by Michelle Washington
photography by Nate Kinnison
Years of commercial use had hidden the interior finery of this nearly 200-year-old grande dame. Layers of drop ceiling and ductwork, industrial-grade stairs, and fires, floods and asphalt obscured, or destroyed, the craftsmanship of the fine Greek revival manor. One family believed that her beauty remained more than a charming facade.
Lawyer Sarah Kotarides says she and her husband, Pete, a builder, knew they wouldn’t find something move-in ready when they started hunting for a house. They didn’t realize they would fall in love with the outside of a house that proved unlivable on the inside: no kitchen, no living space – and those stairs, which had replaced a grand staircase. “What attracted us: it had tall windows in a historic building,” she says. “We knew it could have old-house charm but feel new.”
The house, in Norfolk’s Freemason historic district, dates to 1820-30. Built by banker William Camp, it was once known as the Camp-Hubbard House. Street views showcase its character – fluted ionic columns frame the portico over a limestone plinth. Cast iron lintels with dentils and an acanthus leaf detail crown the windows, said architect Clay Dills. Stately white brick behind a wrought iron fence provides grace as well as gravity.
But the place had been divided into lawyers’ offices. The Kotarideses, in fact, first visited it as a commercial listing. Today the grande dame has returned, through the skill of architects and artisans, the insights of historical research, and a commitment to comfort and airy sophistication.
How the home looks today →
Demolition revealed herringbone-pattern floors in other parts of the house. New wood recreated that effect in the foyer. Architect Clay Dills and architectural historians studied detailed plasterwork – once hidden under ductwork and a commercial drop ceiling – in the foyer to deduce the location of the original staircase. As for the decor, says Sarah Kotarides, “I selected modern abstract pieces to complement the furnishings and in some cases inspire the look and feel of a room.”
“Before I even started designing the interior of the house,” Sarah Kotarides says, “I knew how I wanted the house to feel – comfortable and inviting yet sophisticated.” The original kitchen, she says, likely would have been in the basement. The lack of one in the commercial structure gave the team carte blanche. In the master bedroom, warm, soft pinks, ivory and white created a soothing retreat. In the breezeway, a large reproduction of a textile worked with the wallpaper. Tradesmen from Richmond preserved and repaired the ornate plasterwork.