Modern-Day Monticello

Photo: Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, photograph by Philip Beaurline

It’s been nearly 250 years since Thomas Jefferson first broke ground at Monticello, and more than 75 years since misguided historians painted the dining-room walls Wedgwood blue, a move that influenced decorators across America. In other words, the place needed some freshening up. Now, thanks to the wonders of science and the contribution of one big-name designer, curators of Jefferson’s Virginia estate are giving his meticulously crafted country home a makeover, while staying true to its storied history.

The most serious transformation is in the dining room, where the muted blue walls have been restored to their original chrome-yellow color, thanks to a high-tech paint analysis funded by Polo Ralph Lauren. New reproductions of furnishings Jefferson owned now share space with antiques and tableware from Monticello’s collection, and the kitchen has been outfitted with historically accurate appliances and copper cookware. Elsewhere, updates extend to the garden house, where Jefferson and his wife, Martha, lived as newlyweds, and to Mulberry Row, the dwellings, sheds, and workshops at the center of plantation life. Gives a whole new meaning to the term spring cleaning.

Click through the gallery here for a quick tour.