The Mount: Edith Wharton and the American Renaissance


Kay Davis
University of Virginia
© 2001-2003


Edith Wharton > Wharton's Homes > Ogden Codman Jr. > The Decoration of Houses >
Life in the Berkshires

Ogden Codman Jr.

Ogden Codman Jr., a Bostonian by birth, spent his teenage years in France. Upon returning to America in 1884, he spent a year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Codman was influenced by two uncles, one an architect and one a decorator. He admired Italian architecture of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries; French architecture; and the architecture of his home city.

After brief apprenticeships at architectural firms, Codman started his own business in Boston. He met Edith Wharton on a business trip to Newport, Rhode Island. Wharton became one of his first Newport clients.

Ogden Codman Jr.
Odgen Codman Jr.

Wharton and Codman collaborated on redesigning the interior of her New York City townhouse at 882-884 Park Avenue and her Newport home, Land's End.

In her autobiography, Wharton wrote:
"We asked him to alter and decorate the house—a somewhat new departure, since the architects of that day looked down on house-decoration as a branch of dress-making, and left the field up to the upholsterers, who crammed every room with curtains, lambrequins, jardinières of artificial plants, wobbly velvet-covered tables littered with silver gew-gaws, and festoons of lace on mantelpieces and dressing tables." (26)
Codman shared Wharton's distaste for these "sumptuous excesses" of the Gilded Age.

In 1897, Wharton and Codman outlined classically inspired alternatives in their book, The Decoration of Houses.

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