a life in architecture hermione lee
In 1901 the American novelist Edith Wharton and her husband built themselves a house in Lenox, Western Massachusetts. It was designed by Francis Hoppin and decorated by Ogden Codman, Wharton's co-author on a book on interior decorating. The writer and academic Hermione Lee, who is currently working on a biography of Edith Wharton, is impressed by The Mount. She says it has a wonderful setting, overlooking a lake and gardens which are being reconstructed. The house combines French, Italian and English influences.
Wharton had her own suite upstairs 'where she did her writing in bed. She needed that kind of privacy. So you've got the sense of tremendous decorum and interest in making people who came to The Mount have a good time. There's a feeling of a very well-sustained life-style which I find very appealing. '
Lee's second choice, near her Yorkshire home, is All Saints' Church, on the Harewood estate, set on a hill above the valley of the River Wharfe. 'It's a very simple church which was unfortunately done over inside by Gilbert Scott so it lost its box pews. But it has six alabaster monuments, carved between 1419 and 1510 and full of the most wonderful details of armour and dogs and lions. ' Under the feet of one effigy is 'a tiny beadsman telling his rosary, certainly the only one in Yorkshire'.
This little church has the added virtue of always being empty whenever Lee goes there.