As one of the top-rated travel destinations in the country, tourists typically flock to Asheville, NC for:
A) a rugged outdoor pursuit amongst the Blue Ridge Mountain air
B) to have a food affair with the organic home-grown foodie culture
C) or to spend time amongst the vibrant, eclectic, and unapologetic art scene
While a visit usually reaps a jam-packed, non-stop schedule for any tourist, there is one impassable option that draws designers, builders, and architects like a Sphinx moth to a porch light and that is a tour of the Biltmore Estate.
To date, this massive marvel remains the largest private residence in America. Housing 250 rooms, the French Renaissance chateau covers four acres of floor space, while sitting on a total of 8,000 acres of property.
As the brainchild of George Vanderbilt, Richard Morris Hunt, and Frederick Law Olmstead, the legacy of the Biltmore Estate is unprecedented hosting the mansion, several gardens and farms, the woodlands, and even a vineyard.
Within the property are over 2 million exotic and local plant, tree, and shrub varieties, including over 250 types of roses.
George Vanderbilt personally decorated and designed everything within the house. Each room is named after either: the artist (whose work is exhibited within the room), the function of the room, or by a key design feature that the room showcases.
The Oak Sitting Room was the Vanderbilt’s favorite spot to have breakfast in. It features Jacobean carved oak paneling which provides a striking contrast against the intricate plaster ceiling.
The Banquet Hall is breathtakingly exquisite and has plenty of room for all the jaw-dropping that happens with every encounter. Dinners in this room were a nightly occurrence featuring eight to ten courses.
We found that dedication to such a time-consuming meal would be no problem for us, as the encompassing grandeur of 70-foot high walls, a massive triple fireplace, and the forest-scenes dancing across Flemish tapestries would leave us entertained for hours.
Not all rooms in the Biltmore Estate are over-the-top ornate, however, one of the family’s favorite pastimes was a good ol’ game of bowling. The simplicity of the two-toned private alley helped to echo all the colorful celebration that occurred after each strike.
A beautiful testament to the golden ration, this cantilevered spiral staircase is an architectural feat and wonder. The limestone slab steps appear to float because their weight is counterbalanced by the walls, making it so support columns are unnecessary. It swirls around a 1,700-pound electric chandelier that hangs from a single bolt.
Like the inside, the building’s outside is ornately filled with detailed textures and decor that is art in and of itself. These limestone columns are individually patterned, but when viewed as a whole, they create a larger overarching pattern that balances the playfulness of the Guastavino vaulted tile ceiling.
Our visit rendered a delightful encounter with the artistic work of glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly whose collaboration within and without the the estate brought bright pops of a modern nuance to the traditional regality of the property. The freeform tubes burst forth like fountain heads in a rich gold illuminating the Winter Garden fountain like the lanterns above.
While many just opt for a one-day tour to wander through the mansion’s halls or gardens, a single visit doesn’t really do it justice. The majesty of this man-made creation offers so much to explore and beckons for several visits, which is certainly alright with us —
we’ll be back!