A Hidden Gem in Boston

Incredible circular stairway leading up to a 30 foot diameter leaded glass dome
I recently visited the fine city of Boston for the first time, just last week,  and I spent a wonderful day squired about by local artist and blonde vivant, Mark Hänser.
Operating on a tip from my fellow ornamentalist Cleta Grant,  we wandered off the  Freedom Trail and scoped out the New England College of Optometry, which is housed in part in a grand 1894 mansion in the historic  Back Bay district.   The staff obliged me by allowing me to snoop around with my camera.
Students crammed for exams in the splendid Victorian rooms, while we  tiptoed through some of the more fabulous parts of the house, gobsmacked at the beautiful oak paneling and magnificent ornamental painting.
above: superbly painted ornamental frieze over a gilt ground in the foyer/sitting area off the main stairway.  These murals are painted on canvas and glued to the walls.
Oak stairway topped with a gorgeous leaded glass dome and Italianate ornament painted over gold leaf.
The school campus was completely renovated in the late 1990’s and  has won local and national awards for outstanding preservation and adaptive use of historic buildings. The decorative painting remains in very good condition.
Detail of painted Italiante ornament with stenciled gilt background
A fantastic gold mosaic effect was created by stenciling a geometric pattern over the gold leaf base prior to painting the ornament. This breaks up the reflected light and really gives a marvelous impression, especially in the low winter light.  I fully intend to try this technique in a future project!
polychromed lincrusta on the walls
The school also has a cozy library and study area, with beautiful ornamental plaster ceilings and polychromed lincrusta on the walls. Look closely at the detail- how many times have I seen this fantastic material painted glossy white? Painted in this way it can emulate Renaissance-era  embossed leather wallcoverings.
detail of textured library walls
A florid bit of polychromed lincrusta with 12 karat gold accents,  in the NECO library

All images in this post by Lynne Rutter
please click on the images to see them at larger size!


  1. Sheer beauty! A gem, indeed! The lincrusta was an unexpected treat.

  2. "Reporting from Boston, this is Lynne Rutter, your investigative Ornamentalist."

    Good job Lynne!

  3. I agree with Theresa, the lincrusta was a beautiful parting gift. The library was sublime. All the pictures were wonderful as was your running commentary. Tremendous kudos go to the preservationists, awards well deserved. Fantastic post, Lynne!

  4. That staircase is incredible! I'm drooling over it a little bit.

    Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos.

  5. thanks all! i am rather proud of one or two of these shots, and am getting to know my D90 and how to get a good shot with no flash.

    ah, scott, do you ever have my number! that is exactly what i am doing- investigative ornamentalism!

  6. Lynne, absolutely stunning images. Thank you for sharing with us!!


  7. Thanks Lynne! I am a regular reader, and fellow decorative artist.

    Am planning to visit Boston this weekend and adding this to my agenda. Can you just walk in, or did you need special permission?


  8. Hi Charlotte- yes I did ask permission and did not stay long so as to be considerate of the students working there.

  9. Brillliant post. I want to have a go at the geometric pattern on gold leaf....I'll see what I've got.

  10. Very much enjoying your blog and particularly admired the stunning images from Boston. Many thanks

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


What do you think? Join the conversation!