Mansion in May 2014 - Blairsden

Last May I was lucky enough to be one of the designers chosen to participate in Mansion in May. There's a whole lengthy process that many don't know about. I'm going to take you behind the scenes, including some never before seen 'before' photos of Blairsden Mansion!

Designed and constructed between 1897 and 1903, Blairsden was the magnificent country home of the family of C. Ledyard Blair, a New York financier, sportsman and commodore of the New York Yacht Club. Blair was a grandson of self-made multimillionaire, philanthropist and Princeton University trustee and benefactor John Insley Blair, who made his fortune in mining and building much of America's railroad system.

Designed and constructed between 1897 and 1903, Blairsden was the magnificent country home of the family of C. Ledyard Blair, a New York financier, sportsman and commodore of the New York Yacht Club. Blair was a grandson of self-made multimillionaire, philanthropist and Princeton University trustee and benefactor John Insley Blair, who made his fortune in mining and building much of America's railroad system.

The process begins with an invitation to tour Blairsden Mansion. The first tour was held in October of 2013. Approximately 200 designers toured and submitted their designs for the 2014 Mansion in May. Only 62 designers would be awarded a space. Here are some of my amateur photos from my first visit:

From the moment I pulled up to the massive 64,000 square foot mansion, I was completely enchanted. I truly felt the magic that embodies Blairsden. After I toured the whole property, I decided on three rooms to fully concentrate on.  

This first space caught my eye because of the beautiful egg-and-dart mouldings and trim throughout. The walls were in perfect condition and I liked that the room wasn't too large. For my first showhouse since starting my own firm, I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew. I envisioned this space as a glamorous ladies lounge with an emerald green and ivory color scheme. The vibe would be distinctly Art Deco as depicted in the movie, The Great Gatsby.

The next space was a bedroom located on the 2nd floor. I was immediately drawn to the Juliette-style balcony with French doors. I would later be awarded this space and transform it into my nursery design for a little girl!

The next room I chose was clearly not in the best shape! However, I saw the diamond in the rough and loved its symmetry and charm. The fireplace centered between two stained glass windows caught my attention the moment I walked in the room. I imagined this space to be a gentleman's cigar lounge with masculine tones of saddle brown and oxblood. I saw gleams of golden accents, rich textures and sumptuous fabrics.

After taking all of the pictures and measurements I could, I left the mansion (reluctantly) and got to work. All of the designers would only have 3 weeks to get all of their ideas and concepts together to present to the Mansion in May committee. After gathering my concept photos, fabrics, furniture and accessories for each of my three rooms, I put together my presentation boards. Each board would also include a rendered floor plan.

After my presentation boards and written descriptions of each room were complete, they were dropped off and the waiting game commenced! About 4 weeks later, I was told I won the nursery! I was so happy and excited but also anxious to get started. I only had until April to get everything ordered, custom made, installed and photographed. It was a really tight timeline especially since the majority of the furnishings were being made by AFK located in California.

The next step (now that I knew which room I had) was for me to draw a perspective of the space. This labor intensive drawing would be included in the Mansion in May visitors guide as well as in media kits and advertising for the upcoming showhouse - slated to be the largest showhouse in the country! I also decided to have my original color pencil rendering framed and hung above the crib.

Sometime between the first and second week of April, everything was completed. I'm not going to lie, it was super stressful at times but also a lot of fun and I had wonderful people helping me! Here are some installation highlights:

The last photo is of a perfectly timed sunset on my last installation day. Everyone else had gone home and as I was walking back to my car, I managed to capture the sun setting through the trees. I'll always remember that moment.

If you've made it to this point in this really long post, I applaud you! It's a lot, but so many people have asked me what the Mansion in May process is like. This is it in a nutshell! So without further ado, here are the professional photographs of my completed nursery taken by my favorite photographer, Wing Wong of Memories, TTL.

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A few months later I was published in Design New Jersey in their Fall Issue!

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After all was said and done, the Mansion in May 2014 at Blairsden raised over two million dollars, which was donated to Morristown Memorial's Goryeb Children's Hospital. The donation was used toward a new Autism Center and an expanded Pediatric ICU. A huge thank you goes out to The Women's Association of Morristown Medical Center who always does an amazing job of organizing the Mansion in May as well as many other noteworthy charitable events. I'm honored to have been a part of Mansion in May at Blairsden. It was an experience I will not soon forget!

~Kristin Ashley