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Preserving History: The Conrads’ 5,100 square-foot Queen Anne-style home was built in 1900 in Union Hill. The house overlooks Jefferson Park, which essentially serves as the Conrads’ front yard. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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Easy Elegance: The home’s front parlor features the original mantel and fireplace with green encaustic tile. The soothing pastel palette plays off these hues, with an elegant collection of family antiques and auction-house finds. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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Blue and White: The classic white kitchen features extra-tall Integrity cabinets and marble countertops from Artistic Stone Design. The oversized lantern is by Visual Comfort. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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A Family House: Matt and Alicia Conrad, with children Harrison, 3, and Annie, 15 months, stand in the grand foyer of their Union Hill home. The stained glass is original and the painting is by Greg Osterhaus. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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Treasured Gifts: For their first wedding anniversary, Matt and Alicia Conrad both coincidentally comissioned a painting by Richmond artist David Rohrer as a gift to each other. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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Original Details: Because the house was a rest home for more than 40 years, many of its original details were preserved. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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Period Glass: An original stained glass window bathes the foyer in radiant light and the glow of the home’s turn-of-the-century charm. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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Dining Room: The simple dining room features a collection of family antiques and accessories. The pocket doors are original to the house and when open, create an easy flow that is uncommon in homes of its era. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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Harvest Gold: Pretty antique-gold wheat candle sconces from Horchow decorate the entrance hall and upstairs hallway. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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City Living: The view of Richmond’s skyline from Jefferson Park. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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Presidential Provenance: The desk, inherited from Matt’s family, was once used in Woodrow Wilson’s White House. It occupies a prominent spot in the upstairs hall. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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Moody Retreat: A coat of navy blue paint on both the walls and trim highlights the unique Gothic window and helps to create a cozy space. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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Boy’s Life: Harrison’s room features a mix of family antiques and inexpensive finds, such as quilts from Target that are personalized with a custom monogram, and beds found on Ebay. The home’s tall ceilings allow for statement lighting in every room. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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Simple Style: The Conrads renovated five bathrooms before moving into their home. Each features classic white cabinetry and tile or wood floors that are true to the period of the turn-of-the-century, Queen Anne-style home. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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Master Bedroom: The master bedroom features a bay window that overlooks Jefferson Park and provides a cozy nook for morning coffee. The painting is by Richmond artist Dallas Mosman. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
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Fit for a Princess: Daughter Annie’s sweet nursery features a crystal chandelier and gilded mirror. The room’s generous size allows for the crib to be placed in its center. (Photo by Ansel Olson)
Matt and Alicia Conrad were living in a 900-square-foot cottage in Church Hill when they first set their sights on their dream home. Located a few blocks west in Union Hill, just across the street from Jefferson Park, the turn-of-the-century, Queen Anne-style home had sat boarded up and vacant for years before hitting the market in 2012.
With two young children and a passion for entertaining, the couple was drawn to the house’s open floor plan as well as its dimensions — at 5,100 square feet, it was more than five times the size of their current abode. “We sat out at the park for my son’s first birthday and I told everybody, ‘We’re going to live in that house,’” Matt remembers. The seller refused their first offer, but accepted their second a year later, and the Conrads began the daunting process of bringing the house back to life. Built in 1900 by the Brauers, a longtime Union Hill family with German roots, the house was passed to Henry Woody, founder of Woody Funeral Homes, in 1925. In 1960, the house was converted into a rest home, its rooms carved up for individual residents. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise when it came to preserving the home’s unique historical features.
“We’re so lucky that it was owned by an old age home,” Alicia says. “All of the tile work is original, all of the columns, the stained glass is all original to the house. If it had been owned by a family that had wanted to do modern updates, that could have been destroyed. We’re thankful that that was all kept intact.”
The Conrads are also grateful to the home’s most recent owner, Hollister Lindley, who had done a great deal of structural work on the house before being diagnosed with ALS in 2011. Unable to live in the large house, Lindley put it back on the market, where it sat, boarded up, for several years.
Lindley’s hard work gave the home’s new owners a bit of a blank slate to begin with, but because it had sat vacant for so long, radiators had burst and leaked down into the floors and ceilings, causing significant sagging and water damage. Floors had to be ripped out and replaced, and new electrical, HVAC and plumbing systems were installed. The home’s kitchen and five bathrooms had to be completely redone as well. With Matt working full-time as an attorney and Alicia caring for the children, the couple relied on general contractor Stonewall Construction to guide them through the process.
Less than a year after moving in, the Conrads have already put their stamp on the house, giving it a comfortable, lived-in feel. Alicia’s design background — she earned a degree in interior design from East Carolina University — allowed her to take on the large-scale project with confidence.
Her influence is evident in the house’s muted grey-and-white color scheme, historically sensitive fixtures, and its expert blend of antique and modern furnishings. “My style tends to draw me more toward a neutral background while adding in pops of color and texture,” she says. “I find inspiration in antique and timeless pieces that allow me to make modern yet classic updates. And Chinoiserie. My husband will tell you that I have a problem with blue and white Chinoiserie!”
Going from 900 square feet to more than 5,000 was surprisingly easy for the family. “Matt and I were both very surprised that so many of our things from our small home on 24th Street have spread thin over our new larger home,” Alicia says. “Through very few purchases and family pieces, we are slowly beginning to fill the space. As tempting as it often is to overfill the rooms of such large proportion, we prefer to keep a balance of minimal furnishings, allowing the architectural details to shine through.”
More than anything, the young family appreciates the open floor plan of the house. “The house really lends itself so well to an open flow, which is something that we’re really excited about because it’s not common in these old homes,” Alicia says. Besides offering plenty of space for the growing family, the layout is perfect for entertaining.
Growing up in Appomattox, Matt remembers neighbors often stopping by for unannounced visits. “We purchased this house together wanting to adopt that same spirit of hospitality,” Alicia says. “We hope that we have and will continue to design an inviting home to include elements that allow for casual and more formal entertaining.”
The couple chose to use the rooms toward the front of the house for the more formal living and dining areas, while their everyday den and large eat-in kitchen are situated in the back.
“It’s Church Hill, so people are very social, they just drop by,” Matt says. “Our first night here, we had people just dropping by to say hello until 11, 12 o’clock at night. That kind of fit the basis for why we wanted our private space back here so we could have more formal space at the front of the house to welcome guests. It’s a return to probably how the house was used originally.”
As Union Hill continues to evolve, the Conrads say they can’t imagine living anywhere else in Richmond. “It has become a wonderful place to live,” Matt says. “It’s almost like living in a small town within the larger city. It’s walkable, we have access to the river, the best restaurants in the city, shops, and church. All of our friends are right here in the community.”