Draping the Dining Room


The Madisons’ preference for stylish furnishings, as seen throughout the interior spaces of Montpelier, is further exhibited in a new installation in the Dining Room. On Friday, November 18, 2011, with assistance from historic textile consultant Natalie Larson, reproduction window treatments, including salmon colored silk drapery with green lining, sheer dimity under-curtains, and cornices decorated in the neoclassical style of John and Hugh Finlay’s Baltimore painted furniture, were installed in the Montpelier Dining Room.

The design for the treatments is based on documentary evidence, physical evidence assessed during the architectural restoration, and period design plates.

In 1815, the Madisons were taxed for five luxury silk curtains, although their location in the mansion is unclear.1 Though not explicitly described in style or materials, “Window Curtains” were also included in the Madisons’ 1836 “List of Articles in the Dining Room,” confirming architectural evidence.2 Nail hole analysis, conducted during the mansion’s restoration, revealed symmetrical tacking evidence suggestive of a cornice attached to the top architrave of the window casings. While cornices were popular devices designed to hide hardware, they also served decorative purposes.

The restoration team also discovered evidence of curtain pins approximately three feet from the floor on the side architraves, following typical period custom.

The curatorial team is pleased to share this new installation with our readers. Stay tuned for updates of new additions in the Dining Room and Mr. Madison’s Room.


1. James Madison, Orange County Personal Property Tax, 1815, folder Orange County 1815, Orange County, 1801-1822, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. 

2. ”List of articles in Dining Room at Montpellier” and “Engravings in dining room,” July 1, 1836, box 1, folder 1831–1836, Papers of Dolley Madison, MS 18940, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Thomas Sheraton curtain design.

Installed Dining Room window treatments.





Montpelier Staff