L’esprit du jardin d’hiver is in the air, a quest for a life-affirming sanctuary in colder climes. Russian royalty dedicated palaces to Winter, as with the sixteen-hundred room Winter Palace of the Romanov’s in St. Petersberg. Emperor Nikolai I decreed that Russian artist Eduard Gau create watercolor renderings of the Winter Palace’s interior, the Russian Empire’s official residence in the 18th through 20th centuries. Gau illustrated in his watercolor paintings all of the splendor, brilliance, and opulence of the imperial palace’s interior. It was then when the fashion for creating fantastical interior gardens originated, combining an eclectic mix of architectural styles- frequently combining Classical, Gothic and Oriental motifs in the same scheme, a verdant and magical escape from the harsh reality of winter in Russia.
The taste for winter gardens was soon adopted by the affluent throughout the Russian Empire, eventually spreading throughout Europe and beyond. These interior garden fantasies can be found today among the equally sumptuous Belle Epoque mansions, hotels and restaurants of France and England, in particular, and among America’s Gilded Age personal totems of wealth and power erected by captains of industry. Yet, for all their sumptuous magnificence, perhaps it is the less ostentatious interpretations of these formal winter gardens that linger on in our thoughts and our longing for the promise of rebirth, a place to recharge. From Classical-Romantic Revival-styles to the eclecticism of the 19th-century to the comfort of English country house-style to the simplest and most elemental, the winter garden as escape from the bleakness of winter can be an antidote to formality – a theatrical statement, a whimsical folly, a comfortable retreat or a connection back to nature. Whichever your style, I’m sure you will find among the following jardins d’hiver one to love.
The small Winter Garden of Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna at the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg rendered in gouache by Konstantin Andreyevich Ukhtomsky, c1850.
The Raspberry Study of Empress Maria Alexandrovna at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Watercolor by Edward Petrovich Hau, c1860.
The dining room of Mathilde Laetitia Wilhelmine Bonaparte, Princesse Française, at 24 rue de Courcelles in Paris as painted by Charles Giraud in 1859.
The conservatory at Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris, once the private residence of art collectors Édouard André and Nélie Jacquemart, designed by architect Henri Parent in 1869.
The Art Nouveau restaurant La Fermette Marbeuf in Paris was created between 1898-1900 as the dining room in Hôtel Langham, later covered up when the style had become unfashionable. It was rediscovered by accident in 1978.
The Victorian era conservatory created for the movie Chéri.
Meanwhile, American robber barons were gilding the lily in their monumental estates, such as here in the Palm Court at Biltmore House in Ashville, North Carolina, designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt in 1887. From Architectural Digest Historic Interiors, 1979. Alderman Studio photography.
Modeled after the 18th-century Château d’Asnîeres outside Paris, The Elms was designed for coal magnate Edward J. Berwind and his wife, Herminie, as their Newport “summer cottage” by architect Horace Trumbauer in 1899. The light and airy conservatory is a welcome relief from the formality of the rest of the mansion, and contains five of the original marble pieces not auctioned with most of the estate’s furnishings in 1962. From Architectural Digest Historic Interiors, 1979; photography by Richard Champion.
The multipurpose Music Pavilion designed by Elsie de Wolfe at her beloved Villa Trianon reintroduced the art of treillage, which remains en vogue to this day. Watercolor by society portraitist Scot William Bruce Ellis Ranken.
Madeleine Castaing converted a former laundry at 30 rue Jacob in Paris into her eponymous shop in 1941 and ruled from there well into her nineties. Photographer Derry Moore was witness to her inner sanctum, open to the public, which appeared abandoned, a Ms. Havisham’s a la Parisienne. Castaing’s passion for 19th-century furnishings was inspired by the novels of Balzaz and Proust, with their detailed descriptions of rooms. A haphazard mix of styles and provenance, from Directoire to flea market finds, identified her idiosyncratic oeuvre.
For her space at the 1948 Salon des Antiquaires Madeleine Castaing introduced what became fashionably known as le style anglais in a conservatory setting reminiscent of the Crystal Palace in London designed by Sir Joseph Paxton for the Great Exhibition of 1851. With daring bravado, Castaing mixed Regency furniture with a French Boulle cabinet, an Oriental ceramic “pillows” stool, garden furniture and flea market finds in a verdant oasis utilizing textiles and a carpet of her own design. Watercolor by Alexandre Serebriakoff.
Cecil Beaton posing in the solarium of Reddish House as featured in Vogue in 1968.
Baroness Pauline de Rothschild, as photographed by Horst P. Horst for Vogue in 1969, peers into her Paris bedroom – a glorious verdant indoor “garden” conjured from luminous 18th-century Chinese wallpaper.
Henri Samuel celebrated the exuberant style of the Second Empire in his own jardin d’hiver in his country house outside Paris. Palms and other plants merge with the exotic mélange of trees and birds on the antique print wallcovering. The Victorian rug and bamboo furniture complement a Napoleon III tête-a-tête. From Architectural Digest International Interiors, 1979; photography by Robert Emmett Bright.
Henri Samuel’s winter garden rendered in watercolor by Jeremiah Goodman.
Renzo Mongiardino brought the garden indoors at Turville Grange, the Oxfordshire home of Lee Radziwill photographed by Horst P. Horst in 1971.
For Princess Galitzine’s Rome living room Renzo Mongiardino created the atmosphere of a winter garden enhanced with Oriental flourishes. To temper the abundant use of gold and sheets of mirror framed with appliqué decorative elements of malachite and lapis lazuli the designer introduced simple rattan seating. Photographer Henry Clarke captured the Russian born fashion designer with her poodle, Tschort, for Vogue in 1973.
The maestro of atmosphere, Renzo Mongiardino, converted a subterranean space from two converted mews houses in London into one fantastical salon de réception for Drue and Henry Heinz – an imagined formal garden the hostess named The Lombardian Room after Mongiardino’s foothold in Milan, which resides in the Lombardy region of Italy. In the tradition of the great Italian masters Mongiardino employed his talented artists to the task of creating trompe l’oeil vistas on canvas replete with abandoned gardens filled with mythological figures and painted objects juxtaposed with actual columns and doors, creating tension between the illusory and the real. A vaporous mist appears to shroud the garden in reverent nostalgia. From the February 1991 issue of Architectural Digest; photography by Massimo Listri.
The atmospheric dining room in Diane Burn’s early Italianate San Francisco residence evokes the ancient past with a mix of Roman, Venetian and French furnishings and decor. Photographed by Russell MacMasters for the September 1978 issue of Architectural Digest.
Renzo Mongiardino tempered his characteristically bold palette with an airier one in the late 1980s for a villa near Rome’s Appian Way owned by fashion designer Valentino. The stenciled walls and ceiling of the dining room were inspired by an 18th-century Sicilian veranda. Photography by Derry Moore.
When film and television producer Carole Weiswiller went in search of a home for herself in Paris she turned not to the formidable Right Bank where she grew up but rather to the less bourgeois, bohemian Left Bank. She called on decorator François-Joseph Graft to create a Proustian atmosphere utilizing 19th-century tiles from her family’s house on the place des-Etats-Unis to blend with furniture that had originally been found by Madeleine Castaing, creating a romantic jardin d’hiver in the center of the City of Light. From Private Paris, 1988. Photographed by Philippe Girardeau.
What was once a ballroom became the living room in antiquarian Maroun Saloum’s Paris residence, an exotic oasis that could easily be found in Granada as it could be found in Beirut. From The French Touch, 1988; Jacques Bachman photographer.
The Paris apartment of my earliest dreams has a winter garden much like this one in the Victorian home of Françoise and Henri Quinta in Perpignan, France. Photographed by Thibault Jeanson for Elle Decor.
The winter garden, designed in collaboration with Jacques Grange, at the late Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s Château Gabriel in Deauville, Normandy, was a recreation of 19th-century style, inspired by Princess Mathilde and always filled with orchids. Photography by François Halard.
The main salon in the Paris apartment of KK Auchincloss mixed 18th-century formality with 19th-century eclecticism. From The World of Interiors. Photography by Fritz von der Schulenburg.
Henri Samuel created a sumptuous jardin d’hiver for Susan and John Gutfreund’s New York City apartment. Photo by Jeffrey Hirsch for the New York Social Diary.
This richly layered Russian garden room is a watercolor from the late 1800’s owned by interior designer Howard Slatkin, featured on Instagram here.
The high style entrance gallery of designer Howard Slatkin’s New York apartment features an atmospheric grisaille mural from 1810, the View of Hindoustan, framed by creamy French 18th-century doorways and pilasters and limestone tile flooring underfoot. Furthering the seductive ambiance are Louis XVI silver candle sconces, a regal Russian chandelier from Pavlosk, and luxuriant green-and-white foliage.
Imagined as a classical pavilion from the late 18th-century, designer Michael S. Smith’s Manhattan penthouse aerie is a confection of light and Fragonard sorbet lushness, denoted by banks of windows, silvery light and an antique Aubusson. The main living room is a garden room in the sky, with views over Manhattan from within, and from without on the expansive terrace – the ultimate luxury in New York City. The designer quipped “I love its wacky exuberance; Madame de Pompadour meets Jeff Koons.” From the September 2012 issue of Architectural Digest. Photography by Björn Wallander.
Henri Samuel created a beguiling fantasia for the Jardin d”Hiver in Valentino’s Château de Wideville, a multipurpose chamber furnished largely au chinois. From the October 2012 issue of Architectural Digest. Photography by Simon Watson.
The newly created garden room in Timothy Haynes and Kevin Roberts’ château in the Vendôme region of France is romantic, airy, relaxed and comfortable. From House & Garden; photography by Pascal Chevallier.
In the orangery of a lakeside villa in Switzerland 19th-century birdcages are suspended from a ceiling hand painted by Florentine artisans; the walls are decorated with framed dried flowers, the stool is wrought iron, and the cocktail table was made in Florence. From the June 2011 issue of Elle Decor; photography by Simon Upton.
Lorenzo Castillo re-imagined Madeliene Castaing’s romantic classic style in the solarium of his Madrid residence. Photography by Simon Upton.
Who wouldn’t want to dine in this conservatory-dining room in a Milan residence designed by Studio Peregalli in any season? I can almost hear the pitter patter of rain on the glass-pane ceiling From House & Garden; photography by François Halard.
For gardener and art collector Enid Annenberg Haupt, Sister Parish introduced a romantic atmosphere inspired by the 18th-century to the living room where the owner’s prized tulips, roses, chrysanthemums and lily’s were on constant display. Photographed by Karen Radkay for the September 1985 issue of House & Garden.
For the 1997 Kips Bay Show House Mario Buatta transformed a landing into a conservatory as garden fantasy, replete with painted, carved and real flora. Thibualt Jeanson photographer.
Mark Hampton created an Edwardian-inspired bower off the garden of a home in Munroe, Louisiana. L. Blaine Hickey photography.
For the front parlor in a New York brownstone Mark Hampton created an Edwardian atmosphere with potted palms and a Bennison chintz mixed with Napolean III and Louis XVI furnishings. Photography by Scott Frances.
After Lynn von Kersting, owner of Indigo Seas, purchased the legendary George Cukor estate in Beverly Hills she turned the oval screening room into a Victorian era garden room straight from a Merchant and Ivory film, retaining the room’s original copper cornice installed by movie star turned decorator William Haines. The Syrie Maugham sofa once belonged to actress Ina Claire in the 1930’s, whose portrait by Cecil Beaton hangs above the 19th-century jappaned highboy. Photographed by François Halard for House & Garden.
A conservatory in a 1920’s Beverly Hills residence decorated by Thomas Beaton merges traditional and orientalist design. Photography by Melanie Acevedo for House & Garden.
Richard Keith Langham channeled Dorothy Draper for the design of this Vogue Regency garden room in an Alabama Georgian manor. Photographed by Fernando Benchoegea for House Beautiful in 2002.
The solarium in Michael S. Smith’s previous Georgian-style home in Los Angeles is a delightful architectural statement in light, detail and comfort. From Elle Decor; photography by Simon Upton.
A limestone solarium is at the heart of a Philadelphia house decorated by Thomas Jayne Studio, featured in the July 2011 issue of Architectural Digest; photography by Pieter Estersohn.
Ascetic simplicity blended with the warmth of natural materials informs the winter garden at Edouard Vermeulen’s Villa Rozenhout in Wavre-Saint-Catherine, Belgium. Featured in Traditional Home; photography by Eric Jansen.
A mixture of modern and organic forms introduces a soulful presence in the solarium of antique dealer Robert Shapiro’s Los Angeles residence. From the May 2009 issue of Elle Decor.
The Sagaponack conservatory of interior designers Tim Haynes and Kevin Roberts featured in the June 2006 issue of House & Garden is crisp and classic. Photography by François Halard.
The traditional light-filled solarium of a California home designed by Miles Redd was featured in the January 2015 issue of Architectural Digest. Photography by Roger Davies.
The maximalist garden room in Alexis and Trevor Traina’s San Francisco home was decorated by Anne Getty. Photography by Simon Upton.
The conservatory at Carolyne Roehme’s Connecticut home is a garden aficionado’s delight. From At Home in the Garden by Carolyne Roehm, featured on One Kings Lane.
This Italianate-inspired garden room was designed by architects Ferguson-Shamamian and decorated by Bunny Williams. Photo via Ferguson-Shamamian
This tropical-inspired loggia in a Tudor-style house near the Hudson river renovated by California-based architectural designer James Nigro and Manhattan-based interior designer Alexa Hampton. From the February 2007 issue of Architectural Digest, with photography by Scott Frances.
Timothy Whealon looked to Le Style Jean-Michel Frank for the design of a conservatory in a Monaco residence. Photography by Simon Watson.
French interior designer Jean-Louis Deniot created a sumptuous Winter Garden for a new build classically-inspired mansion in New Delhi, India. From the November 2013 issue of Elle Decor; photography by Richard Powers.
For a Palm Beach dining room Jeffrey Bilhuber layered an oak leaf painting by Chester Arnold and Moroccan fretwork over an existing panoramic mural and a mix of disparate styles, from Regency to modern and refined to humble. Photographed by William Abranowicz
Furlow Gatewood layered colorful Ikats, a bold John Robshaw red-and-white textile, green-painted wicker furniture and a zippy blue-and-white dhurrie on the porch of Cuthbert House on his property in Georgia. Max Kim Bee photography.
Rooigem House in Sint-Kruis, Belgium, is the idiosyncratic creation of antiques dealer and designer Jean-Phillipe Demeyer. See it here
On the outskirts of Antwerp, Belgium, interior designer Axel Vervoordt allows creeper to climb the walls of his orangery furnished in his imitable style. Photo from Axel Vervoordt.
Another conservatory at Axel Vervoordt’s s’Gravenswesel compound in Belgium appreciates the balance of form, texture and meaning. From Vogue Living. Photography by Michael Paul
Designed simply for the pursuit and love of all things botanical, Melinda Ritz designed this garden room for the creator of Will & Grace in Beverly Hills. Photography by William Abranowicz