1) THE HOUSE DETECTIVE
For those who've wondered about the history of their house, Elizabeth Eley is willing to do the research and tell you its story. Her business, If These Walls Could Talk, specializes in narrative home biographies. "I try to write something that flows well and is fun to read," she says. "It's someone's home. They don't want a cold list of facts. They want it to be personal." Eley has a degree in art history and has worked in museums and as an archaeologist. For the past seven years she's been an interpreter at Maymont's Dooley mansion (above). $15 an hour. Call 852-9182 for details. —Jessica Ronky Haddad
2) LUXE HOTEL WITH A SIDE OF HISTORY
If you're popping up to Washington this spring, check into the new four-star Lorien Hotel & Spa in Old Town Alexandria. Richmond architecture firm Baskervill (also working on a much-needed overhaul of our downtown Marriott) worked with interior designer Vicente Wolfe to retrofit the historic King Street property, which was originally set to be condos but changed course due to the economy. The good news: The grand opening rate of $139 a night runs through June 30. lorienhotelandspa.com —Carrie Nieman Culpepper
3) STAR CONTRACTOR
This Old House meets Miami Ink meets American Chopper is how Richmond contractor Gable Painter describes his new show, The Restorer, airing on TLC on June 6. The handsome, confident and heavily tattooed Painter pitched the network, commandeered a production company and got his first pilot, Flip It Back, on the network in 2007. Based on its strength, he's now got a five-year contract and a 13-episode show. Richmonders may recognize the projects: On the show Painter goes to California to shop for historic wallpaper for a Linden Row suite. In another, he looks for lighting in New York for a Monument Avenue kitchen remodel. But it's not all business. "We do fun stuff like we have a taco-eating contest where the loser has to spin the wheel-of-consequence and get a bad tattoo, like a dream catcher or a dolphin." Jealous? Painter's hiring: "If you're young and have lots of restoration experience, we're looking for another guy — and tattoos wouldn't hurt." —CNC
4) UPCYCLED DECOR
Samantha Heyl, April Compton and Ecologic owner Stephanie Ackerman are on a mission: Find all the coolest pieces of furniture up for grabs on Craigslist.com or gathering dust in Richmond's thrift shops and turn them into mod statement pieces. So enthralled by "upcycling" with paint and fabric, these craft-savvy gals, The Busy Beavers, plan on extending their projects to clothes. This buffet runs $1,000 and features natural milk paint and nontoxic wallpaper detail. Check them out in the shop at 1606 W. Main St., 254-7336 or at busybeavs.etsy.com. —Ashley Norwood Nichols
Make like a Fellini character in the Stella 150, a scooter with a classic design, eco-friendly mileage (75 to 90 miles per gallon) and a fairly wallet-friendly price ($3,599). Available at Scoot Richmond. scootrichmond.com or 230-1000. —CNC
6) RECESSION-SAVVY FLORALS
In creating the "recessionista" bouquet, florist Sarah Pollard Chiffriller gives a nod to today's economic climate by providing a budget-friendly option for lovers of fresh flowers. While certainly not overpowering in size, the $20 arrangement, which includes seasonal blooms grown locally at Tuckahoe Plantation, serves as the perfect pick-me-up for a bedside table or powder room. Available at Fraîche boutique, 304 Libbie Ave., every Friday or at petalssarah.com. —Katherine Houstoun
7) TRAINING THE CONSUMER
As a young apprentice, Tim McCready was given the task of making 100 pencil-post beds. "It was the exact antithesis of the romance of woodworking, but I learned a lot," he says. Seventeen years later, McCready has his own shop, Bankston & Bailey Fine Furniture & Architectural Woodworking, in Scott's Addition where he makes one-of-a-kind commissioned pieces. He's now sharing his expertise in four-week classes for two students at a time, because he loves his craft and hopes it will not fade as we focus on the bottom line. Students make whatever they like – a poplar corner desk and a maple coffee table are two recent student projects – and no doubt leave with an appreciation of the craft. Classes, $450, include instruction, shop access and supplies; students provide the lumber. Contact him at 357-2111 or read his blog at woodmechanic.blogspot.com. —Elizabeth Woodroof Cogar
8) MOVE OVER, RACHEL RAY
Richmonder Debi Shawcross discovered an available spot at the crowded food-personality table – supper clubs – and she's capitalizing on it with a book and Web component, just in time for the recession's home-entertaining kick. The West End mom's hosted cooking classes in her home for the last six years and self-published a salad cookbook. On June 16, she takes the next step with Friends at the Table,a published cookbook geared to supper clubs with five seasonal menus and plan-ahead guides for each. "From my cooking classes I hear stories, and what's difficult for them," she says. To make entertaining easy, she's added shortcuts to debishawcross.com, including wine pairings, iTunes playlists and tablescape ideas. And if you like a tablescape, she'll sell it to you in her product section. Shawcross will be on Martha Stewart radio on June 26 — watch your back, Martha. —CNC
9) EXPLORING MODERN RICHMOND
It's easy to feel marginalized as a modernist in molding-, column- and pediment-clad Richmond. That's one reason Modern Richmond was born. "This is a way to feel connected to others who appreciate modern design," says Elli Sparks of 3Sixty Cabinetry, who, along with real estate agent Andrea Levine and advertising executive Susan Milne, founded the group. At monthly meetings, like-minded modernists are invited to tour a modern home or office with architects on hand to speak about the projects. "I want to think I don't have to go to New York to connect to a modern sensibility," says Sparks.
Recent tours explored "The Cube," a Texas Avenue home (above), and an interior renovation by Patrick Farley of Watershed. The next tour is May 26 in Midlothian. Visit modernrichmondtour.com for more. —JRH
10) BUILDING GREEN NEIGHBORHOODS
The trickle-up effect of the Better Housing Coalition begins with affordable new or rehabilitated homes in targeted neighborhoods. An end result is safer, more vital communities. The organization's newest resolve, to use green building practices in all its projects, means residents can live with better indoor air quality, less maintenance, and higher energy efficiency. One of its early success stories is the 29-unit Jefferson Mews (above) in Church Hill. Next up: Converting historic Beckstoffer's Lumber Mill into an EarthCraft-certified, mixed-use, mixed-income community. Visit betterhousingcoalition.org. —Paulette Roberts-Pullen
11) RETRO TREND
How do you make an old idea new?
Change it just slightly. That's what interior designer Janie Molster did when she commissioned silhouette artist Billie Wills to create oversized cut-paper portraits of her five children. The result: a graphic, modern look with a hint of tradition. A portrait painter and silhouette artist, Wills receives orders from across the country and regularly appears at local schools and craft shops. She's even made a stop at a funeral home, where she told the bereaved: "There's no charge for angels." Popular for adults before the camera was invented in the mid-19th century, today's silhouettes usually depict children. Willis has also done dogs, and pastoral scenes for Berry Hill Estate resort in South Boston. $20 for a 2.5-inch-by-3-inch, one-person silhouette. $30 for larger sizes. pavisnet.com/billiewills or 272-3516. —CNC
12) GOING OFF THE GRID
Pink-haired self-starter Copeland Casati began Green Modern Kits late one night after her Web surfing yielded few affordable, eco-friendly homes. Now she sells a variety of prefab kit homes, in modern and traditional styles, all custom designed for her sites greenmodernkits.com, greencottagekits.com and greencabinkits.com. Casati and her family are their own first customers; their Casa Ti modern kit home (above), designed by Charlottesville architect David Day, is in the works in Charlotte County and because of positioning and solar panels will be completely off the grid. See it during an open house Sept. 26-27 in conjunction with the bike event "Ride in the Heartland." —CNC
13) DIY INSTRUCTION
As the Do-It-Yourself trend becomes a way of life, area businesses are responding to prospective DIYers in need of guidance.
- Heidi Story is offering more home-related classes at her 3319 W. Cary St. boutique, including a four-hour ottoman-making class, $50. True beginners might prefer the seven-week introduction to sewing class, $215, which involves making a zippered skirt. 353-0994.
- Fleur Fabrics at 211 Robinson St. provides by-appointment sewing classes, $20 an hour, including two-hour introductory curtain- and pillow-making classes. Owner Jenny McGurk also rents out the shop's sewing machines, $7 an hour, allowing crafters to use her space as a studio, complete with cutting tables, tools and steamer. 612-9198.
- The Visual Arts Center of Richmond is embracing DIY learning this summer by adding adult classes on basic sewing for the home, introduction to faux finishing and a seminar on "rag rugs," which involves upcycling old sheets, fabric leftovers or used garments into an area rug, $150 to $205. visarts.org or 353-0094.
- Marie Antoinette Custom Interiors moves beyond the basics teaching classes on custom draperies, valances and pillows, as well as 8-week sessions on reupholstery (below) and "fit-like-a-glove slipcovers," $60 to $280. 2705 W. Broad St. draperiesdecor.com or 358-1177. —KH
14) HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT GHOST
We can thank William Lawrence Bottomley in part for Richmond's grand boulevard. The architect's emphasis on detail and craftsmanship shines in the many Monument Avenue peacocks he designed, such as the 1929 Jeffress residence (above) on Lee Circle and the Mediterranean-style blue-shuttered Parrish house. The Colonial Revivalist was one of the most diverse and sought after of the early 20th century. Along the East Coast his buildings include a New York skyscraper, a mausoleum, nightclubs, hotels, and town and country estates splashed with varying French, Spanish and Italian motifs – and he made his practice here, 100 years ago. Read local author Susan Hume Frasier's definitive tome, The Architecture of William Lawrence Bottomley (Acanthus Press, $85), and visit the Virginia Center for Architecture during October to see a Student Model exhibit coordinated by Historic Richmond Foundation. More events in the works, visit historicrichmond.com. —CNC
Some landscaping firms are taking environmentalism to the next level. Jay Burlison of J.M.B. Greengardens, is using organic fertilizers, pest and weed controllers; sourcing materials locally; using hand tools instead of power tools as much as possible; and using recycled-rubber soaker hoses.
A newcomer to look out for is Ian Johnson of Greener Landscapes. He's currently working on his landscape certificate at the University of Richmond and cares for smaller yards with battery-powered mowers, which, he says, are quieter than most hair dryers. Johnson also uses electric trimmers, leaf blowers and edgers. His future plans include green-roof installations. Contact Jay Burlison at jmbgreengardens.com or 433-9176 and Ian Johnson at greenerlandscapes.com or 339-4401. —ANN
16) GUILT-FREE GETAWAY
Experience life on a tropical island and help kids get life-saving surgeries. Sounds like a win-win. Each November the International Hospital for Children auctions week-stays at incredible properties like this one on the Caribbean island of Bequia, owned by local doctors who support the Richmond nonprofit. Past auctions have featured houses on the exclusive island of Mustique, owned by Bryan Adams and Mick Jagger, and one Prince William visited with Kate Middleton. —CNC
17) EXPERIENTIAL SHOPPING
Watch out Richmonders, a vino invasion is in full effect. With wine bars popping up all over town, choosing a vintage for your next get together is an experience in itself. Visit rhomemag.com for a break down of seven new spots – with wine suggestions from each – bound to elevate your shopping just a bit. —ANN
18) WHITE KNIGHTS RESCUE WINDSOR FARMS
The trust protecting the 20-room Windsor House on a 4-acre lot at the edge of Windsor Farms was almost its ruin, or so neighbors thought. After mismanagement of its trust, the home-turned-event-space went up for auction in 2006. Developers eyed the property because of its exemption from strict neighborhood building codes. Neighbors envisioning unsightly condo development exhaled when the sealed auction revealed the new owners as Thomas and Ann Parker Gottwald, with plans to keep the 1949 Georgian a single-family dwelling. During its two-year renovation the Gottwalds worked with a local team that included 3North architect Jay Hugo, contractor Rick Kastelberg, builder Clark Robins, interior designer Janie Molster and landscape designer Janet Baruch. The home debuted March 25 to friends with a party honoring the Sacred Heart Center. —CNC
19) GALLERY 2.0
Even in the best of times, the art business is tough. "To make a living you have to have your hand in a lot of pots," says artist Laura Loe. Last fall she moved her studio to a house on Main Street, which features a first-floor gallery of her work and funky, modern furnishings. Potential buyers are treated to a homelike setting allowing them to imagine how the art might look in their own homes.
Tyler Snidow, a former marketing executive, started one smART gallery as a home consignment sale of "lost" art unearthed from people's attics. In two years it's grown into a yearly art happening where artists sell leftovers at bargain prices. During the gallery's March showing in Grayson Hill townhouses, Snidow sold more then 700 original paintings by 100 Virginia artists in just eight days.
Real estate agent Lucy Williams of Select Properties has also discovered the advantages of combining art with real estate. Rather than using generic furniture to warm up a luxury listing, Williams paired with Ghostprint Gallery and furniture dealer Maurice Beane to stage the home. In a tight real estate market, to sell houses, "You absolutely have to be more creative," Williams says. The same goes for selling art. Visit onesmartgallery.net, lucybwilliams.com or Laura Loe Studio Gallery, 2005 W. Main St., open by appointment, lauraloe.com. —JRH
20) DESIGN STRATEGIST
From the outside it may look like a conventional interiors firm, but Fraser Design Associates is a hybrid business that believes good design can impact multiple tiers of a client's business, from brand to employee productivity. When Luck Stone asked the firm to design a prototype for their stone centers, Peter Fraser and his team not only designed a building and its interior, but custom furniture, fittings and graphics to express the business's brand. Broadening the brand for Mountain Lumber, a reclaimed wood business based in Charlottesville, Fraser is creating a sleek showroom incorporating unexpected uses of wood, like this backlit heart-pine wall, while expanding the product identity from rustic to chic. Visit Fraserdesignassociates.com or fraserdesignblog.blogspot.com. —PRP