Ask interior designer David Barden to characterize the look he's brought to his 1910 Church Hill home and he uses terms like "New York," "Old Virginia" and one he laughingly refers to as "Fallen Aristocracy." By that he means sumptuous fabrics, rich colors, opulent chandeliers and ancestral portraits in gilded frames, all with a slightly tattered grandeur.
Such descriptions certainly apply to a small but immensely charming sitting room at the front of the house, done in an eclectic mix of purchases, gifts, family heirlooms and found items. From the stuffed bobcat poised mid-leap that he received as a gift, to the minimalist Mies van der Rohe chair that he found outside a building in New York City, Barden notes that the room has a very New York feel. The city is a place where, he says, people are just really brave about mixing things together.
Barden, who grew up on a horse farm in Hanover County, showed an early sense of style. "When I was 5 or 6, I'd go into people's houses and rearrange their tabletops," he says, laughing. He majored in interior design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and spent most of his career working in Manhattan for leading design houses such as Scalamandré, Lee Jofa and Kravet, and retailer Gracious Home.
When he moved back to Richmond a year and a half ago, the time was right to parlay his experience into his own interior-design firm. In fact, Barden was one of the designers chosen to decorate the 2006 Symphony Designer Home.
He continues to work on decorating his own home, which he shares with a Welsh Corgi, Jackson. Barden says he enjoys the slower pace of Richmond, but he still longs for the big city, just a little. "I can see downtown Richmond from the front porch. When it gets dark and I squint, it looks like New York at night."