Friday, November 16, 2007

Things in My House, part 2: Bunny Tiles



These are handmade tiles that sit on the backsplash of my kitchen sink. I bought them at the Hearst Castle when my husband and I went to California. There’s a back stairway from the kitchen, and the risers are entirely tiled with these; replicas cast from the original molds are sold in the gift shop.

There are several reasons why I love these tiles. First, they’re just beautiful. The colors are amazing, the glaze has a lovely sheen, and I just love the castle and rabbit motif (especially on the Ave Maria tile). I also love them because they were designed by Julia Morgan, the architect who built Hearst Castle. Miss Morgan was one of the first female graduates of the University of California and owned her own very successful architectural firm during a time when women in the workforce in a professional capacity were extremely rare. William Randolph Hearst’s mother had engaged her to build a house and he was so impressed with her work that he wanted her to build his dream castle. Hearst was a controversial figure, but I love that one of the most powerful men in the world at the time hired a woman to build his house.

Mr. Hearst had a bit of a progressive streak in relationship with his household staff. He corrected anyone who referred to them as “servants” or “maids”. They were “employees” and Mr. Hearst was known to frequently explain that he considered all of his employees, from his newspaper editors to his gardeners, as equals (although I’m sure that didn’t extend to their wages. But still.) Apparently, Mr. Hearst was legendary for his hospitality, which was lavish and open-ended. If he invited you to his home to stay, you could stay and enjoy yourself for as long as you wished. Only 2 things would land you on the street: illicit sex (his own relationship with Marion Davies while they were still married to other people notwithstanding, but hey, it was his house) and rudeness to the household staff.

I love that the tiles remind me of our visit to California and San Simeon. You can name anyone in American or European life during the early 20th century, and chances are, they were guests at the Hearst Castle at some point. I loved the bus ride up the mountain, which was shrouded in fog (as it apparently usually is), so that you didn’t see the Castle rise from the mist until you were almost at the top. I wouldn't want to live at Hearst Castle; there weren't many parts of it that said "come in, sit down, kick off your shoes, watch a movie", but it would have been fun to be a Gilded Age heiress staying there for a few weeks.
(I noticed the total funk on the kitchen hose after I took the picture. It's clean now. Gross.)

14 comments:

Sauntering Soul said...

Those are beautiful! And I didn't know all of that stuff about Mr. Hearst. Very interesting!

Suze said...

Great post and it reminded me that I need to clean my hose too. Now that didn't sound right did it?

CDP said...

Suze...tee hee! I'll be chuckling inappropriately throughout the day now...thanks a lot.

SS--I didn't either, until I visited, it was one of the most interesting historical sites I've been to. Very cool place to visit if you're in the area.

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

I collect tiles too! MDH and I also like to visit historic and/or grand homes when we travel in the US. We haven't been to Cali together yet, but the Hearst Castle is on our list of places to go.

I'm dreaming of going to all the big "cottages" in Newport RI someday.

CDP said...

I've been to a couple of them, I really like Newport, especially the Cliff Walk. The Breakers is amazing, but you have to plan for 4 hours or so since it usually takes at least an hour to get through the line.
And I'm so glad that people are noticing the tiles and not so much the grossness on my sink hose.

dguzman said...

Great post--loves me some bunny tiles!

Worker Mommy said...

Ok, I'm digging you so much on that last line about noticing the funk on the kitchen hose and it now being clean.
Heaven forbid we busy women /moms/super divas can't clean everything every single day.
Ok, seriously that is so something I would do. I wouldn't take another picture but I'd want to be clear with everyone so they wouldn't think I was a total slob.

Whiskeymarie said...

I'm loving the "things in my house" series.
It's great to look at the things you see every day and maybe take for granted in a whole new light.

CDP said...

Worker Mommy, you will totally understand that I SERIOUSLY considered holding this post until I had a chance to retake the picture, and then I just decided to add the disclaimer.

WM, thanks, I'm really liking it too. Looking at things and writing about them makes me appreciate them more.

CDP said...

Worker Mommy, you will totally understand that I SERIOUSLY considered holding this post until I had a chance to retake the picture, and then I just decided to add the disclaimer.

WM, thanks, I'm really liking it too. Looking at things and writing about them makes me appreciate them more.

FranIAm said...

I love tile and these are gorgeous.

What funk?

FranIAm said...

I keep coming back... I am obsessed with that Ave Maria tile!!

CDP said...

I know, and I don't know if it's available anymore. I went to the Hearst Castle website and the castle and bunny are available, but not the Ave Maria.

lijiale said...
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