Olveston Historic House, Dunedin © DunedinNZ

Olveston House: how the other half lived

Olveston House
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Designed by a London architect and built in 1904 – well, this was really something. Ostentatious as all hell, Olveston was also lavishly decorated.

From the outside, it could be considered a bit ‘gingerbread-like’ for some tastes, but perhaps that was the point. The ‘over the top is never enough’ school of architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright would convulse.

The remarkable thing is you can see all that historical bling for yourself: the rooms are all exactly as they were left decades ago. The level of detail is stunning across all 35 of them. That is a lot of rooms for one family, it has to be said. And they weren’t the sort to have rellies crashing on their way through to the albatross colony.

The formal dining room is really something to behold, if only to marvel that people actually lived like that – you can almost smell the roast pheasant and hear the tinkle of sterling silver.

The atmosphere is remarkable. And you could swing a number of cats as well as a pool cue in the billiard room, although you’ll feel savagely underdressed in your boardies and ‘I went to Dunedin and all I got was this stupid t-shirt’ t-shirt.

If it all gets a bit stuffy after room #35, take some air in the half-hectare of gardens that surround this splendid piece of architecture. There is a conservatory/greenhouse with tropical plants the like of which you’d never expect to see in Dunedin. It’s actually a gorgeous spot, a more startling side trip than you might have first imagined.

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