“The Second Mrs. Astor” by Shana Abé

I’m trying something new. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I love a good book, especially novels. I can get fully immersed in a story whether its on audio or the page (I always have one of each going,) and its a big part of my self care. A few years ago started making annual reading goals and sharing them in my Instagram Stories and have the best conversations in my DMs when I do. I miss being in a book club (another Covid social casualty), and don’t have the bandwidth to join or start one at the moment. I’ve been trying to find a way to merge my love of design and my other favorite hobby and the other day it hit me. Every month I’m going to create a room design that is inspired by a book I read that month. Its not meant to be an exact interpretation of a setting or historically accurate, but just a creative outlet without a client or budget. Let me know what you think about Read the Room!


"The Second Mrs. Astor" by Shana Abe, is historical fiction novel about the courting and marriage of Madeline Force and J.J. Astor IV, one of the richest men in the world. I love a Titanic story (who doesn't?!), and I'm fascinated by the families of the Gilded Age. This book takes us through the fancy world of high society in New York in the early 1900s, summers in Newport, RI, and follows the couple on their exotic honeymoon through Paris and Egypt. 

the design plan

We know how the story is going to end as they move toward their return journey on the newly launched Titanic, but I was still captivated by the lifestyle and world they navigated in. She talks of hating the fussy and cold style of the Fifth Avenue mansion she’s inherited, so I wanted to create a space that  still felt formal and traditional, but warm and comfortable for young Madeline. Since they were often chased by journalists, I wanted to create a room that felt safe, interesting and multi-functional. And I had to include a cozy spot for Kitty, their beloved Airedale Terrier who was known to be with them on the ship and usually by their sides.

This chandelier reminded me of gilded portholes in a ship, Bird of Paradise and lotus garden wallpaper brings to mind lush travels abroad. The traditional style of the English roll arm sofa is balanced by the flat weave rug for warmth.

Faux plant, brass planter, wallpaper, drum chandelier, roll arm sofa, striped fur pillows, rug

The Astor’s priceless antiquities are reimagined in the bust flower pot and bronzed accent tables. Kitty’s dog bed might have been found during their travels, and designed into the room so she would always be nearby.

Coffee table, candle tray, nesting side tables, bust pot, dog bed, swivel chairs, pedestal side table, cocktail glass

Even before the Titanic, the Astor’s spent a lot of time by the sea or on their yacht to escape the press. The gallery wall includes ocean views mixed with abstract art but with a consistent ocean-y color palette. The rattan chaise was giving “Titanic deck chair,” but in an organic, sculptural form.  I love the bell shape of these table lamps, and they remind me of the popular cloche hats of the early 1900s. The metal storage console with glass doors would be the perfect place to display found treasures and special collections.

Gallery wall, table lamps, console, clam shell, rattan chaise, sheepskin, tiger pillow





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Studio Plumb is an interior design studio based in Sacramento, California.


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