cover image I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise: A Life of Bunny Mellon

I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise: A Life of Bunny Mellon

Mac Griswold. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $40 (560p) ISBN 978-0-374-27988-2

Landscape historian Griswold (The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island) considers the life of heiress Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon and her lasting influence on American horticulture and design in this impressive study. Incorporating thorough research and excerpts from Mellon’s personal archive, Griswold captures America’s changing social and cultural landscape through the eyes of a socialite who wanted to “always give something back.” Born in New York City, in 1910, Mellon developed a love of simplicity and nature from her grandfather. In 1948, she married Paul Mellon, co-heir to the fortune of Mellon Bank. Inspired by such designer friends as Jean Schlumberger and Hubert de Givenchy, Mellon honed a discerning eye for classic style, shaped her husband’s world-renowned art collection, and conceptualized understated home interiors and gardens. In the 1960s, John F. Kennedy hired Mellon to craft a rose garden outside the Oval Office, and Jacqueline Kennedy hired her to restore White House interiors. After JFK’s death, Mellon designed the eternal flame that burns at his Arlington National Cemetery grave site. Griswold’s rich narrative highlights Mellon’s extravagance, but avoids mythologizing: “Bunny was not a legend but a person.” This is a fast-paced charmer for design enthusiasts and art mavens. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Nov).