We would all be lucky to experience one of those rare events in life when the stars line up, fortune smiles down, and everything just comes together. This is what the evolution of the inaugural Lynchburg Design House project has been like. What began as a vacant home this past summer has been transformed room by room by local designers into a showcase home, each room reflecting the designers’ unique styles and techniques. The spectacular home will be open for public tours beginning November 21, and all proceeds will benefit the YWCA and its programs. But just how does such a monumental project like this come together?
Finding a suitable house is generally the first and greatest challenge most organizations have when starting a new design house project. But in this case, the house at 3128 Rivermont Avenue was empty, for sale and readily available. Lynchburg designer Moyanne Harding, having participated in Charlottesville’s Shelter for Help in Emergency Design House for the past six years, had always wanted to do a similar project in Lynchburg and knew that this house would be particularly perfect, since it had so many large, distinct rooms. She explained to Realtor Wendy Reddy how a design house benefits an entire community, first by supporting an organization that works to create a safe, happy home for everyone, and second by providing a place for community members to see the work of local designers, contractors and suppliers.
Reddy took the idea to the homeowner Jimmy Atkins, and even though a design house is a complex, messy process he immediately liked the idea and understood that this type of event would “remind the community what a great house it is.” He says that he loved living and entertaining in a historical showcase home on the Avenue and hopes to “see someone live there who enjoys the rich history of the house and would continue to use it as a community asset.”
And a rich history it has. Did you ever wonder why Rivermont is listed in the National Historic Registry? It is because Rivermont was the first planned community in the nation. Prior to the Rivermont Company and their plans to develop this trolley car community, Rivermont was all farmland. Wealthy industrialists who had homes in Diamond Hill “summered” in homes on farms in the Rivermont area. George M. Jones, of the Jones Memorial Library, was an investor in the Rivermont Company. As a gesture to show his faith in the project, he built a home at 3128 Rivermont Avenue, near the furthest end of the trolley car line. Jones’ house was built in the current style of the day, which was the Victorian Queen Anne style, and it was on a considerably large tract of farmland.
City records do not have much history of the house prior to 1972, but there are far more interesting sources of historical information—including Peggy Mundy Mosby, whose family lived in the house from the early 1900s, and who still resides in the house next door with her husband. Peggy explains that her grandfather, Henry Winfree, bought the home from Jack Lee. Lee had purchased the house and farmland from Jones a few years earlier and subdivided the farmland into what is now Lee Circle. Peggy’s mother, Virginia Winfree, was born in the house in 1914, married William Starke Mundy Jr., and continued to live in the house throughout her life, albeit on three separate occasions.
During World War II, the Mundys sold the house and moved the family to live across the street from William Mundy’s mother and sister, as their men were off fighting the war. During that time, the house served as the first place of worship and parsonage for the burgeoning Community-Collegiate Church, which started as a ministry to the Randolph-Macon Woman’s College community, and later became Peakland United Methodist Church. In 1955, Mundy bought the house back, and Peggy lived there with her family until she married her childhood sweetheart, Richard Mosby. In 1967 Richard and Peggy built a house next door, and live there to this day.
The house has undergone several major renovations over the years, the first of which was thought to be an early removal of the turret, as times and styles were moving away from the ornate Queen Anne style toward a more simple Neoclassical style. Peggy explains why the turret may have been removed so soon after building the house, saying, “How that fancy Victorian house must have looked sitting out here in the middle of all this farmland!” In the 1940s, her father, working with architect Penn Clark, dramatically changed the façade of the house, bricking it with handmade brick from Lexington and adding the two-story portico and columns.
In 1972 the house was sold to Heber and Flo Traywick. During their 13 years there, the Traywicks added to the home by bringing the circular drive, which was originally much closer to Rivermont Avenue, up to the front of the house. From the original drive to the front of the house was an expansive Chilhowie brick walkway, whose bricks were later used to pave a service yard on the side of the house.
Mrs. Traywick loves the strength of the house and the thickness of the walls. She talks about the beauty of the bricks from Lexington, which were hand cast and oversized, laid in such a way so no mortar showed. “You couldn’t knock that house down if you tried,” she says. The Traywicks remodeled the carriage house in the back to the adorable guesthouse that it is now, and they also left their signature on the home, which is the wrought-iron fence along Rivermont Avenue, lined with roses.
Dorothy and Grady Gardner bought the house in 1985, painted it its now pale yellow, and modernized the upstairs bathroom. This modernization allowed Elizabeth Mundy, Peggy’s sister, to take the large claw-foot tub from the remodeled bath to her home in the Richmond area, where she is among the “four generations of Winfree ladies who have soaked in that bathtub.”
The current owner of the home, Jimmy Atkins, and his late wife Eleanor, lived in the house for another 13 years where they loved to share their home with the community. Every year they had at least one large party, benefiting organizations ranging from garden clubs or the Junior League, to political fundraisers. “The house is excellent for entertaining. All the rooms are connected, so the flow is great,” says Atkins. Another of his favorite memories of the house was decorating for the holidays. He did all of his own decorating and was the proud, two-time winner of the Friends
of Rivermont’s best traditional holiday decor contest.
And the history making continues. The outpouring of community and business support for this Design House has made what was a mere idea just this past June into a historical milestone. Each room of the house has been offered to a local designer who has transformed the space, from top to bottom, showcasing his or her own unique design style and techniques. Paint, plumbing, wallpaper, fabrics, furniture, light fixtures… the designers assemble their teams of vendors, suppliers and contractors, most all of whom provide their work and products pro bono. In six short weeks, the house will be transformed from an empty blank slate to a house of vision and splendor. Beginning November 21, the home is open to visitors who will see the latest trends in design styles, glean ideas, and maybe even meet a few designers, contractors or landscapers who can help make dreams for their own home come true. In addition, almost everything in the home will be for sale, and the Farm Basket will be hosting a holiday boutique in the back guesthouse.
But why on earth, you ask, would so many people be willing to work so hard, for free? There are as many reasons as there are participants in this complex and rewarding event. First and foremost, all proceeds of ticket sales and sponsor donations go to support the mission and programs of the YWCA of Central Virginia. In 2014 alone, the YWCA served over 15,000 people through its Domestic Violence Prevention Center, two shelters (one in Lynchburg and one in Altavista), its Sexual Assault Response Program (SARP), affordable housing for women, Ygyrl Leaders, Racial Justice and the Children’s Visitation Center. This mission itself, coupled with the designers’ desire to create rich and beautiful roomscapes, synergize perfectly to create a gift to the community that not only raises awareness of domestic violence prevention, but also promotes the creativity that brings joy and happiness to a home. Caroline Hudson, executive director of the YWCA of Central Virginia, says, “In so many ways, the YWCA is about transforming lives and providing a safe haven to rebuild those lives. Transforming a home in this way through the Design House event is the perfect metaphor for what we do day in and day out. We are excited to share this exciting opportunity with the community. And we are grateful to the sponsors, designers, vendors, contractors, landscapers and volunteers who share our passion for the mission of the YWCA and are willing to showcase that in such a tangible way.”
For both established designers as well as the new generation, the Design House provides a high-profile opportunity to let creative muses fly. Geri Cecil of The Silver Thistle says, “Not only do I like to be inspired by great design, but to be doing it for such a fine cause, the YWCA, simply sweetens the pot!” Silver Thistle’s Kelly Mortemousque has designed a space using furniture and accessories from the store. Tera Janelle, a young designer relatively new to the area and just starting her third Rivermont remodel, says, “This is our neighborhood. Getting to be part of revitalizing one of the grand gems of this neighborhood…it is an indescribable joy both to the designer and the homeowner in me!” Kathy Potts of Decorating Den Interiors and Haley Pavao of Pastiche at Main both enjoy working with the other designers and are proud to be supporting the “wonderful women of the YWCA.” Even exterior designers show off their artistic abilities in this project, but also think it is “great to be able to give back to the community,” says Land Tech’s Kate Melancon. While this is undoubtedly an opportunity to showcase their talents, the designers, contractors, vendors and suppliers have all expressed one consistent sentiment, which Kaycie LaGrone of Circa Studios sums up nicely: “We are so thankful to be a part of such a great event. Not only do we get to share creative design ideas with the people of Central Virginia, but we also get to spread awareness about the impact the YWCA is making in our community. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of the 2015 Lynchburg Design House?”
THE 2015 DESIGN TEAM
Burton Design, LLC
The Silver Thistle
Estates and Consignments
Interiors by Moyanne
Studio H Home
Tera Janelle Design
Circa Studio Interiors
Mahone & Sons Decorating Center
Beverly McCloskey Designs, LLC
Decorating Den Interiors
See Windows and Red Door Painting