For years, people have filled their homes with plants — umbrella plants, African violets, all kinds of plants, big and small.
The wonderful harmony of Arts and Crafts-style architecture was on full display in the 2019 Decorators’ Show House in Buffalo. More than 11,000 people came to see the Palmer Centennial House, a circa 1910 mansion with windows galore, woodwork to die for and a proud heritage of being built on land used for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition.
“That is special in and of itself — that it sits on what was the (Expo site),” said Megan Ortolani, Public Relations and Communications Chair for the signature event, which is co-sponsored by the nonprofit Junior League
of Buffalo and The Buffalo News.
“Those buildings were all torn down and this neighborhood developed there,” she said. “It’s a nice piece of our past.”
Interestingly, Ortolani grew up nearby and was already familiar with the spacious Lincoln Avenue residence before it was selected to be the 20th Decorators’ Show House.
Soon 34 designers and craftspeople stepped in to transform it, room by room, into “an enviable dream home” that was open for public view April 27 through May 19. Proceeds will be donated to a nonprofit organization in the form of a community grant. Decorators’ Show House is a biennial event that since 1981 has raised more than $4.1 million to benefit the Western New York community.
Designed with keen attention to detail by architect Ulysses G. Orr, the residence was built for William Palmer, a prominent florist in Buffalo and part of the founding group in the early 1900s of Florists’ Telegraph Delivery Association, now known as FTD.
“Many of the designers who participated this time played into that theme of flowers and plants. Every room had some greenery or floral accent that helped bring the outdoors in,” Ortolani said.
The three-story home is considered a prime example of the Arts and Crafts movement that began in Britain and took hold in America starting in the late 1880s. With a stucco exterior and a roof of terracotta tiles,
it features an understated style and has been carefully preserved by various owners over the years.
Highlights include a porte cochere, first- and second-floor sunrooms, doors that range from pocket to folding to French, beamed ceilings, a built-in buffet in the dining room, multiple fireplaces and a swimming pool.
“This home has quality craftsmanship and details that haven’t gone out of style,” Ortolani said. “The homeowners have been good stewards of this house and haven’t done anything to interfere with how it was originally built.” The use of natural materials is impressive.
“The beauty of the woodwork hits you in every single room, especially the dining room with paneled wood walls and details on the (mirrored) ceiling , ” she said. “There is stunning original woodwork in every single corner.”
In a city known for historic mansions, it takes an architectural gem to stand out from the crowd — and this house shines, Ortolani said.
“There is beauty in how things were made 100 years ago and they still make sense for us today.”