Standing the Test of Time in Richmond

General / People / Places / September 13, 2016

If the 2016 Richmond Symphony Designer House teaches us anything about architecture, it is this:

Graceful design and fine materials will stand the test of time.

The 87-year old home now called “Pineapple Acre” was designed and built in 1929 for David Satterfield, Jr., then Commonwealth’s Attorney for Virginia. It’s a 4,000 square-foot Georgian Revival, executed in red brick, creamy mortar, slate roof, and Westover-inspired doorway. Inside are crown molding, delicate entablement, extensive paneling, and a striking Palladian window.

It’s architect was Courtenay Sommerville Welton (Full disclosure: Yes, he was my grandfather), known for his Tudor Revival and Colonial designs in Richmond’s rarified West End communities of Windsor Farms, Westmoreland Place, Cary Street Road, and Glenbrooke Hills.

This one, though, is located on the city’s North Side. “Ginter Park was built to rival Monument Avenue,” says Julie Brantley, chair of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra League. “It’s an eclectic area, with carpenter cottages that are just as great as some of the grander houses.”

Earlier this year, the league asked 24 Richmond designers and one from Lynchburg to re-imagine each room in the house. They’ve been at it for six weeks now; the home opened to the public on Monday, with a gala event on Friday evening. “The designers were tickled to death – they like working on older homes rather than newer ones,” she says. “They can’t be as creative in the new houses.”

Among them are Richmond designer Kenneth Byrd, who lucked into re-designing the much-coveted library, its Palladian window opening up to the home’s pool and extensive gardens. “Everyone wanted it,” he says. “They shared the same opinion as me – it would make a great before-and-after – because it was so beat up.”

Before the league had selected it, Byrd had toured it on an open house when it was on the market. He recalled it grass-cloth wallpaper that was badly sun-bleached, neutral beige paint that was dirty and muddy, and a 1950s brass fireplace insert that he could only describe as bad. “There had been many years of wear and tear – everything was in need of modernization,” he says. “We changed the paint, the lighting and the wallpaper – and the fireplace insert was changed out.”

The library’s timeless features shone through, though, even in its state of disrepair. “The windows are very bright and sun-drenched, the ceiling is tall with great trim,” he says. “There are lots of built-ins and nice folding doors with great brass hardware.”

Byrd, known for his mid-century modern designs, updated the library for an eclectic look aimed at stimulating its occupant’s thinking. “It’s for a creative business owner who collects many things from travels around the world,” he says. “It’s meant to inspire creativity at home.”

Like all the designers, he donated his work to the symphony league. “That’s what makes it fun,” Brantley says. “We do the events and the advertisement – and they want you to come in and show off what they can do.”

It doesn’t hurt to do that in a venue that can only be called classic Richmond architecture.

For hours and ticket information, go here.

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.




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