Tess’s Grand & Colorful Virginia House

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Turner)

Name: Tess Shebaylo
Location: Church Hill; Richmond, Virginia
Size: 2,500 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years; Owned

Stepping off of the red brick sidewalks of Richmond’s historic Church Hill district into Tess’ home, one is struck by a sense of grandeur that is at once awesome and inviting. It is the kind of space worthy of slack-jawed gazing, as you wander from room to high-ceilinged room, savoring the distinct mood of each part of Tess’ space.

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(Image credit: Lauren Turner)

Constructed in 1910, the house was a practically a shell when it was purchased four years ago and has since undergone a full renovation. It is difficult to identify the single most impressive aspect of this painstaking renovation, but the coffered ceiling and wooden floors, which were lashed with chains to create an authentic texture, are certainly high on the list.

Though Tess admits to a mishmash of historical influences in her décor, no aspect of any particular style feels overdone. Impressively, Tess has maintained an element of cohesion throughout her home—from the elegance of her formal parlor and red-walled dining room to the lighter, more modern furnishings of the TV room and nursery.

Rich in color, character and historic charm, Tess’ impeccably curated (and renovated) home is sure to inspire.

(Image credit: Lauren Turner)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Old-timey, but uncluttered.

Inspiration: I’m a big fan of historical interiors anywhere from Louis XVI to mid-century modern. I try to make decisions based on how Marie Antoinette would decorate if she were living in a modest manor house in the American South. And also if she were goth. And had been reading Apartment Therapy for years and liked clean lines and stark white.

Favorite Element: The curiosity cabinet in the parlor. It’s tempting to grab up every little antique knickknack that fits with your style, but then you have a house where breakable, small things are overflowing every surface. The curiosity cabinet helped rein that back in a bit and tell a focused story in one corner of the house.

Biggest Challenge: Since I’m drawn to so many different types of décor, the biggest challenge was giving the look of the house cohesion. All the furnishings I had accumulated over the years made for a disjointed feeling when thrown together. I got rid of a bunch of stuff and tried to at least focus on a rough time frame of rococo through art nouveau, where possible. Still disjointed to the trained eye, but it works.

What Friends Say: “Your house is perfect! I don’t know how you find all these great antiques.” Full disclosure: much of what you see is just ugly stuff from the 70s, painted nicely.

Biggest Embarrassment: The laundry closet. It’s just the most inconvenient, ill-fitting, illogically-put-together space in the house. It’s a disgrace to laundry closets everywhere. Also, the overabundance of Ikea Lack shelves in the house. They don’t go with the décor at all and I know this, and I’m working on phasing them out eventually. Don’t judge.

Proudest DIY: The mobile hanging over the baby’s crib. I used a bunch of old jewelry and found objects that I had been collecting in a drawer, and fashioned something pretty that had significance for my child.

Biggest Indulgence: The coffered ceiling in the dining room. Seriously, who needs a coffered ceiling? No one.

Best Advice: Constraints are your best friends. Especially for the renters out there. Do what you can, right this moment, with what you have. Don’t worry about achieving a certain “perfect” look immediately. You will come up with something great with whatever’s lying around your house or the thrift store, and you can always tweak it later.

Also, keep a clean and organized house. Not just for the sake of high standards, but because it’ll make you more sane. If you can’t handle much cleaning, pare down your belongings so that there’s less to clean. Every single item has a home where it goes. Put it back in its home when you’re done using it. You will never realize how draining it is to your subconscious to have your eye constantly grazing piles of mess and clutter everywhere, until one day when it’s all gone and you can start to relax and actually focus on what matters (your guests, or your book). Maintain this standard and you’ll feel confident in offering your hospitality to others anytime – “Sure, come on over to my place now and I’d love to hear more about your week” instead of “Um, I’d invite you over but my house is such a wreck there is literally no cleared-off place for you to sit.” If you can’t open your home to others, what is the point of it all?

Dream Sources: John Derian. The ridiculously expensive baby cribs at Restoration Hardware that I can’t justify purchasing.

(Image credit: Lauren Turner)

Resources of Note:


  • Valspar: Silverleaf (parlor, TV room, kitchen backsplash, master bathroom)
  • Valspar: Knoxville Gray (foyer, stairwell)
  • Valspar: Oatlands Velvet Night (downstairs bathroom)
  • Valspar: Matte Ultra White (all over)
  • Valspar: Cut Ruby (dining room)
  • Valspar: Pacific Pleasure (master bedroom)
  • Valspar: Dewdrop (master closet, front bathroom)
  • Valspar: Blue China (kitchen)
  • Valspar: Rain Puddle (nursery)


  • Cabinet: Ikea
  • Shelf: Ikea
  • Mirror: Hobby Lobby
  • Church pew: Antique, found
  • La Push print: A gift shop in Forks, WA (yep, that Forks).
  • Flooring: white pine from Lumber Liquidators, ebony stain and DIY hand distressing.
  • Thomas Jefferson bust: Monticello gift shop
  • Letter holder: Joann Fabrics
  • Mirror: Lowe’s
  • Sconces: Rejuvenation
  • Chandelier: don’t remember
  • “Richmond is my Happy Place” postcard: photo by Ansel Olsen, of a screenprinting project by Carrie Walters and Studio Two Three.
  • House numbers: Sure Hand Signs
  • Plant stand: Through the Garden Gate Antiques
  • Church pew: antique, left at an old apartment






  • Staircase: Stairs were built by Atlantic Staircrafters out of Petersburg, the railing and balusters were purchased in pieces, and the newel posts were handcrafted by Dan Shebaylo.
  • Map of Philadelphia: eBay
  • Ladies in period garb: gifts
  • “Come to Enchanting Virginia” magazine ad: gift
  • “Richmond, Scenic and Historic” ad: gift
  • The Belle of Virginia tobacco label print: Virginia Historical Society
  • Photo of Morella in blue dress: Karen Seifert of IHNY
  • Photos of me and Morella: Mia Artz Photography
  • All other photos: Me
  • Bird branch: gif
  • Lamp: Garden Ridge
  • Top hat man: Ian Sampson
  • Holographic print of Jesus knocking: gift
  • Cat with skulls painting: Chris Casby
  • Woodblock print of Matt Deans and I: Mandy Sampson
  • Mia and Brendan print: souvenir from my friends’ wedding
  • “You Are Loved” print: gift



  • Sink and cabinet: Overstock
  • Curtain: Urban Outfitters
  • Apothecary shower curtain: Izola
  • Storage jars: Ikea, vintage Mason
  • Charlotte Bronte print: Yardia


  • Walls: stenciled using the “Vase and Pearls” stencil from Royal Design Stencils
  • Closet construction: Ikea, with vintage curtains that belonged to a friend’s grandmother.
  • Curtain: Target
  • Jewelry box: gift


  • Woodblock print: Mandy Sampson
  • Tattoo-style couple art: Alison Wheeler
  • Owl print: Chris Seamon
  • Cross photograph: Michael Otley
  • Ultrasound pictures: VCU Health System
  • Steampunk cat print: gift
  • Cards: gifts
  • Marie Antoinette postcard: from a painting by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun
  • “Clean inbox” cross-stitch: Deanna Miller
  • Desk: Steelcase
  • Lamp: Target
  • Photo of Morella: Mia Artz Photography
  • “Vertical View of Cellblock Five Gallery” postcard: Eastern State Penitentiary gift shop
  • Old car photo: Kathryn Whitley
  • Little desk: antique, found
  • Chair: Through the Garden Gate Antiques
  • Comforter: Delia’s
  • Poe pillow: gift
  • Curtains: Urban Outfitters


  • Crib and armoire: hand-me-downs from my cousin, soon to be replaced with big girl furniture.
  • Changing table: Through the Garden Gate Antiques
  • Bookshelf: handmade by Dan Shebaylo
  • Book rack: Through the Garden Gate Antiques
  • Curtains: Ikea
  • Glider: don’t remember
  • Side table: Land of Nod
  • Lamp: Ikea
  • Apothecary ceramic tissue box: Pottery Barn
  • Rolling cart: World Market
  • Trash can: Ikea
  • White metal chair: Land of Nod
  • Pouf: Land of Nod
  • Right / wrong coughing drawing: Madeline Hoch
  • Robots painting: Nick Kuszyk
  • Framed hymnal page: Sarah Bonkovsky
  • Mobile: handmade by me with old jewelry and found objects
  • Bunting: Baloolah Bunting
  • “Morella” banner: Minted
  • “The Mad Tea Party” print: The Black Apple
  • “Heart and Key” print: The Black Apple
  • “Baby Carriage” print: Scott Campbell
  • “Umbrella Party” print: Scott Campbell
  • “See Dick and Jane” poster: from an exhibit at the Richmond Public Library, 1994
  • Birdcages: gifts
  • Salt & pepper picture holders: antiques, gifts
  • Birth announcement: Minted


  • Tub: vintage Craigslist find, from the 20s or 30s. Was powder blue and we had it refinished white.
  • Vanity: Overstock
  • Rabbit collage print: Sarah Ogren
  • Cat collage print: Sarah Ogren
  • The Ocean Blue II collage print: Sarah Ogren
  • “Y is for Yeti” print: feb10design
  • Wire basket: Target
  • Shower curtain: Shabby Chic, Target
(Image credit: Lauren Turner)

Thanks, Tess!

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