I was standing in front of the window and looking outside where the first soft sun gleams were slowly emerging behind the mountain. The sunrise is always inspiring and mesmerizing. I would easily spend more time admiring the awakening of the light, but I needed to start getting ready and thinking about my outfit for the day.
It was Saturday, the second day of our honeymoon in Asheville, North Carolina. The weather forecast promised another beautiful day, and we were hoping for that because we planned to visit the Biltmore house later that day.
Some call the Biltmore house – a mansion or an estate, though when you see it in reality, you might start calling it the Biltmore castle. Its dimensions spanning over 175,000 square feet, can easily fit in the description of one.
And visiting a castle requires a nice outfit; after all, it’s not every day you visit it. So since the moment I found out we were going on a tour to the Biltmore house Asheville NC, I knew I would wear a dress. Those of you who are subscribed to my “Fine art lifestyle” blog and are familiar with my photography know that I am a promoter of the “Power of the Dress” that offers a “Flying Dress” experience. I believe in the power of aesthetics, art, creativity, and personal style. It can enrich and level up your life. I experienced it on my own and shared the results on my blog.
I try to avoid creating expectations, especially when traveling or visiting a museum, gallery, or show. It never works, and usually, I end up trying to perceive the real moment from the perspective of expectations rather than just enjoying it as it is. So, after a tour to El Cielo in Cozumel, Mexico, I made a promise: “Never create expectations.” That’s why I try to avoid viewing highly advertised pictures, those that make you want to say: “OMG! Amazing!” or “This is perfect!” Visiting Biltmore estate is not about experiencing perfection; it’s an enriching experience – the one that doesn’t require exclamation marks and high emotions. It’s about practicing curiosity, expanding your picture of the world, and nourishing your senses, that all together give you aesthetic pleasure.
My husband secretly organized a honeymoon trip to Asheville, so I didn’t have time to create expectations. He told me about our destination when we were twenty minutes to arriving at this artistic town. And later that day announced what date he booked a tour to a Biltmore mansion directly from their website. You can also do it by clicking the following link. They have several ticket options that differ on the number of activities and time of the year. The general admission to the Biltmore house starts at 69 USD and, during Christmas, 99 USD.
A historical note about Biltmore house in Asheville.
Biltmore estate is a historic house-museum built for George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889-1895. The main residence – Biltmore House – inherited its character and design from a Châteauesque style based on French Renaissance architecture. Though Biltmore house is a museum and is open to everyone willing to travel there, it’s owned by George Vandelbilt’s descendants and is the largest privately owned house in the United States.
In the 1880s, after traveling to Asheville with his mother, George Vanderbilt fell in love with the local scenery and climate. So he decided to build a summer house in the area. The name Biltmore originated from a combination of two words: “De Bilt” (a place of his ancestor’s origin in the Netherlands ) and “more” (Anglo Saxons “moor” – an open land).
A woodworking factory and brick kiln were built on-site to facilitate the estate’s construction. About 1000 workers and 60 stonemasons were hired to work on the main Biltmore house. George Vanderbilt II made numerous trips overseas to purchase decor for his mansion. That included furniture, linens, tapestries, paintings, prints, and many other decorative details dating back to the 15th century. The construction of the mansion reportedly cost 5 million dollars (today’s equivalent of 150 million US dollars)
The Biltmore house was opened on Christmas Eve of 1895 to family and friends. Throughout the years, many famous people stayed at Biltmore, including novelist Henry James and Edith Wharton, ambassador Joseph Hodges Choate and US presidents.
Biltmore house is surrounded by 75 acres of formal and informal gardens designed by a famous American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.
In 1963 the Biltmore estate was designated a National Historic Landmark. It is still family-owned, and with over 1,4 million visitors per year, it remains a major tourist attraction in North Carolina.
Inside of Biltmore estate.
Long ago, when I was a kid, I loved listening to Carmen Suite and looking through the pages of the book about European paintings. Later in life, I got a Master’s degree in Art and became a professional photographer. Then, at 30, I pivoted my life in a completely different direction and moved halfway across the world with one suitcase and a camera to Mexico, where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t speak a language. At that moment in life, I was mesmerized by the idea of living in a “tropical paradise,” I thought a beach and sun were all I needed to be happy.
After nine years of living in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, I realized it was not enough. My childhood heritage came into play, and I felt a strong need to experience art more often and from different angles. I love nature and the sea, but in my version of “balance of life,” art and aesthetics play a significant part. Going to a museum, gallery, theatre, painting, and writing is a gentle way to nourish my spirit and mind. So, when I stepped inside of Biltmore estate, I felt I was energized and revived to an unbelievable scale.
Even if I write all the superlative adjectives, it won’t be enough to describe the aesthetic pleasure I received from walking five hours inside Biltmore estate Asheville NC. And I would gladly spend more time there, but as a visitor, you can only get a fragile glimpse of that masterpiece.
A prominent New York architect Richard Morris Hunt was assigned to design a Biltmore castle. He worked previously for several Vanderbilt family members. As an inspiration, he used French Renaissance chateaux. In 1889 together with George Vanderbilt, he visited several of them in France and one in England called Waddesdon Manor.
Biltmore house has 250 rooms inside, including 35 bedrooms for family and guests, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, and three kitchens. The main rooms are located on the ground floor.
The Entrance Hall is made of marble, and to the right side is a Winter Garden surrounded by stone archways.
Biltmore house was infused with several innovations of that time: electric elevator, forced-air heating, centrally controlled clocks, and fire alarm.
The Banquet Hall is the largest room in the house with a 70 ft high barrel-vaulted ceiling. On one side of the hall is an organ gallery that houses a 1916 Skinner Pipe Organ.
The Grand Staircase of 107 steps spiraling around a four-story and a wrought-iron chandelier is the main access to a second floor. Walking through a Living Hall, you will see George Vanderbilt’s gilded bedroom and his wife’s Louis XV-style, oval-shaped bedroom.
The basement level of the Biltmore house has activity rooms: an indoor heated swimming pool, a bowling alley, and a gym. And also a service hub that holds the main, pastry, and rotisserie kitchens, laundry rooms, servant’s dining hall, and walk-in refrigerators.
My top 3 favorite rooms in Biltmore house are:
- The Louis Suite features four rooms: the Damask Room, the Claude Room, the Tyrolean Chimney room, and the Louis XV room. These rooms are located on the second floor.
- Mrs. Edith Vanderbilt’s bedroom
The architecture and interiors of the Biltmore House Asheville NC are so exquisite and rich in detail that the moment I stepped inside, I was effortlessly immersed in the atmosphere of 19-century. Details are so powerful they elicit the character of people who envisioned this scrumptious estate, architects, and designers who worked tirelessly to make it real. And to notice every detail, you need more than one visit to the Biltmore estate.
In our hi-tech era, we love to believe that to appreciate life and feel happy, we have to enjoy the present moment, which implies avoiding the phone and any other device that can distract us from the present. That might be mission-impossible-style-of-task when you are in a place like the Biltmore House, where every room, wall, and the ceiling is magnetically attractive for a curious visitor.
I couldn’t help myself but take numerous photos and record videos. I am a photographer and have been in that business for fifteen years, so it’s my instinct to take photos when I see the beauty and share it later with my readers on my blog and social media. Unfortunately, there is enough overwhelming-frustrating-ugliness around in the form of “the News” and alike, so I created the “Fine Art Lifstyle” project to spread the word about beauty, aesthetics, and creativity that can elevate your spirit and change one’s life for the better.
I was delighted to see two paintings by my favorite artist Claude Monet in one of the rooms on the first floor. If only I had more time in the Biltmore to study every painting, but that sounded like an idealistic plan for an alluring future. Instead, my present moment gave me just a glimpse of absolute masterpieces.
Dress up to elevate your experience in the Biltmore mansion.
A developing theory – “Enclothed Cognition” – describes how clothes influence our behavior and attitude to everything we do. I support this theory because I’d seen it in action during my personal transformation after a divorce. So that when I engaged in a personal style, replaced pants with skirts, and filled my wardrobe with colorful dresses, that became my silent supporter on my journey of restoring my femininity and nourishing my self-love.
On tour at the Biltmore house, I was wearing a flowy dress with a flower pattern, which was appropriate for that gorgeous place. The dress elevated my perception of the whole experience. Walking through the halls at the Biltmore House in a dress was like dancing between a past and a present, and on every twirl, feeling a soft touch of graceful heirlooms trying to get your attention.
There is no dress code for visiting the Biltmore house. Still, I noticed that many visitors were dressed elegantly and stylishly, which added a lot to their enriching experience of visiting the Biltmore estate.
How to arrive to Biltmore House.
We stayed at the hotel Omni Grove Park Inn. On the day of a scheduled tour, we left it around 7.40 AM, and in 12 minutes, we arrived at Biltmore estate. At the main entrance, security welcomed us, scanned our tickets, and gave us a map of the estate. Following the signs located at a short distance from each other, we easily drove to parking lot A. Since it was early morning, parking didn’t take long. Then we walked through a small park that ended with the Observation area of the Biltmore house. We left it around 2 PM and went to the exhibition “Leonardo Da Vinci. 500 years of genius” that was hosted at Biltmore’s Amherst Deerpark venue.
On our way back, still inside the estate, I noticed that small buses were stopping by the main entrance to the Biltmore House. Those were private tours. So, if you booked one, you don’t have to worry about parking lots, since the buses will stop right next to the main entrance.
Returning to the hotel, I was happily tired after walking all day wearing heels that seemed appropriate to the elevated ambiance of a Biltmore mansion, that is an extravagant example of human potential fueled by pride, money, and creative vision. I was excited about the architecture and interior designs and historical side and, most of all, about the sincere joy of seeing a masterpiece.
Address for the Biltmore estate entrance:
1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803
Hours of operation 9 AM – 5PM