FASHION + ART + CULTURE
The Gilded Age is used to describe a period soon after the civil war, from the late 1860s to the 1890s, that is marked by boastful displays of wealth, massive economic growth, but questionable ethics. The term “gilded” literally refers to the gilding of a thin layer of gold over cheaper metal, alluding to a “golden age”. Henry M. Flagler’s lifestyle is perhaps the best embodiment of this period and his home, in modern-day Palm Beach, is a swift train ride into this Gilded Age.
Flagler built the massive mansion, named Whitehall, as a wedding gift for his then wife, Mary Lily Kenan Flagler. The home boasts 75 rooms and and 60,000 square feet. Each room with a different theme and corresponding decor, Mr. Flagler spare no cost in giving his wife the perfect gift. What drew my attention was that although the home was built as an obviously boastful display of affection and wealth, certain details about the home exercise a “shabby chic” point of view. Like the ceiling decor (pictured below), that at simple view seems like carved wood with pure gold details, but is actually carved plaster gilded covered with a thin layer of gold to give the appearance of the much more expensive hardwood. This gilding technique prevails throughout all of the ceilings of the home and through much of the decor.
This idea of gilding is a brilliant one. For, who really has the spare cash for hardwood floors or gold sinks? In difficult economical times, only the smartest “shabby chic-er” of them all thrives. Hint to a “Golden Age” in your home with boastful decor and gaudy details. Why not? Minimalism? Please. Live the Flagler lifestyle!