The Tapa Room


The downstairs room now known as the Tapa room, but also referred to in Stevenson’s time as the Smoking Room, served as a formal dining and sitting area. The downstairs area and adjacent rooms served as quarters for Mrs. Thomas Stevenson, who came to Samoa after the death of her husband. Her stay was shortened however when she could not bear the early living conditions of plantation development at Vailima.

The room has been re-created from an early photograph taken by Andrew Tattersall, the premier Samoan photographer. An enlarged copy of the original photo was obtained from the national library of Scotland at Edinburgh, the wall hangings, and the lion skin rug. The ever-present kava bowl was in front of Samoa’s first fireplace.

The Tapa Room is, as are all rooms in the restored home, furnished in period antiques selected to be as close to the actual items as possible. Several pieces of the original furnishings are permanently housed in the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum at Monterey, California.

The authentic tapa cloth pattern was re-created from an expanded photographic view of the original room. A wood block pattern was carved by local Samoan artisans and craftsmen in the same way as it was anciently done. The tapa design was painted with natural dyes made from red soil and sap from rain forest trees. The walls are now covered with tapa made by the women of the Savai’i village,  where the best work in Samoa of this type continues to be done.

The photos now displayed on the wall show the room as it was in its prime, along with other copies of actual photos of the Stevenson family taken at Vailima. One photo of particular interest to visitors is the one of RLS on his favorite horse-Jack.