Virginia Chamlee and Tom Canfield toured at least a dozen homes in Jacksonville, FL before stumbling on the listing that would eventually become #projectbelvedere. The 1920s house offered everything that Virginia, a writer, and Tom, who works in the banking industry, had been looking for — a lovely neighborhood, plenty of historical accents and charm, a comfortable living space and the large kitchen that Virginia had always dreamed of. “Plus, I wanted something that could be a project — which it definitely was,” Virginia adds.
Turning their historic house into the right home for them didn’t come without hiccups. Shortly after buying the house, the couple decided to undertake a big kitchen renovation. Midway through, they discovered extensive water damage in the walls of another part of the house. The walls had to be taken apart and reconstructed entirely — “it was a worst case scenario kind of thing,” Virginia says. Just about a week after the damage had been fixed, Hurricane Irma hit Jacksonville. Even though Virginia and Tom were smack in the middle of their renovation and had no floors, they decided to seek refuge in their new home, since it was located further inland than the apartment they still lived in. “We lost power for over a week, and had some leaks, but fortunately didn’t see too much damage from the storm. Weathering a storm like that helped cement the fact that this house was our refuge (quite literally, in this case) and made me fall more in love with it. It’s nearly 100 years old, so it’s been through a lot. That makes it even more magical a place,” Virginia shares.
As the editor of Jacksonville Magazine, Virginia feels very connected to her city and is devoted to capturing its pulse. Experiencing a natural disaster like Irma really proved that something good can come out of even the most disastrous events. “The community really banded together after Irma struck— once the water receded, local businesses opened their doors so people could charge their phones or just grab a cup of coffee. We were new to the neighborhood and still felt very connected,” she explains.
After weathering the storm, both literally and figuratively speaking, Virginia and Tom have had more time to focus on making their home a place that they can feel enriched and inspired by. For Virginia especially, this has meant creating bold and vibrant spaces that are also practical and meet the couple’s everyday needs. “There are so many rules when it comes to design and I don’t listen to any of them. I like my house to wear what makes it feel good — stripes with flowers, high with low — whatever. Anything goes,” Virginia says. Mixing patterns with abandon, covering every square inch of a wall with art and painting the floors are all fun design choices that have made Virginia feel braver and bolder in her personal style choices. The key is not to overthink anything and just go with what makes you feel good. With this in mind, Virginia and Tom now share a home that makes them feel inspired as soon as they walk through the door. Another important factor was offering their beloved lab-mix Chloe a house to roam in after a decade of apartment-living. “When I walk in, I’m greeted by great art, fun furniture, dog kisses from Chloe, and I can see the striped kitchen floors, which make me really happy,” Virginia shares. At the end of the day, what else could you possibly wish for? —Sofia
Image above: The entry and formal living room is a perfect taster of Virginia and Tom’s bold and colorful style. When renovating their home, the couple ripped out a plain mantel that wasn’t original to the house and replaced it with a chunky piece of barnwood found along the Eastern seaboard.