Mansion’s British Arts and Crafts Interior Restored
Nina Dousman, the matriarch of the family who built and occupied the Villa Louis in the 1840s, initiated an expansion and remodeling of the mansion in 1885. She wanted the home to be a showplace for the British Arts and Crafts interior design style, which was in vogue many posh homes of major American cities. The William Morris-inspired fabrics, finishes, and patterns in a Midwestern country house represented an undertaking as bold and unique then as it remains today.
In the mid 1990s the Villa Louis interiors underwent extensive restoration to re-create the house as it appeared in the late 1880s. Family records, letters, bills, receipts and photographs, preserved in the large Dousman family archives, provided the documentation for the restoration.
Details were meticulously researched and painstakingly re-created by some of the museum industry’s most gifted designers. Rich draperies and ornate brass filigree, lushly textured wallpapers and carpeting, hand-wrought faux-grain woodwork and embossed Lincrusta Walton wall coverings were all faithfully reproduced and applied as exactly as historical research allowed.
Original furnishings, artwork, and priceless family heirlooms were incorporated into the project to make the Villa Louis one of the most authentically restored Victorian house museums in America.
In addition to the ornamental trees and flowerbeds, the gardeners also restored the heirloom vegetable gardens. Replantings were based on seed purchases documented by bills and receipts from the 1880s and 1890s. Additional plants appropriate to the period were planted to round out the gardens.
This Villa Louis restoration project attracted national attention, and was the subject of an exhibit at the prestigious New York School of Interior Design in the fall of 1999.