Interiorssneak peeks

A Hint of Bohemian Austin in Historic Virginia

by Shannon Grant

Jennifer Elsner and her family moved into this townhouse in Richmond, VA just over a year ago from Austin, TX. It’s fair to say that these two cities are different in many ways, but especially in terms of architecture and interior design. How does one take the best from Austin and merge it with the best of Richmond? Jennifer says, “Having moved from Austin, where horizontality and the line between inside-outside space is blurred, we’ve brought along our Barbara Bestor ‘Bohemian Modern’ vibe. However, we’re sensitive to the architecture and history of a place. Being in Richmond, VA now, there’s a conservatism (and verticality) that we’ve incorporated.”

After a five-month gut renovation, Jennifer and her husband David have created a space that is the best of both worlds. The newly renovated space reflects the open-plan approach they loved in Austin, allowing for ample light to pour in and great air flow. At the same time, it still maintains the grandeur of a historic home, with its sweeping ceilings, charming pocket doors and copious (if not functioning) fireplaces. David loves the way the house lights up at sunset, “We’re at the top of a hill so we get a lot of sun — for a long time.” Jennifer loves their tiny powder room downstairs, “clad with Scalamandre’s classic zebra wallpaper in red. It’s a jewel box.”

Jennifer is a creative director and artist and David is the Chair of the Department of Graphic Design at Virginia Commonwealth University. They love spending time in their new home, either hosting parties (celebrating anything from Passover to the Earl of Sandwich’s birthday) or relaxing in their pajamas on a lazy Sunday. Most importantly, Jennifer, David and their son, Sam, created a home that balances what they loved about Austin with the character of their new city of Richmond. —Shannon

Photography by Chelsea Fullerton of Go Forth Creative.

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The Living Room: Jennifer and David's only direction to the architects was to build a room to accommodate this chandelier and hammock. The result is a room that is modern and minimal, yet cozy and relaxing.
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While it may seem a bit odd to have a window facing a brick wall, it does let in more of that welcome light and accentuates the open, airy feeling in the home.
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Looking from living room into entryway: Jennifer and David opened up the archway from both directions. This open flow makes the house feel bigger than it actually is (2,200 square feet).
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Jennifer and David like to collect art, primarily buying from friends and contemporaries. This photo was Brittany Nelson’s first in a series. They feel lucky to have jumped on the opportunity to get it early.
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Entryway: It's great to see when a historic home, even after going through a renovation, upholds the historic character inherent to the structure or even the neighborhood. Renowned sign painter, John Downer, drew the numbers above the door. After researching the neighborhood he created these numbers to fit contextually with the house.
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Entryway: Jennifer says she commandeers this area, except in the winter when everyone's coats take over.
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The Master Bathroom: A dramatic yet wise decision during the renovation, Jennifer and David sacrificed half of a bedroom to make this light-drenched and open plan.
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Sam’s Bathroom/Guest Bath: Jennifer says, “This tub was hidden in a wood box. In demo we discovered it was a clawfoot tub without clawfeet. Nothing a trip to Caravatti’s and a proper refinishing couldn’t remedy.”
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As Jennifer says, the house had several fireplaces that all happened to be very shallow — therefore not up to code. Creating this mono-color, horizontal line transformed them into something scupltural, vs. functional.
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Their son, Sam’s room. He recently moved his room to the center of the house, but it still gets the great light seen elsewhere in the home. The mix of colorful patterns on the bed is a playful contrast to the calming white walls.
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When the living room and dining room became one large space, Jennifer and David repurposed the incredible pocket doors that separated the two spaces. At the last minute, they decided to make this one pink. As Jennifer says, “This door was begging to be a pop!”
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Upholding their commitment to whites and neutrals with pops of color, the bedroom is kept simple. Everything is white, except for the carpet. Because it’s “bananas,” as Jennifer says, she tries to keep her nightstand clutter-free.
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The Master Bedroom: This room is all white and has five windows — making it feel like a treehouse, but better insulated. This is a favorite spot for their dog, Jefe.
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As with any renovation, much thought was given as to how to create a house to suit 21st-century needs. One way was to create a multipurpose kitchen. The big table is great for entertaining and serves as a space for daily needs such as bills, homework and dining.
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Here we see the open floor plan, the result of going from four rooms to two. “Seeing the length of the house allows for a more organic flow than the original 19th century layout,” Jennifer says.
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Jennifer's favorite part of the home, the powder room. It fits under a narrow stairway, just barely. She loves that on the other side of the door, this closet-sized space packs a punch. "It’s a jewel box. A surprise, every time."
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  • Beautiful renovation, love the graphic details, the splashes of color, and the relaxing felling of the overall space.
    It’s a place to call home!

    Thanks for sharing :)

  • One of the main reasons I fell in love with and stayed in Richmond was the amazing old architecture! Those windows facing a brick wall were a familiar fixture in all of my college era apartments. I love how the owners put their own spin on things (especially that hammock).

  • This space is really beautiful. Is there any info on the 3 large pieces of art in the kitchen? I love the use of the shelf and art in the kitchen instead of upper cabinets. Thanks!

  • so much to enjoy. if possible, could you offer the source for your son’s bedspread? Many thanks.

  • i hate to be negative, but…”pops of color” three times in one article? i’ve long thought that it’s’ time to retire this tired phrase that is so overused in the design world. otherwise, lovely photos/nice home tour.

  • i Love everything about this home and all the pops of color! I could live there!

  • Brooke (all), thanks for your sweet words. In answer to your question about the art: The pink poster is a type specimen promotion from The Netherlands-based foundry Underware; The TYPE poster is by Jim Sheridan of Hatch Show Prints; and the wee bit of the blue poster was collected at a type conference in Brasil. The table is Reclaimed Russian Oak Plank from Restoration Hardware. Cheers!

  • WOW! Design around the hammock and light fixture – genius! I’ve never loved a living room this much. Perfection!

  • Understated yet stimulating… I love it. I am in the market for a sectional and am fancying yours… Is it Joybird? Thanks in advance.

  • i love this tour/renovation. AND the use of color to warm up the white walls. and the kitchen. love that table, chairs, and the stainless steel fridge. awesome.

  • One of the most beautiful spaces I have seen in a long time – so inspiring!

  • I love this home! The kitchen’s dark base cabinets, open single shelf is such a great way to keep it feeling grand and open. What are the kitchen base cabinets made of? And what black color? Also, the floors throughout the home have such a nice calm color tone (not orangey) Any chance you know the floor finish technique?

  • can you please tell me where you got your colored coat hangers for your entryway?

  • What a beautiful home! I really like the lighting and the furniture. I love the historic homes in Richmond and you did a beautiful job renovating it. Welcome to Virginia!

  • Cute house, but I can’t help wondering what happened to all the great window and interior door trim that seems to be missing.

  • Welcome, Jennifer & David, to this lovely city! May you find it as worthy a place to call “home” as I do. Cheers!

  • Lara, You ready for this? The cabinets are IKEA, but with premium hardware and an uncommon 1/2′ counter. The high/low balance really works, visually and budget-wise. The floors are a stripped down heart pine with just a little pickling—a neutral stain.

    Tumy, The coat hanger is the Eames classic. We got ours from DWR but often see them in other mid-century modern shops online.

    Again, thanks all for the lovely words of welcome and appreciation.

  • jennifer – your home is stunning. I’d love to know where you purchased the gorgeous dining chairs from. They’re beautiful.

  • Lovely home…thanks for sharing! I love your floor to ceiling bookcase. Could you please share the source?

  • Thanks for sharing your finds Jennifer! I am wondering about those awesome pendant lights – where’d those beauties come from? And I love your kitchen clock too. Great balance and blending of styles.

  • Karsen, thank you for your sweet words. The chairs are custom painted “Tolix” chairs, from the Etsy Shop, SugarSCOUT. The women who run it are darling and bent over backwards to get me my chairs in time (2 week turnaround!) for Thanksgiving.

    Christina, the book case is custom.

    Anna, I’m presuming you mean the ones in the kitchen (since the plural ‘pendants”) those are restored, vintage farmhouse lights form the fabulous resource, factory 20 dot com. Thanks for noticing the clock, it’s almost vintage itself, from late last century (ha!), a Tibor Kalman/M & Co design.

  • Hi Jennifer,

    Could you tell me what color you used for the white walls. And where did you get the Save our gulf poster. Thanks

  • Also the really awesome laight fixture in the living room? Love your home really beautiful!!!

  • Thanks, Marie! That pendant is Brendan Ravenhill. We have a few of his pieces in the house. A major talent, and great guy, based in L.A. The poster was a limited edition we got at a benefit held at the Hotel San Jose in Austin—to raise money for the rebuild NOLA efforts, post-Hurricane Katrina.

  • Hey,

    Absolutely love the shots, could you please tell me what style of chair it is in the kitchen or where you got them from?


    • Declan, Apologies for the delay in reply. I only just now took a look again and my feature. The chairs are from SugarScout on Etsy. They powder coat Tolix-style chairs in any color. Plus the ladies are professional and a delight.

    • Adam, Architecture Firm in Richmond, VA was the architect. Danny and Katie are fantastic people to work with. Their country home in Scottsville is in the latest issue of Dwell. We’re lucky to have gotten their talent before they blow up HUGE.

  • I would love to know where the kitchen table is from and see more angles of the table. I noticed someone else asked and I didn’t see a response.

    • Stephanie, Hi! The table is from Restoration Hardware. It’s eleven and a half feet of solid goodness.

  • Love the hammock. What did you use to secure it to the wall? I would love to put one in my son’s room.

    • Lauren, Hey! We love the hammock too. One of the best decisions we made.

      Our house’s style is a typical 1890 Church Hill townhouse. So, just behind the drywall is brick. A contractor had to anchor the hammock in a serious manner. I think cement was involved. I don’t think we ever could’ve done it ourselves.

      Thanks for checking in, and for the kind words.

  • Lauren, Hey! We love the hammock too. One of the best decisions we made.

    Our house’s style is a typical 1890 Church Hill townhouse. So, just behind the drywall is brick. A contractor had to anchor the hammock in a serious manner. I think cement was involved. I don’t think we ever could’ve done it ourselves.

    Thanks for checking in, and for the kind words.