Wednesday, July 21, 2010
You never know what you don't know until you find something new. I've long had a soft spot for the ephemeral paintings of houses done by Daniel Merriam but I never thought such places existed in real life until I stumbled across an article about the Ottoman Yalis of Istanbul.
You can read the article I linked to if you want but the brief story is that they were originally summer homes built by viziers on the shores of the Bosphorus. The earliest of them date from the 18th century and were considerably simpler than the ones that came later, but common to all was a central room called a sofa with a bay window set out over the water and an interior fountain. All were built of wood with tiled roofs and each had a men's wing where business and conversation could be conducted and a women's wing that was the family quarters. The first were painted red with ceilings arched and decorated like a traditional nomad tent, their inner rooms painted in rich colors with gold leaf and mother-of pearl highlights. As the European influence grew stronger they evolved into fanciful pale palaces with multiple salons, magnificent staircases, solaria and luxurious appointments hard for most of us to imagine.
I haven't been able to find any photographs of the insides of any private residences because, as you can well imagine, the ones that are left are some of the most expensive homes in the world. Since the fortunes of viziers came and went depending on the moods (or health) of a particular sultan, and as a result of them having been built of wood, many succumbed to rot or fire.
The day isn't far off when we'll be living in a place that overlooks the water and that will be nice, but oh, how much sweeter it would be to be on our way to an old yali on the Bosphorus. We could wake to soft, watery light pouring through stained glass arches, and drink strong Turkish coffee on the terrace while watching the brightly colored sails of the gulets dance toward the Aegean.