On a cool evening in November, about 100 modern architecture and design aficionados gathered at the home of Nan and Boyd Clarke for a Modern Richmond Tour. Part open house, part educational event and part social gathering, Modern Richmond has organized public tours of local homes and businesses for the past six years.
“The tours show people there is something else out there other than Colonials,” says Kristi Lane of Visible Proof, sponsor of the November tour and the interior designer who worked on the Clarkes’ home. “There’s a lot of good modern architecture in Richmond; you just have to search it out. That’s the good thing about Modern Richmond — they find it for you.”
The Clarkes’ stunning home is a case in point. Tucked away amongst the hills of Wilton, an exclusive Richmond neighborhood better known for its traditional architecture, the rambling Midcentury ranch is all horizontal planes, wide expanses of glass and rich, natural wood tones.
“When I first moved to Richmond, I didn’t realize there was so much modern inventory here,” says Jay Huggins, a Modern Richmond board member. “We’ve got a good mix of original Midcentury homes, new, modern construction and older homes that are being retrofitted.”
Founded about five years ago by Andrea Levine, Elli Sparks and Susan Milne, the group strives to understand and appreciate modernism in all its forms. “Our hope and mission is to promote and explore these original expressions of modern aesthetics in a way that both engages and delivers modernism to a larger audience,” its website states. The group received an award from the Richmond chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2013 for its contributions to the architectural and design communities.
Modern Richmond Tours are held about five times per year and feature both homes and commercial spaces. The tours are publicized via the group’s Facebook page and through its email list. The events are free, with a suggested cash donation of $5 to cover beverages. Rappahannock Restaurant was the food sponsor for the November event, serving freshly shucked oysters on the Clarkes’ back terrace.
After guests had a chance to mingle and tour the home, owner Boyd Clarke, designer Lane and contractor Chip Spitzer spoke about the house, which underwent a major renovation recently.
The house is the final stop for the Clarkes, a retired couple who have completed 12 inter-city moves during Boyd’s career in the pharmaceutical industry. They spent nearly a year looking for a home in Richmond, where their grandchildren live. They wanted a place they could live in comfortably throughout retirement and old age. “Both my wife and I are Midcentury Moderns,” Boyd quipped, “but this is the first time we have lived in a Midcentury house.”
The home was renovated “to be true to the spirit of the house but also to bring it into the 21st century,” he explained. It also was designed to showcase the couple’s extensive collection of ethnographic textiles, artifacts and art.
Lane spoke about working with the Clarkes throughout the design process. “It was wonderful to have a client and contractor with their minds open to the possibilities,” she said. “We went into the process with a blank canvas and a mindset of, ‘Let’s see what it can be, not what it is.’ A lot of the time, you have clients holding you back, but with this, we had clients who were pushing us to be better.”
The next Modern Richmond Tour will be held in March. Subscribe to the group’s mailing list at modernrichmondtour.com to receive an invitation to the event.