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Alexis Courtney takes a seat in her Jackson Ward home. (Photo by Alexis Courtney)
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Travel MementosFeathers, rocks, uncut gemstones and animal skulls document Courtney and Cheatham’s travels. (Photo by Alexis Courtney)
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Painting: Courtney’s friend and grad school classmate Jaik Faulk gave her this painting when she left San Francisco. He never forgot the way she had drooled over it during a critique.
Antlers: Courtney and Andrew's dog, Toby, gets the credit for finding the elk antlers that adorn the mantel.
(Photos by Alexis Courtney)
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Dining-Room SetOne of the first home projects the couple tackled was refinishing and refurbishing Cheatham’s grandmother’s dining-room table and chairs. (Photo by Alexis Courtney)
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ViewMaster: This old ViewMaster stole her heart on a recent thrifting expedition. Some of the images remind Courtney of her mother. (Photo by Alexis Courtney)
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Grandmother’s Recipe: In an old family recipe book, she found this “Recipe for Preserving Children,” which her grandmother had transcribed and tucked away years earlier. (Photo by Alexis Courtney)
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Old Cameras: Courtney has collected old cameras for years, and now Cheatham is making his own contributions to the collection. (Photo by Alexis Courtney)
When photographer Alexis Courtney and her boyfriend Andrew Cheatham decided to move to Richmond in February of 2015, they were living in an RV in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The couple, who met on Tinder in 2014, could have moved anywhere, but they chose Richmond because it was on the East Coast — Courtney’s family is in Delaware and Cheatham’s is in North Carolina — and because it seemed like a place that supported artists. “Richmond feels very nurturing, which I really appreciate for makers and artists and people who are starting their own businesses,” she says.
Courtney has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in advertising photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology and an MFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute. She spent five years working as a digital tech in New York City before moving to California to attend graduate school.
In New York, Courtney worked for photographers such as Ditte Isager, Mark Andrew and Stewart Shining. The job sent her to some of the world’s most exotic places, where she’d work on location for up to 10 days at a time. She could have made her career in the fashion industry, but says she didn’t like the person she was becoming in New York. “I felt like what was becoming important to me wasn’t really that important,” she says. (She photographed her home, and a self-portrait, for this column.)
In Richmond, Courtney and Cheatham have rented a brick row house in Jackson Ward with their two dogs, Toby and Lola. Cheatham works as a sales manager and Courtney is building a reputation as a talented freelance photographer.
Of her new home, Courtney says, “I want to walk into a room and have it feel very welcoming and warm and comfortable. I always want people to come in and go, ‘Oh my God, it’s so cozy in here.’”
The house is cozy. Courtney achieves the look by keeping her furnishings simple and letting her books, plants and keepsakes steal the spotlight. She’s a sentimentalist who freely admits she imbues the objects she acquires with extra meaning. A feather reminds her of a trip she took to South Africa; a rock reminds her of a special walk on the beach. Recently, she found a Monarch butterfly’s wing in the backyard and brought it inside. “I just thought it was too pretty not to pick up,” she says.
Now the wing sits amongst other mementos on the couple’s mantel. For Courtney, it’s a beautiful reminder of everything she loves about her new home.