A 300-year-old Powhatan house gets a contemporary update.
Built in the mid-1720s, Manakin, located in Powhatan County, has its origins in Pierre Chastain, one of the leaders of the region’s first French Huguenot settlers. “In its 300-year history, the house has only had four owners,” says Cheryl Goddard who, along with her husband Steve, became the fifth when they bought it in 2014.
To update the interior while honoring its rich history and classic architecture, the couple brought in Richmond interior designer Janie Molster. “I wanted the house to exude warm southern elegance with light and cheerful modern elements,” says Cheryl. “But as a native of Virginia, I also appreciate her story and wanted to respect her.”
She had never worked with a professional interior designer before, but Goddard found a collaborative partner in Molster. “I’m pretty traditional,” she says. “I didn’t want to get too modern. But Janie opened up a world of possibilities for me.
Used to historic home projects, Molster says the magic is in the mix, with antiques living happily alongside contemporary fabrics and artwork. “Without a good mix of old and new, a room falls flat,” she says. “With that, you are intrigued. “
“Once we saw the property, we were delighted to be a part of it,” adds Molster. “The house is spectacular, with 12 foot ceilings and beautiful woodwork. They had only furnished a few rooms, so we were starting with an empty shell.
WHERE TO START? “TO FALL IN LOVE”
Armed with photos, Goddard was a dream client who had done his homework, says Molster. “She knew his tastes so we started running.”
But where to start ? “When you’re faced with an empty space, you just have to fall in love with something – it could be wallpaper, furniture, painting,” says Molster. “There is no right or wrong place to start. “
Here, it was the sofa in the entry hall – which Molster stripped down to the muslin for an informal feel – that kicked off the design ball. “The sofa dictated the height of the trumeau mirror, which led to the wallpaper and paint,” says Molster. ” It all started from there. “
A pair of antique French barometers in the foyer honors the home’s original owner, while an abstract painting by artist Steven Cushner adds a contemporary touch. To invoke the warm feeling Goddard had in mind, they added antique Turkish rugs and velor pillows in soft shades of pink and salmon. An antique Swedish sideboard anchors the space, while Nina Campbell’s patterned wallpaper unites the graceful spaces of the front and back hallways.
The car’s lantern in the lobby looks traditional, but historically, Molster notes, it was limited to outdoor use. “Indoor lanterns are a later modern invention. We chose this one as a counterpoint to the crystal chandelier in the dining room. It’s not cheap, it’s an architectural light that adds weight to the room.
QUICK DECISIONS BASED ON TRUST
Although the owners had their own antique rooms, the formal rooms were unfurnished. “They came to the table knowing that it would be important to add important antique pieces,” says Molster. She scoured fairs and antique markets to find pieces that looked like they had been there forever. “When we go hunting we text a photo when we find a great piece and say ‘now we need a decision now’. It takes a lot of confidence, ”says Molster.
Goddard says trust was built early in the design process. “When Janie sits down with you, she asks, ‘What’s your vision? What are your colors? What do you want your house to reflect? ‘ Then she curates a selection of fabrics and wall coverings and paint colors that match that vision. She includes you a lot in the process, so I developed that trust and relationship with her from the start.
For Molster, forging the customer relationship is an essential part of the design process. “Sometimes a ‘no’ is more useful than a ‘yes’, she explains. “It helps us focus on a customer’s preferences. It’s so special when you know you’ve been successful, ”adds Molster. “This is how we got beautiful pieces like the dining room chandelier, the wheelchairs from the 1920s and the Italian mirror. When you’re in touch with a customer, they’re ready to make a quick decision.
A STAR IN THIS SHOW
For the dining room, Molster sought to capitalize on its large proportions. “In a room with 12 foot ceilings, you want to improve that, you still want to maximize what you have.
She chose a custom wallpaper from Gracie, known for her hand-painted murals. “We chose the color and the pattern,” she notes. But when the wallpaper came up, the wall pattern came to a stop on the walls. “People just aren’t used to rooms with 12-foot ceilings,” Molster sighs.
To remedy the situation, Molster came up with an elegant solution: “Our decorative painters came in and painted directly over the wallpaper to extend the wall pattern a little higher towards the ceiling. Problem solved.
The mixture of periods and styles – from Italian to English to French – works in the piece, says Molster, “because the proportions are consistent.” She is especially delighted with the French chandelier from the early 1800s, which appeared on a trip to the market. “The beautiful pink and green florets are original,” Molster notes. “They add a bit of whimsy to an otherwise formal room.”
A simple sisal rug completes the space because, she says, “not everyone can be a star on the show,” she says. “Here it is the wallpaper. The curtains are luxurious, but they are sturdy.
Even for formal living rooms, Molster believes in comfort: “We certainly have a nice sofa in the lobby. But the club chairs in the living room are comfortable and the sofa long enough to stretch out and take a nap. We don’t want customers to stick their heads inside and say hello to these rooms, ”she says. “We want them to live in them.”
Comfort, in fact, is behind his preference for low tables with a little height. “It’s easier than bending down to put a drink on a coffee table. And it is better suited to the period.
Perhaps less visible is its commitment to practicality and durability. “We now have beautiful, high-performance fabrics: velvets and linen. We’re no longer limited to Striped Awning Sunbrella, ”she notes. The goal, she says, is a room that will look fresh, not frayed, for years to come.
MIXING ON THE WALLS
Goddard has loved Rose Medallion porcelain ever since she received her first pair of plates in the pattern as a wedding gift. “I’ve collected it over the years, buying coins at estate sales,” she says. “Janie had the brilliant idea to put the whole collection together on the living room wall, which had more impact.
But take a close look at the portrait medallions hanging in the lobby. “They look old, don’t they? But they’re not, ”says Molster, who stumbled upon contemporary papier-mâché artwork at a Palm Beach design store. “I love their 3D quality.
While the house remains a work in progress, the Goddards are grateful to Molster for hitting the right rope. “She pushed my comfort zone a bit,” says Cheryl, “but I’m so glad she did. I love the balance she has achieved in our house.
Box: The French Huguenot history of Manakin
They fled France after King Louis XIV banned their Protestant faith, and on July 12, 1700, the first French Huguenot settlers from Virginia arrived by boat from London.
Granted 10,000 acres on the site of an abandoned Indian colony in Monaco, they named their new home Manakintowne. Pierre Chastain, a leader of the Colony’s Episcopal Church, later built “Manakin”, the original frame house on the Goddard property, in the 1720s.
A year after Chastain’s death in 1728, his son ceded the house and property to Edward Scott, apparently to pay a gambling debt. The house remained in the Scott family for 200 years. Mr. and Mrs. Collins Denny bought the house in the late 1940’s and renamed it “Monaco” to avoid confusion with the Manakin area north of the James River. The current owners, Cheryl and Steve Goddard, have restored the house to the original name, “Manakin”.
This article was originally published in the december 2021 publish.