Friday Fun: Inside Writers’ Houses

Last week I shared with you the exteriors of some famous Romanian writers’ houses, but it’s much more difficult to show you what it looks like inside. Most of the houses were nationalised and converted into schools or other public buildings. Even the ones that were transformed into museums had little of the original furnishings left. So I have had to include a few writers from elsewhere to make up a decent number of writers’ studies or libraries. What strikes me is how bare and functional most of them are. Clearly, a fancy location does not mean better output!

You saw the grand house with a tower that belonged to Mihail Sadoveanu in Iasi, but his desk is a relatively modest affair – perhaps he didn’t want to be facing a window so that he wouldn’t get distracted from his work (but I would have made my study in the tower). From turistintaramea.blogspot.com
Cezar Petrescu’s lovely mountainside villa was filled with books, many of them from France. From Lumina newspaper.
This is how I remember many flats of intellectuals in Romania during the Communist period, crammed full of objects in not very much space. This is the flat of poet Ion Minulescu. From vacanteleluimircea.wordpress.com
Mircea Cartarescu in his living room/library, from Adevarul.ro
Japanese writers are equally cramped for space, this is the study of Yoshimura Akira. From vivelalenteur.typepad.com
Rudyard Kipling in the study of his house in Vermont, from Arts and Thoughts.
Ah, well, there’s nothing like coming from a wealthy family after all! Pushkin’s study/library in St Petersburg, where he died after being wounded in a duel. Actually, it was merely an apartment that Pushkin rented in the house of the aristocratic Volkonsky family. From Visit Petersburg site.

Friday Fun: Romanian Writers’ Memorial Homes

Here is just a handful of the many examples I could have picked. However, it might be worth mentioning that more recent writers would have lived in blocks of flats and therefore have a less attractive backdrop for their creativity.

Nicolae Labis (1935 -1956) showed astounding promise as a poet but died far too young. He wrote his most famous poem ‘The Death of the Deer’ in this childhood home in Suceava county. From muzeedelasat.ro
Lucian Blaga (1895-1961) was one of our most famous poets, originally from Transylvania, as you can see from the different style of architecture of his parental home. From viziteazaalbaiulia.ro
Novelist Mihail Sadoveanu (1892 – 1952) wrote about a third of his works in Falticeni, the small town where he grew up, although this is not the parental home, but a house he built after WW1. From tripadvisor.com
When Sadoveanu became one of the best-loved Romanian writers, he was able to afford this house in Iasi. After the Communists came to power, it was nationalised and is now the Museum of Romanian Literature. From muzeulliteraturiiromane.ro.
Cezar Petrescu (1892-1961) was a popular novelist in the period between the two world wars, and was thus able to afford to buy this house in the mountain resort of Busteni in 1937. From tripadvisor.com.au
Nicolae Iorga (1871-1940) was a writer and historian, who later became a politician and was assassinated by the far-right Iron Guards. He spent every summer at his house in Valenii de Munte for over thirty years. From visitprahova.ro
Mihai Codreanu (1876-1957) is now virtually forgotten, but was a popular poet (known mainly for his sonnets) and journalist. His career is all the more astonishing since he was almost completely blind from the age of about 30. He was given the piece of land by the Iasi city council, upon which he built this house, known as Villa Sonnet. From planiada.ro

Friday Fun: Houses of Famous People

I’ve featured quite a few writers’ homes in my Friday Fun series, and occasionally even featured some other celebrities. Here are a few old favourites.

Celebrity homes in Switzerland https://findingtimetowrite.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/first-friday-fun-of-the-year-2016/

Writerly homes in France https://findingtimetowrite.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/friday-fun-more-writers-homes-in-france/

An international selection of writers’ homes https://findingtimetowrite.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/friday-fun-more-writers-with-magnificent-homes/

More French homes to swoon over https://findingtimetowrite.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/friday-fun-homes-of-french-writers/

Some of these gorgeous homes no longer exist https://findingtimetowrite.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/friday-fun-abandoned-pulled-down-and-restored/

Expats in France https://findingtimetowrite.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/friday-fun-literary-villas-in-france/

Friday Fun: Writers Houses, Mostly French

I thought I had already shown you most writers’ homes in France, but it turns out I’ve barely scratched the surface. So here are some more, plus an extra one a little further afield!

Winter falls on Rousseau’s house in Montmorency, from museejjrousseau.montmorency.fr
Francois Mauriac’s little chateau in Vemars, L’Express.
An older house, for the playwright Corneille, from tourmag.fr
Alphonse Daudet bought this house from his first royalties, which must have been greater in those days, maison.alphonse.daudet.overblog.fr
Surprisingly, Jean Cocteau had the most romantic house outside Paris, in Milly-la-Foret. From L’Express.
Last but not least, this amazing House for Writers from Tbilisi, Georgia. From itinari.com

Strawberry Hill Forever!

I had the great good fortune of visiting St Mary’s University in Twickenham on a sunny day, which allowed me to take a walk through its lovely campus and visit its next-door neighbour Strawberry Hill House: indeed, there is a door leading from the wing of one to the old building of the other.

St Mary’s University leading to Strawberry Hill House (in white).

It was the summer house built to house the art collection of the extravagant and eccentric Horace Walpole, politician, art historian and writer. He was not all that rich when he acquired a plot of land with a cottage and a nice view over the River Thames in Twickenham, but he had very strong ideas about what he wanted to create: an architectural folly to entertain guests who would come upstream to visit him, a backdrop for his legendary literary and artistic parties.

Period view of Strawberry Hill House by E. Sandby.

He had a passion for the Gothic style and pioneered its revival a good half century or more before the Victorian revival of it. He even pioneered it in literature, starting a new genre: the Gothic horror with The Castle of Otranto. As he got richer, he kept adding another wing or redecorating the house, and of course he spent a fortune on his collections. Not just objects of artistic value but also of historical importance – for example, the clock that Henry VIII gave to Anne Boleyn on their wedding day or Cardinal Wolsey’s scarlet cardinal hat. Before visiting, I had the impression that Walpole made it up as he went along and created a mish-mash of styles without much thought and planning. But I discovered just how meticulous a historian he was and how accurate all his reproductions were (of wallpaper and silk hangings for example).

The oldest part of the house was a sort of two up two down cottage, and Walpole added a wooden turret to it.

And it was not all about extravagance. He was also astute at spotting a bargain – for instance, most of the stained glass in the windows was reclaimed from Flemish salvage yards. Unlike most private collectors, he was not about keeping it all for himself, but saw Strawberry Hill as a cultural centre to be shared with others. He started a printing press, and exhibited most of his possessions like a museum.

He had a wonderful life surrounded by all his favourite objects, showing them off to visitors, living exactly as he pleased. But the sad coda to this tale is that when he died without an heir, his entire collection was auctioned off. Fortunately, for a short time only, much of it has been brought together again (on loan or reproduced) and until the 24th of February you can see Strawberry Hill as its owner wanted it to be seen in the Lost Treasures exhibition.

You’re not allowed to take pictures inside, but I have to show you the promotional picture of the library, which can be hired as a wedding venue, I believe.

The view over the Thames has been lost, sadly, and the gardens border onto St Mary’s athletic track, but what other garden has got a shell-shaped seat with a whole book dedicated to it?

Friday Fun: Houses of Famous Writer All Over the World

This week I am wandering around Europe with famous writers, while next week I plan to go a little further afield.

Haworth Parsonage, home of the Bronte sisters. From Visit Britain website.

Dove Cottage in Grasmere, where Wordsworth lived with his sister Dorothy. From World Nomad Journals.

Camus’ modest house in Lourmarin, bought with the proceeds of his Nobel Prize. From Pinterest.

Caragiale museum in Romania. From skytrip.ro

Romanian national poet Eminescu’s birthplace in Ipotesti. From Wikipedia.

Victor Hugo’s house in exile in Guernsey. From Visit Guernsey.

Philip Pullman’s garden shed, from Authors’ Houses.

Schiller’s house in Weimar, from deutschland.yakohl.com

Goethe’s garden shed in Weimar, from planetware.com

Friday Fun: More Writers with Magnificent Homes

We can never get enough of the homes and workplaces which inspired famous writers, can we? Here are some truly enviable ones from all over the world.

Tennessee Williams stayed at this windmill on the Stony Brook campus and wrote a play. From Long Island Press.

Nietzche House in Sils Maria, Switzerland, from NietzcheGesellschaft.de

Rimbaud’s house in Harar, Ethiopia. After he gave up writing. Maybe he had a point, after all. From 3roadblog.wordpress.com

Gogol’s stately home in Moscow, from freefortourists.com

Tolstoy’s country estate Yasnaya Polyana, from Pinterest.

Gore Vidal’s legendary clifftop house on the Amalfi Coast, Italy. From Architectural Digest.

Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford House, on the Scottish Borders. From e-architect.com

 

Friday Fun: Writers’ Homes in the English-Speaking World

I’ve presented quite a few homes of writers and artists in France, but what about some homes for English-language writers in the US and UK? I don’t want to neglect Africa, Australia or New Zealand, so if you know of any noteworthy houses there, be sure to let me know in the comments section.

Evelyn Waugh certainly had plenty of inspiration for Brideshead, if this house is anything to judge by! From The Prose Blog.

Jack London’s study shows his passion for travelling, but also art. From QED.

It seems F.H. Burnett had some inspiration readily available for The Secret Garden or Little Lord Fauntleroy. From The Guardian.

Upton Sinclair’s home in California. From Pinterest.

Enid Blyton opted for the thatched cottage style. From Daily Mail.

As did Thomas Hardy. From Open Culture.

All right, this is in France again, but it’s James Baldwin hard at work in his St Paul de Vence study.

Finally, in this one you can actually stay overnight courtesy of AirBnB.

Steinbeck’s study in Pacific Grove, California. From AirBnB.

 

 

Friday Fun: Famous Writers and their Studies

There is an enduring fascination with the writing spaces and rituals of famous writers. Perhaps by mimicking some of their surroundings or habits, some of the talent might rub off on us!

Charles Dickesn in his purpose-built Swiss Chalet, the garden shed to crown all garden sheds. From Nicolebianchi.com
Charles Dickens in his purpose-built Swiss Chalet, the garden shed to crown all garden sheds. From Nicolebianchi.com

Rudyard Kipling was likewise not a struggling writer, clearly... From Art of Manliness.
Rudyard Kipling was likewise not a struggling writer, clearly… From Art of Manliness.

Hnery Miller did not even use his study much, other than for posing. From Booktique.com
Henry Miller did not even use his study much, other than for posing. From Booktique.com

Ernest Hemingway's study in Key West. From earthxplorer.com
Ernest Hemingway’s colourful study in Key West. From earthxplorer.com

Pablo Neruda looked out on a beautiful view, just as I imagined. From Pinterest.
Pablo Neruda looked out on a beautiful view, just as I imagined. From Pinterest.

While Anne Sexton looked at the camera, giving us plenty of attitude. From This Recording.
While Anne Sexton looked at the camera, giving us plenty of attitude. From This Recording.

Finally, Norman Mailer had such a fancy library-like house over two storeys, that he could not work there. He would go to write in a bare little studio a block away. From Art of Manliness.
Finally, Norman Mailer had such a fancy library-like house over two storeys, that he could not work there. He would go to write in a bare little studio a block away. From Art of Manliness.

Good fortune and good writing spaces are clearly wasted on some people…

In my next Friday Fun, I will show living authors and some more non-English ones.

Friday (Thursday) Fun: Writers’ Retreats

Some of them belong(ed) to writers, some of them are being used for writing workshops and retreats. All of them will predispose you to a bookish reverie…

Edith Wharton's house The Mount in Lenox, MA, organises 2-3 week residencies for women writers of 'demonstrated accomplishment'.
Edith Wharton’s house The Mount in Lenox, MA, organises 2-3 week residencies for women writers of ‘demonstrated accomplishment’.

Court Green in Devon, the house of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Picture courtesy of P.H. Davies. Hughes' widow still lives there.
Court Green in Devon, the house of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Picture courtesy of P.H. Davies. Hughes’ widow still lives there.

Lumb Bank is another house formerly owned by Ted Hughes, and is currenty an Arvon Writers' Centre.
Lumb Bank is another house formerly owned by Ted Hughes, and is currently an Arvon Writers’ Centre. Picture by Alison Morton.

Kerouac's cottage in the Orlando neighbourhood where he wrote The Dharma Bums. 4 three-month residencies a year are available to writers of 'any stripe or age, living anywhere in the world.
Kerouac’s cottage in the Orlando neighbourhood where he wrote The Dharma Bums. 4 three-month residencies a year are available to writers of ‘any stripe or age, living anywhere in the world.

Marguerite Yourcenar's villa not far from Lille and the Belgian border offers 1-2 month residencies to European writers.
Marguerite Yourcenar’s villa not far from Lille and the Belgian border offers 1-2 month residencies to European writers.

Barnhill on the Scottish island of Jura, where George Orwell wrote 1984, is still open to writers seeking solitude and lack of Wifi.
Barnhill on the Scottish island of Jura, where George Orwell wrote 1984, is still open to writers seeking solitude and lack of Wifi.

Gladstone Library in North Wales operates a bed and breakfast, as well as a Writers in Residence Programme.
Gladstone Library in North Wales operates a bed and breakfast, as well as a Writers in Residence Programme.

Finally, the Michalski Foundation in Switzerland has  been busy building different versions of treehouses by renowned Swiss architects. You can apply for a writing residency programme in one of those treehouses, very close to where I used to live (talk about bad timing for leaving the area!). Here are more details on how to apply (deadline is Sept. 30th, hence a Thursday rather than Friday Fun posting, to give you time to apply).

Cabane Mangeat-Walhen, Fondation Jan Michalski.
Cabane Mangeat-Walhen, Fondation Jan Michalski.