The kitchen is buzzing at Templeton, the Old Westbury, Long Island, home of the late Winston and C. Z. Guest, now that their daughter, Cornelia, has decided to take it off the market. Dogs are underfoot as chef Colin Shanley and a flurry of staff prepare a feast for Cornelia’s events company, Cornelia Guest Events, as well as lunch for Cornelia’s guests. “The first time I met Colin Shanley, he had come with Doris Duke to visit my mother. When I heard he was looking for a job, I thought, If he knew how to deal with Doris Duke, he will be able to deal with my mother!” Guest laughs. “They had such a wonderful time. I adore him.”
Back in Manhattan, Guest is sitting in the sunny yellow living room of her Fifth Avenue pied-à-terre, settled into the deep cushions of the sofa—one of the many pieces of furniture that she grew up with in Templeton and that now reside in her one-bedroom apartment. The estate has become something of a personal treasure trove, a one-way supply line for her place in the city, even as Guest plots alteration schemes for Templeton. “I redid some things there already,” she says. “I tried to modernize.” Then she says, “It’s home. I am a Long Island girl, and as you know, I was going to sell the house, but I am a Long Islander—born, tried-and-true. So I am not going to sell the house, so that will really be a fun project!”
Her enthusiasm has much to do with meeting interior designer Daniel Romualdez through Vogue international correspondent Hamish Bowles; Romualdez “just gets me,” she exclaims. If her mother had the legendary French decorator Stéphane Boudin of Maison Jansen, who also worked with Jacqueline Kennedy restoring historic rooms at the White House, as her partner-in-décor, Cornelia has found her counterpart. Romualdez knows heritage and American icons; not long ago he purchased and redid Bill Blass’s old country house in Connecticut.
“Talk about inspiration!” Romualdez says. “The first time we went to Templeton, I was just overwhelmed. I asked Cornelia, ‘We can really take anything?’ The apartment sort of decorated itself.”
Today, Guest shuttles between the apartment and her fifteen-acre country estate that has been so generously worn in by the life of its past. She’s busy with the catering company, the cookbook she recently published (all vegan), and her handbag line (no leather). Then there’s her real passion: taking care of her menagerie of rescue animals (current count: ten dogs, one donkey, and a tortoise). Once known for the company she kept as a bon vivant, Cornelia has become more disciplined since her late nights at Studio 54, surrounded by the mentors she calls her guardian angels: “I mean, as crazy as they were—Halston, Andy [Warhol], and Steve [Rubell]—they watched out for me! I was the most protected person in that place.” Today, she’s looking over her flock. “My dream is to have thousands of acres someplace and just live with rescue animals.” It seems that for now, Templeton fits the bill.