Interiors and Furnishings
The Oldfields residence, now called Lilly House, features eight furnished historic rooms on the main level. The majority of these rooms reflect the 1930s period of the Lilly family’s occupancy and almost 90 percent of the furnishings and decorative arts objects featured belonged to the Lillys and were used in the home. A visit to Lilly House will offer a deeper understanding of life on a country estate in the early 20th century.
The upper level of Lilly House offers expansive views of Oldfields’ landscape and gardens and features historical and interactive exhibits. You can learn about the American Country Place era, Oldfields’ development as a country estate and Indianapolis in the early 20th century. The second level also features samples of Mr. Lilly’s notable collections of books, gold coins, military miniatures, and nautical items.
Designing the Decor
Archival photographs of Lilly House taken during the 1930s were the starting point for research on interior furnishings. Approximately 90 percent of main-level room furnishings were located, including furniture, fixtures, decorative arts objects, and rugs. Many of the second-level bedroom furnishings had been removed and sold in the 1970s, and no archival photographs were found documenting the appearance of these rooms in the 1930s.
The IMA's registration department catalogued approximately 800 objects belonging to Lilly House, and the Museum's conservation laboratory executed condition reports.
Welsh Color & Conservation of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, undertook analysis of interior paint layers and wall finishes in each of the rooms to determine exact paint colors and wood stain finishes used in the house during the 1930s. All interior paint and stain colors used for the restoration were color-matched to original samples recovered through testing.
IMA historians researched and identified historically appropriate replacements for the few main-level furnishings that were missing or unrecoverable. Fixtures, fabrics, floorings and wall coverings were ordered, including a hand-painted wallpaper that is still produced in China in the exact pattern used in the Lilly House drawing room more than 70 years ago .
Scenic murals by Canadian artist Douglas Riseborough, which the Lillys commissioned for the house in the 1950s, were conserved.
Visitors to Lilly House begin their first-floor tour of the home in the Stair Hall. As originally built for the Hugh Landon family, the house featured a main entrance that opened into this room,, which then contained a square staircase. The Lillys replaced the Landon's staircase with a circular one and moved the main entrance to a more central location that opens into the Great Hall.
The Great Hall is the largest room in Lilly House and it provides access to most of the other rooms on the first floor. The Great Hall served as the main room for entertaining. The mansion's main entrance opened into this room after the Lilly's initial remodeling of the home in the 1930s. Spacious and formal, the Great Hall corresponds to and aligns with the Allée, the grandest of Oldfields' landscape features.
Of all the rooms in Lilly House, the Game Room has undergone the most dramatic changes through the years. During the Landons” occupancy , this room featured gothic-style oak woodwork and shoulder-high bookcases. In the 1930s, the Lillys lined the walls with ceiling-height French-style bookcases in curly and bird’s –eye maple and added a marble fireplace.. During the redecorating project of the 1950s, the Lillys covered the book shelves and painted the walls in order to add wall space for display of a growing collection of paintings.
By the time he purchased Oldfields in 1932, J.K. Lilly Jr. had been actively collecting rare books for about six years. He built a handsome, walnut-paneled library to house them by expanding what had been a sun room or enclosed porch at the south end of the house. This large but intimate Georgian-style library is the most remote and private room on the main level. French doors on the south wall open to an axial view along a path leading to the Formal Garden.
The Drawing Room was used by the Lillys as a smaller public room. Interior design in the early 20th century emphasized architectural elements, and the Lillys honored this by adding moldings to the walls to surround panels of hand-painted Chinese wallpaper. The room was furnished to carefully limit competing patterns, making the wallpaper the dominant design feature. A reproducing piano (a technically advanced type of player piano popular in the early 1900s) was used here for musical entertainment. In the 1950s, the moldings were removed and the walls were covered with silk to accommodate a group of painted portraits.
Loggias were common features of country houses in the early 1900s, providing transitional spaces between the house and the outdoors. The Landons had used wicker and painted wood furniture in this room, while the Lillys gave the room a more formal treatment in their 1930s-era remodeling. In the 1950s, the Lillys commissioned Canadian muralist Douglas Riseborough to create landscape murals on the walls of the loggia. His paintings are fanciful interpretations of the view from the front of Lilly House. The loggia is the only room within Lilly House that has been restored to the 1950's period of the Lilly family's occupancy. The rest of the rooms have been restored to their appearance during the initial Lilly family remodeling of the early 1930s.
With its west-facing windows, the Lilly House dining room was well-positioned for evening sunlight. While the Landons lived in the home, the dining room walls were paneled with mahogany. In keeping with the fashion of the times, the Lillys brightened this room by covering sections of the mahogany paneling with muslin and painting the walls.
When the Lillys remodeled in the 1930s, they updated the kitchen with some new cabinets as well as new linoleum floors and countertops. The zinc edges of the countertops are consistent with the architect's drawings for Lilly House. A refurbished six-burner Magic Chef stove has been positioned in this area. At the kitchen's north end is a small room that contained a refrigerator, a service porch for deliveries and a sitting room for employees. Adjacent to the kitchen is the Butler's Pantry, which served as a buffer between the kitchen and dining room. Here food could be prepared for serving, and fine tablewares could be washed and stored in the cabinets and drawers.