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Darvas–La Roche House, the first Art Nouveau Museum in Romania


Address: 11, I. Vulcan street, Oradea


For a start, I will give you the facts: I was roaming in Oradea with my teenage daughters, when a dark cloud suddenly decided to take it out on us… you know how teenagers are…. hard to please… but I needed to do something, and that had to be done quick. Given that we were in the very vicinity of Darvas-La Roche House and it was raining cats and dogs, I dragged them inside with a trembling heart.

To tell you the truth, it was much better than expected and they simply loved the house. I hope so will you.

Detail from the hallway…


Entrance fee
Two words (ok, maybe more) about Art Nouveau
About the owners
The history of the house
The house in general…
…and in particular

Entrance fee

From April to October, the Museum is open 10-18, while the timetable for the rest of the year is 9-17. It is closed on Mondays.

The cost of a ticket is 10 lei (2 euro)/adult, and 5 lei (1 euro)/children and pensioners.

Two words (ok, maybe more) about Art Nouveau

Oradea is a very chic city that is part of the Art Nouveau network along with other remarkable names: Budapest, Brussels, Glasgow, Riga, or Vienna.

This artistic style is defined by beauty and elegance, romanticism, and individualism. A manifesto for change, Art Nouveau is itself elegant by its French name (as French equalled aristocracy back then). Started as a reformation of traditional art, Secession (this was the German name of the trend, as in Oradea it chose the German-Hungarian door) fought against rigid art and tried to replace it by non-conventional shapes and creations.

This new art emerged at the end of the 19th century and lasted until around 1920 as an opposition to old art. Its goal was innovation. Its source of inspiration was nature as it is, with its beauty, but also imperfections. The process of becoming starts from seed and springs to life under various shapes.

Darvas-La Roche on the outside

About the owners

The two men (Darvas and La Roche) were highly placed in Bihor county (the region whose major city is Oradea).

Imre Darvas was the head and founder of modern logging industry (connected to wood), who initiated the establishment of a local cooperative. Very active and involved in the economic life, he soon found himself in the registration certificates of several public limited companies.

Alfred La Roche, a Swiss banker and lawyer, moved to Bihor county as an operations manager of La Roche company. Beginning with 1903, La Roche & Co was established as an independent company that operated logging in Bihor. This is how the two met.

Red glass-wall that separates the hallway from the greenhouse

The history of the house

At the beginning of the 20th century, building a beautiful house in a downtown area equalled high social status. Thus, Darvas decided to display his wealth and position in society by ordering a majestic villa well positioned: on the banks of Crisul Repede river, in a central area, with access from two streets. It seems that beginning with 1912, the villa served also as the working space for the company run by the two associates, hence its name.

Darvas’ dream was to build a villa with terrace as a home, with no flats to rent. The residence was shaped by the architects born in Oradea (Jozsef and Laszlo Vago) to suit the lifestyle of the owners, that is to separate private from public life. This segregation is observed in the functionality of the rooms. The ground floor is destined to work and social life, having working spaces, while the upper floor is the incarnation of personal area.

Pic from the Belle Epoque exhibition

The bedroom is the one room in the house with the original furniture complete, in the other parts, pieces of furniture were restored by experts. The initial pieces were, some lost or destroyed throughout time and right after communism, when the residence was assaulted and parts of it stolen. Then, Darvas villa was the headquarters of the football club in the area. Only later did a former resident of the house sell it to the City Hall, thus closing the circle…

The house in general…

On the outside it is simply stunning. The yellow and grey façade seasoned with pearl-green Zsolnay ceramic buttons looks smooth and elegant.

The residence itself is a careful showcase of ceramics and stained copper typical of Viennese Secession, and a fine display of stained-glass with vegetal motifs (and a story). For instance, the tulip is the receptacle that captures the energies of the sky, while the spiral, though mystical, is derived from the snail or curled serpent, being the graphic representation of the labyrinth.

Terrace on a rainy day facing the Synagogue with wrought iron details

Every detail received a lot of attention. I was so fascinated at the initials of the owner on door handles, the rich vegetal decoration of the ceiling, the angels from the mirror, or gramophone!

Simply loved this…
… and this

The villa contains two hallways that play a representative role. I particularly enjoyed the ground floor hallway, so large and colourful! It acts as the tree trunk that takes you to the branches of the house!

Close to the entry, we saw two small exhibitions: one with the typical clothes from Belle Epoque, and the other with old beauty products. The latter one brought me some nostalgia when I faced after sooo many years the Romanian communist beauty merchandise and their awkward packaging!

Collection of old beauty products: Romanian and international

…and in particular

The residence features a unique fountain, Secession style, with bright colours, decorated with ceramic elements. There is also a lovely greenhouse, the two areas being separated by a huge red stained-glass wall.

Art Nouveau fountain

I was impressed by the dining room, a classy salon reserved for serving meals or playing the piano. The villa was designed in such a way that in case of reception, the room could be enlarged by unifying two areas.

The green room is obviously the gentlemen’s room. The dark shade and the games displayed on the table make you think that it is a manly space. I could easily imagine elegant gentlemen playing poker, smoking cigars until the smoke thickens, and discussing business or politics. There had to be a ladies’ room as well, and there is. In contrast with the previous one, this is dominated by a serene air and pinkish lights. Furniture pieces are fragile and tiny, while mirrors work as space enhancer in this space destined for tea and chatting.

The table from the gentlemen’s room was cleverly built

Upstairs, the kitchen and the maid’s room are next to one another, as a reminder that the maid was responsible with cooking and taking care of the baby (whose room was also close). The sewing machine from the maid’s room shows her skill in many areas!

The master bedroom contains the original furniture entirely and is amazing, also probably because of the huge stained-glass panels and the imposing bed. The upper hallway has a sort of dressing, large enough to suit the needs of a belle epoque fashion lover.

The original bedroom – the most intimate space of the house

I couldn’t not imagine what it’s like to have such a large terrace with a view facing the Synagogue right across Crisul Repede river! Together with the fancy greenhouse, it was one of my favourite spots of Darvas-La Roche. Very atmospheric!

Art Nouveau terrace


TTF recommends:

  • An absolute must, a very beautiful Art Nouveau house from the early 20th century;
  • Large stained-glass areas, a greenhouse, a fabulous terrace and beautifully decorated rooms;
  • Reveals the status of the owner and the way elites used to live over one hundred years ago;
  • Increased attention to detail and many stunning Art Nouveau elements.

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