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An oversize Random Light by Moooi punctuates the serene living room, which over-looks a neighborhood lake. Throughout the home, a neutral color palette is energized by accents of orange and red. The antique, handmade rug is from Turkmenistan. Photo by Barry Fitzgerald
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Interior designer Kristi Lane transformed the entry into a comfortable sit-ting area. She created a vibrant orange niche to house Danielsen’s Buddhist altar, which sits upon a Chinese credenza she purchased in a Singapore antiques store. Photo by Barry Fitzgerald
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510 Fabricators in Richmond built the custom dining table. “It is cool to have pieces that are locally made,” designer Lane says. The steel and cable railing was custom-made by Virginia Railing & Gates in Ashland. Photo by Barry Fitzgerald
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The kitchen’s large center island is topped by Calcutta Gold mar-ble, a nod to the Indian heritage of Danielsen’s husband. Photo by Barry Fitzgerald
Growing up in Denmark, Birgitte Danielsen was surrounded by the best of modern design. "In Denmark, everybody is sort of a little bit of a designer," she says. "We spend so much time in our homes, given the climate. We're all a little bit into it."
So when Danielsen and her husband, a physician at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, moved to Richmond's West End, she had a clear vision of how she wanted her new home to look. With the help of interior designer Kristi Lane of Visible Proof and contractor Mark Franko of Mark Franko Custom Building, Danielson was able to translate her vision into an eclectic, modern home that reflects both her heritage and that of her husband, who is Indian.
The couple purchased the 5,000-square-foot home two years ago, after a few months of deliberation. They had not been looking for a house that was so large, or one that would need so much work to suit their needs. Still, they were captivated by the home's plentiful, large windows, which provide an amazing view of the neighborhood lake, and with the home's open floor plan and generously proportioned rooms.
They signed a contract on the house while Danielsen was in the hospital giving birth to twins Smilla and Nova, now 2 years old. "For me, it was like giving birth to triplets," she says of becoming a new mom while embarking on a major renovation project. To complicate matters, Danielsen, who works in finance, spends most of her time in New York City, visiting Richmond and her husband for extended periods every few months.
Lane proved to be the ideal midwife for the project. "Kristi really got what I was trying to accomplish with this house," says Danielsen in her charming Danish accent. "I wanted a modern home, but not one of those right-out-of-the-catalog modern homes. We have traveled a lot, and I wanted it to be reflective of our personalities."
Danielsen is quick to clarify that by "modern," she does not mean Midcentury Modern. Though the residence was built in the 1960s and incorporates some elements that are hallmarks of Midcentury design, she is more interested in current design, especially from her homeland. "I love Danish design," she says. "There are just unbelievable designers from Denmark. People in Denmark buy furniture for life — here, people redo everything every 10 years. In Denmark, we collect things over time and keep them for a very, very long time."
Lane says Danielsen's affinity for Danish design was sometimes uncanny. "I could show her a whole selection of different things and she would always choose the Danish designer," Lane says, and laughs. "It was fun to work with Birgitte. [She and her husband] have such international, eclectic, funky taste. I love working with people who have their own sense of style."
Both Danielsen and her husband have traveled extensively throughout Asia and Europe and have amassed a collection of art and furniture from abroad. A strong Eastern influence is a major theme in the home's artwork, which nicely complements the clean-lined aesthetic.
Though the main floor of the house was completely gutted, the footprint of the rooms remains largely unchanged, except for the master bathroom, which was expanded by consolidating a series of small rooms and closets. By adding a large picture window to the space, Lane opened a panoramic view to the lake and flooded the room with natural light. An engineered solid-stone soaking tub by MTI Baths sits in front of the new window, providing a relaxing escape. (Danielsen admits to not yet having time to soak, but says she has bathed the twins in it.) A wall of built-in cabinets keeps clutter at bay. "Birgitte wanted it to be as clean as possible," Lane explains. "She wanted everything out of sight."
Storage was also an issue in the kitchen, which was modernized with rich walnut cabinetry and a huge center island topped with Calcutta Gold marble — a nod to her husband's Indian roots. Because the home has no mudroom, or place to drop off bags, shoes and coats, Lane added a wall of cabinets dedicated to the detritus of family life. Part of a wall was also removed to open the kitchen to the dining and living rooms. "I wanted an open concept," Danielsen says. "With a family, you want to see what everyone is doing."
One of the biggest transformations came when the pipe railing on the stairs and railing leading to the lower level was replaced with clear-coated steel bannisters and cable rail fabricated by Virginia Railing & Gates in Ashland. "We wanted to keep it sparse so you could see through the railing out to the beautiful view," Lane explains.
The next phase of the home renovation will include extensive work on the home's lower level and yard, where a playroom and outdoor play area will be created for the twins. "Mark and Kristi have been unbelievable to work with," Danielsen says, citing her good luck to find kindred design spirits. "They both really get it."