JHI's Serene Mid-Century Modernism

Workspace Tour

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Name: JHI
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Size: 2,400 square feet
Years lived in: 12 years

The building that is home to JHI, a design and marketing firm, stands out in many ways. It’s a pleasant surprise to come across this one-story mid-century building amongst the multi-story Victorian homes on Monument Avenue. When co-owners John Homs and Jo Watson first moved in, they decided they wanted to maintain the building’s Modernist integrity and aimed to create a functional workspace that exudes calm and peace. And truly, as you walk up to its doors, it feels as though you are walking back into a time when form followed function and simplicity reigned.

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The building, designed as a dental office, was built in 1954 by Frederick Hyland and Haig Jamgochian Jr. Hyland was a Richmond architect who had worked with and was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, and Jamgochian would go on to design Richmond's greatest Sputnik-era Expressionist building. When John and Jo moved in, they recruited the help of architect Henry D. Ayon, who brought in glass corners for each of the rooms, creating a flow and spaciousness throughout the narrow building.

As you walk through the space, you are first greeted by the skylight that throws light in rectangular shapes and sets the tone for the rest of the building. Various mid-century furnishings and clocks catch your eye, but they are not meant to be flashy. You can see the tenets of modernism, such as emphasis on negative space and function dictating form, in play here. Everything has its place and purpose, leaving the space open and clean. White walls and ceilings are broken up by bold panels of color, and the glass corners open the space up and all of a sudden you can hear your thoughts.

John and Jo love their space, and get excited about sharing with others how inspiring it is. They ask each of their job applicants to interpret the building into a project, and this appreciation of the workspace is one of the gateways for new hires to connect with John and Jo's work vision and philosophy.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Clean, uncluttered, organized, streamlined.

Inspiration: Mid-century modernism, stripped bare.

Favorite Element: Glass walls in the interior and exterior.

Biggest Challenge: The space forces you to be neat and organized.

What Friends Say: Comments are overwhelmingly about the simplicity, spaciousness, and elegance. The furniture blends because it is the correct furniture for that architecture, so it does not stand out. And people are always amazed at how comfortable the Bertoia wire chairs are...

Biggest Indulgence: Flat roofs are NOTORIOUS for being problematic, especially old ones. Most people would never buy a flat roofed building, but for us, you can't have a nice modern building without having a flat roof; hence the indulgent feeling that it is going to suck up a lot of money, and it has.

Best Advice: Hire a Feng Shui architect once you think you have everything in place.

Dream Sources: The beauty, clarity, tranquility and grandeur of the great modern architects; Luis Barragan.

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Resources of Note:

PAINT & COLORS

  • Paint colors scheme and placement were designed by interior designer Jim Long

  • ENTRY

    • Coffee Table: Isamu Noguchi
    • Sofas: Ikea
    • Chairs: Harry Betoia for Knoll
    • Idea Board: Handmade metal by Kevin Daley
    • Paper shirt: Handmade by Amanda Gibson for an ad campaign

    CONFERENCE ROOM

    • Table: Tabletop hand made by Chris McCray (2 layers of industrial Microlam sandwiching a piece of Masonite, filled and sealed), Legs cast aluminum to match chairs by David Weinstock
    • Chairs: Designed by David Weinstock, and made by Crucible Products Corp. NYC

    JOHN'S OFFICE

    • Clocks: George Nelson for Howard Miller, reproduced by Vitra
    • Desks: All aluminum desk designed by Gordon Bunshaft for G.F. Studios (General Fireproofing). Originally, executive level issue throughout the Reynolds Metals Building.
    • Sculpture: Midcentury wood and wire
    • Chairs: Knoll, Early issue Bertoia

    STEPHANIE'S OFFICE

    • Clocks: Original Howard Miller Clock with Label designed by George Nelson
    • Desks: Desktops are all custom-made wood frames clad in heavy-duty galvanized metal
    • Lamps: 1920’s modern task lamp from Switzerland
    • Chairs: Knoll
    • The print: Original air brush artwork by Leslie Cabarga

    JO'S OFFICE

    • Clocks: Original Howard Miller Clock designed by George Nelson
    • Desks: Ikea
    • Lamps: 1950’s modern task lamp (In so many Hollywood films!)
    • Chairs: Herman Miller Eron Chair

    BREAKROOM

    • Table: Eero Saarinen Tulip Table
    • Chairs: (In the style of) Arne Jacobsen
    • Bookcases: Ikea
    • Clock: George Nelson for Howard Miller, reproduced by Vitra

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    Thanks, John and Jo!

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    (Image credits: Christine Lu)

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    Christine lives in Richmond, VA with her husband, daughter and Norwegian Elkhound. She is a purveyor of daily delights and champions the joy of doing more with less, the art of living beautifully, and sharing good stories.

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