Thursday, December 13, 2012

Agecroft Hall, Richmond

While in Richmond I toured a thoroughly unusual house museum, Agecroft Hall.  The house began life in 15th century Lancashire, England, as the home to the Langley and Dauntesey families.  Not many structures in Richmond can boast that (except for their next door neighbor, Virginia House, but more on that later).
By 1925 the house was on the verge of ruin thanks to rampant coal mining on the property which had undermined the structure.   The building was auctioned off to Thomas C. Williams of Richmond. Williams had the dream of creating an ancient tudor village (of grand country houses of course) in Richmond, Virginia of all places.  This plan would become Windsor Farms.
The house was in such poor condition it could not be constructed as it stood in England but rather rooms were imported and all of the building pieces put back together in a general sense but in a way better suited to modern living (bathrooms, closets, etc).  Think of it as a sort of ancient lego system.
This architectural work was devised by architect Henry G Morse and the delightful gardens were designed by Charles Gillette.
Williams only lived to see his dream barely completed but his wife inhabited the house for many years. He had left the house to his wife in trust and always intended it to become a house museum. However Mrs. Williams had very strong ideas on the subject herself to add to the house's legacy.
When she became too elderly to care for the house, she moved out and began to transform it into a period piece of Tudor England (in Richmond, Virginia?). 
Personally I would have found the house more interesting and 'honest' if it had been left in its 1920s state. Only one room was left as such, the library. 
The garage courtyard became the new visitors entrance with the garage itself becoming a lobby and theater for a short film that is shown before tours.
As you can see in these photos, Williams selected the prime property for his own house on a tall hill overlooking the James River.
These herb and vegetable gardens have delightful views down to the river. 
Below is the modern approach to the house through what was once a service court with many garage and kitchen doors opening onto it. 
 The reconstruction in this area is such that you would never know this wasn't the original front door.
 These beautiful entry gates are in Latin and say "Virtus Sola Invicta" or bravery alone is invincible.
These are 2 of the remaining garage doors.
This beautiful old oak stair leads you from the original entry court to the library.
This intricate wattle and daub was from an addition when the Langleys were doing well financially. The parts of the house with simpler woodwork would have been needed additions when they weren't as flush.
I loved the way the Williams's incorporated this tree into the roof structure of a gardening shed on the service court.
This Oriel window is one of the oldest in the house and is located in the original entry court above the pass through for cars to the service courtyard.
This is the current visitor entrance in what was originally (well, in the 1920s original) a garage door bay.
The great hall was immediately off the original front door and was the first thing a guest would see. The 2 story space was not original to Agecroft but constructed in the 1920s version to help deal with the Virginia heat.
The linenfold paneling dates from the 1920s but incorporates panels dating to the middle ages. This wood screen blocks the great hall from the original entry hall.
A parlor off the great hall faces the James River and receives amazing light. I love these old leaded glass windows. All of the windows were from the original Agecroft and were shipped across the ocean. Not a single pane of glass was broken the guide said!
The dining hall was set for a medieval feast.
Above is the beautiful library, probably my favorite room.  This room is decorated as it was left by Mrs. Williams and has not been altered to reflect the 16th century like the rest of the house.
The stunning plasterwork on the ceiling was also a 1920s invention, originally Agecroft was a simple country house and would have had plain ceilings.
I loved these sconces found throughout the visitors entry.
Many pieces were 'leftover' from the original Agecroft such as this leaded glass bay which are on display in a small exhibit. The current house is 1/4 the size of the original house in England.
I hope you enjoyed this visit to Agecroft.  It certainly is an anomaly to find a piece of merry olde England nestled into a Richmond neighborhood!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Virtual Library

While Christmas shopping over my lunch break today I stopped into the new Georgetown Jonathan Adler store. I love the 'virtual' library shelves located in the rear of the store. This would be perfect for a narrow hallway to display your favorite coffee table books. Just some easy picture ledges mounted to the wall and voila; instant display library! Thanks, Jonathan!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Jefferson, Richmond, at Christmas

While in Richmond, Va the other week, I stayed at the historic Jefferson Hotel. I just love grand old hotels like this and thought I'd share with you some of their Christmas decorations.

 The entry court is a recent addition but you can still see the beautiful beaux arts building behind.
The main lobby or rotunda has an enormous 40' tall christmas tree that had just been put up during my visit. Sadly the lights aren't on but it was stunning!
Looking up at the tree.
This mezzanine level surrounds the rotunda.
The palm leaf plaster detailing on the ceiling is beautiful.
I loved these banisters with the Greek key design.
Above is the floor plan. You can see how the hotel grew over time, adding many new spaces.
The empire room is one of the larger rooms available for hire; a site of many Richmond weddings!
The adjacent Flemish room has beautiful mahogany paneling.
The palm court has this statue of their namesake, Thomas Jefferson, and also holds the desks for check in.
The delicous restaurant, Lemaire, is on the other side of the palm court from the rotunda and features this beautiful bar as you enter.
The detail work in these rooms is beautiful!
I loved the carpet and Venetian glass chandeliers.
The private dining rooms feature antique limestone mantels.
And perhaps a bit strange to include but I loved the nickel lanterns in the restrooms; just had to share them as well!
If you find yourself in Richmond, I would highly recommend a stay or meal at this elegant hotel.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dale Chihuly at the VMFA

One of the exhibits I was excited to see at the VMFA was Chihuly. I've long been a fan of Dale Chihuly for the way his glassworks manipulate light, color, and space. 
 The exhibit is brilliantly lit against dark backgrounds; this really brings the colors to life!
  Looking closely at these spheres in the Ikebana piece shows the incredible detail in the glass.
His flowerlike Macchia bowls are always a hit. They look like enormous flowers!
I had never seen this exhibit simply entitled Reeds on Logs. The logs are salvaged western red cedar from his home state of Washington.
The blaze of color and shapes brought smiles to everyone's faces.
Many of the pieces have intricate parts, such as these sea creatures.
As you can see in the almost child-like, smiling faces above, this is art to be experienced and enjoyed.
 We all need to have a little fun sometimes!
See the exhibit at the VMFA thru Feb 10, 2013.