As an adult, I had a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit in December—I didn’t put up a Christmas tree in my apartment since I would be at my parent’s house for Christmas, I was working all the time, and the weather in DC was chilly and rainy. The weekend before I went home for Christmas, I wanted to do something to get in the Christmas mood. One of my DC bucket list items, a visit to Marjorie Post’s mansion near Rock Creek Park, Hillwood, sounded perfect! I love a good mansion tour, and I knew it would be all decked out for Christmas.
H and I drove over to DC on a rainy Sunday afternoon in mid-December. My parents, aunt, and uncle went to Hillwood without me a few Thanksgivings ago, and they loved the lavish Christmas decorations, collection of fine china, and Fabergé egg exhibit, so we had high expectations. I thought it would be one huge house, but it was more like a compound, with the main house, cottages, and a greenhouse sprawling over the enormous grounds. I couldn’t believe we were in DC—visiting Hillwood was like stepping out of reality.
We started in the greenhouse, looking at Marjorie Post’s collection of rare orchids. I’m not an orchid enthusiast, but it was refreshing to be surrounded by flowers in the middle of December, and I definitely felt like I was at an old English country estate—I could have been an Agatha Christie character interviewing a potential murderer.
We visited the main house next, and even though I was expecting a mansion, I was amazed by how grand it was! The two-story foyer was covered in red carpet and gold leaf, with antique furniture and old portraits everywhere. Each room was designed to showcase Marjorie Post’s art collection, so the dining room featured four enormous paintings of a hunting party and the walls of the French drawing room were covered in ancient tapestries. The mansion was part house and part museum, even when Marjorie lived there—a few rooms downstairs were full of lit cases to display her collections of china, Christian Orthodox icons, and Russian and French art.
On top of the beautiful furnishings and art, the house was decorated for Christmas! The railing of the huge stairway in the foyer was covered in garlands, and each room had a Christmas tree decorated in the style of one of Marjorie Post’s Fabergé eggs. I loved that they had filled a bank of windows in the breakfast nook, an adorable room off the dining room that looked into the garden, with poinsettias.
The upstairs of the house was beautiful as well—Marjorie’s master bedroom screamed 1920s film star glamour, with pink brocade-covered walls and a giant four-poster bed with matching hangings (my dream bedroom!). The bedroom opened out to a warren of dressing rooms, closets, and an all-pink bathroom. The upstairs also held a similar suite for Marjorie’s daughter, in blue, and a few more guest bedrooms filled with antiques and art.
We made our way downstairs and into the gardens, since it had stopped raining and was surprisingly warm outside. The gardens surrounded the house, so you could step out of different doors to find a huge terrace, a charming rose garden, or a sculpture garden with ivy-covered walls. We made our way through the gardens to visit the dacha, a Russian-style house with Marjorie’s collection of Fabergé eggs. Finally we wound through the grounds to the Japanese garden, which had drippy maple trees and rushing waterfalls that were still pretty in the winter. We decided we would have to come back some day when it was warm to see the gardens in bloom!
What I Wore
I wanted to wear an outfit with a vintage vibe, since we were visiting a mansion that was decorated in the 1920s, and I was eager to test-run one of my potential Christmas outfits. I wore a white mock-neck sweater, plaid miniskirt, and loafers, with a short camel coat to keep me warm outside. The sweater is oversized but short, so it balances out the short, fitted skirt without overwhelming my petite frame.
Have you been to any mansion museums? Should I come back to Hillwood in the spring or summer? Let me know in the comments!