; they have just now allowed visitors to take pictures in the house and I had the rely on my phone as my camera had the wrong lens on it for great shots.


1. Deck it all.  Seriously, go all out!


The beautiful view looking up the grand spiral staircase; trimmed out with live garlands and ribbon.


2. Mantle decor doesn’t have to be symmetrical.


3. Use a lot of natural elements.  biltmore-christmas-8-ohfiddledeedee-com


Could you imagine over 1,000 scattered throughout your home?

4. Add bling and a lot of twinkle lights…  Everywhere!



5. Multiple trees are highly recommended; maybe even throughout one room!


The beautiful tapestry room had four trees all decked out, one representing each season!


The “winter” tree in the tapestry room


6. Dress-up everyday ordinary items or use unexpected items to decorate with.


These books looked so lovely tired up in colorful ribbon


Feathers and roses help make this a stunning tree indeed!


7. Deck the bedrooms. After all, the children shouldn’t be the only ones nestled in their cozy beds.


Mrs. Vanderbilt’a beautiful bedroom with not one, but two gorgeous trees!

8. Take your time.


Decorating just one room in the estate can take up to ten hours!  We may not have a design team in our own homes, but there are no rules that say it all has to be decorated in one day!

9. Use your imagination


The “naughty & nice” list running down the tree is such a cute idea for your children or grandchildren

10. Make decorating a BIG deal and a celebration itself within your family


The grand banquet hall tree arriving at the Biltmore Estate

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of the Biltmore Estate at Christmas and found a little inspiration for your own home.  If you ever want a fabulous holiday get-away I highly recommend that you  slip away to Asheville and the Biltmore Estate.  We are all decked out here in the Jones home and are ready to kick off the month of celebrations with a Christmas caroling party this weekend!  I’ll be sharing our decor over the next few days and hope that you will stop back by.

Have a blessed day!


Picture Perfect Framing {& A Gallery Wall Update}

A couple of weeks ago I took a break from cleaning house and playing taxi driver (leaving Audley to handle things for a day) and drove up to the Biltmore House as they were bringing in the grand 35 ft Christmas tree to the banquet hall.

via Biltmore/Facebook

I had mentioned on Facebook that I was going to ride up there, so one of my girlfriends from Atlanta mentioned that her company Larson-Juhl framing was hosting a presentation on art and framing and asked if I would liked to attend.  The presentation was to be done by the art curator at the Biltmore house, Leslie Klingner, and lifestyle blogger, Eddie Ross.  Since I had nothing pressing to do, and knew Audley had the kiddos taken care of, I decided it would be an enjoyable presentation and told her I would love to attend.

via Larson-Juhl (Facebook)  Eddie & Leslie are on the left


{And I am so glad that I did!}
Leslie Klingner, Biltmore’s art curator  did a fantastic job of sharing stories and facts about some of the more prominent paintings and artwork collected by George Vanderbilt and displayed at Biltmore house.

George Vanderbilt was a well traveled and educated man who loved his artwork.  He used such artists as Sergant and Whistler for his own personal paintings.  Leslie shared some of the stories behind the paintings as well as personal correspondence between Vanderbilt and the artists.  One letter was even talking about choosing the perfect frame for a portrait which was important even 125 years ago! I really enjoyed listening to her speak and as Audley and I toured the ouse with friends last weekend, I found myself paying more attention to the artwork displayed throughout the house.

Eddie Ross’ talk focused more on artwork and pictures in our own homes.  As we are trying to put our own house together, I found this so informative.

Here are a few things I picked up from Eddie as he spoke:

** Use artwork as a focal point to complete the look of a room.  Art is personal and should reflect our personal style.

**Frame the unexpected: vintage scarves, buttons baby clothes, even silverware in shadowboxes to use in a kitchen or dining room.

**Monograms are beautiful when framed and make an heirloom keepsake.

**There are so many ways to hang or display  pictures:  a salon style gallery, in a chain or ladder style, up a wall in a stairway, down the hallway in gallery style, floor to ceiling displays, leaned on shelves, or even on a bookcase.

**There is no right or wrong in the height you use for hanging art.  It all depends on what you want to see.

**Mix and match frames, or go with a unified look.  Go bold, using matting and frame edging as a means of emphasizing the picture. Another great idea was to use unified mats, but different frames.

I left the lecture feeling quite inspired, which is always a good thing.  It also gave me a little confidence about my own gallery wall that I put together back in the spring after we moved in (Creating an Entryway).  In the last four weeks Audley and I have finally gotten around to doing a little painting and making this house ours.  Color is always the most inexpensive way to update a room, and I am quite excited about what it has done in our dining room and kitchen.

As we finished painting the dining room, which runs right into our entryway, I updated my gallery wall just a little by taking it on up to the ceiling.  The black frames (while slightly different from one another) really go well together as they all are matted the same and hold black and white photos.

Here is the space as it was when we moved in.

Here is what I put together back in the spring.

And here is my gallery wall (as narrow as it is) updated with our new wall color….. “sparrow” by Behr from Home Depot.

yes, I have started decorating for Christmas …. don’t judge.
Each photograph represents a special place in our lives, including all six states we have lived in during our 17 year marriage.

I may eventually carry the gallery on around the closet door, onto the wall that runs into our kitchen, but I want to put the final touches on the dining room first to make sure it will fit into the entire space.

I hope Audley and I can put the finishing touches on the dining room this weekend, as I am very excited about the changes.  They may not be drastic, but they certainly make the space so much more enjoyable and personal.

Have you done anything special with your photos in your home?

Casual Dining Biltmore Style

When we visited the Biltmore Estates over Christmas break our favorite meal was Sundaylunch in the Bistro next to the winery.  From the welcoming atmosphere to the cloth napkins decorating the tabletop, everything was nicely laid out as if we were enjoying a casual lunch with the Vanderbilt’s themselves.

Like the Stable Cafe, the menus and food here rely on local grown and fresh seasonal ingredients.  The menu had so many wonderful items, it was difficult to chose what to have for lunch!  Our waitress was so friendly and extremely attentive.  Near perfect service is often something a large party doesn’t always experience.  
When a waiter or waitress pays attention to young people at a table, answering questions and listening to their desires, they earn much admiration from me.  Children often go ignored.  Since I expect mine to behave as young adults, I expect others to treat them as such.  The young lady that took care of us will go far in life with her care and attention.
Audley and I both chose to start of with baked French onion soup.  It was so rich and delicious and totally satisfying.  I considered a second bowl, but remembered that I has already ordered a main course!
For my main course I chose a beef tenderloin tip sandwich with sweet onion jam, bacon and arugala lettuce.  It was served up with kettle cooked truffled chips.  I am not quite sure that I can put into words how delicious these chips were.

I was so full after lunch, but the cheesecake with cherries and chocolate was too much to pass up.  Thank goodness for friends and family to help eat it!  

I loved how the kitchen was set up for viewing all of the action.  The chefs were all so intent on creating the perfect dish to send out to each customer.  It was like watching an artist work.  Chefs are definitely artists in my book because it takes a lot of work to make some of the dishes they create.
Look at the tower of chicken salad!

Audley enjoyed the Pastrami Rueben “Croque Monsieur”, Bacon-Fennel Sauerkraut, Gruyère Fondue for his lunch.  That was the quietest he had been the entire weekend, so I am assuming he enjoyed his choice!

The kids all went for pizzas.  These weren’t just your normal pepperoni and cheese pizzas (although you could have them), but topped with ingredients that were “out of the box” and wood oven fired.

A table favorite was the Roasted Mushroom, Spinach, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Swiss and Mozzarella topped pizza ordered by our friend Amy.

One of my girls tried the Italian Sausage and Pepperoni, Mozzarella, Pomodoro Sauce topped pizza.

And the pizza of the day topped with mushrooms, pepperoni, pineapple and fresh arugula lettuce was very flavorful indeed.

This butter pecan and chocolate chip bar dessert was a hit all around the table!

This was Christmas, so after lunch we all ventured over to Antler Hill to walk off some of our lunch and have our picture made with Santa.  There is nothing better than enjoying a vacation with precious friends.

And don’t you just love the vintage Santa costume?  

I’ll be honest with you, the pizzas have been the topic of many conversations over the last several weeks.  On display in the entryway was a cookbook assembled by the chefs of the Biltmore Estates.  I bought it two years ago and have prepared several dishes from it.  The Bistro was high lighting the pizza recipe , over the weekend we made our own homemade pizzas trying the recipe from the Biltmore.
Pizza Dough Ingredients:• 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 teaspoon dried basil
• 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
• 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• ¼ cup vegetable oil
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon quick-rising dry yeast
• 1 cup warm water
Method:Combine the flour, sugar, garlic, basil, rosemary, tarragon, olive oil, vegetable oil, and salt in a mixing bowl; mix with a dough hook. 

Add the yeast and mix at low speed. Add 1/2 cup of the water gradually, mixing constantly. Add the remaining water gradually, mixing constantly until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Mix at low to medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes longer. Remove to an oiled bowl, turning to coat the surface. Let rise, covered with a clean towel, until doubled bulk. 

 Punch down to remove air bubbles and divide into 4 to 5 equal portions. Makes four or five pizzeta crusts.


Roll out and bake for 5 minutes on 350 before topping with your favorite toppings.  Cook until cheese bubbly and the crust is cooked through.

Dinner was not a disappointment at all.  The crust was fabulous and we topped the pizzas with our own favorite ingredients for a wonderful family supper.

Try the crust.  You won’t be disappointed.
Do you ever find inspiration from eating out?


Touring the Biltmore * Part 2

When George Washington Vanderbilt constructed his magnificanct estate in 1895, he had quite a vision in mind.  Besides a vacation home, he was looking to stimulate the economy of the Pisgah Forest area and the people who lived there.  He envisioned a self-sufficient estate; one that could stand on its own.  While that vision was not totally realized in his lifetime, 100 plus years later, I would say that his goal was reached.

Our Bradley and his little friend, Brodie

We stayed at the Doubletree hotel next to the Biltmore house when we visited just before Christmas.  It is a repurposed building that once housed the Dairy that was run by the grandson’s of Mr. Vanderbilt.  We had a great time exploring the hotel and discovering some of the history of the dairy.

And a little trivia for you, did you know that the Vanderbilt’s had an award winning group of dairy cows?  They travelled all over the country entering them in fairs and competitions.  
How ordinary is that?  Farmers do this all the time even now.

When the dairy was bought out, Vanderbilt’s ancestors took on another venture, this time in the form of a winery.  The old dairy barn was converted into a winery during the 1980’s and now is home to many award winning wines.

We enjoyed a grand tour of the winery and then the adults indulged in a little wine tasting.  While not all of the grapes used in making Biltmore wines are grown on the estate, the grapes used are American grown then pressed, aged and bottled on location.
Our tour guide was quite informative and very personable when on our tour.  She even took time to answer my 11-year-old son’s questions.  He was very fascinated with the whole wine making process.  Bradley can still quote the 5 S’s of wine tasting (although he has only tried this with red grape juice!):  See, Swirl, Smell, Sip and Savor.  
Maybe when he is 21….

I loved the little details scattered about during our winery tour.
 The kids didn’t go into the wine tasting room or participate in the tasting, but instead explored nearby Antler Hill Village.  Audley on the other hand enjoyed comparing the different flavors of reds based on the grape.  

Biltmore wines are not the most expensive on the market, but I do find them quite enjoyable.  This year’s Christmas vintage was really quite wonderful.

The Biltmore is also home to several wonderful restaurants.  We dined at the Stable Cafe for lunch on Saturday afternoon and everyone of us were more than thrilled with our fare!  The restaurants on the estate all use seasonal and fresh ingredients in their food as well as local grown product.  Most all of the meat is still raised on the estate and gardens (cold-frames in the winter) are maintained to help keep the freshest of ingredients available.  The Stable Cafe is of course located in the old stables right next to the house.  
I love the whole atmosphere of the Stable Cafe.  From the tables nestled in stalls (the rings where horses were tethered still remain) to actually watching the chef and staff prepare our meals it was all so lovely and delicious!

My little foodies anxious waiting on lunch!

Our friends, mother and  daughter, Jamie & Amy
I just love the old horse stalls!

And the food?  
Absolutely fantastic!  Check out a few of our dishes….
Roast Chicken and squash medley

Chicken Pot Pie

Audley’s meatloaf dinner

Southern Cobb Salad …with maple-glazed bacon, cheddar cheese, tomato, chicken, deviled eggs with dill & yes, that is fried okra!

Fresh from the estate, Angus burger

Crab Cakes … really fabulous!
And for desert, a Tiffany glass inspired chocolate cake ….
We visited one more restaurant on the estate which I will share later this weekend, along with a recipe for a delicious homemade pizza crust.
If you have never had the opportunity to visit the Biltmore House in North Carolina, add it to your bucket list.  There is something for everyone in your family no matter what their age, and I promise, you won’t be disappointed.