Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Thomas Jefferson – Antler Trendsetter


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
12 Comments » | Published in Architecture, Design on the Web, Design Press, Design Trends, Kids Rooms  |  12 Comments

As some of you know, I lived in Charlottesville Virginia for eleven years. Every time someone came to visit, we went to Monticello. Then when I went to graduate school for landscape architecture there, it seemed like I was either walking what was then the future site of my Roads teacher Will Reilly’s walkway up to Monticello or doing a historic preservation class and studying Mulberry Row, or exploring the roundabouts starting way below at his father-in-law’s estate property. Once my friend Chad even got me access to the Dome Room. I think I could give the Monticello tour with my eyes closed.

Last night I went to bed thinking a lot about old T.J. and how he had his foyer arranged. Is my life racy or what??? Anyway, it was meant to be a museum, full of artifacts from the territory in the Louisiana Purchase, maps, Natural History and American History. This is how one hangs antlers Louis-and-Clark-style,* under the auspices of a Natural History Museum:



Don’t you feel like designers today are still emulating this composition? It’s so interesting! Maybe this will bring real antlers back in, who knows.

I just received my copy of Amy Butler’s Midwest Modern (yes, I wait until books get a little cheaper sometimes, thus I’m a bit behind). I loved the way Amy and her husband David have created what they call “the nature study.” Amy describes it as “a kinetic environment where we can study and display our finds. We really have a ‘catch and release’ program with rocks, leaves, shells, plants, and branches. In order to keep it from cluttering up, we’ll study a piece for a while, and then take it back outside.” I love it! It’s so Jeffersonian! This idea also translates well for families with kids – what better idea than to provide them with their own mini-musuem.** Check out Amy and David’s Nature Study:



Don’t have room for an entire nature study? Try to use the ideas on a smaller scale. My obsession, besides chairs of course, is maps. I can study them for hours. I appreciate the workmanship and beauty in older drafting. I can’t stop looking at my latest acquisition, a map from 1874 we found of our island and the surrounding ones in Maine. Every time I look I notice something new, like why are there all these long rectangular buildings on Dix Island? Was it military? I can make out fields and paths that have stayed the same or have followed secession into forests, etc. Rachel Ashwell always used to collect birds’ nests. Some people love botanicals. I thought this picture from the January Blueprint showed how educational aesthetics work quite well:


I love the displays Flickr member dayataglance makes with her outdoor finds:


Is her work desk to die for or what?


Well, I guess I could go on and on, and I’m not even sure where this is going. I just went to bed last night thinking about this lame woman in New Jersey who tried to copy Monticello, and she pronounced it “Montisello,” and instead of a museum in the foyer, she had some big tacky oversized staircase (TJ used to make staircases really narrow and hide them because he thought they were a waste of space, thus, the Dome Room is off limits for Joe Schmoe visitors who don’t know my friend Chad). But then I stared thinking about what a great idea it was, and how many design moves we could trace back to good old TJ. Of course, his experimentation was all done on architecture that began with a base of Greek and Roman classics, so, you know, everyone is derivative, from Michael Graves to TJ to Palladio to the Greeks. Well, maybe it all started there, who knows?

By the way, I am so impressed with Monticello’s website. To see a really cool panoramic tour of Monticello, click here. If you visit, make sure to stop by Spudnuts on the way and have a donut for me!

*Actually, Monticello and a ton of TJ’s stuff were bought and sold over the years, so I’m not sure who arranged the antlers. TJ spent money like T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili.

**DISCLAIMER: Don’t be silly and try this with kids who are too young to play with, I don’t know, I don’t have kids, sticks or whatever!

Monticello photos from Monticello.org

Amy Butler photos from Amy Butler’s Midwest Modern, by David Butler

fireplace picture from Blueprint Magazine, by Johnny Valiant

last two photos from flickr member dayataglance

About Becky:
Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!

About Becky

has written 1620 post in this blog.

Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!



  1. susan says:

    January 15th, 2008 at 12:12 pm (#)

    This is a very insightful, interesting, and visually gorgeous post!! I could set myself up to do some quality procrastinating via this post for quite some time, but I’ll call it education instead! Lots to take in, thanks!

  2. Becky says:

    January 15th, 2008 at 1:50 pm (#)

    Thanks Susan! You just made my day 🙂 It took on a bit of stream-of-consciousness but I just decided to roll with it; if I decide to perfect a post, it never gets posted.

  3. Hatch: The Design Public® Blog » Blog Archive » The Modern Nature Study Look (Part II, kind of…) says:

    February 8th, 2008 at 11:44 am (#)

    […] shared the nature study aesthetic with you a few weeks ago, inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.  Since then, I’ve […]

  4. monique says:

    February 11th, 2008 at 3:47 pm (#)

    i was reading your latest post about the modern nature study and it linked me back to this post that you did back in january. first of all i love how you are making all of these nature connections from both your local environment and out into the blog world. As i scrolled down I noticed that you mentioned my little blog over here! I wanted to thank you for thinking of us and for putting us in your post. i was really flattered. 🙂

  5. Ryan says:

    February 23rd, 2008 at 2:50 pm (#)

    Hey Beck,

    This is Ryan from Moss again! Of course we love the whole “Nature Study” look…you should see our mantle at home, it’s a hodge podge of vintage taxidermy, birds nests, found feathers, stones, etc.

    I also wanted to comment on how cool Monticello is. I lived in Charlottesville during two different summers. We were conducting archaeological excavations at the Bremo plantation nearby. We of course visited Monticello and the University of Virginia (designed by TJ). It’s believed that Thomas Jefferson also had a hand in the design of Upper Bremo, which was owned by John Hartwell Cocke.

    Thanks for the great post!

  6. Becky says:

    February 23rd, 2008 at 3:44 pm (#)

    Hi Ryan! I know Bremo well. Somewhere in my UVa grad school boxes I have some great pictures of the whole plantation. I believe (if I am thinking of the right place) that it was an EXCELLENT wholesale nursery we visited (1999 or 2000). Bremo has the three houses, yes? The brick Palladian one was designed by good old TJ. What a spot that place is!

    Please share a shot of your mantle if you have time! I’m going to continue sharing “nature study” looks with readers as long as I keep finding examples.


  7. Hatch: The Design Public® Blog » Blog Archive says:

    June 19th, 2008 at 11:33 am (#)

    […] Part I […]

  8. Hatch: The Design Public ® Blog » Blog Archive » A Green Remodel: Making a Cottage Modern says:

    November 4th, 2008 at 10:06 pm (#)

    […] is a real nature study aesthetic all around the […]

  9. Hatch: The Design Public ® Blog » Blog Archive » A Little More Thom Filicia Eye Candy says:

    November 24th, 2008 at 1:20 am (#)

    […] this seemingly randomly arranged area is a wonderful composition and has touches of the nature study aesthetic I love so much. Filicia keeps things clean and modern, but also adds a warmth through texture and […]

  10. Hels says:

    December 20th, 2008 at 8:27 pm (#)

    I had been examining Government House in Sydney and thinking of the conservation Vs modern refurbishment debate there. Then your line “Anyway, it was meant to be a museum, full of artefacts from the territory in the Louisiana Purchase, maps, Natural History and American History” caught my attention.

    Who made the decision about Monticello’s museum-like nature? Of course Jefferson himself designed Monticello in the Palladian style, and of course work on the house continued intermittently from 1768-1809. It was virtually a lifetime’s project.

    But then by 1879, Jefferson Levy was the new owner of Monticello. He restored and preserved Monticello, which had been deteriorating seriously for many years

    And then the Thomas Jefferson Foundation purchased the house in 1923, had it restored, yet again, by architects. This foundation opened the building to the public.

    A correspondent to the AIA Archiblog [1] recognised that buildings are changed as each generation finds new needs not being met by the existing architecture. “This house as architecture is a disaster, mishapenly proportioned, awkward, which is unsurprising given the interations it went through over the years. Monticello is a mess of a building. He (Jefferson?) can’t even resolve the facade and interior well”.

    Of course I cannot compare Monticello with Government House Sydney directly. Monticello now runs as a museum, fixed in time, not as an active arm of government. But that raises another important question: what extant design features in Monticello came from Jefferson himself? Which elements belonged to Levy 100 years later? And which elements arrived in the 1920s?


    Many thanks for provoking a discussion here
    Helen Webberley

  11. Becky says:

    December 20th, 2008 at 8:37 pm (#)

    Helen, there was a great tribute to the Levys in the C-ville Weekly years ago. It may have been pre-internet days – I lived in Cville for 11 years and a lot of those were pre-Google; I’m not sure when during that period I read it, but it was sometime between 1990 and 2001.


  12. Obsession du Jour: Antlers « The Someday Blog says:

    March 29th, 2010 at 8:05 am (#)

    […] via Design Public blog […]

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