When Bob Scudder and Dougie Bowman embarked on a new life together in 2005, they both made some big changes. Bob, a Navy man turned executive coach, moved to Richmond from his home in Newport News, while Dougie traded a traditional house in the West End for condo living in downtown Richmond. They found their new environs suited both of them perfectly.
"Moving downtown was a way for us to start a new life, totally different from the past," says Bowman, who has spent more than 30 years in the securities industry. "I did need to stay in Richmond because my career was here, and Bob was working out of the home, so he could live anywhere. We started condo living, and we haven't looked back."
They created a home from scratch, gutting two units at Vistas on the James and combining them into one 2,600-square-foot space. The couple wanted to focus on two things in the design of their new home: making a comfortable space for entertaining and highlighting the spectacular view from the 15th floor.
"That view struck all of us as something you cannot ignore," says Andy Scudder (no relation) of Johannes Design Group, who was enlisted to translate their vision into reality. "In the beginning, all of our sketches and ideas revolved around how you access that view when you open the front door."
They started by eliminating the front hallway and opening the entryway with gently curving walls. Diagonal floorboards draw your eye through the 10-foot windows to the panorama beyond, where rocky James River rapids, stair-stepping downtown rooftops and the historic East End stretch into the distance.
Clever design tricks maximize the view. In the master bedroom, a mirrored wall of closets faces the bed, allowing the couple to view the sunrise, while a mirrored backsplash above the kitchen sink gives guests a view of the Richmond skyline even if their backs are turned as they watch Scudder cook at the island. As it happens, their robust social calendar often finds Scudder, the resident chef, preparing meals on his Wolf induction stovetop.
"We have somebody over for dinner at least once a week, whether it's a planned dinner for several couples or just inviting a neighbor over to eat with us," Scudder says. "We probably have more cocktail parties than the average couple. We love to entertain."
With condo living, spur-of-the-moment guests are always just a door or floor away.
"There are times when we have too much food," Bowman says, "and we'll just go knocking on people's doors and have impromptu dinner parties."
To create a welcoming space for their guests, they dedicated one unit to an open living area, delineating spaces – dining room, living room, etc. – by varying the ceiling heights rather than putting up walls. The effect is paradoxically airy, but cozy.
"We refer to our home as ‘warm contemporary,' " Bowman says. "It was very important to make sure that everyone felt warm and comfortable here."
She happily gave up her traditional furnishings and Oriental rugs in favor of Bob's more streamlined aesthetic, finding serenity in the simplicity. The condo's overall palette is mostly neutral, save for the brightly hued artwork that injects vibrant color into the space.
"Nothing is busy," she says. "Now I go back and look at pictures of my wingback chairs and heavy wood furniture and ask, ‘What I was thinking?' "
Bowman also left behind some of the headaches that home ownership can incur. "In my lifetime I've cut enough grass and raked enough leaves," she says. "Here, it's zero-maintenance."
The couple enjoys the condominium's amenities, including four parking places in the garage — a boon in downtown Richmond — and a large storage room that Scudder uses for working out. When grandkids visit — the younger ones refer to the condo as "the hotel" — Scudder and Bowman reserve the large clubroom on the canal level where kids can play pool and safely romp around.
They take advantage of their location, enjoying long walks around Belle Isle, musical evenings on Brown's Island and neighborhood restaurants like Bistro Bobette and the Urban Farmhouse, where Scudder occasionally meets clients. They also spend plenty of time taking in the city from their three balconies.
"We'll come out here [on the master bedroom balcony] on the weekends and sit and watch the sunrise, and then swing around to the west balcony in the afternoon and watch the sun set," Scudder says.
Frequently, they'll have sightings of blue herons, which soar by their windows at eye level as they make their way to the rookery on the James, as well as snowy egrets, purple martins and occasionally a pair of eagles.
"You can almost touch them," says Bowman. "It's amazing. I moved downtown, and all of a sudden I got in touch with nature. Bob had always said that he could never be more than 100 yards from salt water. I couldn't give him salt water, but the James River is sufficing very well."