Olana and the Interior Designs of Frederic Church

Olana is a Victorian estate, created by landscape painter Frederic Church, of the Hudson River School of painters, who died in 1900.  Church purchased the land in 1860 and oversaw the construction of his Moorish style mansion between the years 1870 and 1872.  Church was always active in the planning and development of his home and estate.  In his later years when he was less able to paint, he became something of a full time amateur interior designer in his own home, devoting much of his time to the endeavor of decorating and embellishing Olana.  The estate is now owned by the State of New York and is available for tours.  I went on such a tour last weekend.

photo courtesy of boulerdesigngroup.blogspot.com 

photo courtesy of boulerdesigngroup.blogspot.com 

I am inspired by this home both negatively and positively.  The floor plan is a complete nightmare, and I wish I could show it to you.  Owners of Victorian homes can attest to the fact that dimensions and layout of space are often cumbersome in these old homes.  People were smaller back then.  They also had very different lifestyles.  And there were no building codes.  All of these elements contribute to smaller than average hallways and rooms, and other hallways and rooms that have no apparent purpose and are difficult to use, with bizarre locations and multiple points of entry.

photo courtesy of www.chasmiller.net

photo courtesy of www.chasmiller.net

However dysfunctional the floor plan, there were some awesome architectural elements.  I love the windows.  To the left is a window that Church created by stenciling designs on black paper and inserting the stenciled papers between two pieces of yellow glass.  Genius!  This is much easier to maintain than leaded stained glass windows.  Over time, those windows sag and fall apart.

The doors and doorways were also inspirational.  I love how Church created 6" wide panels of plaster around each doorway that were separated from the rest of the plaster wall by a thin material.  They were decoratively painted and served as trim, instead of the traditional wide fluted wooden molding of the Victorian era.  It was a very original detail that I enjoyed.  Church also created stencils for his doors and painted them with silver and gold leaf paints.  It's like Rivendale!–not necessarily my cup of tea, but I admire his innovation.  Check out Olana for yourself!  The view of the Hudson River is incredible.

photo courtesy of nwphoto.com

photo courtesy of nwphoto.com