Bunny began to show a talent that she has developed ever since. She designed and had built a small playhouse in the woods near out house in Princeton. She stood over the workmen every minute, directing them. It was of concrete block with a thatched roof of straw. It had a Dutch door that opened in two sections and was painted blue. There was a square walled garden in front with tiny boxwood bushes forming intricate patterns, and rare shrubs and vines. Inside it was completely furnished, everything done to the scale of the house.
The Mellons were good friends of the Kennedys, and John F. Kennedy tapped Bunny to redesign the White House Rose Garden.
A few months later, while vacationing on Cape Cod, President Kennedy sailed with his family to the Mellons' beachfront home in Osterville on Nantucket Sound for an afternoon picnic. (The menu most likely included Mellon family favorites: corn on the cob, fried chicken, vegetable salad, blueberry pie, and vanilla ice cream.) . . . The President got right to the point, telling her that the White House had no garden equal in quality or attractiveness to the gardens he had seen and in which he been entertained in Europe.
As the president had requested, the steps leading from his office portico into the garden were redesigned to his specifications. He wanted the central step to be larger and wider than the others so that it could serve as a platform for presentations and speeches. And he wanted the three steps above it to be where honorees would stand, so that he would not be positioned above them.
Nerds like me worry about stuff like tax policy, but politicians obsess about how everything looks.
As the work began, Mrs. Mellon recalled, "Mr. Williams and I realized the garden needed to be wider than the plan called for; the proportion wasn't quite right. Se we asked the G men to move the measuring string on the south boundary over another eighteen inches. Without any discussion or even a moment of thought, they said 'No,' turned away and went back to work. Well, Mr. Williams and I decided we'd wait. As soon as they left for lunch, Mr. Williams quietly went over, measured the additional eighteen inches, and moved the string! When the crew returned from lunch, they didn't notice a thing, or if they did, they said not a word but went straight to work. We got our way."
As an adult Bunny had a maxim about her gardens which can stand as a rule for WASP life: "nothing should be noticed." After she and an architect had designed JFK's grave site at Arlington National Cemetery, Winston Churchill died.
This "descendant of Dukes and modern day hero who had rescued democracy," as Mrs. Mellon described him, was buried in his family's country churchyard in a simple grave, with only his name and birth and death dates etched in stone. According to Painter, "Jacqueline Kennedy began to wonder if our design was too formal and architectural after hearing of the simplicity of Winston Churchill's grave."
I mean, we don't want to be different from the other best people.
On a memorable day in 1968, Bunny Mellon's longtime couturier, Cristobal Balenciaga, announced to her that he was retiring, and walked her across Avenue George V to the atelier of his protégé Hubert de Givenchy. That introduction marked the beginning not only of a new designer-client relationship but also of a deep and abiding friendship. Sharing a profound admiration for the horticultural traditions of the past, in time they collaborated on the redesign and restoration of several historic French gardens. In the early days of her association with Givenchy, Bunny placed an order for one hundred dresses. "I called her office to ask if this was correct. It was," Givenchy recalled. And when he found out that she had ordered the same dress in multiple colors for different houses, it made perfect sense to him. He was impressed with her efficiency.
How can any woman get by without dresses to match each of her houses?