Victorian Polychrome!

This view of the exterior of Frederic Edwin Church’s studio wing addition to his home, Olana, shows the Victorian love of multi-color (polychrome) architectural treatments. Stone, brick in three colors, tile, and wood trim stenciled with patterns in several additional colors combine to create the polychrome scheme on Olana, which is near Hudson, NY.

Inspired by Church’s extensive travels in the Middle East, the 1872 house and 1890 studio wing are a romantic orientalist fantasy that could only have been created during the Victorian era.

When I first visited Olana in the 1970’s, the wood trim was painted a uniform chocolate brown color. The polychrome effects of the masonry were apparent but without the extensive stenciling of the wood trim the exterior was not nearly as stunning. Restoration of the polychrome paint scheme has been based on extensive microscopic paint analysis and study of Church’s original design drawings, which remain on the property.

Olana is open to the pubic and well worth a visit (the interior is even more spectacular than the exterior): https://www.olana.org/

The exteriors of historic houses including masonry and paint are covered in Part 4 of Restoring Your Historic House, The Comprehensive Guide for Homeowners. The 720-page hardcover book is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers (currently 35% off list price on Amazon! http://ow.ly/N7ba50y4PS).

Signed copies are available directly from the author at YourHistoricHouse.com.

Your local bookstore can order copies from W.W. Norton.

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