Getting to see art make beautiful houses into wonderful homes may be the very best part of my job. I recently fell in love with a home when dropping off some artwork and asked the homeowner if she had worked with a designer. She said she worked with designer Jessica Williamson, and not only did I get to know Jessica, but I also now count her as a client, an inspiration, and a friend.
Jessica majored in interior design at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (one of the best programs in the country!), and worked with renowned architectural firm Gensler in Washington, D.C. before deciding to focus on the intimate, personal spaces she prefers. Jessica balances traditional classicism with the fresh ideas and joie de vivre that makes each client’s house into their very personal home. We spoke to Jessica about the process and the design plans that went into creating this charming home in Richmond, Virginia…
How did you get started with this space? What was important to your client?
“In 2018 the client reached out to us to help them pull their home together with initial steps being the dining, powder and living room. They wanted their home to feel approachable yet full of style.”
Tell us about the design of the living room. What is the paint color on the blue fireplace, and how did you come to the decision to use it? It’s bold and we love it!
“The shape of the home's original mantle was super inspiring and I instantly knew I wanted it to stand out. We proposed the idea of using Benjamin Moore's Harlequin Blue and they fell in love! We updated the existing surround using a mini herringbone which offset the color perfectly!”
What are your goals for home offices these days? How does the monochromatic color scheme in your clients office play into those intentions?
“Home offices are all about organization but should also provide a backdrop of inspiration. I believe that no matter what kind of work you do, your office should allow you to declutter your mind and to not distract from your focus. Also, when we are in spaces that make us happy, we tend to be more productive. Our clients had a small, large closet sized space that they were using as an office. Our strategy was to make the space feel larger by designing millwork that would organize the room. To take that one step further, we painted the entire room the same color as the cabinets to create cohesion.”
We recognize a few pieces in your clients gallery wall in the stairwell. What can you tell us about this feature, and galleries in general?
“When we first met, our client mentioned they had the vision to install a gallery wall on the stair wall. Given that the stairs are one of the first things you see when you enter the home, I couldn't agree more! To layer upon that idea, we designed a wainscot of picture molding that would give context to the adjacent dining room design and provide a border for their future gallery wall. Our client implemented the gallery wall 100% on their own and I think it might be one of my absolute favorite parts of her home. We believe gallery walls need to be a delicate balance of whimsy and order. By using a mix of frame styles and media, this balance can be achieved.”
I’ve always admired the wallpaper used in the dining room, and love the simplicity of the chandelier. Please tell us about your choices for this room. Is there a view corridor that influenced your decisions?
Simple elegance was the guiding theme for the dining room design and from the moment I walked into the room, I knew I wanted to add molding to enhance the original trim work as well to adorn the room with a gorgeous wallpaper. Schumacher’s Twiggy Paperweave printed grasscloth was the perfect addition. To juxtapose the intricacy of the paper, we wanted to keep the chandelier simple so not to overpower the room.
What do you enjoy when you’re not designing a beautiful space?
“Being in a field where inspiration is everywhere, my life is pretty much comprised of two things; design and my family. However, one of my favorite things to do is to travel with our family to inspiring places like Iceland and Spain. I cannot wait for the day that we can hop on a plane and see the world again!”
What do you love most about being a designer?
“If I had to pick one thing I would say the early stages of the design process where the client has given us a set of problems and we solve them. That eureka moment is so incredibly surreal.”
What is the role of art in the design equation?
“I believe that art should not match the home's design but instead be an extension of the design, enhancing the emotional goals of the space.”
What advice do you wish someone had given you when you were starting your career?
“It's so very easy to get wrapped up into logistics of a project. When you go straight from design school into working for a design firm, often the creative process gets lost. I wish someone had told me not to stop drawing. I lost my "hand" as they say and I'm working on getting back to basics, even after 20 years. I love the accuracy and convenience of drafting and BIM programs but nothing beats being able to draw what's in your head!”
All Photography by Alexis Courtney