Interior Design Trip: Winterthur


Charlotte Mandy, Editor

Shawnee’s Interior Design class went far afield on a sunny Thursday, April 28th, to the labyrinth of rooms and sprawling wooded grounds that is Winterthur Estate and Museum, Delaware. Students had the opportunity to apply their knowledge and observe firsthand the living spaces of Americans up to four hundred years ago.

For an hour, groups of students were guided through the historic home, which began as twelve rooms but was expanded to 175 by Henry Francis DuPont to entertain guests and house his immersive collection.

Tours take participants up and down stairs, from the dim gray light of the preserved, 17th-century custom-made room from Oyster Bay, to the upholstered splendor of reception rooms and a Port Royal room rescued from an old schoolhouse. The collection is varied and the styles are numerous and somewhat chronological, everything cared for via meticulous conservation.

Interior Design students said that seeing how people lived up close is what made the trip. “We had never seen these styles in an actual setting,” clarified Ellie Lill.

Winterthur estate is an eight-leveled time machine. Nearly every floor and room offer a window into the past unafforded by many museums, for architecture is paired with furniture, and it is not behind a glass case. In addition to the aforementioned rooms, the center staircase is from a South Carolina mansion, many urns and vases are inspired by the cultural introductions born of Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquests, and some of the artist Andy Warhol’s furniture can be found.  

Before they enjoyed the fine weather, a reflection pool, and the winding paths of the Enchanted Woods, the students’ tour incorporated a special exhibition and social media, an exercise in interpretation about how museums display information.

Interior Design teacher, Ms. Amy, was impressed by Winterthur’s commitment to keeping their curriculum fresh for the millennial generation. “Using social media in the lesson plans and tour caused the students to be more engaged,” she said. “It wasn’t just about looking at old, pretty furniture–it was fun!”