Cornelia sold the house late last year to an owner who intends to knock it down and build anew. But even now, on the eve of its destruction, the structure thrums with echoes of its storied past. After all, it was the home of the late polo champ Winston Guest and his wife, the legendary CZ. A muse to artists such as Salvador Dalí and Diego Rivera, a confidante to cultural giants, including Diana Vreeland and Truman Capote, and an inspiration for fashion designers Mainbocher and Oscar de la Renta, CZ cut a wide swath through the 20th century.
Today, Templeton’s bold leopard-print carpeting has faded, but its legacy lives on. Cornelia has kept, for instance, certain mementos of her father’s hunting expeditions, though she’s adopted a vegan, “cruelty-free” lifestyle. “It makes you feel so much lighter,” she says of her decision to forgo animal products. Her cookbook, Cornelia Guest’s Simple Pleasures, contains recipes for tempting vegetarian fare as well as pictures of her mother’s collection of Dodie Thayer cabbage dinnerware. And though her Templeton involves significantly more tempeh than CZ’s, Cornelia has followed in her stylish footsteps by creating a collection of sophisticated faux-leather handbags and a line of jackets in collaboration with Project Gravitas. An active supporter of the Humane Society of New York, she has been featured multiple times in PETA’s campaigns against fur and carriage horses.
Even as she prepares to leave her ancestral home, Cornelia is planning her next residence and selecting the heirlooms that will accompany her there. “I believe everything has a soul,” she says, referring to her family’s possessions. “Every plate and painting must come out and see the light of day.”