Name: Allyson and Matt Donohue
Location: Old Town; Alexandria, Virginia
Size: 950 square feet
Years lived in: Matt 3 years, Allyson 1 year; Rented
When Allyson and Matt began dating — and eventually, decorating — they quickly bonded over their shared love of furniture and antiques.
Allyson reports that before she arrived on the scene, the apartment — then Matt’s bachelor pad — was overrun with mahogany and walnut (Matt had studied history and southern Americana, and there’s plenty of it in Old Town, Alexandria). When she — a textiles major who'd had a stint at John Robshaw — moved in last November, they re-arranged furniture and lightened things up with pattern, color, and texture.
Southerners both (Allyson hails from North Carolina, and Matt from Florida), their instincts intermingle blissfully with the bones of the historic building, which dates to 1853, and was, more recently, divided into four apartments. Friends tell them it seems like they’ve lived there for 40 years — high praise for young collectors.
Their advice for others with a flair for the old?
“Living with antiques is all about a positive attitude,” said Allyson. “We use everything we collect. It has lasted for the past 200 years, so use it as if it were new, and enjoy it!”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Definitely classic. Early American antiques mixed with modern textiles.
Inspiration: Matt’s studies in Southern Americana at MESDA (the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem), my love of textiles, fashion, Bunny Williams, Sister Parish, Albert Hadley — the classics.
Favorite Element: 10 foot ceilings, amazing natural light, built-ins and our pine floors (do I need to pick one!?).
Biggest Challenge: I joke that Matt’s favorite color is brown. Because of his love for all things mahogany or walnut, we have had to lighten the color palette by introducing patterns, texture and bright colors to the mix.
What Friends Say: Most of our friends say it looks like we’ve lived here for 40 years! There is always something new to show guests when they visit.
Biggest Embarrassment: All white walls! As renters, there are many things we cannot do. We would love to warm things up with wallpaper or paint if we could.
Proudest DIY: Sadly, it would be Matt taking an old coat rack and mounting it in the built-ins to display his sporting shotgun collection in the living room.
Biggest Indulgence: Art! Both for walls and decorative. We’ve bought several great pieces as a couple that I will always remember from our first year of marriage.
Best Advice: Go with your gut, but also do the research and educate yourself. Some of the best advice I’ve heard is buy right and you only cry once. It’s very true when it comes to decorating your home — why buy something you plan to get rid of in a few years? Invest!
Dream Sources: We can’t deny we love the thrill of the hunt — antique markets, auctions, consignment stores, thrift shops, estate sales and Craigslist. I also find great resources on Etsy, ABC Home in New York is always inspiring, and John Robshaw Textiles make any bed happier.
Resources of Note:
- Rug – Heriz rug, from antique auction
- Table – Antique shop, Ft Worth, TX; ca. 1820 Neoclassical Revival NYC mahogany breakfast table with hairy paw feet and acanthus leaf carving
- Sideboard – Craigslist, ca. 1820 Neoclassical Revival sideboard Norfolk, VA mahogany and yellow pine
- Clock on sideboard – inherited from Matt's grandmother, ca. 1900
- That gorgeous leopard coat – eBay find!
- Portrait over fireplace – Craigslist, ca. 1830 British school oil on canvas portrait, late 19th century wood and gesso gilded frame
- Chef's cart – Craigslist, WIlliams-Sonoma Boos block
- Andirons – Victorian brass fireplace implements
- Rug – Craigslist, Bokhara rug
- Convex mirror – Craigslist, federal style "bullseye" mirror, gilded gesso and wood
- Armchairs flanking fireplace – Craigslist, Hickory Chair club chairs w with oatmeal fabric
- Tall chest – Craigslist, ca. 1790 George III mahogany linen press with painted "faux inlaid" paterae and banding, straight bracket feet and dentil molded cornice
- Pelican Cigarettes print – Georgetown Consignment Store, original 1930s Ch Yraz Pelican Cigarette advertising poster
- Sofa side chest (under Pelican print) – Fishersville Antique Market, ca. 1790 Shenandoah Valley black walnut Chippendale chest with quarter round fluted columns, graduated molded drawers and ogee bracket feet
- Bedding – Tommy Bahama
- Print over bed – gift from Matt's uncle, ca. 1894 Kurz & Allison "Battle of Olustee, FLA" lithograph print
- Green and white lamp – Old Town antique store, 20th century Chinese export porcelain tobacco jar lamp with dragon and pearl motif
- Shower curtain – John Robshaw Textiles, sample from when Allyson worked there
- Bedding – Martha Stewart Collection, Macy's
- Pillows on bed – Caitlin Wilson Textiles
- Rug under bed – IKEA, jute rug
- Bedside table – Craigslist, ca. 1890 "centennial" Chippendale mahogany desk on ball and claw feet
- Bedside chest – DC Big Flea, ca. 1805 Shenandoah Valley mahogany chest with quarter round fluted columns, graduated drawers and French feet
- Gold lamp – HomeGoods
Thanks, Allyson and Matt!
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(Image credits: Natalie Grasso; Oliver Devine)