Design House | A Blueprint for Community Building

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The stunning Gothic Revival home at 1418 Harrison Street is the perfect venue to highlight Lynchburg’s refined past— and help plan for its future.

Selected as the Central Virginia Design House for 2016, the property has been transformed into a showcase that features the work of local designers and contractors, provides space for high-end vendors, and offers a plethora of workshops.

The house, which was built in the 1850s, opens November 12, and remains open through December 4 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with special events on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. All proceeds from the venue—operated solely by volunteers—will directly support the Central Virginia YWCA programs and local community.

designhouse2“In so many ways, the YWCA is about transforming lives and providing a safe haven to rebuild those lives,” says Caroline Hudson, Executive Director of the YWCA. “Transforming a home in this way through the Design House event is the perfect metaphor for what we do day in and day out.”

The YWCA serves the city of Lynchburg, but also Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Campbell, Halifax, Nelson and Pittsylvania counties. It operates two shelters, a women’s residence, a 24/7 sexual assault response program, a teen-focused program to grow strong leaders called YWLead, and the Racial Justice Program. Those programs are constantly facing funding challenges; one way the YWCA has helped offset costs is by opening Church Street Bridal Shop and Church Street Bridal, Too. Bridal designers and shops all over the country donate new and sample bridal gowns, formal dresses, veils and shoes, which the YWCA sells at deeply discounted prices. (One of the largest donors is Kleinfeld Bridal, featured on Bravo’s “Say Yes to the Dress” series.)

Even so, there are potential gaps. The Design House meets this need.

“We are excited to share this exciting opportunity,” says Hudson, “and are grateful to the sponsors, designers, vendors, contractors, landscapers and volunteers who share our passion for the mission of the YWCA and who are willing to showcase that in such a tangible way.”

designhouse3The project has garnered attention from some of the region’s most prestigious designers, including Troy Deacon of High Cotton, who heads up the Design House Steering Committee. One of his first orders of business was to establish the structural integrity of the house. To that end, Deacon hired Wyatt Gunter of R ‘n’ R Restorations and Repairs. Gunter worked for months as the initial project—fixing an issue with the roof—turned into a dozen. This is not unusual, Gunter says, in homes of a certain age. While each individual project wouldn’t necessarily be a major project, working under the gun with historic materials provided unique challenges. Gunter says that in many cases he could salvage materials, or repurpose found items.

While his efforts started with the exterior of the home—(referred to as “The Kean House” in Lynchburg: An Architectural History by S. Allen Chambers Jr.; RGF Kean was the husband of Thomas Jefferson’s great granddaughter)—Gunter also did many smaller projects throughout the 4,500 square-foot home, like creating matching trims for interior doors.

Homeowner and foster parent Sterling Wilder couldn’t be more pleased. “I went to the Design House last year, and to see what each of those designers did was impressive. To be the homeowner this time, I have great expectations, and it feels like Christmas,” he says.

designhouse4Wilder, a newly-elected Lynchburg city council member, is widely recognized as an outstanding citizen and mentor to underprivileged youth and families. In his role as the executive director of a nonprofit called Jubilee Family Development Center, he is constantly looking for ways to further its mission—in essence, to help stabilize and strengthen families. So when he learned that 100 percent of the proceeds from the Design House would support the Central Virginia YWCA, another local nonprofit geared toward strengthening families, he was hooked.

“The YWCA provides such vital services; their projects are so paramount to our community. I feel it’s a great blessing to be a part of that,” says Wilder, “and to be part of such a great community, one that has heart and integrity.”

To help make sure everything that needed to be done could get done in a timely fashion, Wilder temporarily moved out, and let the designers move in.   

Each room of the house was offered to a local designer who has transformed the space, from top to bottom, showcasing his or her own unique design style and techniques. Designers assemble their teams of vendors, suppliers and contractors, many of whom provide their work and products pro bono.

Visitors entering the house will see a stunning foyer, pulled together by Elizabeth Harrington of Studio H Home. Of note is the wainscoting, refreshed with a creamy white paint applied by Red Door Painting, the company hired to refresh both the interiors and exterior of the home.

From there, a formal living room showcases the work of Moyanne Harding of Interiors by Moyanne; its adjacent bathroom has been reinvigorated by Mahone and Sons Decorating Center, who also refreshed an upstairs bath. A downstairs office highlights the designs of Curtains, Blinds and Bath.

designhouse5Also downstairs is a brand-new kitchen designed and installed by Chris Hargis of Pinnacle Cabinetry, and a dining room designed by Deacon that features a gorgeous crystal chandelier. Bri Precious of Studio 11, LLC transformed the mother-in-law suite.

The home’s upstairs features a master bedroom designed by Kelly Mortemousque of Fresh Interiors, a women’s closet and dressing room designed by Renee Wood of Gladiola, newly refreshed bathrooms with fixtures from Ferguson, a mid-century modern family room designed by Betsy Burton of Burton Design, LLC, a large seminar room, and, in a sunroom, a gift shop stocked by The Farm Basket, which continues down the back stairs and into a large laundry room. Outside, Scott MacLeod’s Lynchburg Landscapes beautified the patio area, and installed landscape beds and lighting.

Best of all, if visitors love what they see, almost everything in the home will be for sale.

“It’s a labor of love,” says Deacon. “This project has brought together the community, since the proceeds benefit the YWCA and the house project benefits someone who has given so much to his community. It is a win-win for everyone.”

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