OK, just pinch me already. My sweet, little hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia is the location of the Southern Living 2015 Idea House! I’ve been to it, and I still can hardly believe it. Y’all know how much I love Southern Living, right? Of all the magazines I’ve had the supreme pleasure of working with, they were the first national magazine to put my work on the cover! They will forever hold a special place in my heart for that… Anyway, back to today’s story. Every year (for more than two decades) when the idea house issue comes out, I would settle in and study every. single. detail. of the homes. The idea houses are always chock full of, well, ideas! I would dream of getting to tour the homes in person but they were always states away from me, and I never made the journey. But this year is like a house-apalooza pour moi, because not only is it within driving distance (it’s just a few miles from my house!!), but it is also decorated by one of my all-time favorite interior designers Bunny Williams, who also happens to be from Charlottesville!! Best of all, (could there be more good news?) I got to go to a special party before the house opened to the public!
How did I get this once in a lifetime opportunity you might ask? Nepotism, plain and simple. You see, my uncle, Michael Riley, is an expert (and I really mean that) wallpaper hanger and painter. When the fancy designers around here are hanging crazy expensive wallpapers (you know the kind that cost more than a car payment for just one roll) they call him. And guess who Southern Living called when dear, sweet Bunny chose a beautiful wallpaper for one of the bedrooms? Yep! My uncle Michael. And because he worked on the house, he got an invitation to this VIP party. And who shamelessly begged him to take her with him?? Yep, that would be me!
The house is utterly charming and gracious from start to finish. When we stepped off the shuttle bus at the front door (you park your car off site and are shuttled to the house) I was really excited to see these triple ball Eugenia flanking the front door – I have a pair of those at my garden gate! I was just fluttering with excitement about visiting this house, and being part of the sneak peek. On the ride up I was repeatedly thanking my uncle and explaining to him all the many reasons why I was so excited to be there and what a huge admirer of Ms. Williams I am. And then he said, “you know, she’ll probably be there” and I was shocked into silence (I think he liked the quiet part of the ride…) as my mind whirled with the possibilities of what he had just said. I honestly had no idea or expectation that Bunny herself would be there, I mean this is Bunny Williams we’re talking about. One of the undisputed queens of interior design. She writes books. She has product lines. She is a BIG DEAL. They won’t bring her in for this party… will they? And when that front door opened on that front porch, I was just well… flabbergasted!
Because who was standing on the other side of that door, but Bunny herself! Like the most gracious, wonderful hostess I always imagined her to be! I was dumbstruck (for a brief moment) and then I just started gushing like a geyser! I absolutely couldn’t believe she was there. And (praise the Lord), we were among the first guests to arrive and I had time to just chatter away with her. I hugged her (yep, I did), I praised her style, told her how much An Affair with A House means to me (I reference that book A LOT in my own design inspirations), and then I brazenly asked for a photo with her – and she bore it all with grace, charm and her lovely smile! She was warm and engaging and I was in design heaven!
Here is the bedroom that he hung the wallpaper in. It’s lovely don’t you agree? I was so proud I just wanted to stand in the room telling everyone who came in “My uncle hung this wallpaper!”. I didn’t, but I wanted to! My uncle dragged me out to explore the rest of the house… he’s shy like that 🙂
The house doesn’t disappoint! It is crazy beautiful and brimming with those details that you hope for in an “idea house.” Every room has loads of personality – it doesn’t feel like a “show house” at all. Do you know what I mean? So often, I’ll visit design houses and while they are pretty, you still feel like you’re in a show house and not a home. This felt different to me and showed me, first hand, the extraordinary talent that Bunny has.
The kitchen was open, airy, and filled with light.
I like how it was open to the dining room – and of course the blue & white china was totally tickling my fancy!
I tried taking photos in the house and a few came out ok, but I had my cell phone and it was getting crowded… I actually didn’t think we’d be allowed to take photos at the party and was surprised and happy when they said we could.
I was loving the lettuce centerpiece!! You’ll totally be seeing me do that soon – stay tuned 🙂
The pantry was a big favorite of mine. It was dark and dramatic, a perfect foil to the white kitchen!
Dream mud room. I have no space for a mudroom at my house so this is a BIG wish list item for me. I love the mix of those gorgeous plates hanging on the wall and then the more country bead board back detail. It’s such a blend of beauty and practicality. Simple sophistication.
The master bedroom is a chic retreat – filled with a very complex blend of art and textures. It’s eclectic at its very best. I was especially intrigued with things like hanging the larger botanical art above the smaller one. I wouldn’t have thought of that probably because it’s outside those “traditional” bounds that we have all been raised with – but once again, Bunny has shown me to push past those ideas and try new things. The results might just surprise me!
This is the view opposite the bed in the Master Bedroom – who wouldn’t want this? I know I sure do. Notice too the chunky wooden end table paired with the feminine upholstered chair – such an interesting juxtaposition and yet it totally works to make the space feel like it could please both a husband and a wife. Brilliant!
I got really, really excited when I went into the “girls bedroom” – does this bed remind you of someone else’s?? (ahem, click here and here to see my master bedroom!) While the colors aren’t the same, the theory is! Between the topiaries, the blue & white china, and the bed, I’m feeling pretty awesome about Bunny’s influence in my own design aesthetic!
Such a clever mix of textures and styles, everywhere you look. Isn’t that chair astonishing?
And the cameos! I am slowly building my own collection so I’m particular keen on these – they were sprinkled throughout the home like a lovely garnish in various spaces. I was so happy to spy them here and there. Little touches like this added a level of continuity that lent authenticity and personality to the home.
Here I am in one of the bathroom’s trying to snap a quick pic. You can see I am “armed” with nothing more than my iPhone and a pair of sunglasses – hardly my usual camera gear!
This outdoor sink area was a show stopper for me. Man, oh man, do I have a serious crush on this sink! It’s a stunner. I had hopes that it was perhaps a Ballard Design piece (Bunny has a line with them you know) and thereby perhaps something I could save up for, but it turns out the architects of the house custom designed it. It is built with local soapstone. Needless to say, this has shot straight to the top of my dream list of potting shed sinks.
There are so, so many more amazing spaces – like this terrace where I would be hosting an endless stream of dinner parties…
…especially since it’s looking out on this positively idyllic landscape of Bundoran Farm.
There is still so much more to see, but I hope this inspires you to come visit if you can and if not, be sure to click over to the Southern Living website for even more photos, and of course, pick up a copy of the magazine featuring the Idea House. I’m planning to go back again, probably a couple of times! Maybe I’ll see you there… ’til then,
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