Photos by Ansel Olson
Casual outdoor entertaining is made easy with a large, screened porch that opens to a beautifully landscaped courtyard, both outfitted with comfortable furniture from Summer Classics.
While visiting Richmond several years ago, Ken Venos looked around the city and liked what he saw. Back at home, east of San Francisco, he says, “I read in Outside magazine about Richmond being ‘most livable river town.’ ” He liked that, too. As time passed and life changes occurred — he retired early from his career as an orthopedic surgeon, and two of his three children moved to the Washington, D.C. area — Richmond seemed like the right place to be. “I wanted to be close to family, but not too close,” he says with a smile.
Searching for a new place to call home in Richmond, Venos knew he wanted to live in the city near cultural and sporting events, restaurants and parks. His criteria included enough room to host visiting family and friends and a garage to house two old cars that he’d be bringing along from the West Coast. The 1912 Fan District house he purchased in 2011 had been home to a Baptist minister, boarding-house tenants and apartment dwellers. “Pretty grim,” says Venos of the house’s condition. “It was either fix it or let it continue to decay.” Committed to restoring it, he began a process that would ultimately create a warm and inviting home that combines the best of vintage details with the comfort of modern materials and a California aesthetic. Last year, his efforts were rewarded with the 2014 Excellence in Residential Renovation Award from the Fan District Association.
Essential to the entire 16-month rescue operation was a collection of specialists who lent talents and expertise to the job. “I was really lucky to find so many great people,” Venos says. ”One person just led to another.” He enlisted consulting
architect Doug Kleffner from Johannas Design Group and general contractor Matt Elmes at Atlantic Crest Company to make his vision a reality. When all was done, his team had removed hazards like lead paint and asbestos and rebuilt the infrastructure of the century-old house to be green and smart, with state-of-the-art water filtration, sound, security and Wi-Fi systems. Among the many updates made: softly glowing gas fire inserts installed in six fireplaces, roomy closets built in the four bedrooms, three luxurious bathrooms created, two screened porches restored, countertop and cabinet work in the kitchen, built-in bookshelves and seating. Decades of dust and grime were removed, and, in all, 19 stained-glass windows were built, repaired, or salvaged with help from Dianne Fairburn and Suzanne Fortin. The roof was even raised a few feet to create a cozy third-floor playroom for
Rather than purchase new interior furnishings, Venos packed and shipped many of the family’s favorite things from California — paintings, handcrafted chandeliers, a lovely Koa rocking chair that is a souvenir from the years he lived in Hawaii, and books that fill shelves next to the living room fireplace. Area rugs in muted colors warm the pine floors, and ample comfortable seating invites company to settle in. To ensure that all worked together, Venos says, “I painted the rooms here the same colors” as those in his California home.
With the inside 4,000 square feet reborn, the remaining space to spruce up lay beyond the back door. Designed by landscape architect Bryan Puckett who collaborated with lighting expert Linda Chinn, the small yard was transformed into an easy-care patio with raised gardens and plenty of seating for friends. A pair of pergolas and copper-and-enamel water fountains flanks a stone gas fireplace. Though the house did not have a garage, Venos got permission to build one to house his cars. Overlooking all is a spacious screened porch perfect for three-season relaxation; another porch directly above is accessed from the master bedroom and offers an aerial view of the patio and beyond. “I love sitting out here with a cigar in the evening … it’s just great,” Venos says.
With season basketball tickets and volunteer service at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Maymont, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and as a city tree steward, Venos has immersed himself in all that Richmond offers. And he’s happy with his new old house. “This place is like a good friend to me and my family ... and like with any good friend, we have a responsibility to care for and support it … It’s a comfortable family home … and a house that will be here another 100 years.”
Styled by Courtney Crane Dauer