Advice for home buyers of the La Belle Époque period

Bucharest enjoyed a remarkable capitalistic property boom during La Belle Époque period (late Victorian, followed by the Edwardian era), which was the first of the four building booms that the city and the country have witnessed to date. The first building boom was in many aspects similar with that of a frontier city from the mid-c19th American west or that of the new towns that sprang up in the same period in Russia’s Black Sea prairie or in Siberia. Romania’s capital was then in the process of a rapid development from a small Ottoman market town to an aspirational European capital city, which today is the sixth largest metropolis of the European Union.

That rapid development had to accommodate a large influx of people who came from its bucolic outskirts, outlying villages or small provincial towns and were used to a rural, medieval-like way of life. There was a real need to initiate and educate the new city dwellers, who were building or buying houses on a massive scale, in the ‘secrets’ of a modern European way of life. That is the era when the picturesque Little Paris architecture, one of the hallmarks of its built heritage, emerged. The brochure presented here is part of that more unusual  educational effort.

The brochure is just three pages in length, published in 1911 by “Societatea L.E.”, probably a local charity, and is brimful with practical advice. Although its recommendations sound trivial for our twenty first century ears, they would have resonated quite powerfully in those of the La Belle Époque people. Among the most amusing instructions are those referring to the use of the toilet, like “climbing with your feet over the toilet seat should be forbidden!” or “do not block the toilet drains with too large pieces of paper or cotton wool”. Another very telling advice is about the painting and decorating of the room walls, lecturing the Bucharest people, notorious for their perennial propensity to paint and decorate their houses in strident, garish colours, to keep the scheme as simple as possible: “you should leave the  walls whitewashed and if colour is desired for decoration, then use just one light lime-wash shade with a simple decorative frieze above”.

[brochure form Mr. Ion Rogojanu's collection]

Fin de Siècle Mountain Resort Villa

Mountain resort villa dating from 1890s, Sinaia, on the southern slopes of the Transylvanian Alps, Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

The above photograph shows a holiday villa built in the 1890s in the town of Sinaia, in the Transylvanian Alps, 120km north of Bucharest. The town undertook at the end of the c19th an amazingly fast transformation from an isolated monastic community to an elegant summer and week end retreat resort, full of villas, casinos, hotels and restaurants, where the Bucharest elites came en masse to escape the canicular midsummer days or for leisure. That rapid transformation was set in motion by the building there of the magnificent Pelesh Castle (started in the 1870s), the amplest private residence of the Romanian Royal Family, and the completion, in the same period, of the railway line that crossed the mountains, linking Bucharest to the rest of Europe. The architecture of the interesting building presented here is a typical Central European Fin de Siècle mountain villa design where neo-rococo and other historicist motifs are grafted on what is by and large a chalet structure.

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I endeavor through this series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Bucharest Art Nouveau House: Letter from A Reader

Bucharest Art Nouveau house, Dorobanti area (©Valentin Mandache)

Recently I had the pleasant surprise to receive a letter from one of my readers who has seen photographs of his house published and analyzed on my blog in two previous articles (Bucharest Art Nouveau House and Blue frame Art Nouveau Window). The house in question is one of the few methodically restored and renovated historical buildings in Bucharest. That was possible because, as I found out from the message, the proprietor is an experienced architect, who has meticulously restored his own house. The results are indeed remarkable, as I detailed in my articles. The edifice is designed in what I would describe as a predominantly Art Nouveau style, with some motifs and shapes recycled from the c19th historicist and other architectural styles popular at that time in Bucharest. The new and substantial information brought to the fore by my reader about his house are an absolute gem, enlivening this fascinating period property from Romania’s capital with mentions about its architect, previous owners and their often dramatic personal stories, detailing the laborious and difficult restoration works undertaken. The following is the letter received from my reader concerning this beautiful historic edifice:

Dear Sir,

I would like to bring to your attention, in my quality as the proprietor of the house described in your blog articles, the following additional information:

The house has been built in 1915 by a Czech entrepreneur, for his German wife. The architect was a member of the Storck family, the famous Bucharest artists, namely Jean (Johann) Storck. I have affixed a name tablet with his signature on the façade, next to the main entrance. The architectural style is a composite one (the client probably requested that), for example mixing together [nn in an Art Nouveau matrix] Neo-Romanian elements (on the street façade) with elements inspired from the German expressionism seen in such house examples from Berlin or Prague (on the courtyard façade).

Because the wife of that entrepreneur did not like the house, it was sold as soon as it was finished to a Romanian aristocratic family, the judge Constatin R. Sturdza and his wife Maria-Irina (nee Campineanu). The family was part of the high Bucharest society, but decent and quite religious when compared to the conspicuous frivolity and arrogance displayed by many among that class during those times.

Mr. Costantin Sturdza has been a front line officer during the Great War, the president of the Constanta County court of justice, and later a good lawyer. He also administered the land and farms that remained in his wife’s property after the radical state agrarian reform of 1923.

His brother became a Foreign Affairs Minister during the Legionary (nn the local Romanian fascist party) government in the first phase of Antonescu’s regime [nn 1940]. Constantin (aka Costache) Sturdza was vehemently opposed to the deportation by the Romanian fascist government to Trandnestria in the Romanian and German occupied Ukraine of the Roma/ Gypsy minority members who lived on his land properties (the family has a letter from those Roma people attesting that fact).

It is interesting that this house has been visited a few times by the fascist dictator Ion Antonescu, who came there for discussions with Costache Sturdza’s brother (before he took over the power in the country in the autumn of 1940). The meetings took place in the lawyer’s office on the ground floor of the building.

After the 23 August 1944 royal coup (nn when Romania broke the alliance with Nazi Germany, joining the Allied cause) the house became the residency of the General Radu R. Rosetti (an in law relative of the Sturdza family), the famous military historian of Romania. He was subsequently arrested by the new authorities and died in the Vacaresti prison.

Costache Sturdza’s wife has been one of the local Red Cross presidents, and their children were also distinguished persons, such as the navy officer, Dinu Sturdza (married with Ionana Rosetti, the daughter of General Rosetti), Ion Sturdza (an engineer, who has recently died in France), Maria Irina (married Fof) (an agronomist), the wife of professor Mihai Pop (the great Romanian folklorist) or Ileana Sturdza (married Cerchez).

Even the owner, Costache Sturdza, was forced to endure a few spells in political prisons between 1945- 1949.

The house was confiscated by the state in 1950, but continued to be partly occupied by the owners’ family until 1989. Among other communist era tenants of this house was the family of the actor Dan Nutu. They were also harassed by the communist authorities, but professor Mihai Pop has managed through his efforts and connections to protect them and avoid the worst prosecutions to which they were exposed because of their status as descendants of an aristocratic family.

Art Nouveau house, Bucharest, how it looked before and after the restoration works

After the 1989 regime change in Romania, the family has successfully reclaimed the property, which was by then in a very run down state as is shown on the left hand side column of photographs in the above collage [nn the right hand column shows images of the house after subsequent restoration and renovation works]. I bought the property in 2003, and being an architect by profession I restored and renovated it in all details after the long 45 years period during which it was badly maintained by a communist state property management company (ICRAL). Amid those works I discovered the original colourful frieze mentioned in your article, hidden under a layer of plaster put there by the ICRAL people. I had an excellent team of workers that assisted me throughout this laborious project, without any support from the state authorities in charge with the heritage buildings, and tried my best to bring it as close as possible to its original shape and details.

One of the interesting discoveries during the restoration works, was the blue hue paint that originally decorated the window woodwork and doorways, under thick layers of more recent nondescript brown paint. I noticed that you also mention the beauty of this blue paint (surprisingly many other people, uneducated in these matters, consider the colour as too strident), this being the original paint colour.

Art Nouveau house, Bucharest- before and after restoration

In the interior of the building, as can be seen in the above photomontage, I installed a central heating system, air conditioning, overhauled the electricity cables and its water and drainage systems, tanked the cellar and thermally insulated the loft ceiling. I consider this project as a salvage operation meant to recover something from the ART NOUVEAU atmosphere of the old Bucharest. Many other owners of such architectural gems in this city would be able to save them if the state authorities in charge with the heritage buildings would give them just a minimal support, which tragically is missing in this country. Your kind articles about this house made me very happy and gave me new hopes and I would like here to thank you for that! With respect, Architect GRS

I am truly moved by these wishes and the impact made by my articles and would also like to thank my reader for his fascinating pieces of information and nice words! I thus hope that my creative effort expressed through the blog posts and the relevant photographs would contribute somehow to the necessary attitude change among the public and authorities toward the conservation of the local historic architecture. Bellow is a close up of the beautiful 1910s frieze uncovered by the proprietor of this house during the restoration and renovation works.

The frieze of a predominantly Art Nouveau house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Church Shape Neo-Romanian Style House

A unusual, medieval Wallachian church shape, Neo-Romanian style house dating from the late 1920s. Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The ornate Neo-Romanian style house from the above photograph is in the final stages of a professional, in my opinion, renovation and restoration process. It is located in an area dotted with many prime Bucharest period property examples, embassies and exquisite government property edifices. What I found unusual about this building is its general shape, resembling closely that of a medieval Wallachian church, especially the types found in the Oltenia region of SW Romania. For example the arched porch next to the house doorway, visible in the second plane of the lower left corner area, is inspired from that of the Tismana monastery. I like how the church altar area is resembled by the apse like ground level veranda that has above it a beautiful alcove, tiered in three sectors that result in a discreet balcony. Also remarkable are the street fence poles, crowned by elegant jardininers decorated with Neo-Romanian style motifs.

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I endeavor through this series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

An article in the Romanian press detailing my activity as a historic property consultant

The article in the Romanian national daily "Puterea" about my activity as a historic property consultant.

The Romanian national daily newspaper “Puterea”, which has recently been launched in Bucharest by the former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, has published an article-interview in its 17 May 2010 issue, where I speak about my activity as a historic property consultant specialised on the Romanian market. The journalist has correctly noted that I am the only expert in this market sector active in the country. The translation of the article’s title is “The new land grab – the demolition of Bucharest’s historic houses” (click the link to access the article- written in Romanian language); it is authored by Dana Fodor Mateescu.

I translated bellow a couple of paragraphs for your information:

“Valentin Mandache is an expert in historic houses, the only such specialist in the country offering consultancy services in the field of period property ( historical appraisal, market analysis, property finding, advice regarding the renovation and restoration of a historic property). He confirms the truth felt by many among Bucharest’s citizens: that a majority of this city’s historic properties are in a real danger of obliteration in the foreseeable future. [...] My activity epitomises a less common gathering of qualifications and work experiences for Romania’s professional landscape; it is a combination of skills pertaining to the fields of history of architecture and property market analysis, developed throughout 20 years of activity and specialist training in the United Kingdom, other European countries and the United States.

According to Valentin Mandache, the period property market is a very specialised market segment, mostly ignored or unprofessionally approached by virtually all Romanian property consultants. It requires a lengthy training and experience in the field of history of architecture, marketing and analysis focused on this more unusual market sector. [...] “When I encounter a historic house, I become extremely curious to find out details about its history and of the previous generations that had lived there” confesses Valentin Mandache. I just want to unravel in minute detail the intricacies of its venerable architecture and unearth the old mysteries that might be buried in documents, personal stories or the structure of that house. I believe that I am in a position to save a historic house when a client has a tangible benefit from my consultancy services, advising him or her how to buy that property, efficiently restore or renovate it, how to chose the best architectural details, decorative themes and conservation methods. I can also help that individual or organisation to properly market their property as an asset endowed with a distinct historic and architectural value. This is my contribution to the conservation and rescue of the cultural heritage of this country.”

“Puterea”, 17 May 2010

Immured Neo-Romanian Doorway: A Sign of Our Times

A former Neo-Romanian style doorway immured by the ignorant owners of this late 1920s house, under the indifferent eye of the authorities, a frequent occurrence in today Romania. Iconei area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The doorways of the Neo-Romanian style houses are flamboyant architectural structures that enhance the aesthetic and money value of the property lucky enough to feature them. An example of an beautiful such doorway can be seen by clicking here. Unfortunately in Bucharest and Romania in general, a multitude of those property owners, are not educated enough to appreciate the great worth of their asset and try to preserve it. I posted some weeks ago an article about a well off, but ignorant owner, click for access here, who replaced an old Art Nouveau doorway with a new DIY store abomination, of which he or she was probably very proud. These people are also oblivious to the fact that they have a responsibility to the community and the nation as the custodians and carers of those historic houses. The authorities share in a great degree their low quality educational background and disregard of the collective identity and history, with the result that the architectural heritage of Romania is destroyed now on a massive scale by its own citizens. The example above with the immured Neo-Romanian style doorway only one of the  many such occurrences, right in the heart of Bucharest, close to embassies and high end properties. It just gives an idea of the scale of this epidemic phenomenon and the huge task ahead of educating the public about the value of its heritage and architectural identity.

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I endeavor through this daily series of images and small articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Getting Rid of One’s Own Heritage in Bucharest

Derelict, heritage listed, mid 1910s Neo-Romanian style house, fire gutted by squatters with the tacit approval of absentee proprietors- a common method in Bucharest for obtaining a demolition permit for historic houses, in order to develop the plot with a more profitable modern office building. Iancului area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The architecture of this mid 1910s house is extremely interesting, being a transition style between early Neo-Romanian, as was conceived by the architect Ion Mincu, its initiator in the 1880s, and the citadel like structure popular in the inter-war period. One can see here some of Mincu’s hallmarks in the pointed arch windows and airy veranda, together with the bastion tower structure borrowed from the fortified yeoman dwelling of Oltenia region, the “cula” (a word derived from Turkish meaning citadel) type house. Unfortunately the building has suffered during the wild Romanian property bubble of the last few years, eyed by greedy developers and irresponsible proprietors for the development of a more profitable modern building on the valuable plot of land occupied by this quite centrally located historic house. The building in this instance has probably changed hands in speculative transactions a number of times in the space of just a few years and was left to deteriorate, open to the elements and squatters, in order to secure the much coveted demolition permit. In the end the house was gutted by fire and although the authorities brick boarded its entrances, it looks that the fate of this magnificent house is sealed. That fact most probably makes its proprietors extremely hopeful of pocketing large profits from the development of the land (I very much doubt that as the Romanian property market is now the most inflated and least profitable in the entire European Union).

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I endeavor through this daily series of images and small articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Daily Picture 25-Feb-10: County Hospital Building in Art Nouveau style

The once magnificent Art Nouveau and c19th rococo style Buzau county hospital building (named "I.C. Bratianu" after the prime-minister of that period ) in Eastern Romania, inaugurated in 1896. (©Valentin Mandache)

The beautiful edifice in the photograph above lays now empty in an extremely deteriorated state, with a near collapsing structure. Although the building it is still impressing and is also an essential part of Buzau city and county heritage, it is just ignored by the  public and authorities alike, which seem more interested in putting in place characterless and badly designed modern constructions, perceived as more prestigious. Perhaps that is the reason why the old hospital is left to fall apart, as the only legal means to secure a demolition permit for listed buildings…

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Daily Picture 8-Feb-10: Art Deco Furniture Find

Walnut veneer Art Deco style furniture made in mid-1930s, preserved in a very good state, placed in the best room of a peasant house located in Dolj county, south-west Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

I found the fine Art Deco style bedroom furniture in the image above during my fieldwork as a buying agent for a client interested in purchasing a peasant house in the villages that dot the wine producing areas of Oltenia province in SW Romania. In the inter-war period, the peasants from the wine producing regions of Romania got relatively prosperous and started to acquire modern furniture and durable household items. These were destined, as was the Art Deco style bedroom furniture set shown here, for the best room of the house, well looked after and preserved as family heirlooms. The furniture in this case could be sold with the house or separately, making it an interesting and affordable acquisition for anyone interested in Art Deco antique artefacts.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

From Country Mansion to Village Hall and Back Again

An old country mansion dating from early c20th, built by the local aristocrat/ landlord, in what was perhaps initially a neo-classical style, for use as his residence and farm administrative headquarters. Olt county. (©Valentin Mandache)

The mansion in the image above was confiscated by the communist regime in late 1940s as part of the communist takeover of the private property in Romania, subsequently used as a village hall until early 1990s, then given back to the descendants of the pre-communist owners and now as the result of a lingering property bubble that affects the country, is on the market for huge price tag, much higher than better quality period property from Southern France or Tuscany, left to deteriorate and out of reach of anyone willing to properly restore or renovate it. This is the usual sad trajectory followed by many of the historic houses that dot Romania.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Daily Image 4-Feb-10: “Little Paris” House as Potential Renovation Project

One of the abundant Bucharest examples of a picturesque "Little Paris" style house (Romania provincially interpreted French c19th architecture), provided with a little front garden, dating from 1900s. In my view that type of house would constitute one of the most rewarding renovation projects, in terms of heritage conservation and resale/ rent revenue, for anyone willing to undertake such an effort. Romana area. (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Daily Picture 2-Feb-10: Crude Renovation of an Art Deco House

A high quality design Art Deco style house dating from the 1930s, crudely renovated by its owner. Domenii area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The most visible interventions on the wonderful Art Deco style house in the image above are the exaggerated colour scheme and near complete replacement of original features with cheap modern mass production fixtures (white plastic frame double-glazing and DIY store metallic doorway). It is interesting to note that in Romania most of the historic house owners and a large proportion of the public, because of deficient cultural education during the communist period and the last two decades of transition, have a deep rooted contempt for heritage conservation and consider such invasive renovations as greatly increasing the value of the property.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Daily Picture 21-Jan-10: Neo-Romanian Style House in Early 1900s Photograph

Photograph taken in early 1900s of a newly built Neo-Romanian style house, Pitesti, Arges county.

The above old photograph shows a magnificent Neo-Romanian style house located in Arges county, today much altered and in bad repair, put on the market by its owners (presumably property flippers) and advertised by estate agents as “Austrian baroque” building, with a huge price tag, characteristic of the property bubble mentality that still lingers around in Romania. Old photographs of period houses, from the public archives or private sources, are among the most important resources for a restoration/ renovation project. With the passing of time many of those houses were altered and in some cases modified beyond recognition. The problem is even more acute in the particular cases of countries that have suffered wars and social upheavals as in Eastern Europe.  Ironically, in Romania, the most destructive period for historic houses is in the last twenty years since the fall of communism, when imperfect property and heritage legislation, coupled with the ignorance of many among the locals about their own history and heritage resulted in a veritable massacre of the country’s valuable old architecture. There are however some individuals and organisations that have gone in the right direction and put great effort an money in restoring and renovating historic houses. Unfortunately in many instances those projects are done by ear, without proper expert documentation and advice. Consulting archives, photographs from the family of the former owners, old newspapers or interviewing local historians is seen in many instances as a distracting and time consuming pernickety. I am afraid that what remains today from the beautiful house in the photograph above will share the unfortunate fate of countless many other period properties in Romania.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Daily Picture 18-Jan-10: Neo-Romanian Shops and Flats Building

A harmonious, reduced to essence design of a late 1920s Neo-Romanian style building, purpose built for use as shops on the ground level and residential apartments on the upper floor. The central gateway gives access to a small interior courtyard. Natiunile Unite area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Daily Picture 14-Jan-10: Peasant Dowry Chest

Peasant dowry chest, with a mix of ethnographic and "urban" decorations; 1880s made, Dolj county, Oltenia region, Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

I went last summer to see some traditional farmhouses for sale in Oltenia, a region in SW Romania the size of Wales. Many of the household items were left in place like in a time capsule, as some of the houses were put on sale by the descendants of deceased elderly occupants. I was able to see for example a traditional kitchen with all its medieval looking utensils ready to use, or a quaint wine cellar provided with beautiful bricked arches and lined up with old oak barrels.  The dowry chest in the photograph above was one of those charming items encountered there. It was bought, according to the seller, the son of the former occupants, at local country fair in the 1880s and belonged to his great-grandparents. I found its decoration very interesting as it contains a mixture of ethnographic and “urban” motifs, reflecting the aspirational lifestyle of the peasants of  those times. Some of the ethnographic decoration can also be identified on the local pottery. What I found interesting were the two human figures, the teenage looking, male and female, an allusion to the use of this artefact as a dowry chest and that people got then married at a much earlier age. Their apparent hairstyle and clothes fashion look as early c19th, or even earlier, while their face type is very Austrian in my opinion. The Habsburg Empire had historically a powerful influence in the Romanian lands and Oltenia region was even incorporated for a few decades within the Austrian Empire in c18th. Perhaps that was also the origin of those two figures: a popular pattern/ model circulating among craftsmen for many decades, reflecting an aspirational fashion and look introduced by the new power in the land with its modernising message (Vienna and its empire was always perceived as an European modernising force in these parts of the Ottoman Balkans). I would advise those looking to renovate/ restore a house bought in the Romanian countryside, to furnish it, in order to preserve as much as possible from its personality, with at least some local artefacts, the colourful dowry chests being just one such example, and also try to find out some of the fascinating history behind these treasurable objects.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.