Mr Theomin was born in Bristol and met his wife when he moved to Melbourne. They immigrated to New Zealand in 1879 and grew wealthy importing pianos and sheet music. Their fine taste in pianos is aptly illustrated by the full sized Steinway standing in the drawing room. This was where Mrs Theomin would entertain up to 100 guests a month when she was officially “At Home”.
The house was incredibly modern for its time with central heating, heated towel rails, AN internal telephone system, and a stand up shower. My two favourite rooms were the billiard room and the kitchen. The billiard room on the second floor, has a full sized table, Punch cartoons on the wall and Mrs Theomin’s ‘Persian Nook’ designed especially for card games.
The kitchen is interesting because of its practical beauty and shelves of original crockery. There are vast kauri bench tops, a coffee percolator, a cooking range specially imported from London and an original 1927 Frigidaire.
The two copper sinks, were specially installed as the Theomin’s were Jewish; and kept the meat and dairy products, and utensils and crockery that touched them separate. The cook must have had the shoulders of a prop forward to use the massive rolling pin and there is even a set of steps leading to a window, so delivery boys could hand over goods without entering the house.
David Theomin, was a patron of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and in every room there are incredible pieces of art. The family travelled through Europe, Japan and China and there are hundreds of mementos ranging from small china curios and an ivory mahjong set, through to giant suits of hand carved furniture.
The family members can be seen in the photographs and carved busts throughout the house, and their presence can be felt in each of the rooms - making the Olveston Experience $12 entry fee worth every cent.