Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ostentatious Deco: A Visit to Hearst Castle

My husband had to attend a conference in Santa Barbara last week, so we decided to make a mini vacation out of what would normally be a boring trip down south. We spent the first few days in Santa Barbara, then drove up to San Luis Obispo and spent our final night in Cambria before hightailing it back to San Francisco. On our way back, we decided to check out a much-talked-about gem in San Simeon, Hearst Castle.

Hearst Castle, built by William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan, is one of the few true American castles. Comprised of 165 rooms, the Casa Grande portion of the estate (the largest building) comprises over 60,000 square feet. Yes, you read that right! The estate, now a ranch, is 250,000 acres in size. Pretty impressive! The estate was constructed from 1919 up until Hearst's health began to decline in 1947 and includes a mish-mosh of ancient architectural elements and Deco style. Take a peek!

We were first led to the Neptune Pool, the largest and most elaborate pool on the property (there are three total). The columns on the left hand side of the picture above were recovered from ancient ruins. The statues are all carved from marble. Hearst must have had some raging parties here!

The largest guest house on site, which is about three times the size of my apartment.

See that turret?

Inside is the lovely celestial suite. Our tour guide called it a jewel box, and it's easy to see why. Sadly, this part of the tour is now off-limits due to California's budget problems. We got to see it on its last day open to the public.

The view was so-so.

That gorgeous rust-colored detail is actually hand-carved teak, which has to be regularly oiled.

 Hearst's kitchen was ridiculously large and totally electrically powered - no gas!

Two of my favorite rooms: Hearst's office (left) and the guest (yes, guest) library (right).

After Hearst and his wife separated, actress Marion Davies became the home's "hostess" and remained a dedicated and loving partner to Hearst until his death. Her room was decidedly lovely.

Details details details! Hearst apparently bought a lot of the older-looking pieces from catalogs -- the ceilings are all antique, some hundreds of years old.

A wicked cool lofted guest room. This reminds me so much of a gussied up version of our first loft in San Francisco. What I wouldn't give for those beautiful details!

The best was saved for last: the indoor Roman pool. The pool measures 10 feet deep and features a high dive (left). The bottom of the pool is tiled to look like the sky and the ceiling of the structure is painted with an underwater scene. Our tour guide said Hearst wanted his guests to feel as though they were diving into the sky.

Real gold tiles, both around the pool and in its depths.

"I claim this pool in the name of Honey Cooler Handmade!"

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