Bunny Mellon - An unlikely Maximalist - By Nicolas Fairford


Bunny Mellon is best known for her exquisite, understated taste and style which she extended to all areas of her life from her heavenly interiors to her exceptional jewelry and perfectly imperfect gardens. Bunny applied her strict mantra  ‘Nothing should be noticed’ to all of these, and it’s for this reason that we may not immediately think of her as a maximalist. Here are ten reasons why she most definitely was! 

1. Her Incredible Art Collection

Along with her husband Paul, Bunny enjoyed collecting art. The wonderful thing about the Mellon’s is that they enjoyed their art and lived with it. Masterpieces hung above working fireplaces to be admired instead of being locked away in museum like isolation. When Bunny’s possessions were sold in 2014, her art collection which included works by <span>Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Nicolas de Staël, Winslow Homer and Eugène Delacroix raised over $14 million.

A painting by Camille Pissarro hangs carefree above the fireplace

2. Her Private Jet

Bunny had homes all over the world, and what better way to reach them than by your very own jet? At her estate in Virginia, Bunny had a private airstrip so that she could take off at a moments notice. On seeing Bunny leaving in her jet and then returning moments later, one neighbor commented, “she must have forgotten her scarf.”

The Mellon family airstrip on their Oak Spring Farm Estate

3. Her Trompe l’oeil Greenhouse 

Bunny was a woman who considered every little detail, nothing was left to chance..including her greenhouse. Wanting to create something special, she commissioned Fenand Renard to paint a masterpiece in Trompe l’oeil. The incredible work depicted garden tools, plants and even Bunny’s wedding ring. 

4. Schlumberger Jewels 

Bunny loved beautiful things. When she found an artist who was exceptional she would often become mesmerized and commission them to create things to add her collections. One such artist was Jean Schlumberger who created exquisite jewels and works of art for his friend, Mrs Mellon. 

A Flower Pot by Jean Schlumberger

5. Giacometti Furniture

Another such artist who captivated Bunny was Diego Giacometti. She came to love his work thanks to her friend, Hubert de Givenchy, who was already a loyal Giacometti client. Bunny commissioned countless pieces of furniture and sculpture from Giacometti, all of which raised millions at her Sotheby’s auction.

Detail of a coffee table created for Mrs Mellon by Diego Giacometti. 

6. Her very own Library

Tired of seeing Bunny’s enormous book collection in every room of the house, her husband Paul decided to gift Bunny her very own library. Located on their Oak Spring Estate, Bunny’s library was designed by renowned architect Larabee Barnes and is an exquisite example of refined elegance. The library contains over 16,000 objects, including rare books, manuscripts, and works of art dating back to the 14th century and is now run as a horticultural educational charity, something Bunny herself planned before her death.

Bunny’s library at Oak Spring 

7. Givenchy gardening clothes 

Bunny was perhaps best known for her beautiful gardens. As well as her own garden at Oak Spring, she also created the White House Rose Garden for the Kennedy’s and was involved with the restoration of the Potager du Roi at Versailles. While most gardeners wear an old pair of pants and a forgotten shirt, Bunny had her gardening clothes made by Givenchy. Now that’s what I call a maximalist! 

The garden at Oak Spring 

8. Lavish entertaining 

Bunny pulled out all the stops when it came to entertaining. <span> A party for one of Mellon’s daughters featured a purpose built dance area set in a French-style village square at Oak Spring Farm. The village was built by 200 craftsmen entirely out of wood. Guests were said to have consumed an entire vintage year of Dom Perignon in a single night.

On another occasion, the Mellon’s were to entertain royalty when Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited in the 80’s. Bunny left nothing to chance and when she realized that her dining room was too small to accommodate her guests she simply had a wall removed and extended the room. After her royal guests had left, she returned the room to its original size..as you do. 

9. Her painted floors

An example of Bunny’s understated maximalism was her breathtaking painted floors. Although they appear simple, they were painstakingly painted by hand using a technique which requires layers and layers of paint and distressing. The result is one if worn, effortless elegance. 

A painted floor in Bunny’s NYC Townhouse

10. Breathtaking real estate

Oak Spring Farm

As well as their family estate, Oak Spring, The Mellon’s had various other homes to enjoy at their pleasure. Each one was of course exquisitely beautiful with every detail considered. Even in remote islands such as Antigua, Bunny managed to build a stunning home and garden. 

Bunny’s NYC Townhouse 

Island living in Antigua