My observations from the field
In 1985, I moved to Kočevje and almost immediately began my research and restoration work in the area. To date, I have visited and explored several hundred Gottscheer homes and buildings that have been preserved to this day. Since 1988, I have been actively involved as a restoration specialist, consultant, lecturer, a person setting up exhibitions, and as somebody who has managed to acquire numerous items for the collections of the Kočevje Regional Museum, the Ribnica Museum, the Dolenjska Museum Novo mesto, the Bela krajina Museum Metlika, the Putscherle Institute, and for various private collections.
have noticed that very few items from the 17th 17th or 18th century have been preserved in the wider Kočevska region. They are only found as part of church furnishings. Items from the Biedermeier period (1800–1850) are also extremely rare. While elements of Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassicism, Historicism and Art Nouveau can be observed in the architecture of the buildings of the Gottscheer settlements, Historicism – the so-called Old German or Altdeutsch style, which prevailed at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries – stands out in terms of the abundance of preserved interior furnishings.
Furniture from the time of historicism in the Kočevje region
Historicism is characterised by having mostly robust features, with furniture in darker shades and crafted of solid oak, walnut, cherry or other usually dark stained hardwoods. The use of thin, industrial veneers, marble and leather is also typical. The furniture is evidently inspired by older styles (Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Biedermeier styles) that are often combined in the same product.
Identical articles can often be found in different locations, which leads us to the conclusion that these are serial products of larger workshops that have tailored their products to the taste of their customers. The fact that the items were mostly imported from all over central Europe is evidenced by the makers’ marks and, above all, by transport codes. Most of the products that have been preserved in Kočevska area originate from Austrian, Czech and German workshops. It is on rare occasions that we come across an item from this period that can be attributed to local craftsmen.
Furnishings of a town house at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries
Dining room or lounge: it was usually a common room. It accommodated a larger dining table and chairs. The central space along the wall was occupied by a massive, multi-purpose display cabinet. They often also accommodated small decorative tables, a mirror, a coat rack and other ancillary items.
Bedroom: bedside tables stood next to the sturdy, usually high-headed beds. In this room there were also wardrobes and a chest of drawers, while less frequently a trunk, a cheval-glass, a kneeler and a dressing table with a washbasin.
Another important piece of furniture that needs to be mentioned is the writing or bureau desk that was usually located in the study or the aforementioned rooms.
The items preserved in Kočevska area show the prevailing taste of the inhabitants of this area, and in particular that the well-off inhabitants were very fashionable and furnished their homes with the furnishings that were very stylish at that time. Keeping up with the trends is also strongly expressed in sacral buildings, as most of the Baroque and older churches were adorned with new altars and vestry furnishings at the end of the 18th and in the 19th centuries.
The photos show a representative central display cabinet in the historic style during and after the restoration process. It is a typical piece of furniture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, owned by wealthier townsfolk and churches. Composition: hardwood, dark stained and lacquered, marble central panel, brass fittings. Source: Kočevje, private property.
In our previous post, John B. Gladitsch: a story of the American Gottscheer, you can read more about the lives of Gottscheer expatriates in New York City.