This gem of a room at the French Embassy in New York City feels as though you’ve landed in a Venetian palace. Mirrored panels lining the walls reflect 18th-century European furnishings and beautiful artwork. Delicate porcelain flowers sprout within intricately entwined metal latticework. A floral timepiece crowns the milky white fireplace.
The embassy’s Venetian Room is a rare surviving piece of New York’s Gilded Age. The lavish display, which was created in 1906, was finished by famous architect Stanford White less than a year before he was murdered. White spent years traveling to Europe to hunt for inspiration and decor to turn his vision into a reality.
The room was commissioned in 1902 by a businessman named Oliver Payne, as a wedding gift for his nephew. It was constructed in the former Payne Whitney Mansion, which now houses the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. The luxurious room was dismantled in 1948 and remained tucked away in storage until 1997, when it was donated to the French-American Foundation and reinstalled in its original place.
The gorgeous Gilded Age room was recently restored and spent months hidden from view as it was buffed, scrubbed, and returned to its original grandeur. It reopened to the public in June of 2018. Now, anyone can stop to catch a glimpse of the century-old reception room while passing through the embassy’s lobby on their way to Albertine, its celestial-ceilinged bookstore.