The seven-month renovation project restores historical integrity to the 18th-century entertainment parlor.
For the past seven months, Mount Vernon visitors have found the doors to the estate’s historic Blue Room, a bedroom on the second floor that was historically used as an entertainment parlor for 18th-century guests, closed for renovation. At long last, having survived the first renovation it has seen in over 30 years, the Blue Room will reopen its doors on Oct. 7.
Wanting to create a more accurate representation of what the Blue Room would have looked like when the Washingtons lived there, the Mount Vernon staff decided to spearhead a months-long attempt at restoring historical integrity to the bedroom’s design. Curatorial staff members have meticulously selected new furnishings for a bolder, bluer aesthetic that emulates the Washingtons’ style while also incorporating Parisian influences, wooden architecture and, of course, an abundance of blues.
Other room updates include French-inspired wallpaper, an ornate looking glass and hand-carved English rococo chairs, elements that are reflective of Martha Washington’s distinct design tastes.
Fun fact: When Martha and George married in January 1759 and thereafter moved into Mount Vernon, Martha wanted to add a statement piece to the home that would mark the union of the couple’s possessions and families. The result? A striking bedstead made of a deep wood and draped in swaths of blue-printed cotton.
The bedstead’s design is based on an order from London that the Washingtons placed in August 1759. They wanted “1 Tester Bedstead, 7 ½ feet pitch, with fashionable blew or blew and white curtains … to make the whole furniture of [the] room uniformly handsome and genteel.” Woodworker Phillip Bell of London formed the frame from mahogany and implemented a new system of copperplate-printing, allowing for extremely fine, detailed designs. A lookalike of this piece will act as the focal point of the Blue Room’s new look.
However, the restoration project’s most dramatic change comes from the addition of patterned, period wallpaper. Where white walls accented with blue crown molding once existed, curatorial staff have now added white and indigo wallpaper of Parisian design, which matches the print of the bedstead’s fabrics. Cream woodwork and gray baseboards complement the update. To ensure the most true-to-history experience for Mount Vernon’s visitors, preservation specialists went so far as to use microscopic paint samples and extensive documentary research to best match these colors and prints.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to see a rare 18th-century print that belonged to the Washington family, Nymphs Bathing. The colorful landscape, which came from Philadelphia, hung in the Blue Room in 1797. Now Nymphs Bathing will see the Blue Room’s walls once again, though only for a limited time.
Entrance to the Blue Room is included in the cost of admission to the Mount Vernon estate, which is $20 for adults and $10 for children.